Full timing it on the cheap, Part 2

13 Oct

All right, so how to travel on a budget?

Well, first of all I have to explain about our van. Our gummy is a reconfigured commercial delivery truck, and due to the way Richard built, it still looks that way. There are no windows in the sides, all our light comes from the huge front windows and the large skylights.  It had original decals on the outside that had at sometime been painted over, so we left it that way. For all intents and purposes we became essentially invisible. No one pays much attention to an average looking commercial truck. So….

We can park just about anywhere for free, as long as we don’t over stay our welcome.

Pretty much everyone who RV’s is aware that Wal Mart will allow you to park in their parking lots and if you’re travelling on any  major highway in Canada or the US most rest areas allow an 8 hour  or overnight stay.

Buying strawberries at the local market - 150 pesos per box

When we hit the road, it’s never on to the next RV Park, it’s just on. When we get tired or want to stop to eat or have a coffee, we look for a rest stop, a parking lot, a wide gravel shoulder, a dead end road, or any place where other large trucks are in evidence. No one notices one more truck. We can even park on city streets and have done so, but then we’re not worried about a little graffiti. Just adds to the commercial look.

Now RV Parks have got a lot going for them usually. They have pull throughs, electrical hookups, fresh, clean water, hot showers, sewage dumps, some have Wifi, and laundry facilities. There’s also the social aspect of them. Lots of folks from lots of different places, together for a while, can make for a fun time. They are also expensive when you’re trying to live the way we do on a very strict budge.

Most parks average 25-30 dollars per night, with laundry extra. Since we live in our van full time, there is no way we can afford to stay in these parks, though that doesn’t mean that we don’t use them. When we need to dump our tanks, and we can’t find a free municipal or county one (And there are lots of those) we’ll use one. Most parks charge about $5.00 per dump and will quite happily let you use their facilities as long as you are dumping only grey and black water tanks.

I mention this only because due to our looks, we’ve been questioned a few times as to what we were dumping from our tanks. People see what they want to see and when they see a commercial truck dumping waste I’m sure the first thought must be,”Illegal toxic waste”, hence the questions.

If you live in BC, and don’t stay in RV Parks make sure you pay to dump in them and retain your receipts. ICBC insurance is invalid in Mexico, you need special Mexican insurance to drive there. You can apply to ICBC for a partial refund, based on how long you were out of the country, and you need receipts for this. We hang on to our fuel, and dump receipts which we write the vehicle VIN numbers on and when we get home we submit them to ICBC. It’s never the full amount for the time out of country, but something is always better than nothing right?

Laundry facilities are widely available all through North America, even in Baja and we’ve found that they, on the most part, are cheaper than those available in RV parks.  In Baja, you can take your laundry to a “Lavamatica” where the owners will wash, dry and fold your clothes for about 4-5 dollars a load. The only problem is you have to leave it overnight, but hey, if you’re being a tourist, it just gives you reason to hang around for another day. It’s times like this that you find something spectacular or memorable, even if it’s just having a taco at the local street stand with the rest of the neighbourhood.

The only RV site we ever stay in, is a place called San Quintin. It’s about 150 Km south of Ensenada, and it’s the first glimpse of the beauty to come. It’s a very simple place that offers spectacular views of the west coast beaches, hot showers with brackish water, and a place to dump our tanks.  Richard has mentioned it in his “First Years Accounts”. The cost is $12 per night and this place truly is worth the cost. We generally stay 2 nights both coming and going. The tienda up the road has internet, there’s a place in the local town to get laundry done, and the local fishermen land their boats right on the beach in front of our rig, talk about fresh seafood!

This is our first stop in Baja where we can slow down and relax after driving full bore to get here. After a couple of days of sun, surf, sand and seafood, we are refreshed and relaxed enough to continue our journey south to our destination, Rattlesnake Beach,(Playa Quemada as the locals call it) south of Loreto, Baja Sur.

Rattlesnake beach, our winter home. We're the first white rig on the left hand side.

Once we reach our destination we quickly settle into our usual spot and activities. Living in Baja is extremely cheap compared to Vancouver Island, especially food. The average wage in Baja is less than $150.00 per month so the cost of living is comparable. Fresh food is available either at the local, once a week market, or any of the big or small grocery stores and you are likely to find the cost is about 1/10 of what it costs at home. There are also vendors who bring their products to the Anglo enclaves. Most of that stuff is going to be tourist junk, blankets, beads, and trinkets, but there is usually a vegetable and fruit vendor, if not others selling tortillas, bread, beer, even scallops, clams and lobsters.

The catch of the day

Food is cheap here and I find if I spend $50.00 per week, I’ve been extravagant and we’re going to eat very well!

Now because we live in our van full time, we pay no mortgage, no rent, no pad site fees and we are blessed with 2 daughters, as well as other relatives and friends who have areas big enough and flat enough for us to park our rig. They also like us to come visit and stay for a while, which we do!

Our lives consist of travelling to Baja and spending 4 – 6 months revelling in the warm sunshine, clear waters, abundant, inexpensive fresh food and the friendliness of both the locals and the other travellers we share our beach with. Then back to our own country, slowly taking in the view all the way. Once we get home, we visit with our family and friends who are loath to let us leave, spend a little time on our own travelling to places we haven’t visited before, then preparing to do it all over again.

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3 Responses to “Full timing it on the cheap, Part 2”

  1. MICHELLE LA ROCQUE October 13, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    Great stuff more please!

  2. Robin November 10, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    Great now IM craving real mexican food…its just not fair.

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