Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Earning a living

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

One of the most common questions asked by people who are interested in starting a nomadic life is: how do you earn a living, while on the move? It is also the one question that seems to be completely ignored by authors of books, telling of their glorious lifestyles, living and traveling in their various nomadic homes.

I would like to correct that omission right here and now by giving the answer to that question; however it is not that simple to answer, which is why almost no-one else explains how to do it.

Because I don't have the complete answer, I will give my thoughts on the subject, based on my own perspective. Maybe some other people will comment on their ideas or experiences.

From my perspective, I want to travel to other countries, where I already know that I will be denied any kind of work visa, so that adds an additional hurdle. I know that many people in this situation do under the table work for cash, to get around this legality. I don't consider that approach to be sustainable, because if you are caught, you will be booted out of the country and probably won't be able to get back in. So I am only interested in legal options.

Also from a moral perspective, the words gypsy, tinker, carnies etc.. conjure up negative connotations with many bricks n sticks dwellers, due to some of those nomadic dwellers who have made their incomes by scamming or stealing. Our actions have an effect on people who follow us, so we have a duty to not only live our unconventional lives honestly, but also to be seen to live honestly. I don't like to see governing bodies given ammunition to further restrict peoples legal rights, criminalize, or otherwise penalize them simply for living in a nomadic home.

That really only gives me a couple of realistic options. The first and most obvious option is to live off savings, which I have already discounted as being unsustainable. Once I start, I want to be able to be nomadic indefinitely. Living off interest and dividends is a sustainable alternative, but by the time I have enough invested to do that, I will have missed the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle.

The most practical solution that I can think of is to run a business, based in my own country (New Zealand). By my understanding, provided any services that my own business provide come from my country of origin, then I should be able to work within the laws of other countries, without needing a work permit. That means that if I am selling anything, the products would have to be payed for in my home country and shipped from there too. It would in reality be an export business. The internet makes it much more feasible to work a business, on the move than was the case, just a few years ago. I have started doing some experiments on the internet to test the feasibility of this idea.

If I can generate enough income, it would become viable to start building an investment portfolio, to supplement living costs until such time as I could reduce the amount of time needed to work a business. Realistically the best kind of cash-flow to be developing is a passive one, so that my time can be both more productive and spent more, doing the things that I want to do.

So the next thing to decide is what kind of business do I have relevant experience to start and also requires minimal resources to start and run.

Looking back at my work history I have worked in the following industries/jobs: Broadcast Media and Audio Engineering/Musician/Private Music Teacher/Retail and Mail Order Management. For about the last six years I have been working in different roles, on the coal face of Transport/Freight/Logistics.

I don't think that any of the specific jobs I have done would work in a future nomadic lifestyle, but I do think that I should be able to use skills and experience gained from the combination of jobs to develop something new. Part of writing this blog is to help develop my writing skills, which I think will also come in handy.

I believe there could be a roll in broadcasting via the internet, but nothing specific comes to me specifically, that I can see an immediate way to generate income from and gain satisfaction at the same time. But I will keep it in the back of my mind, just in case I do see an opportunity.

Creating music also looks to be a difficult task to create an income from, though I have enough equipment to do recording and with time, I should be able to create and refine enough original music to be able to start selling it through the internet. I don't see much income coming from that, but once it's created and online, there are no real costs for making it available, so could be a small part of a diversified income stream. For me it is also a fulfilling pastime when I get time to do it.

I don't see any potential in teaching music, as apart from it being very labour intensive, rather than passive earning, it would require a work permit in any other country. The experience that I gained in educating people may come in useful though, if I could think up some kind of consulting role in an area that I have worthwhile experience in. As a big part of my teaching was in full band production, I know a lot about team building and co-ordination from a practical perspective.

My retail and mail order experience is definitely useful and I see that becoming very useful for developing any kind of internet based business.

Landscape photography is something that I have been very slowly working on for several years now. Due to prior broadcast video camera experience I do know how to frame good shots. I have got to the point of having high quality posters printed from a couple of my stock photo's, which I am starting to experiment with online selling. At this point in time I am using 35mm transparency film which will blow up to a maximum of A2 in size, and retain full clarity. Neither digital or colour negative film can be produced to the same quality at this size yet. At such time as I become more serious about photography, I will probably need to get a medium format camera, but I don't think that makes economic sense at this stage.

Transport/Freight/Logistics is a subject which I have become interested in, as I have been working in different sectors of it. I think there is a possibility of developing a consultancy niche within it, once I work out where my experience can offer specific value to businesses (probably small businesses) that isn't already being met. Because I still work in this industry, I am still gaining experience and insight in this field.

Due to the fact that I am still in full-time employment and work very erratic shifts throughout the 24 hour day/seven day week, my time is limited for developing my nomadic income ideas.

Part of the equation in my circumstance is that my partner and I decided that it would make more economic sense to buy a house with enough land to build my dream boat own, than to rent land to do it, while living on the boat that I currently have. In some ways this slows things down while we are paying a mortgage, but in the long term, I think it will make things easier. If we can pay off about half the mortgage, by making extra payments, then the remaining payments will be low enough to get a property manager to rent it out and cover the mortgage payments while we travel. This could also allow us to pay it off sooner and give us additional rental income, reducing what we need to earn and gives us a place to return to periodically from our travels and permanently when we reach the age of decrepitude.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

Living in a nomadic homes tends to involve a lot of time spent outdoors. Why else would you do so much traveling, if not to experience the places you go to?

At the end of the day, though. When you retire to your nomadic home, you find yourself doing a lot of sitting down, so some thought should be invested into making this as comfortable as possible.

There is some flexibility in both height and depth of seats, provided they relate to each other. In other words, the more depth you have, the less height and vice-versa. as a guide, the depth (front to back) can be between 16 and 22 inches (400mm and 560mm). The height can be between 12 and 17 inches (300mm and 430mm). So as an example of how to use that scale, it could be 16 inches deep by 17 inches high, or 22 inches deep by 12 inches high, or somewhere in between, provided the same inverse scale is used.

The back rest should be angled back by about 10 degrees. Straight back rests can become very uncomfortable, very quickly.

As has been pointed out to me by several long term house truck owners, the most comfortable seating on wheels, is the standard house hold couch. It's a shame that house hold couch's are not practical on most boats, they are used on some large barge's and house boats, typically where they remain in sheltered water.

Another consideration when designing seating areas, is to make sure people can be seated without facing each other directly. Even facing at right angles can give the illusion of more personal space in what is a confined living area, which can go a long way in maintaining relationships with co-habitant's.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Place For Everything and Everything In It's Place: Storage

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

Storage occupies a large area in the minds of people living in a typical nomadic home. Given that the typical size of a nomadic home is not very big, organization is essential. So everything needs to be well planned.

Because by it's very nature, the nomadic home moves, everything needs to be secured in one way or another during travel. More so on salty water than on the road. Never the less, the principle is the same. For the record, even though my nomadic living experience was entirely on the water, I have also been a commercial, long haul articulated truck driver, so am familiar with the way stuff behaves on the road.

I am only going to go into basic principles here, as there are numerous different ways to achieve the specifics, depending on the situation. If anyone wants me to extrapolate on the storage of a specific item, just mention it in the comments and I will either reply, or do a post on it.

Anything breakable such as glassware and crockery needs to be secured firmly, from movement. Some padding between items will cut down rattling noises, but isn't necessarily needed, depending on how it is secured.

Something to consider with hanging clothes, is that movement of a nomadic home will cause chafe, which will wear them out much quicker than normal wear and tear. Some options here are to accept the need to replace them much more regularly. Don't wear clothes that need hanging, or at least reduce the number that do.If you have a flat base (not slats) under bed or seat squabs, you can layout clothes flat between them, to keep them looking at least semi pressed.

For other items, including clothes, the usual method of storage will most likely be cupboards, lockers and secured, or lift and pull draws.

With closed compartments like lockers etc, ventilation is important. Particularly in humid conditions like those found on boats. There are various ways of achieving this, with a common method being to provide openings at the bottom and top of the entry doors. This allows natural heat convection to move the air through by itself.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Staying Warm and Cozy

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

There is nothing so miserable in a nomadic home, as being cold, tired and well, miserable.

The principles for keeping a nomadic home warm and cozy are the same as for a bricks and sticks house: Heat source; insulation, ventilation.

Because my idea of a nomadic home precludes the need to be tied to a fixed electricity grid, electrical heat is not an economical proposition. A nomadic home is only nomadic if it can move at will and remain fully functional where ever it is.

This pretty much leaves combustion as the most likely heat source. There are forced air diesel heaters like Eberspacher and Webasto which reportedly produce very good and quick heat. My issue with these heaters is the amount of electricity they need to run. I have also heard that they can be noisy. Because nomadic homes require enough maintenance to keep them mobile as it is, I try to keep everything else as simple, mechanically, as possible.

Cooking stoves can often provide enough heat for very small nomadic homes, especially if a small ceramic flower pot is put upside down over the burners. Also paraffin/kerosene lamps will add heat, if they are used for lighting. Portable gas and paraffin/kerosene heaters are also available. Plenty of ventilation must be provided if flames are not vented outside, to prevent oxygen depletion and carbon monoxide/carbon dioxide poisoning.

My favorite form of heating is with liquid and solid fuel stoves that have external flues. While exhausting directly outside, they also draw fresh air into the home, increasing passive ventilation. You can usually cook with them as well and nothing improves the atmosphere of a nomadic home in cold weather like the smell of a soup or stew simmering on the fire. These type of stoves can often be fitted with a wet back for heating water and/or running radiators too.

With the exception of the forced air heaters, the hot air will sit at the top of the nomadic home, leaving your feet in cold air. To remedy this it is necessary to keep the air moving, to keep it an even temperature. A ceiling fan blowing down will work if it is practical. Otherwise one or more floor to ceiling ducts can be set up, with a computer fan inside them to draw air through. Computer fans are generally quiet and don't use much electricity.

There are various forms of insulating material available (fibre-glass batts, rockwool, foam matting, expandable urethane foams, double glassing etc..). The purpose of using insulation is three fold. It requires less heating in the first place, keeps heat in once it is created and stops condensation from forming, because the warm air won't be coming into contact with cold surfaces inside the nomadic home.

Finally, good ventilation is essential for not only keeping up oxygen levels but also keeping humidity under control. The typical nomadic home is a small space and is therefore unable to dissipate humidity to the extent that a house does. People breathing, cooking and showering create huge amounts of humidity in the nomadic home and this alone can make it feel colder than it actually is.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

That Place Where Good Food Comes From

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

The Galley/Kitchen, is in my opinion, the very heart of a nomadic home. It is also a place that more often than not only receives a minimal amount of space. A galley doesn't have to be very fancy to work well, but it does need space. In particular it needs a decent size working bench. What it doesn't need is clever space saving things, like covers over the sink to give more bench space, as they only make it difficult to use the sink without actually giving any more bench space.

Personally, I think that the smallest clear bench area needed is about 36 inches (900mm) long, by about 18 inches (450mm) deep. But would go to about 6 feet (1800mm) long by about 2ft6inches (750mm) deep if possible. On boats, all benches and tables should have fiddles to stop things sliding off and I thing they would be worthwhile in motorhomes too.

I don't consider refrigeration to be a necessity, having never had any while living aboard. Refrigeration uses a lot of energy, which you have to generate yourself and can become an expensive luxury. The trade off is that you either have to change some of the ingredients you use to things like milk powder instead of fresh milk and for meat, use salami and bacon which keeps quite well without refrigeration and/or shop more regularly for fresh foods. With experience, people discover that a lot of things that are generally kept in the fridge don't need to be. Eggs for example.

Sinks should be deep, but don't need to be elaborate. Plastic buckets can work well, if you don't mind carrying them outside to empty. My preference is deep double stainless steel sinks. You can also use them for storing things in while traveling.

You also need plenty of secure dry storage for ingredients and utensils.

Cooking stoves, I will leave for another post, as they are a topic all of their own, as is the water supply.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Place To Sleep

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

When it comes to sleeping arrangements most types of nomadic home take the same approach. They all tend to try to accommodate as many people as is physically possible. The usual way to do this is by making every horizontal surface into a convertible bed. This works for fishing trips or taking the family on holiday two weeks per year and makes sense for that purpose. To the full time nomad, however, making up a bed every night and packing it away every morning is just an inconvenient routine that shouldn't have to be put up with. That's why I believe having a dedicated bed, that is permanently set up as a bed is the biggest priority when putting together a nomadic home.

For guests, it is fine to retain the use of converting surfaces for beds (usually settee seats). Full time nomads will not want to encourage overnight guests anyway. You will generally enjoy guests company for a meal and an evening, but will want to send them home or to a motel at the end of the evening, unless they have had to much to drink. The fact of the matter is that when you live a permanent nomadic life, you develop very specific routines to manage daily life in your nomadic home, which by it's very nature, is a small space and guests disrupt your routines without even realizing it.

Most amenities share the same desirable characteristics in pretty much all of the different types of nomadic home, whether it be a yacht, motorhome, launch, bus etc.. The bed, though, is different in that respect. If your nomadic home is an RV, house truck etc.. I would want a full size bed. Probably a standard queen size 60X80 inch (1520X2030mm).
In a sea going boat and particularly a yacht, big is definitely not better. In fact it can be down right dangerous as you can be thrown around in a big bed. You will still want to retain full length in a berth but the width should be restrained to about 48-52 inches (1220-1320mm) for a double and should be split down the middle to allow for lee cloths, to restrain the occupants in heavy seas or when sailing heeled, if it is to be used as a sea berth, rather than at anchor or dock.

Friday, December 5, 2008

These Areas Are Not Open To Compromise

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

The average nomadic home is a small space. To fit everything into a nomadic home, that most people think they need, you would need to compromise the amount of room for each specific area. There are some areas that I believe, are not open to compromise. I think, therefore, that those areas should be planned first. If there isn't enough room left after this small list I have is finished, you are better off not trying to get the other stuff into your nomadic home. My list of priorities in order are;

3:Heater (in cold climate areas)

If you managed that, you can live in relative comfort.

If you still have room after those things are in, I would then continue with;

5:Dining Table

If you managed to fit all of that in, without compromising on the size of any of it, congratulations. You now have a nomadic home that can be more comfortable than most peoples houses.

I have already posted my opinion about how to set up a shower in a nomadic home. In future posts I will give my opinions on the rest of this list.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

Showers are a selling point in many a nomadic home. Unfortunately they all to often degrade the nomadic home, more than they enhance it. There are two main reasons that a shower can degrade a nomadic home. They are either to small to be practical to use and/or they are put it in the same space as the toilet, which makes everything (including the toilet paper) wet. In either scenario, I think you are better off without the shower, and should find another way to wash.

If you feel that you have enough room to install a shower, I believe that you need a minimum base of 24X32 inches (600X800mm). You can fudge these numbers a little, if you use a triangular shape, but you still need a cross section of about 32 inches (800mm) minimum.

When it comes to the plumbing, you can go to town with electric pumps and hot water califonts. Personally I prefer a more low tech solution, which can give just as good a shower.
Having grown up on the briny ocean. I know only to well, just how quickly the sea air destroys just about anything, especially if it has metal, moving parts, or relies on electricity. So for the low cost, low tech, low pressure solution, I would go with a plastic solar shower. Just heat your water to the desired temperature on the cooking stove, fill the shower and use. Or even better, if you want more pressure, while retaining low cost, low tech, then a six litre (1.5 USGal approx) garden pressure sprayer. Again heating the water to the desired temperature, on the cooking stove. Fit a shower head to the end of the hose, give a few pumps and you have a cheap, efficient, reliable shower.

Alternatively, if you don't have enough space to fit a shower inside your nomadic home, you can mount a shower curtain on a three foot (900mm) diameter hoop and attach it to either a tree, the mast on deck, or the back of your mobile home. Then use either the solar shower or garden sprayer.

While it's not a method of washing that I am an expert in. I have it on good authority that a sponge bath with a cloth of just the right size and texture is a sybaritic luxury in at least the same class as a good shower, requiring much less plumbing and water.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Outline of a Plan

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I would like to cover a gambit of nomadic homes with a house-truck, canal-boat and go anywhere cruising yacht.

Because the yacht is the biggest project of all, it is the first project for me to start. The others will take place during the project to build the yacht.

The yacht I have chosen to build, is by an American designer, by the name of Tom MacNaughton. The design is called Crown Jewel. It is a heavy displacement flush deck yacht of 35'6" length and a laden displacement of around 9 ton. It is rigged with a single Junk sail, on a free standing mast. To see one of these boats sailing, click on the S/Y Linnea link in the blog roll of this blog. This example was built in Sweden by Matti Palm and family. Matti started building Linnea about nine or ten years ago and while he still needs to finish building the interior, his family have been sailing in her, for the last two years.

The next largest project will be a canal boat. The biggest issue for me with choosing a canal boat is that I live in New Zealand, which isn't exactly renown for it's canals. In fact the canals I would like to spend time on, are all on the other side of the world. So for me, the most practical option, is to find a design that will fit inside a shipping container. While most canal boats are built out of steel (for practical reasons), it is not a material that I intend on using. My preference in this case would be plywood, covered in glass cloth and epoxy, which can be given protection with a couple of beltings of stainless steel tubing. One near the waterline and another, higher up. At the moment I am looking at a design called Topaz, by American designer Philip C. Bolger.

It is 31' long, by 7'4" wide, with a fully loaded hull draft of 11". Ideally I would like to add an additional three to six feet in length, so as to be able to add heating, additional storage and a showering/washing area. I have sent a letter to the designer to ask about the feasibility of doing this. It is not wise to change the dimensions of a boat, without having it checked out by a competent naval architect, as it can have big negative effects on the capability of the vessel and equally it can increase the cost and complexity of construction out of all proportion, even when only making what appear to be small changes to the hull. It will be interesting to see what kind of response I get.

For my land based nomadic home, I intend on getting an old chiller truck, with a net weight of around four or five ton and a gross laden capacity of about seven to nine ton. Something similar to Kevin's truck, from an earlier post here. The reason I am looking at using an old chiller truck is that they seem to be about the same price as other comparable trucks, but they already have a fully insulated building on them. So all that would need to be done, is to fit it out. In fact I could use it from day one, just by throwing in camping gear that I already have, then fit it out as time and resources allow. In fact with some wood, epoxy and paint, I already have most of the stuff to fully set up a nice house truck now, except for the truck itself, which I intend to buy in about two to three years from now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Kind of Nomadic Home?

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What kind of nomadic home do I want? Actually I want most kinds. Different nomadic homes for different types of traveling. I want a house truck/bus/RV/motorhome for traveling around on land, in New Zealand, North America, UK and Europe . I want a canal boat for traveling through Europe, And I want a yacht for cruising around Scandinavia, UK, USA, Iceland, Patagonia, etc.

All of this is going to equal expensive, no matter how you look at it. There are, however, ways to make it more economical than just trying to buy what is available. In any case, what is available, isn't necessarily the most practical solution, even if I could afford to just go out and buy it. What it does mean though, is that careful long term planning needs to be put in place, if I am to not only achieve getting all three of these types of nomadic home, but also the ability to enjoy using them. I started putting a plan together about three years ago, which will take about 20-25 years to complete, though various parts of that plan will allow me to participate in a nomadic lifestyle from time to time, while I am working towards my end goal, which will be enjoying retirement with all three forms of nomadic home, available for me to use as I wish.

Of course, with such an ambitious plan, it will need to be revised continuously throughout the duration. In future posts I will show more detail of my plans for each form of nomadic home. In the mean time I will say that, in order, I will start with a nomadic home on wheels, then a canal boat and will finish with the largest project of them all, being my ultimate go anywhere cruising yacht. Also, with the yacht being the largest, most expensive and time consuming project, I have already made a start on it.

I should also say that I am not single. If I was single, I could do all of the above quite cheaply and quickly. Because I am not single and don't particularly want to be, my accommodations need to be both larger and more thoroughly equipped, to maintain the same level of comfort.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mobile home design considerations

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

I was talking to a guy by the name of Kevin recently. He was good enough to let me take some photo's of his current house truck.

Kevin has been living in various buses and trucks for quite a few years now and has come up with some specific criteria, that he feels are necessary, for comfortable living in a nomadic home on wheels. Essentially, in Kevin's opinion, less is more. He doesn't like a mobile home to be extensively fitted out with built in furniture, saying that you end up with only a small place to sit and you are forced to sit bolt upright, in the small built in and uncomfortable seats. The impression that I got, was that the most important item for him in a mobile home, is the standard household couch.

When Kevin bought his current house truck, it was built on an old Bedford chassis. Because the truck was old, it was expensive to run and would have required considerable maintenance to keep running. So he bought an N series Ford, which had been retired from life as a round town freight truck. This truck has a longer chassis than the old Bedford, so the part of the accommodation that used to sit over the cab now stops just behind the cab. This has allowed enough room under, for Kevin to build a large tool storage cabinet and he intends on building a small bathroom in the space left over, on the other side.

For comfort, Kevin has installed a used log burner, out of a house. For such a small space, it requires very little wood to heat his truck. In fact he has been able to run it entirely on scraps from various carpentry jobs he has been working on. Next to the fire place is a fairly large flat screen television, which like the fire place, is placed for an excellent view while seated on the opposite side of the truck, on the couch.

His bed is a decent sized one, located in a loft, above what on the previous truck was the cab. There is also a loft at the rear of the truck, which is is used for storage.

The kitchen is still a work in progress, but has all of the essentials. Decent size stove/oven, bench, sink and storage. This currently works for Kevin, though he does have plans to improve it.

Looking out the back door, has the feeling of being in a small cottage. The big difference, though, is that the scenery can be different every day. From over looking the harbour, as on the day these photo's were taken, to maybe a view of the forest or lake the next, or maybe in the middle of an exclusive suburb. Or you could step out and be at work, if you happen to park there, not wishing to wast time getting to work in the morning.

Unfortunately Kevin had no notice that I was going to visit and take photo's of his home, as he was just about to travel out of town to do some building work for a client. He normally has much less clutter inside, which would have allowed clearer photo's.

My over all impression of this house truck is that it is well setup for a single person, as Kevin is, to live in comfort. If I was to set up a truck of the same size for myself, I would use much the same type of amenities, though I would probably arrange them differently. Of course it is much easier to do if you are starting from scratch, unlike in Kevin's situation of having an existing housetruck, which he moved into as soon as he took possession. The N series ford is in my opinion a good sized truck for either one person or a couple to build a home on. It is big enough in both size and weight for reasonable sized self contained accommodation, yet is small enough to keep running and maintenance costs within limits.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Earn Money by Cutting Expenses

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

I've been talking to a few people and reading forum posts about earning enough money for a mobile lifestyle. A recurring theme that is too often over looked when trying to increase income, is that any money you can save on expenses is actually the same as extra money earned.

In business it is recognized that profit comes from two areas. More income and reduced costs. There is no difference when it comes to personal finance.

So how can we apply this philosophy into our every day personal lives?

To start with, we need to take a close and objective look at our current lifestyle. This probably applies more to people who are contemplating a nomadic lifestyle, than those already living one. But future plans of transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle should also be examined in the same way.

The key here is to look for ways to simplify our lives. This doesn't mean the same thing as making everything more convenient.

As an example, eating out is more convenient than making a meal at home, but in the broader context it is not simpler. On the face of it, eating out is quicker than making a meal at home, but when you look at the whole process it is not. There are two things to look at here. The first is cost and the second is time. We are all familiar with the term "time is money."

If we start with the cost of a meal, it is reasonable to suggest that the one we get at a restaurant will be about twice the price of one we can make at home with the same calorie and nutritional value. This is in straight dollar terms. To counter that, you may suggest that the extra time taken to make the meal yourself costs more in lost earnings, than you have saved by the convenience of eating out.

So now, lets look at the time side of the equation. Say it takes three quarters of an hour to make the meal yourself and another fifteen minutes to wash the dish's (I'm assuming you don't have a dish washer, remember simplicity), so you now have an additional hours work to do over eating out. Or do you?

First off, you spend time driving to where you are going to eat. This takes both time and costs money running a vehicle, which you wouldn't have done if you were making your own meal at home. Now that you are at the restaurant, someone still has to make your meal, which is still going to take time, unless you are going to a fast food outlet, in which case you are getting even less value for money with your food (very poor nutrition) then you are going to spend more time and money driving your vehicle home again.

So you have lost all of the time you would have saved, staying at home and preparing your own meal; it has cost you twice as much up front, plus you have the additional cost of running the vehicle to and from the restaurant.

I used to eat out frequently. Now I rarely do. I now spend less money on food and also eat much better. The money saved equates to less hours that I need to work to have the same amount of money, though in practice it means I have more money to do things that I want to do.

Practice doing this kind of cost benefit analysis on every aspect of your lifestyle and you will be surprised at how much extra money you can have in your pocket, without having to earn any more money than you already are.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

On a forum that I follow, a question was asked about how to stop condensation. In this particular case there was a problem with condensation forming on the ceiling around the light fixtures of a motorhome.

This was my response.

It would probably help to see why you are getting the condensation problems. Condensation occurs when warm moisture carrying air comes into contact with a colder surface, reducing the relative humidity to the point that it condenses into liquid water.

There are two approaches to this. One approach is eliminating or reducing the temperature differential between the surface and the surrounding air. The second approach is to reduce the humidity in the air. A combination of both approaches is probably going to be the most practical.

Starting with reducing the surface to air temperature. It sounds like there is no, or little insulation around the light fixtures. They are obviously the cold points in your rig. It may be that there is a lack of insulation in that area to reduce fire risk, or it could be that it is just easier to install the light fixtures that way.

If you can fix some insulating material onto the area that is getting the condensation you will either reduce or eliminate the condensation.

The second thing to look at is the air humidity in your rig. Most of it is likely to be coming from the occupants. People release a huge amount of moisture into the air just from breathing. For this reason ventilation is king. It may seem counter intuitive, but keeping everything shut up to keep the warmth in, can will usually make things feel colder, because of the high humidity levels. You should have vents in your camper/RV. Make sure that they are open at all times. If they already are open, then try to keep a window cracked, if possible.

It is also worth evaluating any heating system you may have. If it is run on gas and is not flued externally, it will be introducing huge amounts of moisture into your accommodation.

Also humidity is relative to temperature. What that means is the higher the air temperature is, the more water it will hold in gaseous form. When the temperature reduces, it can't hold as much water in gaseous form and must release some of it in liquid form, usually by condensing onto a cooler surface.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tethered or Free?

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

I follow various forums about boating, house trucks, motor homes, van dwelling etc.. One common thread that I see, particularly in the boating and motor home forums is people looking to take up the lifestyle, or who have already purportedly taken up the lifestyle, yet are unable to break from the tether of the A.C. power chord, connected to the main grid.

Common questions are "where is a good marina for liveaboards?" or "Where is a camp ground with good facilities for motor homes?"

People that ask these questions, have, in my opinion missed the point. To me, the whole point of living in a motor home or boat is to be able to travel and stop at will. Not to be dependent on stopping at specific facilities, just so your nomadic home can function as a home. It should be able to do so, where ever it is. A large part of the experience is the different places you are stopped at, not just where you are traveling through. One marina is much like another, as are camp grounds really.

By and large, it is no more expensive to make a boat or motor home non-reliant on the A.C. umbilical power chord and to my way of thinking it is poor value for money not to do so.

To illustrate my point, I will use my current boat as an example.

This boat is as comfortable to live on right here, on her pile moorings, which requires a dinghy to access it, as it is alongside the nearby pontoon mooring with onshore power supply, or at anchor in a small uninhabited bay. Even being just a few metres away from the shore as she is, my boat is much more peaceful and secure to be aboard, than when she is berthed to the shore accessible pontoon berth where all of the other local liveaboard boats are. I still have electric lighting, fully functional galley (kitchen)(with oven), water supply and toilet.

Here is a composite photo of the living quarters as they are now. Note this is a small vessel, being only 27'3" or 8.3metres long. Even an additional three feet in length would add additional room beyond proportion.

Going back to an earlier post, I will take this opportunity to give an example of what I mean by the difference in a nomadic home being designed for holiday's and one that is designed for permanent living, by showing before and after photo's of my boat's galley (kitchen), from when I purchased it to how I converted it. This is not the only modification I made to the boat, just the easiest to illustrate my point.

Before: Note that there is only a small gas stove and sink, with no real bench space. Quite suitable for short holidays, but not permanent living.

And after: This was taken during the galley construction but you will see that in addition to the original sink, there is now a decent size bench with ample storage space under and powerful diesel powered stove/oven which is also the main heating source for the boat. It has an outside flue, so no fumes or humidity problems, which keeps the boat warm and dry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Holiday Caravan

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Here are a couple of pictures of a caravan design I am working on (click on to enlarge). It is designed for short term accommodation only, but gives an idea of how much can be fitted into a small space, if you keep the number of people you are trying to accommodate to a minimum. In this case a couple. It is 12' long x 6'8" wide, with 6'3" headroom. The entrance is through a door at the back end of the caravan. The table will need to be split in two, with the end only used when making up the bed, otherwise it will be very difficult to access the sitting area. To make up the bed, the table is lowered to the same height as the settees and one of the back cushions fits between, to make a standard queen size bed. The shower is big enough for holiday use, but, I would go bigger for permanent accommodation. Unusual for mobile accommodation (especially in this size) is that there are two doors between the toilet and kitchen, like you would expect in a house. Also there is no allowance for heating, though a couple of ceramic flower pots turned upside down over the gas stove top would probably heat a small area like this adequately. Because I would plan on using gas for cooking, ventilation would have to be sufficient to prevent problems with carbon monoxide which can and does kill people. There is plenty of room left for storage under the settees and in the kitchenette, for food, clothing, etc.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Technical Books

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While I'm on the subject of book reviewing, I'll mention a few more. I have not been able to find many good books for land/road based mobile homes, but there are a couple that I am impressed with.

The first book is "The Bus Converter's Bible" by Dave Galey. This book is aimed at large bus conversions. Dave Galey spent his professional working life, primarily as a structural engineer in the aeronautical and oil industries which shows in his instructions for making structural modifications to buses. Along with a variety of design ideas, this book is really a systems manual covering everything from electrical and plumbing, to heating and insulation.

The next book is "Bus Conversion Floor Plans" by Ben Rosander With over fifty plans from bus conversion professionals and individual converter's, this book has a wealth of ideas. It includes excerpts from the works of Dave Galey, Larry Plachno and Louis C. McClure. This book offers some good philosophies and direction for designing bus conversions, including a good list of critical dimensions for the things you will want to install, like beds, kitchens and bathrooms.

When it comes to the nautical side of nomadic homes, I own a veritable library of good boat books, covering everything from design, building, maintenance, to seamanship, chronicles and lifestyle. Out of those books, the one I advocate above the others, when it comes to offering advice on accomodation layouts, is "Backyard Boatbuilding" by George Buehler. George is a practicing naval architect, who has been building and living aboard boats since the early 70's. His advice on accomodation is pure pragmatism and he likes to get a big bang for his buck. This book also gives critical dimensions for the stuff you will want like beds, galleys and bathrooms, which, incidentally, are different in requirement to those you would use in a motorhome.

The last book I will mention is "Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual" by Nigel Calder. This book is without a doubt the bible, when it comes to maintaining, repairing and improving your boats essential systems. I'm sure that this book would be invaluable for motorhome owners as well as it covers thoroughly, all aspects of AC and DC electrical systems, refrigeration and air-conditioning, toilets and plumbing, stoves and heating, as part of the boat systems.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Voyaging on a Small Income

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Nomadic homes come in many different shapes and sizes. As mentioned in previous posts, I don't believe that many production model nomadic homes are designed for permanent living. Irrespective of whether they are land or water based, custom design and building is usually required. In this process there are many facets of the lifestyle that determine the most efficient and ergonomic layout possible for a given circumstance. I have yet to find any really good books about self sustainable living in a land based mobile home, however there are a number of good books written by people living on boats, which have plenty of ideas relevant to land based mobile homes. Of these, my favorite would be Voyaging On A Small Income by Annie Hill. Here are a couple of excerpts from the forward, written by Tom Cunliffe.

"Unless you are already living creatively on the uttermost boundaries of the monetary system of Western civilization, you should read Annie Hill's book with the utmost caution.
The work you have in your hands purports to offer a series of hints concerning the art of voyaging on a small income. So it does, but if you think that is all you are getting, you have been misled by a remarkably innocuous title. What you are about to read is a volume dealing with the business of sailing in it's broadest context, but which also poses a number of serious questions about the true priorities of life for the long distance mariner. In case this makes you want to dump the thing like a hot ballast pig, don't panic. Annie Hill and her skipper, Pete, are emphatically not "drop-outs," pushing half baked philosophies to the disenchanted.
They are members of the Royal Cruising Club and are the most successful capitalists I have ever met. The fascination of the following chapters is that, for many of us, they may serve to redefine the meaning of "success.""

"Annie Hill takes us gently but firmly by the scruff of our consumer necks and leads us back to the all-but-forgotten green pastures of simplicity. She never patronises us for missing the point; she merely offers us rest from our labours and our stress. Even as we squirm and wriggle to find the flaw in her logic, the truth begins to dawn that there isn't one. To those with the courage to re-examine their lives and their needs, this book presents the possibility of genuine freedom experienced by only a few, even amongst people who are now sailing the great oceans.
So take thought before you dive into these pages. They might change your life, as my own was changed by a forward from Weston Martyr, whose work also occupies the first paragraphs of Chapter One."

The Weston Martyr forward referred to is called "The 200 pound Millionaire," written in 1932. If you are interested in reading the forward mentioned by Weston Martyr, google "Weston Martyr" and "Millionaire". There are several places on the web that you can read it for free. Here is one link to it that was working at the time of writing this post.

Annie Hill has lived what could be considered the contemporary version of Weston Matryr's story for over twenty years now, cruising from the Arctic to the Antartic, with many places in between. She continues to live this life, now on "Iron Bark" with current husband Trevor Robertson.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Over Complicating Systems

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One of the great things about living in a nomadic home is the ability to reduce the stresses of every day life. Unfortunately many people starting this lifestyle are mislead by marketing that states the need for every conceivable gadget to make life easier. This leads many to the erroneous belief that living in a nomadic home is necessarily both expensive and complicated.

I'm not of the belief that being spartan to the extent of hardship is a good way to go, but simplifying systems often leads to much more reliability, which in turn lowers time and money spent on maintenance, not to mention first costs. In my opinion this can markedly improve quality of life.

Water systems are a good place to illustrate. Most people contemplating entering a lifestyle based around a nomadic home would expect anything less than a pressurized water system to be a compromise in comfortable living. Now, if we look at what is involved in running a pressurized water system, we see that there are electric pumps that can and often do fail. The pumps require electricity which needs to be produced and water consumption will be increased, which also needs to be replenished more frequently.

The simplified system would involve either a hand or foot powered manual pump system. My preference is using a Whale Gusher foot pump such as the one pictured to the right. These are very reliable pumps. Because they are powered by foot, you can still use both hands, as you would with a pressurized system. Because you are manually operating the pump, you only tend to pump water while you are actually using it. This dramatically reduces water consumption and thus how much time needed to be spent refilling the water tanks and you don't need to tap into the electrical system either.

For a shower, the best system I know of being used on boats is a six litre garden sprayer, fitted with a low pressure shower head with on/off control in the head. These give a good shower, use very little water and are very cheap and simple to assemble. I don't see any reason that this system would be any less advantageous on a road based nomadic home either. To operate, just fill with water of a temperature to your liking, give a few pumps and enjoy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Comfortable Living in a Nomadic Home

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There are a number of prerequisites that determine whether or not a nomadic home will be practical and comfortable to live in. The internal design and layout, along with adequate ventilation is crucial, not only for a nomadic home to be workable, but also to be a healthy place to live. There is a big difference between a nomadic home that is suitable for weekends and short holidays and one that is used for permanent living.

The biggest difference between a mobile home, bus, boat etc.. that is designed for weekends and short holidays and those that are designed for permanent living, is the number of people that they try to accommodate. For short stays the designers try to squeeze as many people in as possible, which limits the available space for other amenities, such as bathroom, kitchen and storage.

Most people wouldn't put up with a miniature kitchen or bathroom in a house, so why would a nomadic home be comfortable with a miniature kitchen and bathroom? The easiest way to ensure there is enough room for decent sized amenities is to make sure that there is no more sleeping accommodation, than there are permanent residents. Don't try to include accommodation for guests, they can sleep on the floor if necessary.

Ventilation is the other aspect which is invariably inadequate. Good ventilation is essential to keep humidity and mold from becoming a problem. It also helps in keeping warm and cosy. Just having people breathing in such a small space as the typical nomadic home will introduce a huge amount of moisture to the air, as will using gas or liquid fueled stoves. Carbon monoxide build up from stoves, lamps, or refrigeration that use a flame will be lethal if there is not enough ventilation, something that is often overlooked.

In a later post I will show the floor plan for a holiday caravan that I have designed for a couple with standing headroom for someone up to about six feet tall. It has a full queen size bed; kitchen, with as much usable space and functionality as an average house kitchen; separate toilet and shower, with two doors between the toilet and kitchen. The shower stall is a bit smaller than a house shower, but still bigger than most commercial motorhome or boat showers. It also has dining seating for six people, if you felt the need to entertain. with a total interior height from floor to ceiling of 1.91 metres (6'3") and outside floor dimensions of 3.64 metres (12') x 2.04 metres (6'8").

Friday, September 19, 2008

Nomad Business

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What sort of business is going to be practical when living in a nomadic home? What are the limitations to running a business from a nomadic home? What can be some advantages for running a business out of a Nomadic home?

I think these questions are a good way to evaluate possibilities for earning an income on the move.

Starting with the limitations, I think that lack of physical space and no permanent fixed address are the two biggest ones. This limits us to either selling a service, very small products, or products which are shipped to the customer by a third party.

The main advantage I see is being mobile. You can always move to fresh market opportunities. This can be especially good if you are manufacturing arts and crafts. The customer base is much larger if you are traveling from market to market, rather than just working one market continuously. If you are providing a service, you can travel to new areas for new customers, increasing the available pool from what exists in any one area.

So what are some examples of specific businesses that can be run from a mobile home? I think to start with, people should be trying to come up with their own ideas based on the above principles, but here are a few ideas that people are already doing. Jeweler, Writer, Musician/Performer, Retailer(markets,fairs, door to door etc.), artist, IT services.

New technology is opening up possibilities that were not available until very recently. For instance, this post has been written and posted on the internet, on an Asus eee pc with a G3 mobile service using a Vodafone Vodem, while I am sitting on my yacht in the middle of a harbour.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Making an income as a nomad

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Many view the nomadic lifestyle as some sort of escape from the harsh realities of contemporary life. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact remains that all lifestyles have ups and downs. Legitimate reasons for choosing a nomadic lifestyle are many and varied, but choosing it as a method of escaping day to day hardships will rapidly lead to disillusionment if not worse. One of the biggest requirements to making the nomadic lifestyle successful is security in ones self. That coupled with a need for new experiences and challenges can make it a very full-filling lifestyle.

One aspect that cannot be ignored, irrespective of lifestyle, is the need for resources to survive. In the contemporary western world that means income, or a stash of money. For people who are independently wealthy that's not a big issue, though for most of us it creates some unique challenges that most in contemporary society are not faced with. Fortunately traveling in your own home does make things easier than for most travelers, in that accommodation and general living expenses are kept down and you can keep more resources on hand than otherwise possible while traveling.

Obviously a standard nine to five job is going to be unsustainable if you are going to do any travel, which is the primary reason you would consider a nomadic lifestyle. So what are some options? If you are wanting to work as an employee at a work site then you would be looking at short term positions, such as seasonal work; fruit picking, farm work etc. Alternatively you may consider running your own business. There is a good case to be made for this option if you are living a nomadic lifestyle. For a start you are already likely to be independently minded and decision making is much more of an ordinary part of day to day life than normal. The running costs can also be much lower than for someone in fixed accommodation.

There are further considerations as to what sort of businesses are suitable for someone living in mobile accommodation which I will start to explore in the next post.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Environmental Impact

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Not necessarily a question that most would ask, when considering living in a nomadic home. But one worth considering never the less. Living in a nomadic home is generally considered an alternative lifestyle by mainstream society, which often brings ill conceived prejudices with it. In these days of global warming and other environmental concerns, it is worth having at least some idea of how the environmental scales tip between living in a nomadic home and contemporary housing, with it's associated lifestyle.

There are two main aspects to consider; the first being the building itself, and the second being the general lifestyle.

If we look at the physical home itself, then I think that it would be hard to make a case against pretty much any nomadic home, as they are by their very nature, much smaller than standard housing. Which should mean less material resources are used in their construction. There are different types of materials used though, such as epoxy resins (particularly in boat construction) which are petro-chemicals. I would suspect though, that those differences would be quite easily offset just by their small size, as would be the energy costs for maintaining, heating and cooling.

On the lifestyle side of things, again, I think that living in a mobile home is likely to have less environmental impact. Sure, most land based mobile homes are going to use more fuel than the average car, but then how much distance are you actually covering on average, per day? If you are working at a site specific location, you are more likely to stay closer to it than if you are living in a house. So the house dwellers car will be clocking up plenty of miles in comparison, just getting to and from work. If the nomadic dweller is running a business from their mobile home, they won't be burning any fuel getting to and from work. More likely, they will travel a few miles here, and there, for a change in scenery, which will still usually still be less miles over a month than the contemporary house dweller.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Types of mobile accommodation

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What are some of the merits of some different types of nomadic home?

I think it is worth considering traditional types, that were, and in some cases, are still being used by traditional nomadic cultures. In many cases, contemporary westerners will be wanting a much more modern approach. But given the limitations imposed by most production setups, which if viewed honestly, are mostly designed for short holidays, rather than permanent living accommodations, could be improved by incorporating ideas from the more traditional nomadic lifestyles.

So, in no particular order.

Bus, truck, RV: Can be self contained, allowing for full independence on the road.

Caravan: Can be moved with a car, which means only one vehicle may be required if the home is to be left during the day. Home doesn't need to be replaced in it's entirety, when vehicle comes to the end of it's economic life.

Yacht: Can travel anywhere in the world, that has a coast or harbour and is self contained.

Tent: For the super mobile, low cost solution. Good accompaniment when primary transportation is a bicycle.

Friday, September 5, 2008


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There is scant information on the internet about this subject, unless you hunt all over to get a little piece here and a little piece there. Mostly it is closely related topics which have some answers, but create a whole lot of there own limitations.

I guess my definition of living and traveling is different to most, partly through upbringing, partly by outlook. When I look at how most people travel I tend to get one of two reactions. Either it is ridiculously expensive, or horribly uncomfortable. Neither option makes travel practical or particularly attractive in my opinion.

Getting past the expense of traveling in luxury and staying in flash hotels, it is very sterile and isolated from the places you stay in and pass through. Which makes me question why people who travel that way, even bother. You don't have the true comforts of home, because you can't bring them with you and you don't develop any cultural awareness, because you are essentially cut off from the local population.

The other common option of backpacking, dossing, hitch-hiking, etc does bring about valuable experiences, but in my experience, also has it's share of down right uncomfortable times too. Also, if you are planning on spending any real length of time traveling it's not necessarily the cheapest option either.

This brings me to the "third way" as some clever politicians have labeled themselves to gain power. Why not travel with your own accommodation. Gypsies have done it for hundreds of years, in one form or another. More recently hippies have been doing it with house trucks and buses. Retirees in America are doing it in R.V.s. For myself, I grew up living on yachts. Even traveling with tents works if you really know what you are doing.

It is on these themes of traveling with your own accommodation that I intend to explore on this blog and I invite comments on different related topics to write about. Areas which I see as valuable to write about at present are types of mobile accommodation, how to finance it, different ways of earning an income while living in mobile accommodation, and the differing variety of lifestyles possible while traveling. Also what are the practicalities and difficulties with this approach and what do people do to solve them.