Traveling North America on a tight budget
#1
Throughout my 20's and into my 30's I've mostly travelled abroad. I'm at the point where I'd like to see more of the US. My main goals in life revolve around climbing mountains and outdoor activities, and it turns out that the United States and Canada are among the best for what I want. I want to check out national and state parks. 

I'll need to lease a car or van which is large enough to store my stuff (clothing and outdoor gear) and turn into a bed. Bring a tent which I can use at campsites for cheap. Staying in campsites is a good way to save money, but more importantly close to the parks I'll be spending time in. I work remotely, so I can drive to the nearest Starbucks to use WiFi when needed. I won't be pulling top tier girls like this, but girls I meet will be adventurous and down to fuck in a car/tent.

Has anybody ever travelled around the US/Canada in a car or van? I think it's a good time in my life to do this because I'm still in my early 30's. If I burn out by the time I'm 34 or 35, I'll still be prime age to move to Medellin and get 21 year olds.

Edit: what I'm describing here is the typical "dirtbag" lifestyle, if you're familiar with what that is. Has anybody done this or know people who have?
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#2
If you're fine with sleeping in a normal passenger van or in a tent I'd get a Dodge Caravan. They are decent on gas for a van, cheap and all the seats fold down into the floor with most of them.

With a higher budget you can convert a van into a camper or just buy a decent class c motorhome, if you get a small one they are just a little bit bigger than a full size truck and you can live pretty comfortably with a queen size bed, generator and place to work, eat and cook. A class c would also obviously have a lot more storage and a bathroom with a decent shower so you aren't a smelly fucking hippie.
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#3
regular campsites can cost $20-40 a night but for $40 will have electricity, water, and faciilties.

what a lot of people are doing is camping in their car on public streets, walmart parking lots, etc.

just google vanlife. but some people spend a fortune on these things.

investing some funds to allow yourself to cook and bathe will go a long way in saving costs for restaurants and hotels.
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#4
Jeez $40 for a campsite? May as well stay in a dorm.
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#5
I'd feel like a huge tool spending $40/night on a campsite. At that price point you're better off getting a private room in an airbnb or a motel somewhere. I'll have to do more research and see which places have free campsites. My main objective here is to spend a lot of time rock climbing and have an adventure. You can't go to Yosemite and climb El Capitan unless you're climbing almost everyday for years.
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#6
This sounds like a cool thing to do, I thought the lifestyle looked pretty romantic from that Alex Honnold film. Think it's called dirtbagging in the climbing community. I'd say linking up with them is your best source of info.
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#7
What about something like this, you'll be getting around 10MPG but you can live comfortably and bang chicks comfortably, except with a rear bedroom layout instead of the bunks.
https://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/rvs/d...99132.html
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#8
^ something like that would be nice, but $35k for a used car seems a bit steep. Right now the biggest hurdle is getting a vehicle. Between living in NYC and living abroad for the past decade, it's been a long time since I've owned a car.

Another one of my objectives is to spend time (several weeks to a month) in various US cities and decide if there's anywhere I'd like to live long term. I enjoy living abroad, but what's going happen if I settle in Medellin and find a long term gf.. that's great, but then I'll be living in Colombia forever. I love Colombia, but let's be real, other than women it's a huge downgrade from the US. Colombia would get old pretty fast if you're not single. After being a homeless person living out of a car or van for a bit I'll probably want to get an apartment if I find a city I like and have a cool social circle
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#9
Well it was just an example but you can probably get a good deal on something similar for around 20k.

Let's face it, even though I like Colombia it's mostly a shit hole outside of little pockets here and there. It's relatively cheap and has hot girls but I don't know if I'd want to raise kids there, even with a estrato 5/6 lifestyle.
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#10
Simpler to just bicycle tour and stay in motels every few days. That's what I do in the winter I the southwest USA. Motels in small towns are like $60/night. So if 4 nights camping then 2 nights in motel, average cost $20/night. Plus no gas expenses, less up-front cost for bicycle and other gear versus motor vehicle, much easier to conceal yourself at night, much more fun IMO. I go on dirt roads, with almost no traffic, just a rancher in a pickup every few days. Beginners should stick to paved roads.
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#11
(07-05-2019, 06:23 AM)shemp Wrote: Simpler to just bicycle tour and stay in motels every few days. That's what I do in the winter I the southwest USA. Motels in small towns are like $60/night. So if 4 nights camping then 2 nights in motel, average cost $20/night. Plus no gas expenses, less up-front cost for bicycle and other gear versus motor vehicle, much easier to conceal yourself at night, much more fun IMO. I go on dirt roads, with almost no traffic, just a rancher in a pickup every few days. Beginners should stick to paved roads.

Sounds like you could expand on this for an interesting datasheet...
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#12
There's tons of information on the internet. Plus everyone has their own opinions about everything from best tires to best saddles to best places to tour, etc. With bicycles, you can afford to just buy and discard things while figuring out your style, especially second-hand gear. Also, much easier to become a competent bicycle mechanic than motor vehicle (including motorbike) mechanic, especially if competence limited to your model bicycle.
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#13
(07-04-2019, 01:16 PM)churros Wrote: Jeez $40 for a campsite? May as well stay in a dorm.

Yeah, if you can find one.  

Campsite fees are not cheap, they are geared towards folks who drive in and want all facilities.  I live in the South, and in my State they are mostly $40.  There are a few state parks that have primitive sites that will run you $25.  

There are tons of blogs that discuss strategies for dealing with this.  The simplest is to park at WalMart and on public streets.  Walmart welcomes poeple, but some cities have ordinances about sleeping in your car.  So a lot of people try to do this stealthily and park in nice neighborhoods.  Another trick is to park in a hotel parking lot, they have nice restrooms, wifi, etc.

Apparrently its legal to camp on certain federal wilderness land - I think its called Bueaurea of Land Managment (BLM).  You mostly find this out West.

The whole van life thing has gotten very popular with millenials and other dropouts so there are tons of youtube channels, blogs, IGs, etc.  For about $10-20K, folks have converted vans to have full kitchens, toilets, showers, HVAC, solar.  You could really go off grid in these things for a while.  But you still need to acquire a van, and even at $10K that works out to around $30/day for a full a year.
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#14
I've wanted to do this for a while, but after doing a lot of research, I've sort of put the idea on hold for the time being. I couldn't figure out a cheap way to do it while still being able to get work done everyday and have a dating life. I need to put in like 20-30 hours a week working online, and sitting in the passenger seat of my car on a laptop for 5 hours is questionable. Plus the challenge of getting all my devices charged. I'm not down to go try and find a coffee shop all the time in every town haha...  It takes a lot of extra time just to do regular life stuff as well. Finding a planet fitness to shower, cooking, shopping more frequently to fill the small fridge etc.

Then you have the issue of meeting girls. I love the outdoors, but that by its very nature presents a big dilemma. Dating is much easier in the cities. If you are remote living camping on BLM land in small town USA and national park areas etc, how are you ever going to meet any solo females or meet anyone really?

I think the only real way to do it is to find a girl who's down to come along for the ride beforehand. Also, you need a big converted van and ability to park it off grid a lot. Car or SUV is not comfortable or practical longterm. And an RV, even a class C, is way too expensive. Once you add up campsite fee's, cost of gas, repairs, etc, the RV lifestyle can easily be more expensive than city living.

Realistically, probably looking at 15K to start for a reliable van converted to have everything necessary plus some solar panels and other shit. Then at least another $1500-2000 per month to cover two people traveling around living this lifestyle indefinitely.
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#15
This post is going to mainly address the western US since that's where I'm from and where I've road tripped all over all throughout my life. 

If you're planning to see the National Parks, especially the big parks in the western states, it's a good idea to buy the National Parks annual pass. It's $90 and will allow you unlimited entry to all of the big parks. I bought one last summer (2018) and did Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Crater Lake, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon with my brother. Individually, each of those parks is $30-$40 for a 7-day pass, so buying the annual pass is a big saver. 

As for camping: Camping inside of those big parks is expensive. We're talking a minimum of around $20 for basic campsites in a campground without showers. I paid something like $35 for a campsite in a full service campground on Jackson Lake, Grand Teton NP. 

A tip for dodging these high prices is to stay in the National Forest campgrounds right outside of the national park boundaries. You'll have to look up Forest Service district websites for maps and their specifics to locate them, but they're usually $5-$15, and sometimes free. If you get the National Park annual pass, you can zip in and out of the park and stay outside cheaper.  I found a beauty of a free campground in Hyalite Canyon just above Bozeman, Montana.  Definitely hit Bozeman. Much better than Missoula. Missoula is a bit of a methed out, leftist shithole. Hot chicks in both but they're better in Bozeman. Everyone there is super active. Every town of more than 5,000 people in that region has a brewery. They're great places to mix with the locals and tourists alike. I digress...

Here's what that campsite above Bozeman in Hyalite Canyon looked like:

Road into the canyon:
   

Hyalite Creek, right below the tent site:
   

Sunset view from tent site:
   

Firepit in the free campsite:
   

Yellowstone is also ringed by national forest campgrounds. I stayed in one about 5 miles out of Gardiner, Montana that was $7 per night. The thing is, Yellowstone campgrounds all fill by noon on a first come, first serve basis (the most popular ones fill by 6:45 am in summer!), so this results in people driving out of the park looking for somewhere to stay. While we got to our campground at 7 pm or so and paid the $7, people were coming in all night, parking their cars and just passing out.  I'd say 80% of the campers didn't pay the fee and weren't even in sites. It's Montana so there were no authorities around to check. My brother and I ended up waking up at like 2 am to go over to an adjacent site and smoke and drink with a biker club from Saskatchewan.  In the morning, we broke camp, headed down into Gardiner and back into Yellowstone and took a bath in the Boiling River.  Amazing place. 

Here's the National Forest campground right outside of Gardiner:
   
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#16
One of my criteria for choosing a place to stay would be that there are coffee shops or libraries where I can work. If the area is too remote and I cannot get internet I'd have to rule it out. For example, somebody told me about Bellingham, Washington. He said it's close to plenty of parks and also has a university. I think college towns are a good place to start- plenty of young girls, there will always be internet somewhere, and they're cheaper than big cities.

If you pursue an outdoor lifestyle there's always going to be a compromise as far as dating goes. I'd imagine it'll be pretty hard meeting good girls I'm living out of a car or van. I'm mostly looking for a girlfriend, so I don't think living in a big city is necessary like it is if you want to pull in high numbers. I'm not in my 20's anymore, but I think I'm young enough that I can still find a quality girl in the US. I plan on spending at least 90% of my time around outdoors type of people, I usually get annoyed with girls when they start talking to me about movies and shopping malls. City girls are mostly good for sex and nothing else.

(07-05-2019, 02:44 PM)jdreise Wrote: ...

Good tips for sure. Bozeman is on my radar, it looks awesome. I figure girls in these types of places are probably down to fuck a guy who lives out of his car? lols
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#17
I've been in BC, Canada lately mostly outside of Vancouver and I see a ton of RVS, campers, vans, etc coming and going, it's a great spot for outdoor activities and attracts lots of nature lovers from around the world. I think that if you have a decent set up then you can have a great time doing lots of cool outdoor stuff like hiking, kayaking, etc. It doesn't seem cheap though, especially for RVs-the prices I've seen at fully serviced RV camp grounds are around $40/night or about $600-700/month and that's just to park your RV and hook it up. I think a guy could be better off just picking a cool spot to stay in such as Squamish, Whistler, Jasper, Banff, Canmore, etc and renting a room in a house for about $700-1000USD/month and going from there.

Outdoor lifestyle is great, I love going on hikes up the side of a mountain for the epic views and also really enjoy fishing because when catch one, you'll have something nutritious and tasty to eat. I also sometimes will rent a bike or kayak to tour around in and also try to go scuba diving at least a couple of times each year.

I think that a lot of guys would be much better off if they got into a local outdoor scene, whether it's hiking, kite surfing, mountain biking, whatever. You'll be surrounded by pretty good people, living healthy and making cool friends. Too many guys on here waste time drinking in bars/clubs (I'm guilty of that!) or trying to do day game at malls when they'd be much better off doing fun, physical stuff in a natural setting with a mixed group of people.
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#18
(Edit: I was trying to get this up before anyone responded. You're only allowed 5 attachments per post and I was trying to post this with the other one)

Individual state forestry departments and state fish and game departments also maintain campgrounds. Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has an excellent campground system all along the best fishing rivers in the state. Campsites are $17 if you are from out of state. 

 
If you do decide to head up into MT/WY, make sure you stop and see a show at the Old Saloon in Emigrant. It's a tiny little bar and restaurant in the Paradise Valley that has a packed summer of alternative country concerts. We're talking the kinds of music fans who love to party and will travel to see a show. We went and saw Corb Lund open for the Turnpike Troubadours.  There were probably 3,000 people out there in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful Big Sky summer evening and some pretty good looking country girls (Didn't manage to get much for pictures of the people). We were drinking beer in the parking lot when we got talking to a local who offered us some blow.  We went back to his truck and did few lines of low grade stuff. Still, it gave me a little bump and it was very generous of him and a showcase to how open and amenable the people are in the Mountain West.  His girlfriend pulled up, we got talking, and somehow the topic of the Spanish language got brought up. I said I speak it. She asked me to say something. I did. She said that was sexy and she'd introduce me to her friends in Bozeman.  A few days later, we all met up and I ended up banging her friend while my brother banged out some chick from the bar we were all at.  My local dude buddy was there again line up more blow for all of us.  Anyway, digressing again...The show was sold out but my brother and I just walked in and no one checked us.  People were passing around joints and hooting and hollering.  Great time. Check it out. There's a Montana DFWP campground on the Yellowstone River about 10 miles north of Emigrant.  Good spot to camp. 

Here's the Old Saloon and some pics from the concert:
   
   
   
   

MT DFWP campground north of Emigrant (on the right in the image):
   

Anyways, another camping hack is 24-hour Walmart parking lots. You can pull up and sleep in those and no one will bother you. Same with highway rest areas. Obviously, you can't set up a tent, but as long as your vehicle is roomy enough, you're golden. 

Which brings us to vehicles. Like a few others have said, minivans are good. You can pick them up cheap take out the back seats and put a mattress in, or even build in a little kitchen where the back hatch opens. I saw a few people along the trip who'd done that. 

The vehicle I took on the trip was a 2006 Nissan Frontier 4x4 extended cab with a six-foot bed and camper shell.  We brought tents on the trip, but most nights, we moved all of our stuff into the cab and slept in the camper shell. Frontiers are solid trucks and much cheaper than Tacomas.  Even if they have more than 200,000 miles on them, they run like champs.  Since I live most of the year abroad, I don't maintain a car in the US. I borrowed the Frontier from my dad. I know he paid less than $10,000 for it less than a year before.  I'd say you could buy one of those and easily re-sell it. Trucks have gotten expensive over the last decade, but they have excellent resale value.  You're going to want the 4 wheel if you want to go deep into woods in Montana/WY/ID or BC/Alberta and points north. A torrential downpour will turn country roads into muck. Look up videos of the Dempster Highway for proof.  A Dodge caravan is going to slide off the road in slick mud. If you're just sticking to conventional paved highways, the caravan is a good call. Aside from construction zones, all of the roads in the National Parks are impeccably maintained and you could tour them in a Honda Civic. 

Also, since my mind is on these topics, an amazing but very little known place to check out in the west is the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction and Montrose, Colorado. It's a 10,000 foot flat topped mountain with aspen and pine forest that's dotted with azure blue glacial lakes.  Amazing fishing, hiking, and camping.  And, since it's just national forest land and not any kind of state or national park, tourists from outside the area don't know anything about it. My dad and I spent a few summers there fishing when I was a kid. One of America's hidden gems. 
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#19
I drove through Montana last year and it was pretty nice, didn't really stop much as I was en route to eastern Canada but it seemed really nice. I did stay a night in Deadwood, SD and was blown away by the area, we stopped to check out Mount Rushmore (which was great) but I was really surprised by how lush and green the surrounding area is-lots of lakes, rivers, big hills, etc. At some point I'd like to return to the area, there's a lot of cool things to see and do like historical wild west sites and nearby Rapid City, SD seems like a pretty cool smaller city to check out.

Check out Wicked Campers, I see these crazy painted/converted vans and RVs all over British Columbia they look really cool, many of them are older Chevy Astros, so cheap vans but roomy enough to convert into something cool to take on the road: https://www.wickedcampers.ca/
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#20
(07-05-2019, 03:03 PM)Scotian Wrote: I've been in BC, Canada lately mostly outside of Vancouver and I see a ton of RVS, campers, vans, etc coming and going, it's a great spot for outdoor activities and attracts lots of nature lovers from around the world. I think that if you have a decent set up then you can have a great time doing lots of cool outdoor stuff like hiking, kayaking, etc. It doesn't seem cheap though, especially for RVs-the prices I've seen at fully serviced RV camp grounds are around $40/night or about $600-700/month and that's just to park your RV and hook it up. I think a guy could be better off just picking a cool spot to stay in such as Squamish, Whistler, Jasper, Banff, Canmore, etc and renting a room in a house for about $700-1000USD/month and going from there.

Outdoor lifestyle is great, I love going on hikes up the side of a mountain for the epic views and also really enjoy fishing because when catch one, you'll have something nutritious and tasty to eat. I also sometimes will rent a bike or kayak to tour around in and also try to go scuba diving at least a couple of times each year.

I think that a lot of guys would be much better off if they got into a local outdoor scene, whether it's hiking, kite surfing, mountain biking, whatever. You'll be surrounded by pretty good people, living healthy and making cool friends. Too many guys on here waste time drinking in bars/clubs (I'm guilty of that!) or trying to do day game at malls when they'd be much better off doing fun, physical stuff in a natural setting with a mixed group of people.

Good point about fishing. It's a nice way to keep expenses down as well.

Spending $600/month on a campsite is full tard. Much rather live in an actual house for that price. That, plus the extra you'd pay to buy a camper and for gas, makes it seem like a dumb move on my part. Nice if you want that experience I guess.

I agree 100% on people joining an outdoor scene. You're also more likely to meet better girls. I'd rather meet girls that exercise a lot and are actually down to do fun things, rather than club rats who will destroy their bodies with drugs and alcohol before they turn 25. I wouldn't necessarily recommend something like rock climbing to most people. If you're not passionate about it and willing to accept the risks, it's probably not worth it IMO.
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