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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.

Bring Bikes

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.

Some of our favorite days on the road were with two tires beneath us.

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 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.

roadtrip living our of your truck

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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Victoria Ortiz is a freelance journalist and outdoor enthusiast currently savoring all that New Zealand has to offer. In 2015 she took the plunge and quit her job in environmental communications for a couple years to indulge in cycling, backpacking, and travel around the globe.

Follow her adventures at

Photo credits: Featured photo & Pinterest images by Moyan Brenn. All other photos by Victoria Ortiz. 


  1. Looks like quite the adventure! I had a couple friends travel around the US in an old bakery truck, this seems quite a bit more manageable.

    • Bakery truck does sound like quite the adventure too though!

  2. What a crazy adventure! I have friends that are touring the US and North America in an RV, but that little truck is nuts. I could not live like that for a week! Glad they are enjoying it and it works for them.

    • Definitely a condensed space for living, but also a lot more freedom and flexibility to – so there are pros and cons!

  3. There is lots of really great advice in this post. It must be awesome to have someone to travel with, but I also agree that alone time and time with friends is important too. Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful adventure together.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Amanda :) Yes, alone time is often healthy when you’re traveling as a couple and around each other 24/7!

  4. “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.” I laughed out loud on that.

    As much as this sounds like a really cool adventure, I’m not really sure if this is for me but I do envy people who are able to do it. One, I’m claustrophobic and 2, I’m insomniac and need to have a really comfortable bed to be able to sleep. Lol.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Noemi! It’s not for everyone, but perhaps you could aim for the same style of trip but in more of a luxury RV if you like the idea of the freedom of self drive :)

  5. I love how honest you are about long term traveling with a partner – after spending 24/7 together for a long period of time you can definitely go stretches without talking. In a comfortable silence kind of way – but yet alone time is very important. Great budget tips!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Chantell … absolutely essential to take some alone time every now and then when you’re traveling with another person – you don’t have to be joined at the hip!

  6. Oh man, if you had a dog along for the ride, I’d say you are our doppelgangers! Or at least cousins. We’re currently cycle touring back to Portland from Patagonia with our dog, and man if some days we don’t dream about buying a car.

    I’m curious to know your thoughts on driving vs riding. My partner is worried we’ll spend quite a bit more than if we stay on bike. I feel that we will have way more time in nature than we are able on bike.

    Thanks for sharing these tips!

    • Wow sounds like an amazing adventure Jen! I’ll leave it to Victoria when she gets to the comments to come back to you on bike v car, but my view is that there are definitel pros and cons to both. Depends on what you both want to prioritize more in terms of money v time.

      You’re definitely going to save money on petrol/gas with your bikes, and if you’re gone for a long period of time that money could add up. But yes, you would be able to reach your destination each day a lot quicker by car and have more time to spend exploring. Can still spend that same time in nature if on a bike, but you’ll just need more time.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Love these tips, Victoria! While I have no immediate plans of living out of a truck, I do keep seeing it around and the idea looks more appealing each time! These tips are great, especially on where you SHOULD spend money!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Samantha! Maybe if we keep posting the idea will become so appealing you’ll give it a go :D

  8. Traveling and camping in a truck is indeed a great adventure. it is a great way to explore the great outdoors. These tips are really practical and useful and would come in handy when setting off in a truck on a voyage of discovery.

    • Absolutely Vyjay! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  9. I love these tips — so helpful. I’ve never tried Workaway, but I would like to give it a try someday. I agree that sometimes we have to let go and let things work their way out — we can’t plan 100%!

    • Workaway is a great resource – highly recommend jumping over and having a scan of the site if you’re considering work placements overseas :)

  10. I take my hat off to you Victoria. I don’t think I would be any good living out of a truck. I’m sure I’d only last a couple of days, if that! I like my creature comforts way too much. What an adventure though.

    • You never know until you go! :D

  11. It’s great you mention that if it isn’t working, you can always change the plan! Sometimes we feel trapped into a routine or an agreement that we are scared to change, even if it isn’t working for us anymore! I would like to try this one day, I like the thought of going wherever you like :)

    • Absolutely Claire – sometimes people try to force their original plan too much that it ends up ruining the whole trip. Being flexible and willing to change things up when they’re not going our way is an essential trait to have for travel.

      Hope you have the chance to give traveling n a truck a go! Happy travels :)

  12. I’ve considered doing a serious road trip the the southwest US with my family, so these tips are so useful for figuring out the logistics of long-term travel on the road!

    • Glad the post was useful for you Kevin! Happy travels :)

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