Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Category: Living Frugally (page 1 of 4)

Southern Utah’s National Parks – 12-Day Adventure between House Sits

Between our month-long house sit in Rollinsville, Colorado and the next, three-month one in San Diego, California, Mark and I faced a gap of two weeks. Initially, we were on the look-out for a short pet sit, but pretty soon, we realized this would be the perfect opportunity to really test the van life. Longer than one weekend, and for fun, instead of as a means of transportation to get from point A to B. It was an attractive plan for many reasons, including these four: we have always wanted to visit some of Utah’s incredible National Parks, they happened to be en route, we could use a break from our computers (when not?), and, coincidentally, our business partner appeared to have a scheduled vacation within the exact dates we’d be on the road. Now, if that wasn’t the ideal time to relax The Wirie work a bit ourselves!

A window to Delicate Arch

Arches National Park

Not much planning and anticipation went into this camping trip. I checked the map, saw Canyonlands, thought “I guess we stop there,” then noticed a green spot called “Arches” along the way and yelled: “Oh yeah, that’s the famous one in Utah, not Canyonlands. We have to go there!” Now, I don’t know whether you have ever looked at Southern Utah on a map… it is one national park after the next! How exciting! All we had to do was pick and choose, be happy about not doing it all, and not feel rushed! Oh, did I mention that the two biggies, Bryce Canyon and Zion are here as well?

Our selection of Utah National Parks

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Monthly Expenses – October 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. The utility category has disappeared, since we replaced our Skype phone service with Google Voice - the one-time fee for this was paid with our Skype reimbursement and there are no more monthly contributions.

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

Zesty the Westy continues to be our biggest expense: over $500 last month, mainly for fuel - we went on a long road trip visiting some national parks in Utah - and a high-altitude fuel pump so we could run our heater above 5000ft in Colorado and Utah. Not being cold anymore is worth something. We also spent $40 on accommodation - something we rarely do. Technically, I could record this amount under "travel". Usually, we overnight for free, but in Zion National Park we made an exception and paid for two nights of basic camping in the midst of the park's natural beauty.

All in all, October was not too crazy, considering we went on a two-week "vacation", exploring one of the most amazing states in this country, and Mark hopped on a plane to the East Coast. Next month, we are aiming to spend $1000 or less!

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Monthly Expenses – September 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is camper, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, almond milk for Mark and organic 2% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care as a permanent resident in the US. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we both return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

Once again, we did not succeed to stay below $1000 in September. Our biggest expense category was - you guessed it -  Zesty the Westy. We were actually not doing too shabby, when Mark noticed a new top hatch come up for sale on eBay. He won the bid and bought the manual hatch (as a spare for our camper van) for $255. This a very reasonable price, knowing that an electric replacement (not our preference and that's why we worry ours, at 13 years old, might break any time) costs around US$1000 and needs to be shipped in from Europe. Now, the question is: where will we store this massive spare part without tripping over it?

Zesty at our current house sit in Colorado. The top hatch is that massive contraption, in the middle of the roof, above the side window and in front of the AC unit


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Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque

So little time and so many excursions to blog about! Since Mark and I were only in Santa Fe, New Mexico for one month, we had to fully utilize our weekends to explore the area. We did this by leaving the house mid-morning on Saturday and returning late afternoon on Sunday. All the sites we visited can be done as day trips from Santa Fe, since our driving time was usually between one and one and a half hours each way. Going for the whole weekend allowed us to relax some, do less driving and spend the nights in nature – quiet and peaceful. We always find free camping spots to sleep in Zesty, our Westfalia (Westy) camper van.

Albuquerque is located at a lower elevation than Santa Fe. This means that it is usually quite a bit warmer, something we did not account for. My plan, before setting out, was to visit all four areas of Petroglyph National Monument and do most of the hikes, about 7 miles in total. It seemed feasible. We had all day. There are over 24,000 images pecked in stone. We would not have to search hard to see some.

Too many carvings to count!

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Creating a Lifestyle Catered to You – Guest Post on Retirement Reflections

It was an honor to be featured on my blogging friend Donna’s website “Retirement Reflections” this weekend, as a guest in her Sunday Guest Post Series. She is an amazing woman, who just walked a big chunk of the Camino Trail in Spain with her husband and has many interesting, insightful and inspirational ideas incorporated in her blog posts. I love her adventurous, positive and caring personality and I encourage you to browse her website, if you haven’t already. Here is the beginning of the post about Mark and my past and present – how we got to our current lifestyle of house and pet sitting…

Thank you, Donna, for inviting me over to participate in your Sunday Series. It is a pleasure, and an honor, to be called one of your favorites. My ego is bursting!

A retirement lifestyle?

Lifestyle
At 42-years-old, I am not retired, although many people might think differently based on the lifestyle I have been living since 2003. It’s either that, or they think I am on a perpetual vacation, or that I am rich, or all of the above! Living an alternative lifestyle throughout adulthood causes these assumptions. Unfortunately, the reality is “none of the above.” Although I have the flexibility to sleep in and form my own schedule, that’s where the comparisons stop. I still need to make money and sacrifices to survive, and I own nothing, not even a retirement account. My husband, Mark, and I like the minimalistic approach and don’t require much to be happy and free. All our belongings fit in our red Toyota Prius and, other than our business, The Wirie, we have no burdens or responsibilities. We don’t have a home, children or pets (yet) and go wherever we find an attractive long-term house and pet sit. To us, creating memories and going on adventures is more important than collecting material goods or financial wealth.

Blogs to inspire and share?

In 2007, Mark and I embarked on an impromptu cruising adventure with our two big rescue dogs, Kali and Darwin. After a failed attempt two years prior in Northern California, because the dogs hated sailing on a monohull (which lays on its side when moving in certain directions), we searched and found a 35-foot catamaran (more stability and less seasickness for me) in Annapolis, Maryland, and named her Irie, which is a reggae term meaning “It’s all good!” I started my first blog, It’s Irie, to document all our adventures and share tips while cruising the Caribbean and the South Pacific. We ran a business from the middle of nowhere (tricky!)…  Continue reading here.

(If you’d like to leave a reaction, please do so on Donna’s site.)

Day Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Bandelier National Monument

New Mexico state has so many natural and cultural treasures, that when the weekend approaches, Mark and I are filled with excitement and the promise of wonderful excursions. We pack our camper van up and only have to drive an hour or two to reach enough sites to fill days. Of course, we only have two of those a week, and, after a tiring work week, immediately getting on the road Friday night is not the way we like to approach our time off. Instead, we have a glass of wine and a snack, make an ever-pleasing vegetarian pizza, and put a few things in the camper before picking up the mail or in between watering the plants.

On Saturday, we have a not-to-early start and depart to our destination, in this case, Bandelier National Monument, NW of Santa Fe. Continue reading

Monthly Expenses – August 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is car, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, almond milk for Mark and organic 2% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! For check-ups, we return to the East Coast. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

August was another expensive month for us, thanks to being new camper van owners. Between fuel (long trips in California and to New Mexico for our current house sit), maintenance to and items bought for our Westy, we spent almost US$1000! At least now we know where our money goes. Once we realized the impact of this, about half-way through the month, we tightened our belts, postponed some planned Amazon purchases to September, and attempted to keep other expenses as low as possible. The result is not too bad, but I can't wait to go out and spoil ourselves one of these months! 🙂

Zesty in New Mexico


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Monthly Expenses – July 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without breaking the bank. The less money you spend, the less you need to make. 🙂 That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is car, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up.

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, almond milk for Mark and organic 2% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! Every six months, we have to fly or drive to the East Coast for cancer check-ups. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

July was expensive (over $2000!), because of a big garage bill and long-distance travel from Arkansas to California. We had to buy a lot of diesel, but camped for free every night of that six-day journey. Owning a 12-year-old camper van incurs higher monthly expenses than a Toyota Prius, which we were fully aware of. This month's total hurts, but now Zesty is up to snuff and all the other maintenance, fixes and improvements are done ourselves, over time.

Swapping our Prius for an Airstream Westfalia camper van


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Monthly Expenses – June 2017

Expenses - image

Every month, I post a report of our expenses to show that it is possible to live a comfortable, exciting and relatively adventurous life without being rich. Or even without owning/earning a lot of money. That being said, Mark and I seem to manage one big expense a month for some reason, whether it is car, plane, travel or computer-related. Luckily, we live totally rent-free, wherever we end up. 🙂

This report includes ALL of our expenses, in US$, for the two of us. Under groceries we incorporate all the food, produce and non-alcoholic drinks (100% orange juice, oat milk for Mark and organic 2% milk for me) predominantly bought in supermarkets. Toiletries belong in that category as well. Dining out means eating at a restaurant/event or purchasing take-out food. The health category covers non-prescription medicines and Mark's vitamins and supplements; medical contains prescription drugs and doctor's visits. Utilities are always Skype-related, since that is how we make phone calls. 

Health insurance and costs are related to my health care. Mark is still eligible for free health care in the state of Massachusetts as of today. If a non-emergency were to happen outside of that state, it will be expensive! Every six months, we have to fly or drive to the East Coast for cancer check-ups. I still pay a small quarterly fee in Belgium for health care (required to keep my citizenship), which I mention in my year report.

June was not the most usual month for us either, what with being in Belgium until June 19th, having a quick stop-over in Reykjavik, Iceland and a long journey back to the West Coast of the US, where we picked up this current three-week house sit the evening we arrived. You will not find any expenses from our remaining days in Belgium in this overview, because my wonderful parents took care of all the grocery shopping, fuel and train rides, and, because I sold enough of my belongings (my African drum - sad to see it go - being the biggest provider) to pay for our other, modest, expenses. The cost of our vacation in Budapest is included, but, the hotel was "paid" with miles.  The flights were part of last month's report. Our biggest expense category for June 2017 was no doubt travel, followed by a hefty grocery bill when we arrived in Oakland, California.

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Stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland

Every first Wednesday of the month, when creating an update about my writing progress (or digress), I am baffled by how quick another month has passed. Today, back in Northern California, I wonder how two months have disappeared, since we watched Lola in Sebastopol. Of course, I know what happened. Time didn’t just dissolve; it decided to go crazy fast while Mark and I were occupied by a million things! So much so, that I didn’t even post my weekly Wednesday blog, yesterday. Besides being exhausted beyond belief and unable to concentrate on writing a post, Mark and I got settled at our current three-week house and pet sit in a great neighborhood of Oakland, CA. We organized our life, caught up on two missed workdays of Wirie work, went on a massive grocery shopping spree (we had no food left, since we stored our car and belongings for two months) and both took our new pets for two decent walks. Full disclosure: we did split up the chore parts.  🙂

Being good puppies, not begging at the breakfast table

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