Resources for Life on the Road
1. Where to Stay
Once you’re on the road, finding a place to park to spend the night requires some planning. Although parking in residential streets might be legal if you check street signs, it’s a good idea to move around and get to the spot late and leave early.
That being said, BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) and pullouts in state forest land allow camping up to 14 days within a period of 28 consecutive days, although the time limit is rarely enforced.
I always check freecampsites.net for free and legal places to camp if I’m in a new area. Many rest stops allow overnight parking, even in areas where it’s illegal to live out of your car (ie. Texas).
Walmart parking lots are a popular spot for car and van dwellers to park, but not all Walmarts allow overnight parking. Allstay.com has users note if the specific store has the policy that allows overnight parking, but it’s best to check with the store manager.
2. Cooking Tips
You don’t need a toaster to make toast; I use a camping toaster (link) that distributes heat from a stove. If you want to minimize food scraps going into your wastewater system, I’d recommend getting a backpacking scraper (link) and removing as much food as possible from pots, pans, and plates. It’s also a little extra food that would typically go to waste. If you’re active, I recommend getting a mini blender and making shakes (link).
3. How to Get Internet
The easiest way to get internet is to visit libraries or cafes for free wifi. If you already have a cell phone plan, you can upgrade to get unlimited data and use your phone as a hotspot for computer use.
There are cell signal boosters (link) that can increase your signal where it’s low. If you have no signal at all at a certain location, it may not help there. The ones with good reviews are very expensive though (link).
ATT has a device that can connect to a vehicle for $20/month with unlimited data (link). It’s previously called the ZTE Mobley; I haven’t used it but it has good reviews. It is plugged into the ODB2 port of a vehicle, but you can buy an adapter that connects it to a USB outlet (link).
The Calyx Institute has 4G/LTE data network and a full year of unlimited, unthrottled data if you become a member for minimum $500.
If you’re in the backcountry a lot where there is limited to no cell service, a satellite device can be helpful. Especially if you plan to do adventurous or dangerous sports, a GPS emergency beacon (link) allows you to contact an emergency contact or local search and rescue.
4. Mail and a Home Address
If you buy through Amazon, they have lockers where you punch in a code to get your package at no additional cost. They are typically at convenience stores, Whole Foods, or other places, check here for information and locations: link.
If you plan to have something shipped to you through USPS, you can pick it up at post offices that have General Delivery services. Check the specific post office on USPS’s site, and it’ll note if it does General Delivery or not. The shipping label should be directed to:
John Doe (your name)
ANYTOWN, NY 12345-9999 (town, state, and 5 number zip code for the specific post office, but keep the 9999).
Once tracking states that it was delivered, go to the post office and you can pick the package up after showing your ID. You can do the same with Fedex or UPS if they have a physical location in your area and you use their shipping service.
If you can’t use a family member or friend’s address as your home address, you can use a PO box or business like Postal Annex for a private PO box. Travelling Mailbox can scan, shred, or forward any mail you get.
You may need a permanent physical address for certain things like getting a driver’s license with the new Real ID act. For this, you can stay at an RV park and use their address. For most states you need to stay there a minimum of 30 days, but for South Dakota you only need to stay 1 night to be able to register as a resident.
5. How to Make Money on the Road
Here are a few sites where you can find short term gigs in cool places:
- http://wwoof.net/ (not paid, but they provide room and board)
These are websites that advertises long term or short term remote work that can be done on a computer anywhere with an internet connection:
Roadie is an app where you can offer to deliver an item for someone. Think Craigslist for truck delivery. It’s not popular at the moment, but it’s good to check if you’re going a certain direction.
You can check Craigslist for local gigs, or you can do online surveys
Another option is to be a personal tutor to teach someone English online for $14-$22/hour with Vipkid.
6. General Tips
Here are a few apps and tips for driving:
- Use the Gasbuddy app (link) to find the cheapest gas station near you;
- Use the Waze app (link) for GPS directions; it uses user data to see if there are police scanning vehicle speeds or any traffic hazards;
- Use the Overdrive app (link) to download audiobooks for free, you just need a library card;
- Listen to podcasts; I prefer story based podcasts to pass the time, like The Moth, This American Life, Snap Judgment, and Risk;
- Buy a dashcam (link) to record what’s in front of you as you drive for liability;
- Keep a window glass breaker/seatbelt cutter (link) by my driver’s seat just in case.
You may find that you have more idle time than you expect while on the road. If you don’t have a hobby or passion that is done with other people, consider trying a new one to meet people. Meetup (link) is an app for finding a regional group for a specific activity. If you’re in a new city, you can try couchsurfing (link) for a place to shower and to meet a host to spend time with.
There are many people living out of their cars, vans, buses, and RVs. You can check sites like these for meeting other nomads: