Category Archives: Guest Posts

10 Must-Have Items to Pack for Every Solo Trip (Guest Post)

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Shallow Focus Photo of World Globe

Today’s guest post is for everyone who’s always traveled with friends or family members and relied on other people to fill in their packing gaps. When these folks go solo, they need some packing help. Here are some reminders of what solo folks should take along on their journeys.

Are you an adventurer who enjoys traveling alone? There is an incredible feeling of freedom and liberty when you travel solo that one perhaps cannot replicate on a family holiday or if you travel with friends. Having a solo trip allows you to explore the world at your own pace and style, and to truly immerse yourself in the culture and mingle with the local population. You can do everything that you want, how you want it, and when you want it.

If you are traveling alone, you need to make sure that you pack everything that you need, as you cannot rely on your partner or friend to bring something that you forget. So make sure to list down everything before going on an adventure, and plan what you take so you don’t find yourself caught short.

1. Documents or Copies of Your Important Documents

It is essential to have certain documents with you anywhere you go, including your travel insurance, travelers Person Putting a Passport on Bagchecks, credit cards, plane tickets, and hotel reservations. Always bring your license or ID, your passport, and of course, your visa. Make sure that these documents are kept in a waterproof bag or envelope. Our advice is to keep all of your documents together in a wallet so that you know you have them. Also, keep photocopies of these documents in a separate location, like your suitcase or backpack. If you lose the originals, being able to access the information via the copies will speed up the process of replacement.

2. Your First Aid Kit

Be sure to prepare a first aid kit. The kit should include daily medications, water, alcohol, aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen), Benadryl, Lactacid, and Imodium, as well as cough and cold medicines. You can also add band aids, antibacterial ointment and cotton balls. A first aid kit is particularly important to have if you are traveling to a remote location where you may not be able to find a chemist.

3. Toiletries and Detergent

Make sure to include a basic supply of detergent and toiletries in your bag. Normally when we travel, we take an antiperspirant, an eau de parfum, and some travel detergent, that can be used to wash your clothes in your hotel’s sink, particularly if you run out of underwear, as you inevitably will!

4. A Contact Card Containing Emergency Numbers

Wherever you go, you should have an emergency card in your wallet. This will help people recognize you should an accident occur. This could be your passport, though you may want to keep this in your hotel in a safe place, or a simple card with an emergency contact, which can help the authorities contact your next of kin in an emergency.

5. Interesting Books

If you are bookish, you should definitely take a few books with you on your travels. We recommended you 2 Book on Brown Wooden Stairtake at least one guide book to help you find interesting places at your destination, and a novel that you can read whilst you are catching rays on the beach or while traveling by bus or train.

6. Spoon, Fork and Glass or Water Bottle

Bringing your own spoon, fork and glass or water bottle will mean that you always have these items no matter where you go. Packing these items may actually be necessary if you go to a remote destination without the most basic amenities or if you are going on a adventure holiday.

7. Safety Whistle or Safety Alarm

In case of an emergency, it is necessary that you memorize your phone number. You must also take a safety whistle or safety alarm wherever you go. If you do find yourself in an emergency situation, you can always alert passers-by and gain their help with a safety whistle or alarm. If you are alone, you can use the whistle or alarm to attract the attention of others if necessary.

8. Portable Charger

Bringing a charger is necessary when you travel. This is particularly true in the modern world, when we use social Grayscale Photography of Person Using Smartphone While Chargingnetworks to document our trip, Spotify to soundtrack our holiday and Google Maps to help us to find our hotel. It will keep your phone alive, thus your family and friends can reach you anytime. With a portable charger, you’ll always be able to keep your phone charged so you can keep your lifeline with you everywhere you go!

9. Portable Power Bank and Inverters

You might also need a portable power bank or a power inverter. These are useful when you need lighting, music, or to listen to the news whilst on the go. As stated previously, your devices have never been more important, and an extra battery will mean that you never get cut off, even if you cannot access a power outlet.

10. Motor homes are cool to bring too.

You may also bring your RV with you, even if you are just alone. Some prefer bringing their campers and motor homes for a safer travel. It is also perfect for overnight camping. Your motor home or RV can give you an even greater sense of freedom, allowing you to ‘set up camp’ in any place at any time. What is more, it will to help you economize, as hotel prices, particularly when you are alone, can be expensive.

For hassle-free travel adventure, make it a habit to list everything that you need. This will certainly save you time and energy.

Mia is the author of this post and owner of InvertPro.co. As a keen traveler Mia started InvertPro after struggling to find the right kit to stay in touch in an increasingly connected world. Mia has travel every continent and plans to visit them all again.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/shallow-focus-photo-of-world-globe-1098515/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-putting-a-passport-on-bag-842961/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/2-book-on-brown-wooden-stair-159675/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photography-of-person-using-smartphone-while-charging-1308749/.

10 Budgeting Tips for Long-Term Travel

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You have John and Jayme of Gnomad Home to thank for the article before you. Yes, it was writting by Lauren & Jesse of The Wandering Stus, but it was John and Jayme who suggested they reach out to me about writing a guest post. Since I’m always open to quality guest posts, I was excited to have Lauren and Jesse submit a piece. These two know what to do to save money in order to make long-term travel possible, and today they pass that knowledge on to you.

First, let us just tell you how FREAKING EXCITED we are that you are reading this! Why? Because it means you are toying with the idea or planning to hit the road to live that long-term travel life and that, our friend, is AMAZING! We’re here to guide you through budgeting tips for long-term travel.

What makes us qualified to give you information on budgeting tips for long-term travel?! Well, we did it. We quit our jobs and lived almost one year on what we saved. So, we know what  you are going through. As exciting as it is, it can be equally overwhelming. Well, that’s why we are here, to give you 10 budgeting tips for long-term travel. Dun dada, dun, Wandering Stus to the rescue!

#1 Set Your Daily Budget

First things first, you can’t budget for long-term travel if you don’t set a daily budget. You need to do two things:

  • Figure out what suits you. Can you get by with no aircon in the bedroom? Are you fine sharing a room with strangers? Do you need certain amenities? Basically, you need to determine what kind of traveler you are; a “shoestringer,” luxury inclined or somewhere in between?
  • Where are you going? The cost of living between continents and countries can vary, and sometimes there are big variances.

We were traveling to Southeast Asia and Nepal. We deemed ourselves “shoestringers” who would probably need to splurge every now and again. Based on the countries we were going to and what our needs were, we ended up budgeting $50 a day.

#2 Eat Cheap

A great way to save some cash is eating cheap. Street food is not only some of the tastiest food, but some of the cheapest you’ll find. Plus, the whole experience of eating street food will give you all the “local” feels.

Another way to eat cheap is going grocery shopping and making food yourself. If you have a place with a kitchen, awesome! Make enough food for a few meals. If you don’t have a kitchen, you can still make food – think peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, toast with Nutella, etc.

#3 Stay with Friends

It’s always cheaper to stay with friends. Think hostels. Learn from us, the folks who always thought staying in hostels in the shared rooms was the best and cheapest option to go with. While yes, it is cheaper than a hotel, it is not always the cheapest option. We actually found it cheaper to book a “private room” or “family room” than reserving a bed in a shared dorm. If you are traveling with two other people, take a look at some private room options. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

#4 Take Overnight Transportation

Taking overnight transportation may not always be the most comfortable or most restful experience you’ll have, but it will save you some cash. Think about it. If you travel during the day you 1) waste a day of exploring and 2) have to pay for accommodations once you arrive. If you take overnight transportation, the transportation is your accommodation for the night and you don’t miss any exploration time.

#5 Know What the Per Person Rate Is

If there is any sort of haggling tip you need to know to save some cash it’s never start a negotiation by asking for a group rate. Go in asking what the price is for one person FIRST. Once you know the per person rate, start your haggling.

If you know the per person rate, then you know the base they expect and you’ll be able to negotiate smarter for a better price. And when we say negotiate, we mean it! Go in low and be stern about it!  Also, do NOT be afraid to walk away. If there is one thing we’ve learned, walking away usually results in you getting the price you want.

#6 Take the Scenic Route

Okay, so since you have no deadline on when you are returning home, you essentially have “all the time in the world”, so why not take the scenic route when getting to a new destination? Any time you can take a bus, boat, train or hell, even walk… do it. Sure, it will take longer than flying but it’ll be cheaper. Plus, you’ll get to see some scenery you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

#7 Book Your Accommodation with the Same Booking Site

We used Booking.com for a lot of our accommodations. We not only found it to be the cheapest of several booking sites, but we also were pleasantly surprised to find that if we booked enough through the site, we became a “Booking Geniuses” and got 10% off all bookings through the site. Pretty sweet.

Always shop around but consider booking through the same site if there are incentives to do so.

*Please note, we are not paid or sponsored through Booking.com – we’re just here to give helpful money-saving tips.

#8 Book Direct with Your Accommodation vs. Through a Booking Site

If you are okay with winging it and putting in a little extra work, going to hostels or homestays in person will save you a few extra bucks in accommodation costs. The booking sites take their cut of what you pay for your accommodation. If you book directly with the accommodation, you don’t have to pay those booking site fees.

Also, if you are staying for more than a few nights, ask for a better nightly rate and ALWAYS ask to have breakfast included in what you pay.

#9 Always Ask for a Better Price

If there is one thing to take away from this post it’s never be afraid to ask for a better price …. where applicable. Usually on food and drinks, the price quoted is pretty much the price, but on excursions, taxi/tuk tuk rides or trinkets, haggle away! Fight for that better price. It’ll be worth it in the long run if you save a few bucks everyday through haggling.

#10 Limit Your Alcohol Intake, Drug Use and Partying

If letting loose involves the three listed above, you’ll see your bank account dwindle at a faster rate. One of the most fun but expensive parts of travel is experiencing the nightlife of a place. We’re not saying don’t drink or party but if you can set a budget on how much you want to spend on beers and other fun in a week, it’ll help you stay on track.

Basically, try and budget where you can. Even a dollar or two a day will add up over time. If your main goal is to travel as long and as far as you can on what you saved, you’re going to have to make sacrifices along the way. However, just think, for every sacrifice you make, you allow yourself another day in paradise.

PIN IT FOR LATER!

About The Wandering Stus:

Hi! We’re Lauren & Jesse. A travel couple who quit our corporate jobs in 2016 in order to fulfill a dream of making time for ourselves, living in the now and exploring the beautiful people and places Mother Earth has to offer. You know, all that good stuff. We’re here to give you travel tips, epic itineraries & overall travel inspiration to help you plan your next adventure!

For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our website and follow us on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Photos provided by the Wandering Stus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short On Time and Funds? You Can Still Have Your Dream Vacation (Guest Post)

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I recived several guest posts all at once, so I’m getting them scheduled. Today’s post is all about vacations and how you can manage to take one even if you have limited time and money. It was written by Catherine Workman.

Taking a vacation is a dream that many of us fantasize about, yet don’t follow through. We think that we don’t have time, the funding isn’t there, or that it might add stress instead of give us the relaxation we need. If it’s been too long since your last vacation, here are some tips to taking a stress-free holiday on a budget.

The Surprising Benefits

Many may put off taking that vacation simply because they see it as a luxury. However, much can be said for making taking time off a priority. Studies suggest that having a break from normal life can reduce anxiety, even once you get home, refreshed and recharged. It can aid in levels of life satisfaction and may even help you physically by improving quality of sleep. Getting better rest can leave one energized and feeling happier. It may also lower blood pressure. All of these can help you feel better, so if you have been feeling particularly stressed, or have had difficulty sleeping, it might be time for a vacation.

Time Your Trip Wisely

One way to save on the expenses during your trip is to go outside of peak season. Look at what area you might want to visit, and research when most people go. Next, choose whether you would like to visit during off-season or shoulder-season, which is between peak and off-season. Off-season may find you with less to do during your stay, which is why shoulder-season is a good compromise between saving money and still having lots of fun. You can avoid some of the heavier traffic during this time as well, which may mean less gas bought and less stress overall. You can take a shorter trip, and enjoy it just as much as you might have during peak season.

Go Domestic

Often, the word vacation sparks ideas of tropical climates and foreign landscapes. However, by traveling somewhere closer to home, you can have a fulfilling and relaxing vacation, without spending the vast sums that overseas travel often requires. You could try a beautiful national park, or even the Grand Canyon. There are several times during the year where access to national parks is free to the public, so you can plan your trip around these.

Or, you could go to a historical destination to learn a bit, and stay in affordable accommodations, such as at Williamsburg, Portland, or San Antonio. If you’re looking for a beach to relax on, places such as Myrtle Beach in South Carolina are far cheaper than more popular alternatives including Miami and California’s Newport. Since these places are closer to home, you don’t need to devote as much time to them as you might traveling abroad. You don’t even need to leave your time zone.

Use Your Club and Credit Cards

Many club-type stores, such as Costco and Sam’s Club, offer vacation packages at a discount. You might be surprised at the variation, and the low price, of vacations offered. One of the benefits of using an all-inclusive vacation deal from such a venue is what comes with the package. Often, your travel costs are covered, as are car rentals, hotels and other features, such as tickets to theme parks and sports stadiums. There are a variety of options from which to choose, and the packages usually rotate. It’s therefore important to check frequently to find something you might enjoy and book it before it’s gone.

Another way to save a little extra is to open a credit account with a company that offers miles for the points you earn. By using your card throughout the year, you can quickly add up points that can be translated into free, or heavily discounted flights.

Keep Things Calm at Home

One reason we may put off travel is because leaving our homes would simply be too complicated, especially if we have pets. If you’re traveling by plane, it may be best to leave Fido at home. However, just because we leave our pets behind does not mean they aren’t constantly on our minds. During your vacation, your focus should be on relaxation, not worrying about whether or not your dog is doing OK. To allay some of your fears, you may want to hire a dog boarder. See if your vet has any recommendations. Visit any potential boarders or kennels, and make sure it’s a place you feel comfortable leaving your dog. Ask plenty of questions, such as how often your dog will be walked, if playtime with other dogs is included and what the policy is on dogs of different sizes and play-styles. If your dog is timid, you don’t want them being overwhelmed by an aggressive, larger breed after all. The boarder should be able to address all of your concerns, so you can relax during your vacation.

Making time for yourself is important. Finding new ways to relax, and let your batteries recharge, is not an act of selfishness but of self-care. Plan your trip wisely, go somewhere unique and avoid the busiest seasons. You may be surprised to find how affordable, enjoyable, and rejuvenating vacationing on a budget can be.

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in awhile. She uses travel to boost her physical and mental health.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

7 Benefits of Seeing the UK From A Caravan (Guest Post)

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I’m running several guest posts this month, and this is one of them. Although it’s written specifically about folks in the UK, it can certainly apply to readers in the U.S.

Not sure what a caravan even is? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a caravan is a

trailer; a wheeled vehicle for living or travelling in, especially for holidays, that contains beds and cooking equipment and can be pulled by a car.

In the United States, we might call a caravan a “camper”, a “pull-behind”, an “RV” (Recreational Vehicle), or a “trailer.” Just substitute one of those words whenever you see the word “caravan” in this post.

With cheaper flights and low-cost international luxury being enjoyed by more and more UK holidaymakers, the simple charm of a caravan holiday might not be the first thing to spring to mind if you want a really picturesque and unforgettable getaway. But it’s also true that family finances in the UK are getting that bit tighter, and so caravan holidays can offer a low cost, but memorable holiday choice for a family or group of friends who may want to choose a vacation on a budget.

So if you’d ruled out a caravan holiday in the past, here’s seven reasons why it might be time to think again.

The opportunity to meet new people

The nomadic lifestyle inherent in a caravan holiday means you’ve got a great opportunity to meet some like-minded holiday makers. Obviously, making new friends isn’t a benefit exclusive to caravan holidays, but you’re more likely to find yourself embedded with a range of different communities at every stop you make. It also offers you the best of both worlds when you want a bit of solitude, which can be harder to find if you’re staying in a crowded hostel. The UK countryside is home to a friendly and open campsite culture, so why not hit the open road in your caravan and take advantage of it?

No need to book in advance

There’s an added freedom to embarking on a caravan holiday, as you don’t need to book your destination in advance. Your caravan gives you a flexibility which isn’t normally afforded to the average holidaymaker. Owning a caravan gives you and your family the flexibility to grab a relaxing break whenever you want.

Save money

You and your family can save a tonne of money from travelling the UK in a caravan. Instead of forking out a lot of money on hotel bills and expensive restaurants, the average campsite allows you to cut costs whilst still enjoying a memorable, relaxing break. You’ll have to do your own cooking, but consider life in a caravan a chance to flex your culinary muscles and take advantage of some home cooked food.

It’s a more meaningful experience

Again, we’re not suggesting that beach holidays or city breaks don’t offer the chance to spend some quality time with your family, friends, or loved one. But there’s something unique about the caravan experience which makes it that much more likely to foster treasured memories. If you’re with your family or friends, then you’ve got more time together, contributing towards all the necessary chores and errands which are required for the upkeep of your caravan. Likewise, you have to be more creative with your leisure time, whether it’s board games or campfire stories to pass the time.

The picturesque locations

Most caravan sites in the UK are often on the doorstep of a whole range of beautiful landscapes. When you consider that the UK has the Lake District, the Peak District, the Cotswolds and the Scottish Highlands, the incentives for camping in the UK countryside are hard to ignore. Again, you can see picturesque locations from the comfort of your caravan, without the added cost of flights and hotels.

It’s better for your fitness

If you’re staying in some of those picturesque locations we’ve already mentioned, then there’s a greater incentive to put on those walking boots and explore the local scenery. If you’ve got young children on your caravan trip with you, then this is your chance to introduce them to the natural world.

They’re a long-term investment

We’ve already discussed the ways in which caravans be a great cost saver when it comes to planning short term getaways. But it’s worthwhile thinking about how caravans can be a great long term investment for you and your family. They retain their value over time, and you may get a decent return on your investment should you ever decide to sell your caravan.

 

How to Keep Your Bike Safe While Traveling in your RV or Camper Van (Guest Post)

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Another guest post today, this one about keeping your bicycle safe and secure while you’re moving from place to place. I tried living in my van with a bicycle for a couple of months. The bicycle was not a good vandweller traveling companion. I ended up selling it because I was tired of climbing over and around it. Maybe if I had read this article (and had some money!) I could have figured out a way to store my bike securely on the outside of my van!

Time Lapse Photo Of Man Riding On BicycleOutdoor enthusiasts can’t resist a good opportunity to head on out to the open road with their bike, and bikes and camper vans are a match made in heaven. You can always stick to your local routes or you can strap your bike on your RV or campervan and head out to a new adventure to broaden your cycling experience. You’ll often find quiet roads or bike tracks to keep the cycling experience interesting.

But the real issue here is that, apart from your own safety, you also need to be mindful of how to protect your bike while traveling from one place to another, and to secure it safely as you travel in your camper van.

Now, you have a few options when you’re transporting your bike, and you’ll have to find the option that works for you. Before you pack your bike, here are some excellent tips from our friends over at BikeStorage.co on what you need to do to protect your bike from getting damaged or even stolen.

What carrier works best?

Depending on the make of your RV or camper van, rear-mounted carriers are often the easiest to use, but they have their drawbacks. For one thing, your access to the back of the vehicle is limited, which becomes an issue if you are also packing your gear or parking. Your bike is also more susceptible to damage from the elements, like rock and dirt.

There are various considerations when picking a rear rack. For example, how many bikes do you have? How sturdy is the carrier? How much does it protect your bike?

Another consideration is of course the price. For example,  the Maypole 2 Cycle Carrier has a load capacity of 35kg (77 pounds) is easy to use and only costs £30 (about $40). However, it clamps to the towball, which means that you cannot tow and use the cycle carrier at the same time.

When using a carrier, you also need to make sure that you don’t block any windows or doors or conceal your registration plate.

Positioning the bike correctly following the instructions

If you are using a rack, it’s important that you position your bike properly to keep it from getting damaged while traveling. You’ll want to make sure that your carriers secure the bike frame for stability. You’ll also want to make sure to place the clamp as close as possible to the frame joint, since that’s where the frame is strongest. This is particularly important if you have a carbon frame bike.

Securing to the roof

You can also secure your bike to the roof of your camper van. You need to be aware that this may make accessing your bike a little more cumbersome and will probably mean you will need a ladder.

Inside your van

Storing your bike inside your camper van is probably the easiest way of traveling with your bike and keeping it safe. Storing it inside means you don’t have to buy any extra kit, and that it will be inaccessible to any wandering hands. This is also the cheapest and most secure method of them all.

Some choose to remove the front wheel of their bike and store it in the inside. One drawback here is that you can damage your RV’s interior including leaving traces of bike grease and dirt in the carpet. If you’re traveling with other people, you might not have enough room to pack your bike inside your camper. When doing this, there are some things to be aware of, including obviously how to secure your bike carefully if it is in the cabin.

For example, a traveller named Darren said:

During my trip around Europe I bought a bike in Spain. I didn’t have a bike rack on my panel van. I drove with the bike in the back, secured with bungees. When on campsites I left the bike leaning against a nearby tree. When free camping in more urban areas I generally put my bike in the cab of my medium-height Mercedes Sprinter. The bike just fits in, with the handlebars turned slightly to shut the door afterwards. Once in the cab I drape[d] a dark blanket over it, so passersby [wouldn’t] see anything bright or reflective in the cab. When free camping by the beach I normally put the bike under the van, at the [back], and lock[ed] it to the spare wheel holder.

As well as these strategies, you could also use mounts to make sure that your bike does not move around in the cockpit, and that, most importantly, your bike doesn’t come loose and injure any of your passengers.

How to lock your bike

Traveling often means leaving your bike unsupervised for periods of time. You may go out for a meal, or to explore the area, and, during this time your bike is susceptible to theft. To keep your bike safe inside the RV, you should always make sure that your doors are locked and that your van is parked in a well-lit area. You could also ask your fellow travellers to keep an eye out for your bike for you!

bicycle, bike, city

Stefan suggests you use a U-lock instead of a cable lock.

It’s also a good idea to use U-locks as opposed to cable locks, since the latter is more susceptible to removal with a cable cutter. Most bikers would use U-locks and cable locks together for added security. You can read more about how to lock your bike in this article.

Traveling with your bike and storing it safely

Some of us may even want to go one step further. There are those that actually take their bikes with them while traveling via boat, plane, train, or bus. Securing your bike while in transit becomes a different story altogether. In this case, you will want to use hard and soft-shelled cases designed to help you move your bikes around while keeping them protected from baggage claim jostles and bumps. Of course, you may need more than a FRAGILE sticker attached to your bike to prevent it from getting damaged!

Using bike cases requires you to have some mechanical skill, since  you have to disassemble your bike. We’re not talking about removing the wheels; some cases require you to remove the handlebars as well.

If you follow these tips on keeping your bike secure and safe when travelling in your camper van or RV, you will surely have an amazing time. Woman in Purple Dress Riding on City Bicycle on Road

Stefan is the Community Manager at BikeStorage.co. Stefan is a keen blogger and in his free time likes to discover new cycle routes around his local countryside. As a keen cyclist Stefan joined the team at BikeStorage after struggling to find the right storage solution for his bikes while at home and while travelling.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/timelapse-photography-of-a-person-riding-a-road-bike-987571/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/bicycle-bike-city-france-611229/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/city-girl-lens-flare-young-101647/.

Go See Do: Tips for Finding Fun Out On the Open Road (Guest Post)

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License plate artwork discovered at a Denny’s restaurant, somewhere out on the open road.

Brenda Cordray was one of the first people I “met” through Instagram. I somehow stumbled upon her feed @twentyonefeathers and thoroughly enjoyed her photos, especially the ones of flowers and heart-shaped rocks and other little bits of nature. She and her man are nomads, so I introduced myself and my blog to her and offered her the chance to write a guest post. That guest post is now in front of you. Today Brenda will share her tips for finding fun things to do in the new places you visit whether you’re on vacation or living the life of a rubber tramp.

After 5 years of both solo and tandem road life, I am often asked about boredom. Don’t you ever get bored? I am not a person who experiences boredom. I have often said that I have a rich internal life. I find more than enough things to ponder and consider, especially when I am not stimulated by the hustle and bustle and endless noise of the outside world. I have a dozen projects in the works at any given moment, and many that are sprouting tiny green vines of possibility on a daily basis. The truly creative mind rarely rests.

I have been known to sit for weeks out on the desert in my van all alone. I was perfectly content and never needed the sound of anyone else’s voice for entertainment. Now that I am newly married, my nomadic experience has changed quite a bit. These days I wait patiently for my beloved husband, Dan, to wake up so we can enjoy a good conversation about what we would like to do with this one blessed day that is unfurling before us.

A quick peek out the window reveals our latest sittin’ spot. Sometimes that in itself is a surprise! The scenery outside our windows changes regularly. It takes no effort at all to find things to amuse ourselves out in nature at any given location. We truly are outdoors people, at our best and happiest when we are outside. The outdoors is always fertile ground for exploration, but often we long to venture out into parts unknown to store up precious shared memories.

We aren’t fans of touristy venues, although we have been known to brave the crowds (off-season or on weekdays) to see things that are of keen interest to either or both of us. I love to post pictures of unusual or off-the-beaten-path locales! It is my joy and pleasure to be the navigator, so it falls upon me to ferret out these treasures.

How do I find them, you may ask. Exploration of any area begins with maps.  I love old-fashioned paper folding maps, hefty road atlases, Google Maps, hand-drawn simple maps, or even highly detailed topographical maps that others would have no interest in exploring. All maps are valuable to me. Each has a precious bounty to offer if given the chance to tell its stories.

Stopping at rest area Welcome Centers as you cross state lines is a great way to pick up free and updated folding maps of any state. I replace my old ones often, although the ones that have handwritten notes along the edges and circles and arrows and plenty of Scotch tape holding them together are solid keepers. Racks and racks of glossy travel pamphlets, some with discount codes or coupons, are free for the taking. There are often helpful folks behind the counter who can give more details about local attractions, like whether or not dogs are allowed, or if the attraction you are considering would be suitable for a preschooler or stroller. They are happy that you bothered to ask and are often a wealth of information for the curious traveler.

Statues of American Folk hero, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, located in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Truck stops, restaurants, gas stations, and coffee shops often have racks of pamphlets, too, and local weekly circulars that include calendars full of events and happenings. Many include descriptions of nearby businesses and are a great resource for buy-one-get-one-free meals or discounts on attractions or services.

If I meet a new friend who insists that we go see their home state, or their favorite state, I shush their suggestions long enough to go grab my paper maps and a pencil to mine these priceless bits of information. I often write their names and phone numbers there as well, and where we met, too, since many tell me to call them when we are heading that way because they will have surely thought of more to share.

We are given directions and gate codes from perfect strangers in the event that we venture close to their summer cottage or homestead and would like to stay, even if they don’t happen to be there at the moment. If you are a person of integrity, many will entrust you with prime sittin’ spots. Quite a few will suggest that you stay forever, and it will take your very best efforts to politely disengage and ease on down the road. Those who get out of the house now and again will suggest places of interest for your enjoyment. We are very happy when they give reviews of all the best local restaurants, for days when van-made grub sounds less than appealing.

If you truly enjoy a certain place, stay awhile. Immerse yourself in the ambiance of the area. Strike up conversations with locals. Some of our best travel tips have come from people we may never see again, but will always remember. The places that we have stayed for extended periods of time are often the places we describe to others who are looking for something fun to do. It’s nice to feel that you truly “know” a place you have just left instead of just having a vague recollection of your visit.

Lucy the Elephant, built in 1881, and located at Margate City on the New Jersey Shore.

I am always astounded by driveway surfing hosts who have no idea where the nearest park is or how many truly fascinating things there are to see within a few moments of their home or the neighborhood they grew up in. What fun it is to explore their world and bring it back home to them! Not everyone would enjoy the idea of traveling as much as we do, but one should at least gather up the low hanging fruits of local events and attractions. Weekends aren’t just for chores, people. Recreation is good for the soul and makes the days in between the weekends more tolerable.

When tracing a path from point A to point B, Google Maps is also a great resource. Using two fingers to expand the map uncovers all sorts of fascinating places along your route, and entering a keyword like “museum” can add plenty of depth to the outcome of your search. Even if what you find is not something you plan to do right away, tagging that spot with a star or flag can jog your memory in the event that you venture that way again at a later date.

A Google search of any area being considered should include the top 15 things to do in a few local cities. TripAdvisor offers a detailed list of the most popular sites in any area.The list also includes reviews from those who have been there and have something to say about it. TripAdvisor is usually the first thing that pops up in a Google search. If you scroll down a bit, you may find blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, Facebook pages, and a variety of links that will flesh out the big picture and lots of smaller details about the area you plan to visit.

Atlas Obscura offers a website that gives you the opportunity to type in a specific location and come away with a list of unusual things to see, like a museum that holds a collection of life and death masks; or the Salt Palace, a museum in Grand Saline, Texas, made entirely of salt. Without this valuable resource, you might pass right by the 200-year-old The Horse You Came In On Saloon in Baltimore, Maryland, whose claim to fame is having served Edgar Allan Poe his final drink. The website includes stories and pictures detailing the history and current particulars about interesting places all around the globe. They also churn out printed books, for those who don’t have to worry about limited space or weight in their chosen road chariot. I carried their book in the van until a fellow nomadic friend who had moved back into sticks and bricks posted that she wanted it badly. I popped it in the mail so she could do a little armchair exploring. Being able to access the same information online is a better choice for me than hauling around a thick reference book.

West Quoddy Head lighthouse at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine, the easternmost point of the contiguous United States.

Sometimes I come across interesting places to see in areas we have just left, like the Montague Book Mill, in Montague, Massachusetts. It is said to hold books you don’t need in a place you can’t find. That sounds like a challenge to me, and I love a good challenge!  25,000 books crammed into a 175-year-old building, perched on the banks of the Sawmill River (which holds black river stones smoothed by cold, flowing water) sounds like pure Heaven to me. That one warrants a check mark for next time, and a sigh of disappointment for not discovering it when we were close enough to stop by. At the very least, Atlas Obscura will show you what you are missing right next door, and will give you something to do when you are “bored”, if you are so inclined.

Many of the coolest places we have visited have been the result of serendipitous drive-by discoveries. Once, after taking a wrong turn, we spied a hand-lettered sign that simply said “fort” with an arrow pointing down a backroad outside of Savannah, Georgia. Fort Jackson (the old one, not the modern one) is the oldest brick abutment in Georgia.  It was occupied during three wars, and it protected the city of Savannah during the Civil War. Dan wrote a blog post about our visit.

We spent an entire weekday in this nearly empty fort, enjoying a personal tour given by a newly hatched tour guide who was very excited to share his knowledge.  We were able to really feel the history of the fort without the input of dozens of chattering voices.

We easily took dozens of photos without having to wait for hordes of visitors to move out of the way of the shot. We sat in silence after reading the placards accompanying the displays and deeply considered the sacrifices made by our forebearers to secure this nation’s freedom. We mined the treasures of the museum at our own pace, and felt happy to leave a donation to support the upkeep of this privately funded property because we could clearly see its value. We have seen many historic places defaced by graffiti and feel that if people truly took the time to appreciate them, they could not possibly consider such a heinous crime.

Reading the blog posts of fellow travelers or following their Instagram or Facebook page posts can offer up interesting suggestions as well. We have been honored when our followers have added to their travel plans or bucket lists based on our adventures! You can find literally thousands of photographs of our travels on our Instagram pages, @twentyonefeathers and @fireman428. I love to find free or very cheap places to visit and camp, so be sure to explore the captions below the photos for a plethora of ideas.

Our pups at Camp Wildcat Civil War Battlefield near London, Kentucky, site of one of the Union’s first victories in the Civil War.

I offer these suggestions with the hope that you will find a few jewels through the resources mentioned here, and that you also share your OWN gettin’ spots for unique adventures below in the comment section for others to enjoy. Boredom out on the open road is a mindset that is easily remedied with a bit of creativity and a passion for unearthing hidden spots to explore, both near and far. If you are a weekend or summer holiday traveler and not living the nomadic life, you can squeeze more fun into the time you have available by utilizing a few of these resources. As Dan always says, get out, be safe, and go adventure!

Brenda Cordray is a vandweller who is currently writing a book about her personal journey towards her lifelong dream of nomadic life, and her experiences while living five-plus years out on the road. She is sending out a call to fellow freewheeling souls for interviews about their journey and quest for the nomadic life for possible inclusion in her book. She can be reached at twentyonefeathers@gmail.com. Brenda travels with her husband, Dan, and pups Liberty and Layla, in their repurposed community transport van, Erik van Home.

If you need more ideas of what to do with your free time, see the Rubber Tramp Artist post What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?

Photos and their captions provided by the author.

 

Tips on Grooming Your Vandwelling Dog (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post is by dog lover Adam Conrad of the Shih Tzu Expert website. Adam is going to tell you how to groom your dog on the road. Whether you typically boondock far from professional groomers or you want to save money by grooming your pup yourself, Adam’s tips will keep your pooch looking and feeling good wherever the road takes the two of you.

You and your furry dog are on-the-go living a life of adventure. Part of reaping the joys and benefits of that beautiful life means ensuring that your pet is healthy and safe at all times.

One of the easiest ways you can be a good pet owner is to ensure that your dog is healthy with some basic hygiene and grooming tips.  It’s easy to forget about some of these basicdaily routines, but doing these things habitually not only keeps your dog healthy and clean, but also makes grooming easier.

When you’re regularly brushing its hair and teeth, your dog won’t fight these behaviors because they become a part of its routine.  Here are some of the most effective and common ways that you can affordably and easily maintain your dog’s grooming needs.

adorable, animal, animal portraitBrush Before Bathing Your Dog

Your dog lives for life on the road and adventure. That means that he or she will require some extra hair care maintenance to undo tangles and knots. It’s recommended that dogs be bathed once every three months, but this number will increase if your pet spends time outdoors.

First, start with a good slick, metal pin brush that will really get through the strands of the hair, removing all dead hair and dirt. This is the key to keeping the dog’s hair clean. If your dog has tangles, you can use corn starch in the hair to help alleviate the knots quickly and affordably.

Try to keep your dog standing when you brush him, and do it as regularly as you can. Getting him used to this behavior will allow him to become conditioned to all other grooming habits.

Next, set your dog in a few inches of lukewarm water. If you don’t have a hose, you can use a pitcher to wet your dog. You’ll want to make sure that you’re using a high quality shampoo on your furry friend.

Take care not to spray the shampoo into your dog’s ears, nose, and eyes. You can protect your dog’s ears easily by gently placing cotton balls in the entrance of his ears, so that no excess water or shampoo gets inside. Gently massage the shampoo into the hair all over.

If you’re bathing your dog in you’re rig’s sink or shower, you won’t want to clog your drains. Make sure to use a adorable, animal, breedhair plug to protect your drain from clogging.

Minimize and Maintain Shedding

Shedding is a completely normal and healthy part of a dog’s life. Depending on the dog’s breed, the size of the animal, the time of year, and many other factors, shedding may be more prevalent. One of the easiest ways you can minimize shedding is by brushing your dog’s hair regularly. The more your brush, the more dead hair will be removed and caught in the brush and not spread all over your  living space.

Use a plastic bristle brush to break up the knots. You might also consider using a slicker brush to remove loose hairs.

One of the best indicators of a healthy coat is the kind of food your pet is eating. A high-quality food source with a good amount of protein will help your dog’s coat stay healthy and minimize shedding.

If your dog is larger and the shedding seems to be unruly at times, you might consider covering your furniture to protect your living space. Vacuuming often is another way to minimize dog hair in your living space. You might also consider picking up a special hair pick-up roller that is made for removing dog hair from furniture and fabric easily.

White and Grey Long Coat DogSafely Cut and Shave Your Dog

After you’ve freshly brushed and cleaned your dog, you might want to cut its hair. If so, please make sure that your dog is safely standing on a table so that you can easily access all areas of the fur. (For more ideas on where to place your dog for grooming, see the article on the Wag! website on How to Groom a Dog Without a Grooming Table.)

You might invest in grooming shears so that you can most effectively execute the cut.

It’s best to begin cutting your animal’s hair when it’s dry, unlike human hair. You’ll want to use the sharp tip of the scissors to trim your dog’s body, specifically the more delicate parts like the face and tail.

When trimming the ears, be very careful to have the hand not holding the scissors on the hair being trimmed to ensure that you’re never cutting your animal and inflicting pain. You wouldn’t want to hurt your best furry friend! Of course, it would be easier and safer to have a friend hold the dog while you’re working on the ears. Trimming the hair around the ears is tricky even for professional groomers, who usually use restraints.

If you’re looking to shave your dog, make sure to find a quiet and open space where your dog won’t get startled. Again, make sure the dog’s hair is clean and dry. Keep the blade flat against the skin, starting from the neck and move along the various parts of the dog’s body.

Be careful where the skin is thin on your animal, like its thighs and hips. Also, make sure to use a special blade for the dog’s face and to check that the blade is not getting too hot or burning your dog’s skin.

Trim Those Nails and Protect Those Paws

How can you even tell if your pet needs its nails trimmed? As a general rule, the dog’s nails will slightly rub the Two Person With Rings on Ring Fingersground when he or she moves. If your pet’s nails are making louder noises on hard floors or getting caught on carpet, it is time to trim your pet’s nails.

Before you even think of using dog clippers or grinding down dog’s nails, first try introducing the louder noise that the tool makes. This will help your dog not to get spooked when you’re actually cutting.

If your dog has white nails, it will be easier to cut its nails until you get closer to a light pinkish portion of the nail. Dogs with black nails don’t have an easily discernible quick, which makes it a bit more challenging to do. If your dog has black nails, try your best to cut slowly until you see a full portion of the nail that is black. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, you can use styptic powder or corn starch to stop any bleeding.

Make sure that you’re clipping the nails quickly and with force. If you use dull clippers and move slowly, the nail might not clip cleanly, leaving sharp edges, or it may actually chip and split.

Your dog’s paws will require different care in the summer and winter. In warm weather, your dog is probably active and spending a lot of time running on various terrain outdoors. In the winter, your dog might be running on pavement that has been treated with chemicals and salt after snow. You’ll want to make sure your dog’s paws are cleaned so that he isn’t ingesting any of those chemicals; also check to be sure his paws aren’t chafing or cracking from the cold weather. Apply coconut oil to dry paws or consider buying an affordable pair of winter booties for your pet. (To help you pick the right winter booties for your active pooch, the American Kennel Club website has an article on the Top 10 Dog Boots for Winter & Cold Weather.)

Since your dog is spending a great deal of time outside and then coming back into your rig’s small living space, you’ll want to take extra care to clean your dog’s paws. Cleaning wipes are critical. Try to make a habit of wiping down your dog’s paws after running around outside. Remember that purchasing dog-specific wipes is important, since almost everything you put on your dog will end up in its mouth. Doing this will ensure that your dog isn’t ingesting any harmful chemicals or ingredients, and will keep your pet safe, fresh, and clean. (The Top Dog Tips website lists the Top 10 Best Dog Wipes for Light Grooming to help you decide which ones to use on your canine companion.)

Natural Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Coat and Skin Healthy

There are a plethora of easy-to-find products that are healthy for your dog and help maintain grooming. One of the most important ways to maintain your dog’s grooming is by taking care of its coat. A healthy coat is a happy dog!

Fish oil and flaxseed oil are two products that are easy to find, safe for your dog, and help maintain a beautiful coat. These oils are rich in the essential fatty acids that help promote a healthy coat for your dog from the inside out. Another great oil for dogs is salmon oil. You can drizzle these oils on your dog’s kibble or on a chew toy for your pup to safely ingest.

Does your dog happen to have a dry, scaly nose or paw pads? Maybe they simply need more water. If your dog is Close-Up Photography of a Dog's Snoutproperly hydrated and this dry, scaly skin is still persistent, try picking up some coconut oil. A little dab rubbed into the scaly nose and paw pads should create moisture and alleviate the dryness.

We’ve only scratched the surface on some of the most important DIY grooming tips for your vandwelling dog. Remember that proper and regular grooming of your furry friend is one of the most effective ways to keep your animal clean, healthy, and safe. Maintenance is key! That means that the more you keep up with it, the easier it will be. Plus, your dog will get into the habit of regular grooming and not put up a fight to let you brush it, trim its nails, or any other critical grooming technique. Happy grooming!

Adam Conrad is a dad of 5 Shih Tzu pups and the creator of Shih Tzu Expert. His passion for helping people in all aspects of dog care flows through in the coverage he provides about dog health issues like Parvo, CDV (Canine Distemper Virus), pet containment systems, dog grooming tools and techniques, and best food for dogs with specific dietary requirements. In his spare time he is an avid scuba diver and a trail runner. 

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Adam Conrad are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

You can read about the real-life dog grooming experiences of part-time vandweller who travels with dogs at DIY Grooming Tips for the Vandwelling Dog.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-animal-portrait-blur-422212/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/adorable-animal-breed-canine-356378/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-dog-pet-53564/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-person-with-rings-on-ring-fingers-792775/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-cold-cute-dog-434113/.

How to Train Your Dog to Live The Vanlife (Guest Post)

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Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

The dog days of summer are over, but at the Rubber Tramp Artist blog, we’re still sharing information about vandwelling with dogs.

I was absolutely pleased when the good folks at Gnomad Home reached out to me with an offer to write a guest post I could share with my readers. I jumped at the chance, as I love a good guest post. I was especially pleased to find out Jayme and John had lots of experience vandewlling with pups. Their expertise fits right in with the content I want to share with my readers. 

Today Jayme and John tell you how they trained their doggies to share their van life. Whether you’re transitioning a house dog into a road dog or bringing a brand new pup into your rig, these training tips can help keep your nomadic pooch safe and happy.

Once you make the jump from dreaming about vanlife to actually making it happen, all the big, scary steps you imagined seem to become easier and easier to manage. Selling your items stressed you out at first, but now you have no problem accepting $20 for that trinket your aunt gave you for your 13th birthday. Many of these transitions become more exciting than nerve-wracking, and mentally, you are more and more ready to just take off and hit the road. But of course, you can’t leave without your best furry friend! As it turns out, dogs need time to transition just as much as you do, and a well-trained dog makes for a very fun and easy life on the road.

We are currently traveling around with our two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7), but believe it or not, there was a time when the dogs in our van outnumbered the humans! We recently had to put down our girl Crow (#CrowtoriousDOG) who was just shy of 17. We gave her one hell of a final year out on the road, letting her stick her paws in all kinds of waters from the Atlantic to the Pacific!

Needless to say, we know quite a bit about packing your pups and hitting the road. Here’s all of the tips and tricks that helped us get our domesticated dogs ready to live out in the wild!

Re-establish Basic Training Skills

This is easily the most important step of them all. Maybe you can get your dog to sit and stay because they know you’re about to toss them a treat while you guys are comfortably hanging out in your living room.But do they know how to sit and stay in a large vehicle when there are other automobiles whizzing around and you are trying to unload the groceries from the shopping cart into your fridge without your dog taking off down the road after a squirrel that emerged from the bushes? That’s why honing these basic training skills is essential.

The main commands we drilled into our dogs’ heads before beginning our adventure were, “Stay,” “Come,” and “In the van.” We practiced these commands in multiple situations, not just in our backyard. We would go out to the woods to practice, we would begin training in the middle of dog parks…anytime we found ourselves in a situation that was new to them, we would find time for some training.

Living on the road is rarely equivalent to hanging out in someone’s living room or fenced-in backyard. There are always distractions, noises, movements, creatures, and more going on around you at all times – that’s why it was very important to us that our dogs were familiar with responding as we expected under any circumstances.

“Stay” is probably our most used command. This helps when the doors of the van are open, when they are about to get into something we want them to stay away from, if they see a creature we don’t want them getting involved with, and more.

“Come” is perfect for when we allow them to run around off leash (which we do a lot of the time). We are always responsible about when and how we allow them to galavant off leash, which means we certainly don’t allow it in Walmart parking lots or National Parks.

But there are some areas where we do trust them off leash: when we are on BLM (Bureau of Lang Management) land or we find ourselves in National Forests – and if the area and conditions seem acceptable to our standards – we let them free! They LOVE getting to explore all of the scents and different terrains we find ourselves in. It’s almost as if you can see heaven glowing in their eyes as they leap over fallen trees and jump at the sight of a bug they’ve never seen before.

Unfortunately they can’t be off leash 24/7, and we need them to return to us from time to time. That’s when “Come” truly comes in handy. If a hiker walks near our spot and seems uneasy about the dogs, calling for them to return (and knowing that they will) makes for an easy pass on a potentially confrontational situation. Or if we are ready to roll to the next location, we just have to give a little holler and they come running back to the van, ready for the next adventure.

“In the van” is just a great, simple command for them to know. Whether we want them to seek shelter from an incoming storm, get ready to hit the road, or whatever the case may be – if we tell them, “in the van,” they hop right on in!

Build Trust with Your Dog and Let Them Run Around Off Leash

This one is VERY important to us. Our dogs have a lot of energy, and a trail run on a leash is not enough exercise for them to burn all of their juice. However, you can’t just take the leash off of your dog and expect all to go well on the first try

This is a practice that took time for us. We started training Nymeria to behave off leash when she was a puppy. There was a wooded area not too far from our house that not too many people frequented, and we were able to practice with her there. We would have her on a leash for a little bit, then let her off. Anytime she would come back to us we would make a very big deal about it, with excessive praise and even a few treats (we don’t normally give our dogs treats, but we do when we want something to be a BIG deal).

When we took in Delilah, she was a Stage Five RUNNER! If a door was even slightly cracked, she would bust right on through it and be gone in a second. In the end, what it came down to was that she was just dying to explore and check out her surroundings. After we took her in, we let her off leash in the same area where we trained Nymeria as a puppy. Naturally, Deliliah took off, and it actually took about 15 minutes for her to return. Yes, it made us nervous,but this is part of the trust. Our dogs don’t want to be away from us forever – they just want to explore. When Delilah returned, we showered her with praise and treats!

The second time we let her off leash, she still ran off to explore, but when we called her name, she immediately sprinted back to us, tail wagging and excited for a treat and some praise (granted, she is a very food driven creature!).

Shortly after this second time of off-leash exploring, we were at John’s parents house. The front door opened, Delilah began to run out, and we called her to come back. She immediately stopped, turned around and sprinted back to us! Now, anytime we go into the woods and let her off leash, she tends to stay within ear shot. Delilah and Nymeria never adventure too far, we can typically see or hear them (they each have a bear bell on their collars, as well as lights that can be turned on to a solid or flashing light), and the second we call for them they happily trot on back to us.

Enjoy Exploring the World with Your Pup!

Establishing a strong and trusting relationship with your dog is essential for an easier life on the road with your furry bestie. Nothing about living a nomadic life is 100% easy, but these tips and tricks should help make the transition from domesticated life to living in the wild simpler for you and your four-legged buddies to handle!

Jayme and John from Gnomad Home live out of their 1996 Chevy Express van they built into a tiny home with their two pups Nymeria (3) and Delilah (7). They now create free content for others wishing to pursue a lifestyle on the road whether it be full-time travel or part-time travel. They have been living nomadically since the Spring of 2017.

Remember, you are responsible for yourself and your dog(s). Neither Blaize Sun nor Jayme and John from Gnomad Home are responsible for you or your pup(s). Use common sense depending on the regulations and conditions of your location.

First two photos coutesy of the authors. Other imags courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-clouds-mountain-dog-65867/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-dog-248273/.

Traveling Van Cat? ( A Guest Post about Cats and Van Life)

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Basil, the author’s feline companion-in-van life. Photo provided by the author.

Have a cat and want to travel? No problem! With time and patience, most adult cats (and almost any kitten) will adjust to vanlife.

It will be harder to travel with a cat than it is to travel alone, and you will need to make accommodations for the cat’s needs and safety. There will be annoyances, inconveniences, and it will almost always require patience and a good sense of humor.  🙂  If you’re like me, it’s worth every challenge when you love your furbaby.

Know Thy Feline

Hi! My name is Devan Winters from the XsyntrikNomad blog. I am a vandweller and I have two cats. Freddie is a gregarious, hyper, and curious escape artist. He is 7 years old and kind of a doofus. (I say that with love). Basil is 8 years old and a bit of a scaredy-cat. He hisses at people who get near the van (even though they can’t see him through the tint).

Traveling with Freddie was great the first two days. He seemed relaxed and curious. On day three, an internal switch flipped, and he began to freak out. He suddenly wouldn’t leave me alone when I was driving. It was not safe.

After confining Freddie while I was behind the wheel, I quickly learned he was capable of howling for hours…nonstop. After a little more than a week, I knew he was going to struggle to adapt. Nothing I tried would calm him or keep him from desperately trying to get out of the van.  Lucky for me, my adult child is the proud parent of Freddie’s sister and was generous enough to take him in. Otherwise, he would be a very unhappy van cat.

Basil, on the other hand, freaked for the first three days, then settled in. He’s become a really awesome van cat.

After living and traveling with Basil in my van for a while, I’ve learned a few things. I hope they’ll help anyone else considering a feline companion in their van life travels.

LitterBox

Location:  I’ve found the best location is by a door-it allows easy access for cleaning. Basil’s litter box is in the front passenger floorboard. If I ever have a regular human passenger though, the box will move to a location near the side or rear doors.

Tip:  Placing the litter box as far away from where your head rests when you sleep at night is more convenient than you might think, especially if your feline is on a regular late night or early morning pooping schedule.  🙂

The Box:  Through the years I have preferred to use a plastic storage container, about the same length and width of a litterbox. You can grab a cheap one at Big Lots or WalMart. This is a particularly handy option when trying to find a size that fits in the space you have.

If you’re putting the box in the back (or think you ever will) hold on to the lid. You can create an awesome enclosed box by cutting a large opening on one end of the lid. In my experience, this eliminates kicked litter (when your cat covers his business) while minimizing tracking a bit too.

TIP:  If you do this instead of spending more money on a ‘normal’ litterbox, it’s important to make sure your container is big enough for your cat to turn around in comfortably. Pay extra attention to the height of the box if you plan to use the lid. Measure your cat’s height from the top of his head to the floor. Then add an inch or two to that measurement to determine the best height for the container you purchase. 

Litter and Tracking:  I currently use clumping clay litter, but a pellet is a good option to lessen tracking. (Basil was not a fan, unfortunately.) If you’re not using a pellet type litter, you can assume you’re going to have litter tracking issues. I have a mat by the litterbox that catches some of the litter, but I keep a hand broom right under the seat to sweep what’s tracked. Depending on your cat, you’ll find yourself doing this at least once a day.

Bonus:  If you use a 5-gallon bucket for your business, you and your feline friend can share the litter. I’ve switched to Arm & Hammer Double Duty Litter recently. The brand comes in many varieties, but this variety, in this brand, seems to clump better than my previous brand. I store it in a plastic container with a lid under my bed.   

Hairballs

Hairballs and puke happen. There is nothing worse than waking up to a puke covered blanket. Unless you wake up and step in warm puke. *gag* I have experienced the joy of both, and worse. I have nearly eliminated hairballs using SynergyLabs Richard’s Organics Flavored Hairball Remedy. It works great for Basil.

Food is a major factor in feline digestion. If your cat is throwing up more than a couple times a week, and you’re sure it isn’t a health issue, try experimenting with food. It can be costly, but I have found the premium brands are worth it for Basil. He actually eats less and his poop doesn’t smell quite as bad. I tried a few foods but found Natural Balance ( which can be purchased at most pet food stores) works for us. There are plenty of good quality brands you can buy between the cheap and expensive too.

TIP:  I keep two heavy flat twin sheets (purchased cheaply at Goodwill) in the van at all times . I can’t always wash my primary blanket right away if there is a puke situation. So whether I’m sleeping or out for the day, one of those sheets is always covering and protecting my primary blanket. (In the summer months, I use the sheet alone)  

Food and Water

This should be easy, but it wasn’t for me. Basil likes to tip his water. He’s done it for years. Depending on where you put the food and water bowls, a spill can cause quite a mess. I spoke to a vet and these are some things I learned:

Water Bowl Tipping:  In rare cases, some cats will be sensitive to taste and may not like the water you’re giving them. Try spring or filtered water instead.

The biggest cause of water tipping is this though:  If your cat puts his head in a water bowl and his whiskers touch the sides, he will often tip the bowl in an attempt to drink without scraping his sensitive whiskers.

Ethical Pet Products (Spot) DSO6932 Stoneware 4-Square Dog Dish, 5-Inch, Blue
TIP:  Buy a wide stone bowl like the one pictured.The 4-inch square shape is hard to tip, gives your cat a wide opening corner to corner, and the stone keeps the water cool.

Placement of Food and Water:  Put it where your cat can reach it easily, but not where you might step on it in the dark or when you’re in a rush. My vet also recommends keeping food and water away from the littler box.  (Who wants to eat where they go to the bathroom, right?)

TIP:  Cats actually don’t like their food and water together. By placing the bowls in separate locations, it fosters your cat’s natural foraging/hunting behavior. When you’re in a small space like a van, little things help keep your cat happy and content.

Food Storage:  As I will also be mentioning in the section on behaviors, most cats like to chew through bags. It would save space to keep a bag of cat food crammed in a corner somewhere, but I highly recommend a plastic container with a well-sealed lid (for freshness too). Trust me, it will save you a lot of frustration. Even if your cat doesn’t have this behavior now, the small space and potential feline boredom could create a bag-chewing monster.

Temperature Control

Location:  This is my first consideration, always. During summer months I stay in places like Flagstaff, AZ or San Diego, CA. My summer plans require quite a lot of research on weather in the desired area. I would do this anyway since I don’t like heat either, but it becomes way more important with a cat in tow. I look for places with low humidity and temps that stay below 90 degrees.

TIP:  Elevations of 7,000 feet or higher, the Northern CA coast, and the Pacific Northwest are also (usually) temperate options. US Climate Data and Accuweather are my go-to for historical weather data. 

Regulating the Temperature without Solar:  I have a passenger van so I have windows all around. I love my windows but the first thing I did was limo tint them. On most summer days in the mid to low 80’s (or below), if I open the back and side windows for a nice breeze, and put a sun shield on the front window, the van stays comfortable inside.

On hotter days, I put two sun shields in the front window and hang Reflectix from the top of the windows all the way around the van. I do not fasten it at the bottom so air can still flow. It keeps the van pretty comfortable. In fact, at floor level (specifically under the bed in the cubby hole Basil likes to hide in), it is noticeably cooler.  (Yes. I got on the floor and crawled under to see/feel)

Tip:  Spend several days in your van with your cat in different weather conditions and temperatures. Leave the windows and shades as you would if you weren’t there for the day.  Get a feel for what your cat is going to experience and watch them for signs of heat-related stress.   

Regulating the Temperature with Solar:  I have not installed solar or a roof vent yet so I can only speak from the experiences shared with me by others. According to those who have it, a working roof vent is great at regulating the temperature inside your van. If you can install two, one in the back and one in front, one drawing air out and one pulling air in, even better.

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Monitoring:  I installed a camera and the ThermoPro TP-50 Digital Temperature and Humidity Meter. Using wifi, the camera is accessible through an app installed on my phone. I can maneuver the camera in the van remotely, using the app, and keep an eye on the temperature (and Basil) inside the van. This is a new set-up and I LOVE it. I got the idea from this YouTube video if you want to check it out.

Behavior Issues & A Small Space

If your cat has issues in your current home, you might feel like they’re amplified in a van. In fact, you may discover issues you didn’t know your cat had. Practice patience with them while they adjust to their new normal.

Basil discovered he likes to chew bags. Doesn’t matter what’s in the bag, if it makes a cool crinkly sound, he’ll bite and chew on the corners. From wet wipes to potato chips, he is not particular. I accidentally discovered he will not do this to a baggie. So, as much as the tree hugger in me hates using them, I put everything I can in baggies of all sizes (and I re-use the heck out of them). Anything too big for a baggie goes in a Rubbermaid I use exclusively for this purpose.

Living in such a small space, I also find myself as a bouncing off (or on) point. To prevent lots of scratches, it’s more important than ever to keep those front claws trimmed. Otherwise, scratches happen a lot.

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It’s also a great idea to find a spot for a small scratching post or scratching board. Otherwise, your seats may fall prey to their natural desire to stretch those paws and dig in with those nails!

TIP:  I strongly recommend using a sisal rope scratcher. Your cat will enjoy the cardboard style scratchers, but they will make one heck of a mess in your van!

Modifying Behaviour:  If you’ve never had issues with your cat before or are new to feline parenthood, yelling at or smacking a cat is completely ineffective behavior control. You probably already know that, but it’s worth mentioning. Cats definitely require a unique approach to discipline.  Because, you know, cats.

TIP:  A Google search is a great place to get advice but make sure you’re taking advice from a reputable source such as a vet website, the ASPCA, an animal products website (like chewy.com), etc.  

Playtime

Don’t forget your cat still needs playtime to expend energy. This is necessary for both physical and mental health. In fact, in such a small confined space, they need it more than ever. Take time every day, multiple times a day if you can, to play with your cat. Throw a ball if they fetch, wiggle a string for them to stalk, roughhouse (if your cat enjoys it), treat them with catnip toys, etc.

Cat Fur and Dander

If you’ve lived with a cat in a regular house or apartment, you already know fur gets everywhere. It’s worse in a van. Keep sheets and blankets washed regularly and shake them out between washes when you can. Basil likes to lounge in the driver seat so hair tends to collect there. A good lint removal brush or roller is essential.

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TIP:  I recommend the Freshland Lint Roller. It’s economical, comes with a charcoal air purifier/deodorizer, and works great. I keep mine within reach from the driver seat.  When I get out of the van to go in somewhere, I can quickly spiff myself up.  

Cat Leash Training

I keep threatening to leash train Basil, but I haven’t really tried yet. I understand it takes time and a lot of patience, but there are awesome rewards. It is best to start training them as young as possible, but most adult cats are trainable. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors and in nature, your cat will love the opportunity to explore outside with you-safely!

Tip:  Microchip! You can get microchipping done for around $45 and it’s worth every penny. Even if your cat is leash trained or not prone to escape, there are still risks, such as an accident. If a window breaks out and there is a lot of commotion, your cat just might bolt at the first opportunity. Mine would. 

Confinement When Mobile

For safety reasons, most people strongly suggest confining your cat to a carrier when you’re mobile. In an accident, your cat is secure, safe, and less likely to get hurt or run off. You’re also less prone to distraction or to have your driving affected by your cat.

In reality, most of us do not participate in this practice. For me, there is no place to fit a carrier when not in use. Even if I found an easily storable/collapsible carrier, Basil has hiding spots I can’t get to, and he doesn’t come when called. Getting him in the carrier before I go anywhere would be a challenge in itself. That said, I still consider it a best practice if you can do it.

Health Care

Finding affordable medical care for your cat while on the road is a huge challenge. It’s best to do any preventative care before you leave. Once you’re on the road, if you decide to use a nationwide veterinary chain like Banfield (inside most PetSmart stores), you won’t have to keep records of everything with you. (You should always carry rabies vaccination paperwork.)

Banfield even offers pet insurance to cover some care, if you can afford (and want to pay) the monthly expense. There is also a line of credit called Care Credit you can take out specifically for veterinary costs.

Tip:  If you travel like me, often staying in one place for a couple months at a time, take time to research local vet options. Look at Yelp and Google reviews, call to inquire about general visit prices, etc. I always start my search with AAHA Accredited Vets. The standards and guidelines they have to meet for accreditation practically guarantee you’ll get a good vet.

Something I Forgot?

I’ve tried to think of everything I wanted to know when I started, while also including answers to questions I am often asked.  If I haven’t answered something you’d like to know about, or if you want more detail on anything, please reach out to me at xsyntriknomad.com.  I will be happy to help you find the answers you need.

**Please keep in mind these are my experiences and my opinions. I’m not always right, but I took extra care to make sure any information linked is true and accurate. I will always make an extra effort to steer you in the right direction when it comes to your animal companion.

Photos (other than the one of Basil) are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on any of those photos, you’ll be magically taken to Amazon.com. Anything you put in your cart and purchase after clicking one of those links will earn the Rubber Tramp Artist a small advertising fee at not cost to you.

(Guest Post) How I Traveled to the UK in My RV for 14 Days (Real Life Story)

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Have you always dreamed of traveling but did not where to start from? Have you ever thought about traveling in the so-called recreational vehicle? It is a trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home – thanks to the wheels that can take you anywhere in the world and the comfort of home, people can travel for a really long time without any problems. The big size of the trailer lets the traveler take several fellow-passengers. If you wish to get inspired, simply read this real-life story about how I traveled to the UK in my RV for 14 days.

 

“RV Europe” has always been the combination of words that made my knees tremble – I wanted it so much! Because I live in Berlin, the way had to be quite long – the Google Maps told me I had to drive approximately 12 hours non-stop to reach London. It was a quite responsible and serious trip, that is why I had to prepare for it properly. First of all, I had to decide on the people I was taking with me, the quantity of days I wanted this trip to be, and the things I would need in my adventure.

I decided to take my three friends who dreamed of traveling so far, too. I thought about how many days would be enough for our company to spend in the UK, and 14 days seemed the perfect period. As for the things to take with me, it was, in fact, not a big problem. The trailer had enough space for all the clothes I needed, the fridge was able to hold a lot of food, and there was enough space even for the laptop and video games. I needed to plan a trip across Europe – that was the most difficult part.

When I looked at the map with the biggest cities on my way, I decided I wanted to stop in Hannover, Dortmund, Antwerpen, Gent, Dunkerque, and, finally, London. I was not confident whether we would travel around the UK or stay in London throughout the whole time. I googled the places to see in those cities – listed buildings, cozy parks, and atmospheric pubs and cafes. And, of course, I did the same research for London – the latter took much more time because the city is huge and really diversified.

I have been thinking a lot how to plan a trip through UK and decided to visit Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool as well.  We would stop in the beautiful villages and towns on our way, too. When the plan was ready, we were ready to go. We decided to leave early in the morning to see the beauty of the road trip in the daytime.

The road was empty because our trip started on Saturday. Just riding on the highway was a pure pleasure – watching the beautiful forests and fields on the sides of the road was incredible. After riding for more than four hours, my friend replaced my position as the driver – this is another benefit of traveling with a big company because you are not obliged to sit at the steering wheel all the time.

Among the cities that we passed by, for some reason, it was Dunkerque that impressed me most. The reason might be the film of the same name shot by Christopher Nolan that I have seen recently. The place was breathing with history, and the fact that it is situated near the sea made it an amazing experience for us to stop and spend a couple of hours there.

 

Finally, we went inside the Eurotunnel, and it was a surreal experience to drive for one hour and a half in the closed space. The feeling that space was surrounded by water was absolutely amazing. When we finally came to London and saw Big Ben, I felt pure happiness. Berlin is a beautiful place to be but the architecture suffered a lot during the World War II, and the majority of the city is quite contemporary. However, the beauty of London cannot be expressed by words. The city combines both contemporary architecture and the old one.

We stayed in London for a week – during this time we saw all the listed buildings, visited all the beautiful parks, and drank beer in all the atmospheric pubs. We slept in our trailer at the roadside rest stops – in spite of a number of warnings of my parents about possible robberies, nothing bad happened to us, and we were happy we had such an amazing experience.

After London, we went to see Birmingham – I have not heard about this city much, but it turned out to be the second after London and a pretty beautiful one as well. We went to its famous Bullring to do some shopping, and we were amazed by the quantity of shops there. After that, we visited The Old Crown – the oldest building in the city where we drank amazing cider and ate some fish and chips. Finally, we dedicated a whole day to a tour of in  Cadbury World not far from Birmingham and saw how the chocolate is made.

In Manchester, we went to the museum about the city and were amazed how interactive and interesting it was. In Liverpool, we visited the museum dedicated to The Beatles and drank a couple of beers in The Cavern Club where they used to perform. When it was time to drive home, we were already a bit tired and looked forward to it.

When the trip was over, I felt like a could write a book on how to travel through UK, and I was really proud of that. I felt like now, I can make even the bigger trip – it seemed challenging and exciting simultaneously. I started thinking about exploring Russia, but this trip needed a really good plan and an awesome preparation.

 

Bryan Davis has been working for https://australianwritings.com.au/essay-writing-service for more than one year, and he has already become one of the best writers on the website. His hobbies are traveling and mobile photography, and he successfully combines those with his job.