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Life in the back of a truck (part 1)

November 20th, 2008

This is part of an ongoing series on what it’s like to live in a truck camper fulltime. You may read other articles here:

  1. Part One – The fulltime lifestyle
  2. Part Two – Why a truck camper?
  3. Part Three – Weights & Dealing with them
  4. Part Four – Boondocking resource conservation

So, you want to live in the back of a truck… First off, you should probably face the fact that you’re a bit of an odd duck. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the things that you’ll encounter along the way to making this grandiose fantasy a reality.

Where are you from?
You’re going to hear this question a lot as you travel around. It’s simply a polite thing to ask strangers that “aren’t from around here”. There are a few schools of thought as to how one should answer this question. You can tell people where you left “real life” from if you are in a hurry and don’t want to explain how you come to be living in that truck over yonder. If you’re dealing with a business or government agency, it’s usually simplest to give the address of your mail forwarding service or the address on your driver’s license.

The next two options are a pretty good way to strike up a conversation, so use them carefully as you may end up trying to explain yourself to a posse in the wrong town. You can simply tell the truth and explain that you’re traveling. This can lead to all sorts of interesting questions such as “are ya’ll circus folk/gypsies/carnies/hippies/destitute?”. I wouldn’t recommend telling the cashier at a local business this, but it goes over well at campgrounds. Events that bring a lot diverse folks together are also a good bet. You’ll have to explain yourself a lot more, but as you’re there to meet people anyway, it gives you an interesting topic to talk about. A lot of people are curious about the fulltime RV lifestyle and have lots of questions. The final answer to “where are you from?” is to say “I grew up in…”. This is a polite way of making smalltalk without committing yourself to answering a lot of personal questions from complete strangers.


What do you bring along?
This is a really tough question and will depend mostly on what you enjoy doing and how much room you have. Jenn and I had a lot of different ideas on what is considered “essential” to the fulltime RV lifestyle, but one thing we both agreed on was that tools should come along. The only tool I can recall leaving in storage is a sawzall that simply took up too much room when a circular saw could accomplish much of the same work and be a better all around tool besides. Jenn is carrying around a full size sewing machine and I’m dragging along an acetylene torch with miniature gas bottles.

Why are tools so important? They give you the ability to work on your own rig! It might take years to become an expert craftsman or handyman, but with tools at hand, you can attempt to fix problems or fabricate new solutions. It might be ugly or even fail the first shot, but you can probably do it two or three times for the cost of having it done by a professional. Let’s face it, if you’re not going to work every day, you probably have a lot of free time. Why not spend a couple of days making something that a skilled laborer could knock out in a couple of hours? The satisfaction that comes from making things just the way you picture them is well worth the time involved.

Entertainment is also an important item to think about. If you can use some of the tools you brought along in a hobby such as wood working or sewing, you’ve knocked out two birds with a chunk of iron. But what about books, movies and toys? Yah, I said toys. Unfortunately, books take up a ton of space and are quite heavy. DVDs aren’t quite as bad, but they still take up a considerable amount of space. Our solution to these was two-fold: electronic media and reduce what you carry.

Movies were a pretty easy solution. Most of our movies were ripped to disk and stored on hard drives for backup, so we simply moved them over to the ReadyNAS and keep fifteen or twenty on a Cowon for easy access. The movies we wanted to keep but were not yet ripped got stripped down. You don’t need that plastic box they come in. Grab a CD/DVD travel case and fill it with nothing but disks…. you just cut the size of your movie collection down significantly.

Books are a bit harder. Electronic copies are a good start, but I still haven’t found an E-Book reader that I was happy enough with to shell out the bucks. Reading on the laptop is doable, but it’s a drain on the electricity and not entirely ergonomic. For now, I’m still carrying around a couple of dozen small paperbacks and swapping them out for new books as we find new books from friends, family, lending libraries and public libraries that are giving away old books.

Ok, so I’m just a big kid at heart. Two toys we made sure to bring along were Jenn’s Mindstorm lego kit and my 500 in 1 electronics kit. I’ve got to admit that we’ve spent no time at all playing with either of these toys, but I still like to think that there is enough ‘play time’ there to keep us busy for several years of rainy days. For low cost, small storage entertainment, old video games are great. They take up very little room and you can get them at bargain basement prices. A few days of entertainment from a $1 game is a helluva deal. Simple board games without a lot of pieces are also a nice way to pass an evening.

You can make room for just about any hobby if you are passionate enough about it. You just have to ask yourself if remodeling vintage automobiles is worth hauling around a trailer with your Model T frame and random parts for the next twenty years. Jenn and I are hauling around bows and arrows along with a practice target, fishing poles with minimal tackle, a fair amount of caving gear and enough old radio dramas to play for three or four years straight just to name a few.

This article has gone on longer than I expected when I began writing. If it’s popular, perhaps we’ll turn it into a mini-series about what to expect from and how to prepare for life on the road. Happy trails!

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3 Responses to “Life in the back of a truck (part 1)”

  1. jenn says:

    Well the sewing machine has come in handy a couple of times. I have been able to make stuff for us and others. Heck, I even came to the rescue when I was able to sew up some stuff for the leader of the camp area we were in.

    The banjo and the roller skates, while essential to me, haven’t been nearly as useful…yet.

  2. Rene says:

    Wow Jen, you are brave to carry around that machine! Jim would’ve had a hissy fit if I insisted on bringing mine along!

    That old “Where ya from?” question. . . when people ask us, we like to say “right here!” That’s if we feel chatty. If not, all we have to do is say “From California” and that usually shuts ’em up right away.

  3. LandStander says:

    Love your blog! In this entry there was talk of books and the possibility of ebook readers, If you two are still in the market for one, a Nintendo DS with minimal hackiness, using the M3 Real device turns this device into a multifunction little piece of equipment. If ya shop around you can get all the components for less than $200. This little thing can access the internet, serve as an ebook reader; a pretty decent pda. There are “shadier” uses for the M3 yet I suggest it purely for its pda type capabilities. A good research website on the DS M3 combo would be to search “gbatemp “dot” net” and “M3”.
    Any who I love the writing you two do, it gives me hope that there are young people out there, seeing many beautiful places and having fun 🙂

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