August 31, 2011


Last night, as I walked the mile back to my car, I passed dozens of new student arrivals skeptically pulling cork boards and duffel bags out of mom's minivan. Piles of cardboard littered the sidewalks, classmates greeted each other after a summer apart, and parents gave tearful goodbyes to kids that could not possibly be old enough to shave. My auditorium was temporarily occupied, which can only be a sign of things to come, and I remembered all the reasons why I left college eight years ago. According to research less than half of the kids that get dropped off this weekend will actually finish college. Kind of depressing.

On a positive note I used $6,000 in Americorp money to pay off the federal loans from the 2010-2011 school year. If you haven't checked out Americorp it's a great way to earn cash for college or just find a cool job. Stuff like non profits, conservation corps, and whatnot are always looking for people and they normally pay pretty well. If you're a parent or grandparent you can even give the Americorp money to a relative. I've worked with them for about 15 months straight and it's been great.

PS: I've heard that some people are having trouble posting comments. Blogspot is working to fix this but, in the mean time, you can email me at with any questions.

August 29, 2011

Solar Power

I know that there are quite a few of you out there who have fully harnessed the power of the sun. You have solar panels on your van roofs, energy storage batteries under the seats, and all of the coolest gadgets and gizmos for today's environmentally conscious vagabond. Let me just say this: I am super jealous and kind of want to be you right now.

You see, I don't spend a lot of time in the go go gadget red car; it's purely for sleeping and storage. If I had a van, that would be a different story. A few of you have contacted me about lighting and other electricity based gadgets in vehicles so, even though I don't personally use them, here are some things from my solar powered wish list.

The Soul Cell Collapsible Lantern
Light weight and small but not quite on the market yet. When it is, I'll be in line for it.

Powerfilm USB AA Solar Charger
Kind of cool, quick and easy. Folds up and I like the idea of strapping it to a bike. "Capable of charging batteries in 4 hours of full sun; charging lights indicate charging progress and completion Secure it using the 6 built-in grommets Solar operation: 36 v, 4 amps USB charging: 5 v, 1 amp"-Product Description

Flexible Solar Panels
Also a powerfilm product, these come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. "These PowerFilm flexible solar modules can be used alone to direct-power your small DC project (anything that runs off 3V or less and requires 22mA of current or less) - or, they can be used in your battery-charger project to store energy for later use." - Product Description

Solar Panels
There are so many options! Prices rang from a couple hundred dollars to almost a thousand and different states offer rebates. Massachusetts loves solar right now.

Solar Powered iPhone
Yup, this is where we're headed people. I don't even have an iPhone and I want the solar powered one!

There are a lot of different brand, but this may be my first solar purchase

Solar Refrigerator
So expensive! I have hope that when solar become a bigger deal the price will drop.

Solar Window Thermometer
Suctions right onto the window

Solar Laptop bag
Ok, so this isn't really something I need... but isn't it cool??

If you guys are anything like me you have a wish list going of everything you'll have in your ideal vehicle. Let me know if you've come across other great solar ideas that could be utilized by mobile dwellers.

Here are some other cool links to check out in your solar research:

What Aftermath?

New York - Courtesy of Gary
How does a 400 mile wide hurricane miss a 50 mile wide stretch of land? That's worse then missing the broad side of a barn. It's like throwing that barn at a goose and missing it all together. Businesses shut down, people boarded up their houses. I was so bored that at what should have been the height of the storm I went out for coffee.Last night I was literally rocked to sleep by some pretty intense winds, but other then that hurricane Irene was a big faker, at least for my neck of the woods.

So it's a beautiful day today, cool and calm, which is good because I had to walk a little further to work this morning. For the past year (365 days!) I've been parking in the same spot, next to a restaurant that shares a lot with three other businesses. Apparently they have a new manager because I was greeted by this note scrawled on the back of a business card the other day. I was very tempted to leave a note on their front door saying "You're bread sticks suck!!"But I restrained myself. No need to pass on the ugly.

Happy Monday everyone!

August 28, 2011

Hurricane Day!

It's like a birthday, the east coast has been preparing for this for a week.

Check out my newest discovery! With Irene here the campus is abandoned and I'm bored with nothing better to do then snoop. I found this little gem on the ninth floor and no, it is neither a daycare nor Martha Stewart's boardroom. Too much time was spent wondering if the paint was yellowy green or greenish yellow. It's air conditioned with a bubbler right outside the door and very soft carpet (as you can see I've been walking around barefoot). Pretty snazzy, right? The one down side is that ninth floor thing. I'm not going to tempt fate by taking an elevator during a hurricane, so that's nine flights of stairs I had to shlep up.

So, this is my hide out for the time being. PS: the time is 1:15pm and no hurricane as yet. Lots of rain, but nothing that could be considered torrential. hmmm... This better not have been a false alarm.

August 27, 2011

The Mattress Mystery

Well, Irene is on her way and this is what I woke up to. A random pile of abandoned mattresses on the edge of the parking lot. I have no idea how they got there but I have some theories.
  1. The University didn't want to pay to get rid of their old dorm mattresses, so they "took them for a walk in the country"
  2. A pair of thieves stole the mattresses but then dumped them when they couldn't sell all ten on the black market
  3. Yeah, well I only have the two theories right now... I'm working on it.
The grocery stores were packed this morning and every radio stations was advertising hurricane preparedness check lists. I am avoiding the fray with a bag of black licorice and season two of Psych.

August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Whoa, 72 followers! Sorry, I kind of zoned out after fifty. I know there are a lot more of you out there that are not followers on blogspot, so welcome to all of you. Let me know if you have questions.

We’re one week from September and life is speeding up here at the college. Students haven’t moved into the dorms yet but those who are renting apartments have been skulking around the downtown bars and coffee shops. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I’ll spend my time once the kids have bumped me out of the auditorium. I was living in the Jetta for the last month of the spring semester and made it work, but I know I’ll get a little possessive about my room.

Another downside to the influx of students is that I’ll have to start picking up my stuff from its hiding places around campus. I have a coffee cup behind the heater in one of the rooms (so I have a cup on hand if I need it). There’s a change of clothes behind a staircase. A bottle of soda under a projector. It’s all little stuff that I’ve squirled away over the summer in places that the cleaning crew won’t look. It means I don’t have to carry all that stuff with me to and from the car each day. My big thing is going to be my locker by the showers. It has all my shampoo and whatnot but, once the swim team and lacrosse start back up, someone is bound to clean it out for use by the real athletes. That means that my next order of business should be a shower bag of some sort. That might be a DIY post in the future…
Hurricane Irene is headed my way and Massachusetts is bracing itself for the worst. There was a time when weather like this would never occur to us but this summer we’ve had a tornado, an earthquake, and now a hurricane. Irene looks like it's heading straight through my county. Time to move to Canada! 

Good luck everyone

August 25, 2011

Safety and Protection

I'm working my way through your emails and questions! Next up is Susan who asked about safety while vehicle dwelling: Do I feel safe and what do I do to stay safe? This is a really important thing to think about, especially for you ladies out there.

Before I get started on tips, there are some thing I want you all to keep in mind.
  1. People, for the most part, are good. I know this sounds naive in some ways, but very rarely will you run into problems. Unfortunately, it only takes once so your best bet is to be prepared.
  2. Different people have different ideas of defense and safety. Some carry a gun, some (like me) carry pepper spray, some carry nothing (or they might be stealth ninjas). You will need to figure out what you're comfortable with.
  3. For the most part, vehicle dwelling is no less safe then any other mode of living, except that people are more likely to try to break into your car then an apartment.
    I've personally never had someone try to break into my car while I was in it, but it's been known to happen. There are a few things you can do to be better prepared.

    Means of Defense

    Pepper Spray:
    I'm a fan of pepper spray, just having it in my car while I sleep makes me feel more secure and, if nothing else, it will slow an attacker down. There are many places to buy pepper spray and it's fairly inexpensive. You can also make pepper spray fairly easily, just remember to read up on your state's laws.

    Stun Guns/ Tazers:
    I'm finding that these are pretty popular among vehicle dwellers. They're light, easy to use, and pretty cheap (as little as $15). They also come in all sorts of ingenious shapes, like this lipstick stun gun (called the stunmaster).

    Some people do carry guns with them. This has a lot to do with your comfort level and what is legal in your state. Remember that there are laws about transporting a gun across state lines and carrying a concealed weapon. Make sure you check on these things.
    Self Defense:
    Almost every town offers some kind of self defense class, usually for free. It's always a good idea to have a few of these hand to hand skills.
    Use Your Head:
    Your best defense is being alert and using your head. If something doesn't feel right, move along. You have the option of driving until you feel comfortable with your surroundings.
    • While privacy is important, I park in populated areas like grocery store parking lots. I am use to some noise and light while I sleep and there are enough people around that no one's going to try anything.
    • They tell you not to jog the same path each day because unscrupulous people will learn your habits. This goes for parking too. Don't park in the same place every night, switch it up. You won't draw as much attention to yourself or make your car a target.
    Like I said earlier, you'll need to figure out what works for you. Just remember not to freak out, the chances of you ever having an issue are small and decrease when you make smart decisions about where you're parking. For more info on keeping yourself safe you can visit the Cheap Living Forum to ask other vehicle dweller what they do. The mobile community has a lot of shared knowledge and years of combined experience.

    Please feel free to leave comments about tips and tricks 
    that you use to stay safe.

    August 24, 2011

    Modern Nomads

    Yesterday I began my post by stating that we are nomads living in a sedentary society. This raised a few eyebrows from people who wondered how any nomadic group (collective or individual) could exist within such a structured culture as the United States.

    As both a western and organizationally agricultural society, we aren’t use to people who are not in some way tied to land. Private property is a cornerstone of any free market and a home has been presented as the ideal for so long that we sometimes forget that nomadic people existed long before what we consider neighborhoods.

    The life of nomads is a source of both scientific and popular fascination, so there have been hundreds of anthropological studies done on the social and economic organization of tribes.  I've included a short list at the bottom of some of my favorites, but I highly encourage people to read about the nomadic lifestyles that are still in existence today. Gypsies are still very active in many countries as well as the five animal people of the Gobi Desert.

    Vehicle dwellers are one of these groups of modern nomads and share their basic needs with nomadic groups around the world. They move according to the temperature of the seasons and the availability of work. This causes us to adapt quickly to changing situations, plan far ahead, and give up comforts that have become expected in our society.

    There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of nomadic people in the United States existing within the structured society that has been created here. A reader who stumbled across this sight recently expressed surprise there were so many vehicle dwellers. This is a byproduct of the “myth of the nomad” which has existed in every culture for as long as there have been stationary communities (Khazanov 1984:2). People are weary if not outright afraid of nomadic people. They are viewed as somewhat unnatural in their detachment from common housing and orthodox values. They have historically been labeled as disease carriers, uncivilized, and undesirable. In WWII 231,800 gypsies we executed because they were believed to have criminal tendencies and spread sickness.  

    As a result of the attached societal stigma, most modern US and European nomads stay somewhat hidden behind a facade of “respectability”. You will find that stealth and staying hidden in your host community is necessary and widely discussed. We don't do this for our comfort, but because it makes the people around us less nervous and therefore less likely to forcibly move us or cause other problems. It doesn’t help that vehicle dwellers have in recent years been lumped into the all too broad category of “homeless”, which comes with its own stigma.

    Just remember: “The sharp contrast that separates nomads and sedentary peoples does not mean… that these two human groups live independently of each other. They are two parts of the same social mechanism, and its progress is dependent upon their collaboration” (Gautier 1921:7). I was talking to my nephew a while back about what an awesome world he lives in. There are pirates in Somalia, nomads in Mongolia, and we’ve put men on the moon. How cool is that? Maybe at no other time in history have there been so many people living such different lives in such close proximity.

    Recommended Reading on Nomads

     TIP: I'm lucky in that, as a college student, I have access to tons of articles that normally require an expensive subscription. Google Scholar is a great source for free academic articles about nomads, past and present, and their role within cultures.

    August 23, 2011

    Permanent Addresses

    The size and complexity of our society has made it beneficial for people to be associated with a permanent address. For commerce, politics, education, etc it is necessary to categories citizens within districts, counties, states, and so on. 

    We are, for all intents and purposes, nomads living within a sedentary society. The key word here is “within”. While each of us has the option of pulling out of society for good, the fact that we choose to live in vehicles has tied us to the rules of a culture built on the ideal of private property. That means that in order to vote, register our vehicles/homes, or have a driver’s license we have to somewhat adapt our transient lifestyles to fit the rules of a less transient nation. On the bright side, however, this gives us options that others don’t have: It’s all about the research.

    Picking A State
    Because you just need an address, not property, you can choose the state you'd like to claim residency in. There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for your ideal state.
    • Car Insurance:
    TIP: This is your home your insuring, so don't cut corners; cheapest is not always best. Just think of the money you're not paying in rent! To have your car totaled would be like having a car accident and having your house burn down in the same day. Insure accordingly!
    TIP: A few years ago my sister claimed residency in Colorado but worked in Vermont and New Hampshire. Come tax time she had to file in all three states. Remember this while working on the road and plan jobs accordingly.
    Obtaining Residency
    Once you pick a state you need to establish an address there to be deemed a legal resident. There are a few ways to do this.
    • Set up a mailing address: Check out yesterday's tips
      • If you know someone in the state, ask to use them as your perminent address
      • Use a mail forwarding service that allows you to use them as a street address, like FedEx, UPS, or any number of RV friendly companies. 
    • Get a driver's license in that state
      • TIP: Bob Wells (the awesome van dwelling guru) points out that when picking a state it's helpful to find one that allows you to register your vehicle and renew your license online. Check out his helpful tips! 
    • Register to Vote
      • Remember that you don't have to be in state to vote in elections. Check out the Declare Yourself Website for voter regulations, state by state election info, and absentee requirements.
    This is by no means all the info out there, so do some research and find a state that works for you. Remember that it's often easiest to establish residency and get things like PO boxes before you give up the sticks and bricks. Good Luck!

    August 22, 2011

    Receiving Mail

    I got an email from a reader yesterday asking about mail, residency, and a permanent address. Each time you apply for a job, a library pass, or a blockbuster card they ask you for your address, and they are not looking for “Target parking lot, second space under the lamp post.” Lucky for us, there are quite a few options and it’s best to start thinking about them before you become mobile. This is going to be a multi part post (because it's a big issue!) so today I'm covering...

    • First thing, before you give up the sticks and bricks, use the address to sign up for a PO Box. You have some options:
      • USPS has a variety of PO Box sizes. I have the smallest one and it costs me about $25 for six month. They offer very large boxes for much more money, but having a small box will not prevent you from receiving package.
      • UPS offers mailboxes and mail forwarding PLUS they boast that you can use them as a street address, not just a PO Box.
      • Fed Ex also rents PO boxes and offers mail forwarding 
      • For those of you who will be traveling a lot there are mail forwarding services that specialize in full time RVers. These are a few, but there are so many more!
      • Family and Friends are often much less transient than we, and that can be used to your advantage. Ask if you can have mail sent to their home. Periodically they can forward your mail to whatever town you find yourself in and that will save you the expense of renting a PO Box.
        • Remember to have them tell the post office that they are forwarding your mail. Very often they will send it along for free. It can also be sent COD so your friend/family won't have to dish out the cash.
      • The USPS has been pushing postage rates up for years because fewer things are being sent through the mail. The world has been launched into cyberspace and the best way for you to save some time and money is to embrace it. Banks, credit cards, libraries, schools... just about everyone has the option to go paperless now. By the time you switch everything over to email notification you will be receiving very little physical mail.
    ~ Things To Remember ~

    Say you're going to be in... Phoenix next week and want your mail. You can call the Post office in Phoenix and tell them you're going to be receiving a package. They will hold it for you (for a limited time) so you can pick it up while in town 

    Stay tuned, tomorrow I'll cover permanent addresses and maybe residency too!

    August 21, 2011

    DIY Laundry Bag

    Something that all vehicle dwellers have to watch out for is smell. We live in small and mainly enclosed areas and it doesn't take long for our sleeping space to pick up weird odors from things like laundry, food, and the like.

    Laundry is really a big deal when you live in your car for a number of reasons.
    1.  You don't have room to keep a ton of clothes so you have to stay on top of laundry in order to have clean clothes for work
    2. If you let laundry pile up your car will smell like old socks which, in turn, will make you smell like old socks.
    3.  There's no place to put dirty clothes, you just don't have room!
    4. Doing laundry means driving to a laundromat, not walking down the hall. That means each time is a production involving parking spaces and quarters.
    For months I've been using these mesh laundry bags from Walmart. They're $1 (presumably because they're made from string) and seemed to be worth the price. The problem? Well, there are two. First is that I've been through four bags this summer! They keep getting snagged on stuff and soon there's a gaping whole that stuff starts falling out of as I cross the parking lot. Nothing makes you feel cool like having a little old lady chase you to your car holding a pair of pink under drawers. The other problem is that the bag is huge (giving me an excuse to put off the laundromat) and mesh (which doesn't cover up any old sock smell).

    So, here's my solution: Pillow Case Laundry Bags!

    You Will Need:
    • A large pillow case
    • Ribbon
    • Eyelets
    • Eyelet tool (if you don't see yourself using this much I would suggest borrowing from friend)
    1. Follow the directions on your eyelet tool and place eyelets every six inches or so around the open end of the pillow case. 
    2. Run a ribbon through the eyelets
    3. You're done! I know, you're thinking "I could have thought of that!" Well, good for you. Next time send me an email about it.
    It's smaller (so I have to do laundry often), It's pretty!, it's solid (to save the old ladies from running) and I can throw a lavender sachet in their and my car smells great. The best part is that when I do laundry the bag can get washed too.
    While I went for the easy pillowcase option, Martha Stewart had another great bag design. She sewed up the bottom of a t shirt and cut the arms off! Click here to watch the step by step video.

    I almost forgot! The pillow case was $1 at Good Will and the eyelets were $2 at the craft store.

    August 20, 2011

    Your Government

    I have never and will never get political on you, but just because we live on the fringes of society doesn't mean we shouldn't have a say. The best thing we can do is be informed and involved. Each month I write at least one letter about an issue I care about. Sometimes it's to a committee, sometimes I send it to each of my state reps, sometimes it's just something quick to one rep.

    Today I’m issuing a challenge to everyone out there in cyberspace; 
    Write to your government

    Maybe you love what they're doing and want to say "dude, thanks for fighting for (fill in your cause here)!" or maybe you're really ticked off and want to tell them what for. Do you have an opinion about agriculture and sustainable farming? Immigration? The economy? How about the Mississippi River? Well, they've got a department for that! And you can contact them. It doesn't matter which side of the isle you sit on, your representatives should know what's important to you.

    This government (politicians, agencies, and committees) work for you and if you don't tell them what you want then how can they make informed decisions? If they're not living up to your expectations, they need to know. At the same time, people tend to write to them to complain and very rarely send a quick thanks. If your reps are doing good, let them know you're happy with their decisions. 

    Use these links to
    Every office is web savvy, so you have the option of snail mail, email, and even twitter. Our government is of the people and for the people. Put in your two cents!

    Other useful site:
    Your reps are busy, they will probably not be reading your letters themselves (they have interns for that), but your point will be counted and you will get a response within a few weeks. Some letters are passed along and each one makes a difference.

    August 19, 2011

    Friend Request Review

    The Friend Request
    By Alex Ford

    Welcome to another edition of Spineless Book Reviews, my reviews of books available on Kindle (and usually free).

    I've had a few books going at once (just couldn't get fully into any of them) but I finally finished this one. The Friend Request is about a man in England (Ford is British) who accidentally accepts a friend request from someone he shouldn't. The premise of this book is that we give out a lot of information on Facebook to all of our 500 friends. How well do you know all 500? Kids from high school, old coworkers, your roommate's friends boyfriend... My Facebook page alone will tell you my favorite bands, where I went to school, where I work, who I'm dating, family members, and probably my hourly mood. Ford has based this whole book around the information that can be gained from Facebook pages and what a less than scrupulous person would do with that information.

    The premise is good, and Ford literally trips over a good line here and there. The problem is that too much of the story is over-analyzed and underdeveloped. Convenient amnesia and a kid with mommy issues does not a novel make. The characters were not well developed, but I did appreciate that equal time was given to both the antagonist and protagonist. Some parts were entertaining and I could loose myself in the plot. At other points I found myself wadding knee deep through irrelevant scenes which would discourage me from attempting the read for days. Inconsistency is difficult in a novel. Interesting at points, but not worth the time. Someday someone will make the premise into an awesome movie.

    Spending Your Free Time

    There are pros and cons to vehicle dwelling. One pro is that you don’t have to work much to afford housing, so you can spend that extra money and/or time on fun things. You don’t have to clean a house, spend your weekends mowing the lawn or weeding the garden. The fact is that you may find yourself with an excess of time but wondering where to spend it.

    When you live in a house or apartment your free time is often spent there or it is used as a home base for other activities. When you live on the road you really live everywhere. You may sleep in your vehicle but that’s not where you spend all your free time. I’ve said before that the double edged sword of mobile living is that you have nowhere to hide. That also means that, often out of boredom, you are forced to experience things you may have talked yourself out of otherwise.

    So what do you do in your free time? All those extra hours that you might have been washing dishes or vacuuming the living room. 

    Personally I...
    Being a fairly solitary person, I found that a quiet space was often challenging to find. But I did find them, out of necessity, and have been able to maintain my sanity by giving myself regular alone time. Remember that there are paid distractions and free distractions. Make sure that you are not going broke spending money on activities all the time. Even though you don't have a couch to lounge on, it's alright to have an afternoon of doing nothing.

    Thoreau said "It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves." The routine of home to work, work to home and back again with those weekends dangling over you: two days of freedom on an otherwise scratched record. Through this routine the home is yours and you are the home's. Take the sticks and bricks house out of the equation and suddenly you have the option to work the same and have lots of extra money or have lots of free time and still live comfortably working part time.

    I am a nester by nature, and enjoy decorating an apartment. For me, however, the time I spent making the money to live there took away from my actually having time to enjoy it. I work full time and attend college full time, but still have loads of free time on my hands. So learn a new instrument, take a class, see a show; the possibilities are endless and, when you're urban camping, you really don't have a choice but to put yourself out there.