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.