Robert Witham

Nomad, Author, Photographer, and Video Creator

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Podcast Ep 7 – How Much Does It Cost To Live In A Van?

You’ve probably heard that the nomadic lifestyle is cheaper than living traditionally in a “sticks and bricks” residence. Is this true – or is it just hype?

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Nomad News

Last Year to Obtain REAL ID for Air Travel and Federal Facilities

  • It is now down to the last year for Americans to obtain a REAL ID in order to access airports and federal government facilities
  • The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission
  • The REAL ID Act sets minimum standards for state-issued IDs, including driver’s licenses
  • Federal agencies are prohibited from accepting IDs that are not REAL ID compliant as of October 1, 2020
  • As of October 1, 2020 you will need a REAL ID-compliant ID card or passport to access airports, federal facilities, or nuclear power plants
  • Quick Check – Star on upper portion of ID card
  • Enhanced driver’s licenses issued by several states will be accepted even though they may not have a star
  • All US states and territories are now considered to be fully compliant
  • If you have an older ID that does not have the REAL ID star you will need to upgrade to a REAL ID compliant document prior to October 1, 2020 to access airports or federal facilities – or have a passport
  • Minimum Federal Requirements for Documentation (States may impose additional restrictions)
    • Full Legal Name
    • Date of Birth
    • SS Number
    • Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence
    • Lawful Status
  • Those without the required documentation will be eligible only for IDs marked as being not acceptable for REAL ID purposes – and will not be able to access airports or federal facilities without a passport or other accepted ID
  • This may create some challenges for many people who lack the appropriate documentation – birth certificates, address verification, etc.

To learn more about the REAL ID Act and its implications on IDs like driver’s licenses visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.

Nomad Lifestyle 101

This past weekend I launched my first online course, Nomad Lifestyle 101. This course is designed to help new or aspiring nomads develop a solid foundation for their life on the road.

Visit my Courses page to learn more about how Nomad Lifestyle 101 may be a valuable resource for you on your own nomadic adventure.

How Much Does it Cost to Live in a Van?

This is a question that I am asked a lot – and for good reason. This issue is particularly important for anyone who wants to be a nomad but is living on a tight budget.mIn fact, I think this question is so important that I included an entire video about it in Nomad Lifestyle 101.

In this podcast I provide a basic overview of the topic, but will be releasing an updated video in a few months with examples from my own spending.

So how much does it cost to live in a van or RV? Is it really cheaper? The short answer is that it depends.

Van life (or RV life) can cost as much as you want it to cost – or relative little if you are frugal. Some of the big variables include debt, fuel, maintenance, food, campsites, and style of vehicle.

I know many nomads who are very tight budgets of $800 – $1,000/month – so it is possible to live very frugally as a nomad. This is, however, a very tight budget – and you still need to save money each month for unplanned expenses.

My opinion is that $1,500 – $2,000/month is a good budget if you are living frugally as this provides margin for occasional extras and savings for unplanned expenses.

Listener Questions

It’s me K In SD

Thank you Robert!  I enjoy your  detailed explanations of things.   I also appreciate hearing about the reality of extreme weather and keeping one step ahead of the unexpected.  I recently bought a box of extreme boat survival food on Amazon.  It is packaged very tiny ..and tastes good also.  

About podcasts…could they take less data than YT in case someone has a minimal phone plan…or is thinking of downsizing a plan???

Listen to or watch this episode for my full discussion about how much it costs to live in a van, the REAL ID Act, and my response to the comment from It’s me K in SD.

Podcast Ep 6 – Homeless vs houseless?

Are nomads homeless, or are we within our rights to instead call ourselves happily, voluntarily houseless?

The answer to this question likely depends on who you ask. Despite most nomads considering themselves to be houseless – but not homeless, the government often has a different perspective.

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Podcast Ep 5 – Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters

Extreme weather and natural disasters are of concern to everyone, but especially to nomads. The reason for this is that nomads tend to live closer to the land or nature and are inherently more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

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Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters – Weather Safety for Nomads

Weather Safety for Nomads

One truth of boondocking is that we who practice this primitive style of camping live closer to the land and to nature. Living in a hard-sided vehicle may be a step removed from those who primitive camp in a tent, but it is still considerably closer to the land than living in a house or apartment inside a heavily built-up environment like a city or suburb.

As a result of living close to nature, boondocking nomads tend to be very much attuned weather conditions like temperature, wind, precipitation, and major events like natural disasters. These severe weather events are not to be taken for granted. Extreme weather can and does wreak havoc on anyone or anything in its path.

Nomads do tend to be more vulnerable to extreme weather than those who live more traditionally in a house or apartment. On the other hand, some of the more scary natural disasters may be less threatening for nomads because it is so easy to relocate on a moment’s notice.

Some examples of extreme weather that may be of concern to nomads include:

  • Severe heat or cold
  • Snow and ice
  • High wind
  • Hail storms
  • Heavy rain

There are steps that nomads can take to protect themselves and their property from extreme weather and natural disasters. I think these steps can broadly be categorized as knowledge and preparedness.

Knowledge (Knowledge is Power)

Being aware of where you are and the potential weather developments allows you time to act.

  • Note road conditions on the way to any campsite or off-road destination
  • Smartphone weather apps allow you to easily check the forecast, receive weather alerts, and see radar weather information (assuming you have data access)
  • A weather radio may allow you to access reliable information even without cell coverage (assuming you are in range)
  • A portable weather station or weather tools like a barometer and thermometer allow you to access important weather data without a data connection
  • You can also study weather and learn to read the clouds, wind, etc. to always be informed regardless of access to a data connection

Preparedness (Be Prepared)

  • Be ready to break camp and leave quickly (optional, but my opinion)
  • Park in such a way that you are able to drive away quickly (optional, but my opinion)
  • Know the route to safe ground (pavement, gravel, town)
  • Always have at least 1/2 tank of fuel in your vehicle in case of an emergency situation
  • Always reserve at least a few days of water, food, and essentials like medication in case of an emergency

Summary

Summary

The keys to staying safe in severe weather or natural disasters: Knowledge and Preparedness

Knowledge – Know where you are, what the conditions are, and how to access accurate info as necessary

Preparedness – Be ready to leave if necessary, know your route to safety, and always have fuel, food, water, and essentials

Listener Questions

I always answer listener questions from the previous episode. This week I answered two questions from Episode 4.

“Looking forward to your video on plotting out your route as best you can. Maybe do one on how you stay up with anticipating weather or natural disasters?” – Diedra

“What’s the difference between a podcast and a vlog and a YouTube video?” – Crystal

Nomad News

I was saddened this week to learn that Paul Winer, “the naked bookseller” in Quartzsite, Arizona has passed away after a lengthy illness.

Read more from the Parker (AZ) Pioneer

Trip Planning With Custom Google Maps

Planning a long-distance trip can be challenging. These trips often involve a lot of research, and it may be difficult to keep track of all the places you plan to visit or stay during the trip. Fortunately there is an easy solution by using custom Google maps to plan your trip.

Google Maps is a feature-rich program that is available from the web browser or an app for iOS and Android devices. It is also free (though some people may be concerned about the data that Google collects from Maps users).

I recently started using custom Google Maps to plan all of my trips and have found it incredibly helpful. After I mentioned this in a recent podcast episode many viewers/listeners asked me to make a video demonstrating how to make custom trip maps using Google Maps.

The video includes step-by-step instructions, complete with real-time screencasts, to show how you too can make a custom Google Map for your next trip.

Watch the Video

See how you can use Google Maps as a custom trip planner app

Podcast Ep 4 – Top 10 Tips for Nomads

The nomadic lifestyle can be a pretty incredible experience for many people, but nearly everything is different from living traditionally – which can create stress. How do you minimize that stress so that you can enjoy life as a nomad? We’ll talk about my top 10 tips for nomads and more in this episode!

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Podcast Ep 3 – Epic vs. Utilitarian Campsites

Many of us – perhaps even most of us – want to find an epic, amazing campsite. Every. Single. Time. And why not? After all, camping in incredible places is one of the reasons many of us are nomads.

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Podcast Ep 2 – How Old Is Too Old?

Is your van or RV too old for full-timing? How old is too old for a van or RV?

This is a question that I am asked frequently. It is a good question too since vans, RVs, and truck/trailer combinations are expensive.

Older vehicles are usually cheaper to purchase, but at what point does a rig become too old? I share my thoughts about this important topic in this episode.

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Podcast Ep 1 – Best Fall Foliage Destinations, Planning a Road Trip

What are the best fall foliage destinations? How do you go about planning for a long road trip? I talk about these questions and more in this inaugural episode of my new podcast, The Robert Witham Show.

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Ayres Natural Bridge

Ayres Natural Bridge was created over time as La Prele Creek eroded a solid rock wall. The result of this erosion is a unique arch formation with La Prele Creek flowing beneath the natural bridge. Ayres Natural Bridge is one of only a few in the world that still has water flowing beneath it.

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Super Bloom at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (2019)

Wildflower super blooms in the desert occur only about once per decade on average. The last super bloom occurred in 2017 and neither Debra nor I were able to experience it. We were thrilled to learn that another super bloom was underway this spring and promptly drove from the Gulf Coast of Texas to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California once we finished with the van rebuild project.

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