How many of us don’t dream of being able to travel someday? But it’s expensive, and it’s a real pain sorting out travel arrangements and hotels and meals and all the details. And also, expensive.
Or maybe not!
Author Jason Odom has written a book that teaches you how to travel anywhere in the United States for just $20 a day. And he writes from experience – he and his wife Kelly have traveled over 700,000 miles in 15 years all over the U.S., so he’s lived the lifestyle he’s writing about. He defines Vanaboding thusly: to happily abide in a four wheeled box shaped vehicle providing transportation and housing.
The writing style is friendly and easy to read – the author writes in a conversational tone, keeping your attention and never boring you, even when he gets down to some of the finer details of how to live this lifestyle. I’d actually love to sit down and chat face-to-face with Jason and his wife Kelly, because the fun writing appeals to me and makes me think they’d be fun people to talk to and hang out with. And he’s not only thoroughly researched the topic (by living it for many years), but he truly believes in it, and his passion for Vanaboding comes through in his writing. The book is fascinating to read even if you have no intention of doing ANY of the things he writes about, simply from the perspective of seeing alternative ways of living. (You can check out some excerpts from the book on the website).
If you were to follow the guidelines in this book exactly, it really would be possible to travel around the U.S. indefinitely for $20 or less per day. It would be challenging for many people due to the level of simplification necessary, but definitely possible. Odom pares everything down to what he calls the five Essentials of a Great Life: excellent food, great sleep, good personal hygiene, healthy sex, and protection from the elements. Vanaboding allows you to sleep in your own bed every night, bathe daily, cook hot meals on the road (or eat out at fabulous new restaurants, since you’ll be saving money elsewhere), and more – all from a customized van.
Now, the idea of Vanaboding really appeals to my hippie side, but what if you don’t want to travel forever, but just for a little while? I know when I started college as a language arts education major, I dreamed of traveling the country with my kids during the summer months – a dream that’s never come to fruition. (Although that’s partly because the degree never came to fruition either – I ran out of money before I ran out of college courses to take!) You can use the information in this book to get away from it all for short periods of time, too – like a road trip summer vacation. Or, as Odom points out, you can even use his tips to get out of town for a while to get away from an impending weather event like a hurricane or blizzard.
But what about money? You have to have $20 a day to live on $20 a day, and not all of us have a savings account to start out with. Well, the author also shares ways to earn a living while you’re on the road. There are hundreds of places you can go to get short-term work, and he even shares ways of running your own business while Vanaboding. A good example is the book itself! And there are lots of links embedded in the ebook to expand upon the author’s information, with maps and more information. (Most of those links are “hidden” links that you can’t access from the Vanabode website, only from the direct URL within the book itself).
Jason Odom really covers everything you need to know if you want to live this lifestyle, whether for a short time or indefinitely. There are chapters, with images and links to more information, on how to best set up a regular van, how to eat on the road, how to sleep and shower, how to park the van while you’re out and about and while you’re sleeping in it, how to protect yourself from the elements, and so forth.
Personally, I love the idea of using the techniques in this book to take shorter trips with my family in the near future, with the possibility of longer-term excursions once the kids have grown. I wish I could do it now, but even with the great techniques outlined in this book, it’s just not feasible with four kids (especially when two of them have special needs). Odom states in the book that you shouldn’t attempt the strict Vanabode lifestyle if there are more than two people to be considered. (And my family of six is definitely more than two!) An RV is an option if you have children, and some of the tips in the book can help you go that route more cheaply also.
I have an aunt and uncle who spend the majority of the year on the road in their big RV now that they’re retired, traveling from place to place and having a blast. They can attend any family member’s event – birthdays, graduation parties, family reunions – because they can just park their RV in the nearest campground without having to worry about finding a hotel. Now, Vanaboding is a little different. Big fancy RVs are expensive, and take a lot of gas to keep moving. And parking regulations are different (read: also more expensive) for RVs than for vans. The author, who has also done the RV living thing, gets into the finer details of the differences between RVing and Vanaboding, as well as comparisons to other travel/lifestyle alternatives like car camping, houseboats, backpacking, and so forth.
The inventory section is full of tons of useful information that you can use even for short-term trips. Odom even goes into security for your vehicle and possessions, like how to secure your electronics safely inside and steering wheel locks and the like. He further goes into how to handle things like mail, residency, laundry, personal safety and security – even portable toilets and showers. There’s also a sample itinerary with some great travel destinations. Pretty much any situation you’d need to consider, he has it covered.
After reading this book, I really think that my husband and I could even do a weekend getaway for nearly free by implementing the tips and acquiring some of the inventory suggested in that chapter. We have a minivan, which wouldn’t be ideal for a Vanabode lifestyle (even if it were just the two of us), but if the kids were at grandma’s we could definitely live in our minivan for a weekend, or even longer. We already have a portable air pump, all of the seats in the minivan (except driver and passenger) fold down into the floor, so we’d have both storage space for things like a change of clothes and snacks, and an air mattress would give us a place to sleep that could be deflated and tucked away during the day.
Once you purchase this book one time, you can be added to the email list to get free updates for life. For someone like me, who would like to put these tips into practice “someday” but not today, that’s great news! Maybe in a year or two, my 9-year-old son (who has autism) will be able to handle the major routine change of a week or month long vanaboding trip. Or maybe my husband and I will be able to find a caregiver for the kids so we can FINALLY take a honeymoon trip. (Our original honeymoon was staying at my husband’s apartment for a weekend while the kids stayed with relatives). The free lifetime updates make it worth buying the book now, even if you don’t think you’ll be able to use the information for a while.
Vanabode: Travel and Live Forever on $20 a Day is available on Amazon (Kindle) for $9.97 at the time of this posting. Happy Vanaboding!