A Vagabond Life

Our view can change when we want it to!

Month: September 2017

Vagabond Life by the Numbers

A Vagabond Life is carefree and cheap, but it’s not free. You may be curious about our cost of living. This blog has it – at least the major expenses.

We tracked every penny since hitting the road and have compiled detailed monthly records. Our costs are divided between fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are all the bills we can’t change such as insurance, truck lease payment, storage unit cost, etc. Variable expenses are those items that do change each month such as food, fuel, camp fees, entertainment, etc.

Realize that our cost isn’t what you might have if you decided to do this. We’re traveling as two adults and one dog and living out of a small 19-foot travel trailer. If we had a 35-foot rig our cost would naturally be higher. We’ve also found several ways to save. As a military retiree, I’m fortunate to have access to military RV parks and can shop on military bases. This tends to lower our overall cost. We also cook most meals at home and avoid glitzy local attractions. Books and movies are free through local libraries.

Before getting into the financials, here are some travel stats for Year 1 of the Vagabond Tour:

  • 25,200 total miles traveled from August 2016 to July 2017
  • Furthest west: Las Vegas, NV
  • Furthest south: Hillsboro, FL
  • Furthest east: Lubec, ME
  • Furthest north: Great Pond, ME
  • Longest continuous stop: 3 months in Tucson, AZ
  • 349 nights camping (16 nights staying with family and friends)
  • 321 average daily miles between overnight stops
  • 100,000 –  number of rest area visits so the dog can do his thing
  • Number of new friends made on the road: Countless!

Here is a breakdown of annual expenses that were over $500 per year. First are fixed costs followed by variable costs. Our trailer was fully paid for so there was no expense recorded except for repairs. All figures are annual.

  • Fixed: health insurance $12,168
  • Fixed: truck lease, maintenance and insurance $5,076
  • Fixed: life insurance $2,194
  • Fixed: storage unit cost and insurance $1,932
  • Fixed: phone and data $1,380
  • Variable: food (including dining out) $8,960
  • Variable: camping fees $8,472
  • Variable: fuel (gas) $4,772
  • Variable: gifts $1,990
  • Variable: pet care $926
  • Variable: repairs $790
  • Variable: entertainment and entrance fees $690

In total, our Vagabond experience cost $48,799 during the first year of travel ($4,067 per month). The most expensive month was December due to Christmas gifts and airline travel cost.

That’s it! Are you ready to hit the road?

August and On the Road

August was a road warrior month for the Vagabonds. We put in over 2,500 miles and drove from the North East to the Central South US. Our month began in Burlington, Vermont and ended in Bertram, Texas, along with a couple of side trips to St. Louis and New Orleans. Hurricane Harvey shut down Houston and that caused a 400-mile detour, but we are in Texas now and plan to stay through the winter.

We left the easternmost part of Maine in the first days of August, traveled across the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and on to the western edge of Vermont and the city of Burlington. The city sits on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain and is close to the location of the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Valcour Island in 1776 pitted 15 outgunned Colonial force ships against 25 British ships. The Colonial force was under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, who later defected to the British. Arnold’s armada didn’t win the battle and lost 11 ships, but the action did slow the British advance.

Lake Champlain Burlington, Vermont.

The Champlain Canal connected the lake to the Hudson River in 1823 giving Burlington an important international shipping route. The town became an industrial center for trade and specialized in lumber, boatbuilding, textiles and machine shops. The industrial revolution brought prosperity and wealth to the northeast and that lasted through the 1900s.

One of the beneficiaries of the nation’s industrial wealth was Electra Havemeyer Webb, wife of polo champion James Watson Webb of the Vanderbilt Family. Electra’s in-laws owned property on Lake Champlain just south of Burlington and in the early 1900s transformed it into a model country estate. The elder Webb’s collected paintings of Monet, Manet, and Degas, but Electra preferred Americana, and by the time she was 40 years old had established one of the finest collections of horse drawn carriages, weathervanes, pewter, circus figures, and just about everything uniquely American. She even acquired the steamboat Ticonderoga that had once cruised Lake Champlain and had it moved by rail to the property.

Electra’s Americana collection is housed at the Shelburne Museum on the Vermont property along with her in-law’s vast art collection. The museum and grounds are now owned by a non-profit organization and open to the public daily. We spent two days touring this amazing place.

After Vermont, we traveled south to Boston and spent a day seeing the historic sites. We had been to these sites several times in the past, but this visit was more meaningful because I had just finished reading Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick. If you’re into early US history, the accuracy and detail of Philbrick’s books put you there.

The next stop was RI for a cousin’s family reunion and celebration of Rose Marie Ferri’s 85 birthday – along with celebrating August birthdays for everyone in the family. My sister put on a wonderful spread and was a tremendous host, as usual. We all had a great time catching up with cousins, aunts and uncles and extended family. Rose Marie was thrilled!

After RI, Daria headed back to Texas by plane (cheater!) while I drove the camper with the dog west to St. Louis and then south to Texas. My reward was being able to spend time with Thomas, Jess and the three grandsons. I can’t get enough of those three boys! In the meantime, Daria was in Texas for Ashley’s baby shower. It won’t be long now until we meet Evelyn Rose!

I stayed in St. Louis long enough to see the solar eclipse, then hightailed it down to New Orleans to see a college roommate. Hurricane Harvey delayed my trip west to Texas by a few days. I managed to get to Texas by going north and across to Dallas, then drop down to the Austin area. It was an exhausting month, but Daria and I (and Angus) are all together in our little 19-foot trailer again.

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