Looking for an adventure, we found a lifestyle.
To celebrate becoming an empty-nester and the arrival of a new millennium, in July of 1999, my partner, Randy, and I decided to follow a dream, quit our jobs, put everything in storage, and just take off - to points unknown. I had a vision of living like a turtle with my home on my back, having all that I need with me and slowly moving down the road to see where it leads.
For $4,000.00 we bought a 1986 Roadtrek RV (a van-size RV also known as a Class-B in RV lingo) and spent another $1,500.00 to get it ready. In June of 2000, we set out for our big adventure - a year on the road.
This was to be a “once in a lifetime” experience. Or at least that’s how we referred to it until we realized it’s actually no more expensive to travel – the way we did it — than to stay at home. Since then, we’ve replaced the original Roadtrek with a slightly newer model (three times) and have had many other extended adventures, of anywhere from two to six months duration, as well as numerous shorter trips – and we don’t plan to quit any time soon. Follow our travels and watch for updates about future trips on my Blog page.
How do they do it? That’s what family and friends kept asking. Especially since they know we are not made of money. Until we retired, I earned my living as a waitress and Randy as a house painter and general handyman. We've since retired but these were hardly big-income occupations and, in the months we were not traveling, we often worked only part-time.
The question they all asked was, "How can a handyman and a waitress make this happen, not just once, but again and again?"
I’ve also got a background in bookkeeping. Yes, believe it or not, I actually enjoy keeping records. Besides keeping a daily journal of our adventures, I kept a meticulous record of every expense on each trip. This has allowed me to answer that question in terms of general information and knowledge, and back it up with precise figures.
Our total cost for 12 months on the road on that first big trip in 2000 was less than US $7,200.00. This includes all costs associated with the trip for two people: fuel, food, camping, entertainment, entry fees, repairs, and extended travel-medical insurance (since we are Canadians). The records for subsequent extended trips in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020 show gradually higher figures (consistent with inflation, depending on the destination, and any extra experiences we incorporate) but the trend was set. Once we figured out how, we have continued to travel quite economically. We eat well, keep moving every few days rather than plop ourselves down in one location, and see everything we want to see in an area before moving on.
Here are the exact trip expenses and itinerary for those trips, how far we traveled and how these dollars were allocated. I think you will be amazed. We were.
This website was born as a response to the question from friends and relatives, "How do they do it?" When my sister and her partner purchased their own
and asked for advice, I realized that perhaps this was not just a question people asked and then shook their heads and walked away. Some of them actually wanted to know how we manage it.
The first Frugal Shunpiker’s Guide was written for my sister and her partner to use on their trip to Texas in March 2007. They tested it, followed it faithfully, and were amazed at what they saw, where they stayed, and how little they spent. They told us they saw a side of Texas and RV travel that they would not have discovered on their own.
I've always loved writing so I believe finding a niche to write about was just a matter of time for me. Building a web site, however, was a big learning curve. I didn't have a clue where to start but a wise friend suggested I should try SBI (Site Build It!). That advice worked out very nicely and after less than two years, this site had already received some incredible press. Even SBI uses
me as an exampleof a success story.
I wasn’t born an “outdoor enthusiast” but when I hit my mid-40’s I realized I could put it off no longer. I had to get serious about my health and start to exercise more regularly. I soon found that cycling, walking, and trail hiking were much more enjoyable than sweating it out in a gym.
Traveling to hike through some of the most amazing scenery in North America has not only kept me in shape physically but it has fed me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It opened a window into a side of myself I could not have known existed until I experienced it.
When we both decided to make that first trip happen in 2000, Randy was 49 and I was 48 years old - not ready to retire yet but also not willing to wait until retirement to get out there and live a different adventure every day.
I’m still always amazed at how big a secret this is: that this type of traveling adventure in North America can be so accessible and affordable. And that so few people are aware how easily they too can experience living in nature's splendor for long periods at a time with all the comforts of home – like a turtle with his home on his back.
Also about us (something new): in 2012, with my brilliant daughter's help, I launched a second website - one that has added a whole new demension to our adventures and is helping RVers everywhere shave a few extra dollars from their travel budget. Boondockers Welcome - Be My Guest RV Parking is the newest addition to our frugal travel arsenal. I hope you'll check it out.
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