Don’t Think of it as Unemployed and Homeless, but Rather Traveling on an Extended and Well-deserved Vacation
If you are unemployed and ready and able to change your living situation, or maybe you are not sure how you can pay for it anyway, then living out of your vehicle might be possible, and perhaps even slightly appealing if you have the desire to travel.
I was laid off and my lease was up – what to do? I had a few thousand dollars in savings, an apartment full of furniture, a 1997 Ford Explorer, and my dog, Leo. It was summer-time in Colorado and a good time to do some camping, which I never got to do much while working 40 hours a week for 49 weeks a year. I realized I didn’t have anything tying me down and I could make my savings stretch farther if I didn’t have rent and big bills to pay. I decided to move my belongings into a storage unit, obtain a PO Box, and started looking at travel opportunities.
I reduced my expenses to as low as possible, and my storage unit is now my biggest monthly bill, followed by cell phone with internet, car insurance, and the never-ending student loan payment; all totaled around $400 a month. This didn’t include gas and food, but I figured I could travel for a while, certainly longer than any previous vacation, and hopefully make a little bit of money here and there each month. I figured I’ll settle down and rent a place when I’m almost out of money, but at 6 months later and still having a few thousand dollars in savings, I’m not sure I see an end in sight and I have no complaints or regrets.
If you can make a comfortable way to sleep in your vehicle, you can live there. The back seats in my wonderful Ford Explorer fold down flat, and I lay out my inflatable sleep pad from the camp store behind the driver’s seat, then I just use my pillow and sleeping bag, and I am a well-rested camper. My dog has his own dog bed and sleeps at my feet so he doesn’t bother me. I use some clothes-pins to rig up something in the windows so nobody can see in the vehicle. I park anywhere I can, which varies greatly. Sometimes it’s Wal-Mart or some 24-hour store parking lot, a rest area or wayside stop, a gas station or truck stop, a neighborhood street, a state park campground, or a primitive spot in the national forest. There are plenty of places to park overnight when you take a little bit of time to find it, just don’t bring attention to yourself, stay too long, or park anywhere illegal. My goal is to stay somewhere near a bathroom for me and my dog, either within walking distance or a very short drive. The bathroom for me might not be open all night, but hopefully it’s open by the time I’m awake and ready to brush my teeth in the morning.
The easy part is traveling and seeing whatever you want! Put your camping skills to good use. Take the back roads and take your time. I bought a book on all the scenic highways and byways in the country and I use that to influence my travel routes. I avoid the interstates as much as possible, but the rest stops are a nice place to stay overnight. I bought a car-topper to help keep what I don’t need every day out of the way. Sometimes I use a tent if I’m able to make a fire; otherwise I just sleep in my comfy cozy car. I try to follow the desirable weather around the country too, important for good sleeping and the dog. Stick to the northern climates in the summer and the southern climates in the winter. I bought a 12-volt hot pot so I can boil water for food and warm drinks. I bought a National Parks Pass for free admission to any National Park or Monument, and I make a point to visit every one that I drive near. The scenery in this country is amazing and traveling around to see it is going to keep me busy for an indefinite amount of time and I would recommend it to anyone. Don’t think of it as unemployed and homeless, but rather traveling on an extended and well-deserved vacation.