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Mobile Traveler since 1961

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#1 Camper_Bob



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Posted May 07 2014 - 05:23 AM

Greetings All!

Camper_Bob here, been a mobile traveler since 1961, mainly working disaster relief, which is why being a full time mobile traveler just makes sense.

I currently live in my 1986 Dodge 15 passenger converted camper van, but I have lived in everything from fancy motorhomes to converted school buses to camper vans over the years.

Doesn't look like twodogs is around any more, but I may be able to add some helpful advice if anyone needs it. I've got a little bit of experience with almost every aspect of mobile living, and finding work on the road.

I am normally more of a city dweller than a wilderness dweller, but I do have some experience there too.

I've visited a number of sites about full time RVing, and Van Dwelling, and to be honest, I wasn't very impressed by most of them. To many wannabe's posting as experts, or other supposed experts whose real goal is to separate you from your money.

Since I thought a lot of twodogs, even though I didn't always agree with him, I thought maybe this would be a good place to start a discussion and offer help to anyone in need, and one thing you can ALWAYS count on, is that I will never try to sell you anything.

Living in a vehicle can be challenging, but it is far more rewarding. It can be a cheap way of living if the need arises, and a great way to view the country if you have the desire. Anybody can do this, and it's a whole lot easier than most people think. You can start with almost any vehicle and upgrade as you go. Jobs are easy to get and plentiful if you know how, and you can work your way around the country if you like. There are many ways to make money on the road, all honest and legal.

One of the greatest things about this lifestyle is that your expenses are so low that it doesn't take much money to really enjoy life and travel.

So if there's anyone out there with either questions or answers about living a mobile lifestyle, especially van dwelliing, this is the place for you!

#2 Dude111


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Posted May 07 2014 - 08:56 AM

Twodogs does check in from time to time...... He last was here a few months ago and was doing ok.........

1961 huh????? God bless ya my friend,must be hard living that way......

#3 Camper_Bob



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Posted May 07 2014 - 07:28 PM

Twodogs does check in from time to time...... He last was here a few months ago and was doing ok.........

1961 huh????? God bless ya my friend,must be hard living that way......

So glad to hear that, I hadn't heard from him in like 2 years, and was starting to get worried.

Actually it's a great life, I'm pretty much retired now, but continue to live in my van by choice, I really can't hardly imagine living any other way.

I get a kick out of the tiny house movement, they don't have a clue about what tiny houses really are. hehe

I miss working, but I stay pretty busy anyway, I've started helping other people build camper vans, and it has kind of snowballed on me. I helped a returning vet build one, and the next thing I knew, I had so many people wanting my help that it can be hard to keep up. That's part of the reason I signed up here, I figured that if I could post directions on how to build a camper van, maybe it could help a lot of people, and then I could just refer people here who needed help.

I'll be turning 72 soon, and I would like to pass on some knowledge to the younger folk. Times are a lot tougher for many, and they just don't teach people good survival skills in schools. So many homeless people, who might not have to be if they just knew how not to be homeless. I've had the good fortune of never being homeless, but I had a very good teacher from the time I was a very young kid.

Down by the river, where my Grandpa would take me fishing, lived an old man called Hobo Henry. He lived in a small house he had built on the back of an old pickup truck. He was a happy old guy, never had a bad word to say about anything, and always had fresh cooked and fresh smoked fish to share with visitors. He sold the excess fish he caught, and that may have been his only income. He had great stories to tell, he had been living that way since the great depression. Traveled the country with his wife and 2 kids, finding work when he could, and feeding his family with fish when he couldn't. He'd tell of good times and bad, but how nobody ever went hungry or cold.

For some reason I made a connection with Hobo Henry, traveling the country, envisioning it through his stories, and the wanderlust built within me. I wanted to see all these places in person, and long before I was ever old enough to drive, I had built my own tiny cabin on wheels a million times in my mind. I never got very interested in school, even though I was determined to be the first one in my family to graduate high school. But I wasn't interested much in a regular job, I wanted to travel, just like Hobo Henry.

Well, I got that truck, and built my tiny house on it, preparing for my travels once I graduated. We lived 5-6 miles from my school, and we had one of the worst winters we'd ever seen. It was a long cold walk to school through 3+ feet of snow, because it was to unsafe to walk on the plowed road. So I decided that I was going to take my truck to school and camp out during the week, and just return home on the weekends. Our house was always freezing cold in the winter, but my tiny cabin was easy to heat, and the top of my little perfection kerosene heater doubled as a cook stove. Hobo Henry told me I'd never go cold with a perfection heater and he was right.

By the time the weather cleared, I had become very comfortable in my tiny cabin, and I was the envy of every other kid in school. I decided to keep camping out, and only returned home occasionally to visit. I spent many nights down by the river with Hobo Henry.

The week of high school graduation, the disaster corps were recruiting at my high school. "Get Paid to Travel The Country" they said, so I signed up, and stayed with it until they retired me.

Now I'm the old man with the stories to tell, and hopefully some help and inspiration to offer to others, just like Hobo Henry did with me, and probably many others. I've been able to live out my dreams, and a whole lot more, and I want other people to know that they can live out their dreams too. Hope is not dead, it is alive and well, and available to all.

Edited by Camper_Bob, May 08 2014 - 05:57 PM.

#4 odonII



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Posted May 07 2014 - 07:33 PM

It can be a cheap way of living if the need arises, and a great way to view the country if you have the desire. Anybody can do this, and it's a whole lot easier than most people think.

Jobs are easy to get and plentiful if you know how, and you can work your way around the country if you like. There are many ways to make money on the road, all honest and legal.

How did you start?

I have nothing in my bank account.

#5 Camper_Bob



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Posted May 07 2014 - 10:06 PM

How did you start?

I started in high school actually, with a home made camper built on the back of an old pickup truck. Vans as we know them today didn't really exist yet.

I have nothing in my bank account.

Do you have a vehicle and/or a job? Do you live in a house, apartment, or ?

I live in the USA, but things shouldn't be too different where you're at.

#6 Camper_Bob



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Posted May 07 2014 - 10:09 PM

How and why to choose a van.

A van is the largest vehicle you can park legally just about anywhere. Motor homes, trailers, and even pickups with campers have parking restrictions in many areas, and so do box trucks, step vans, and buses. For this reason we will focus on vans.

Which van is best? Well, first let's eliminate the obvious. You don't want a cargo van. Cargo vans attract the attention of cops, thieves, nosey neighbors, and pretty much everybody else. The people who tell you how stealthy they are has either never had one, or is trying to sell theirs so they can get a window van. The only people the "stealth crowd" are fooling is themselves.

Besides the above, window vans have many advantages over cargo vans. They don't attract unwanted attention, they have better safety features, they have better ventilation, they have usually been maintained better, and have lower miles. They usually drive better, quieter, and will get better gas mileage. For these reasons and a whole lot more, you want a window van.

How Big? I like to suggest the 15 passenger models. These are typically the longest, and are frequently 1 ton models so they can easily handle the weight of being a camper van. Any length of van can work, but the more room you have, generally the more comfortable you'll be.

What about high tops? High tops have the advantage of being able to stand up inside. This can be huge for some people. They have the disadvantage of not being able to park in parking garages, or driving through most fast food joints. Both high and low top vans can be converted into equally comfortable camper vans.

How about mini vans? Mini vans can be used, but you're giving up a lot of comfort, for a slight increase in gas mileage. Not a worthwhile trade off in my mind.

Factory camper vans? Factory camper vans are usually not really set up for off grid living, and they are frequently pretty high priced as well. A converted window van will usually make a better choice for most people.

Conversion Vans? Conversion vans can make a good start for a camper van. Some have taller tops, and most already have a bed built in. The bed may or may not be a good fit for you or your plans, only you can decide on this.

Recommendations? Retired church and shuttle vans are usually great choices. You can find them with high, medium, and low tops. They frequently have low miles and have had good maintenance. Once the rear seats are removed, you are left with a nice flat floor, and already paneled walls and ceiling. These vans can frequently be found with very low price tags.

Makes, years? Anything can be made to work, and everybody has their own favorite make of vehicle. I have had good luck with Dodge's myself, you just can't kill them. I prefer the older ones, pre computer controlled anything. Less to go wrong, and easier to fix if the need arises.

Gas or Diesel? I have to vote for gas, they're more reliable, lower maintenance, and gas can be much easier to find than diesel in some areas.

I didn't forget about propane or veggie oil, they are just not good options. You want a vehicle that can be easily serviced even in remote locations.

#7 Fierce Flower

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Posted May 07 2014 - 11:43 PM

Any time I ever again see a camper or RV, I will be reminded of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep.
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#8 Camper_Bob



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Posted May 08 2014 - 12:00 AM

Any time I ever again see a camper or RV, I will be reminded of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep.

I guess I'm not familiar with that one.:confused:

#9 oldwolf


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Posted May 08 2014 - 11:30 AM

welcome aboard and thanks for your insights.
Been living in vehicles nearly 10yrs and if a travel trailer with 8x14' living space counts, more like 25 yrs (on a wonderful place I 'rented' from the state (owned) in the sw finger lakes region - tried for community there for 30 yrs and passed it on last year).
Currently I live in a Subaru outback modified to a 2.2 engine and14" wheels with the back all cargo (ready made bed). Been more than ready to upgrade but enjoy going places where awd helps, but need a bit more clearance. Thought about a Sprinter, but they are top heavy and only rear wd. Will have to chew on your advice - but it looks sound.
Use an inverter, carry up to 15 gal of water and several cook stoves (both propane and multifuel), must admit I favor the propane but am drawn to gasoline fuels as being the cheapest to run.
The kerosene heater you mentioned - how's that in the van ? (breathing-wise - I have an adversion to the smell of kerosene via lanterns and especially cannot take them upon exstinguishing).
Been on these forums since the beginning , but no longer moderate (though skip has not seen fit [yet] to take away my mod status) because I am too often off grid (national forests - mostly S.W.). Do have the option of parking in a home base at my sister's in N.M., - use it as little as possible believing in the fish story (3 days and it begins to stink), but even when parked, sleep and usually cook in my car.
My email is in my sig. and I do reply to P.M.s too (when folks can use them); but must warn that I'm often off grid.
Finally went to a smart phone , but still need the grid - satellite phone are beyond my means at present.
Getting ready to travel to S. A. (a once started vision but never fully realized) - hopefully before winter solstice here.
My sig. also has links to my personal forum and journals, should you wish a pretty clear vision of me. I include all this because you sound like a person of like mind - and I meet very few.
Like to connect, should desire be there on your side as well.

Blessings along your Way (most often the lessons learned)

Namaste (my spirit bows to your spirit)
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Life is an opportunity and becomes what you make of it

May the Light of Love ever Guide your Way
Grow on ... Enjoy !

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#10 Camper_Bob



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Posted May 08 2014 - 05:02 PM

Greetings & Welcome OldWolf !!!!

Sure sounds like 25 years to me. I gave a little thought to the original title, and specifically used mobile traveler as opposed to van dweller, because I wanted to be all inclusive. Many of us, myself included, have had many forms of housing on wheels, and good tips and advice can help many, regardless of which form of mobile living space they choose.

I caught your name long ago, (I've been a lurker for a very long time), because my traveling companion for over 10 years was a wolf who adopted me. I think the poor old guy was starving, and had come down out of the hills in search of food. He was scrawny and scraggly, but he immediately impressed my by announcing his presence, about 100 feet away. It was a cold snowy day, and I had just finished dinner, so I put my leftovers on a plate, and even cooked up an extra steak just for him. Took the plate out about 50 feet and placed it on the ground. I told him in kind and loving words that it was for him, and nobody went hungry on my watch.

He gulped that down like it had been many days since his last meal. When I awoke the next morning, he was still there, just at the tree line. I fixed breakfast for two, extra sausage for my friend. I noticed that he ate it a little slower, and then he sat beside his plate and waited. I opened my side door, and he immediately gave me a soft loving howl, to let me know he appreciated it, before he went back to the tree line.

I drove to town for a grocery run, and picked up a 50 pound bag of dog food for him, and a couple of doggy dishes. I kept his dishes full, and slowly he would come up and and sit beside me and let me pet him. He would sleep right outside my side doors, and greet me in the morning with a kiss. I needed to make another grocery run, and I started my van, and I'll be darned if he didn't jump in the van. Well, he chose to officially move in with me that day, and for nearly 10 years we were family. He holds a prominent place in both my heart and my memories.

I think there's a lot that can be learned by everyone if we share our knowledge. Some of us old timers have undoubtably found solutions for many of the problems that the younger crowd are now experiencing. Not every answer will be helpful to everyone, but to some, any answer or solution is better than none.

I believe our numbers are larger than most people realize, and too many are struggling just to keep their heads above water. Good honest, and helpful answers seem to be hard to come by. I understand the need for people to make money, but not at the expense of those who are also struggling.

I am one of the fortunate few that could choose to live in a house or apartment. I saved my money, lots of it, because my housing costs were next to nothing. Today I have a decent retirement plus social security. But I still have that wanderlust in my heart, and my little home on wheels keeps me as comfortable as any other type of dwelling ever could. I can change my scenery or my neighbors on a moments notice, and live my life the way I choose. I don't need to keep up with the Jones's, or impress anyone, I am free to enjoy my life as I see fit.

I'll try to answer your specific questions in my next post, but I wanted to welcome you, and invite you, as well as everyone else, to help with answers and suggestions. I would like this to be a community rather than a dictatorship, with no question being stupid, and all help from everyone welcomed. I am a believer that having 10 choices for answers is much better than having none, and that everyone may have something helpful to contribute whether they realize it or not.

Again, welcome my friend, and stay tuned! :2thumbsup: