Authored by Victoria Ortiz
In 2015 my boyfriend Tyler and I traded our stable jobs in South Lake Tahoe for a couple years of hot spring soaked adventures. We hitchhiked through Cuba and Central America, and cycled 1800 miles along the Pacific Coast.
When we loaded up Baby Beluga, a tiny Mazda pickup truck, we figured we’d be exploring North American national parks in luxury compared to the previous months of stuffing our belongings in a backpack or panniers. Au contraire.
For anyone considering the option of traveling and living out of a truck, I hope these tips will allow you to maximize the good, dwindle the bad, and prepare you for the smelly!
Ten Tips for Living Out of a Truck
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Spend Your Money on Safety and the Unforgettable
This only applies to the extremely frugal like us who will sneak into a KOA campground to shower to save quarters. If you’re unable to sleep because you parked in a Bellingham neighborhood with drug deals ten paces away, you probably took it too far.
Don’t miss out on why you’re traveling just to save some money. When in Moab, rent a bike. Yes, it’s $60 a day, and I bet it’ll be a day that you remember in twenty years. Experiences matter, and they’re absolutely worthwhile.
Build Your Own Setup
In the months prior to blast off, Tyler and I designed and built a sleeping platform to add to the bed of the truck as a place to store our gear, and to provide a flat comfortable surface to sleep on.
With this setup we could pull over anywhere and have an organized bed in minutes. Homemade curtains also made me feel proud, no matter how zig-zagged the stiches. Find out more tips and how we did it here.
Some of our favorite days on the road were with two tires beneath us. We used our touring bikes to explore new towns, pick up groceries, and sometimes create our own hiking shuttle. Not only are you getting outside and breathing, you also save gas, money, and carbon emissions.
Stay Put Longer
It takes an incredible amount of time and energy to pack camp every day. Not only do you have to figure out what you’re eating, where you’re sleeping, what you should do when you get there, and how much everything costs, you also have to do all of your basics.
It turns out that visiting a place merely to see it can feel quite hollow when you’re worn out from traveling.
Create a Workaway Account
Workaway.info is a website that facilitates volunteering and cultural exchange in over 155 countries. The site provides a budget friendly way to stay in one place and experience life in that community.
For $29 USD/year you can register and connect with thousands of potential hosts. Volunteers work about four hours a day in exchange for room and board. Hours, projects, and accommodation vary by host.
Spend Time Apart
Tyler and I were within ten feet of each other for a long time. We never yelled at each other and we learned a lot about communication, but both of us also recognized our need for alone and friend time.
Sometimes on long drives I’d ask, “so, what do you want to talk about?” What could he say? “Well, we’ve just done everything together for a year, what’s new?” Spending time apart is healthy.
Live in a Vehicle You Can Cook In
When it’s raining outside you’ll wish you could cook inside. Bonus points if you can stand up. If you’re doing one to two week camping trips then our Beluga setup is perfect!
If Things Aren’t Working, Change the Plan
You are never without options. When we discovered that truck touring wasn’t quite the dream we thought it would be, we changed the plan.
The act of voicing that something was wrong and making plans to change it felt cathartic and put us back on a positive track.
Choose Your Destination by Season
Those lovely fall colors blur in the windshield and are harder to appreciate while throwing soggy camp gear into a leaky truck. Similarly, do not camp in the southwest in winter for extended periods of time.
We found ourselves huddled in the dark truck at 6pm wondering if we could turn the car on and pipe the heat into the back while in sleeping bags under our down comforter.
Let go of Things Outside of Your Control
Yes, the truck will break down, likely when you’re very far away from town. Sure, you’ll spill curry leftovers all over your campground in bear country. But think about the alternative!
You are seeing and experiencing people, places, and emotions that most people only read about after turning off Netflix. Take stock of where you are, and thank yourself for accepting your challenge. Tomorrow will be another adventure.
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Photo credits: Featured photo & Pinterest images by Moyan Brenn. All other photos by Victoria Ortiz.