How We Afford It

How We Afford It

So hey, how do you afford that place you’re living in anyway?  Ya’ll hit the lottery or something?

Have you ever been asked that?  Sounds a bit rude, doesn’t it?  Like the questioner was staggering around, beer can in hand, shirt untucked and drooling out of one corner of his mouth.  Asking people how they afford things is just not done in our polite modern society.  We certainly never got that question when we had our sticks-and-bricks house.  Granted, it was a plain-jane little rectangular box that just about anyone could have afforded, but still.

Now that we’re nomadic full-timers we actually do find that people’s curiosity is stronger than their desire to be “polite”, so we do now get asked the “how do you afford it?” question.  Usually it’s phrased in a less offensive way like “what do you do to support yourselves?” or “how are you funded?” or “You must be retired already….?”

We understand. And actually, we don’t mind. We enjoy unraveling any mystery around this lifestyle if it helps people see past a stationary or suburban lifestyle that has become hum-drum.

There are many, many people who want to travel full-time and aren’t in a position to immediately afford it.  The different forums and Facebook groups for Families On The Road are filled with this question and its variants.  People see the attractiveness, romanticism and adventure of a life of full-time travel and just want to know what their options are for making a living while on the road.

We had it easy.

We were well-positioned for full-time travel for years before realizing it, and years again before putting wheels on the dream. All of our significant income sources have been in place since before hitting the road.  We weren’t in the position of getting the travel bug and then having to look for ways to fund it, and don’t envy those in that place because it’s a much tougher row to hoe.  FamilesOnTheRoad.com has a potential jobs page with ideas for jobs that blend well with full-time travel if that’s the position you are in.

Having said that, here are our specific income sources and how they work while traveling:

Web Development
I (Mike) have been a developer since around 1995 and doing web development since nearly that time.  I started Boyink Interactive in 1992 and specialize in the development of client websites based on the ExpressionEngine content management system, which allows clients to manage their own sites once my work is done.  In addition to development work I’m also a fair hand at internet strategy, information architecture, needs analysis, content strategy and content development.  Since starting the business most of the projects have been for non-local clients so transitioning the business to a mobile lifestyle was easy - all I need is a working internet connection.

Training
Around late 2007 we noticed a need for developer-oriented ExpressionEngine training materials so launched Train-ee to provide them.  Train-ee provides online materials as well as traditional classroom training for ExpressionEngine.  We periodically host public classes as we move about the country, and are also available for private corporate classes.  Recently we entered an agreement with the parent company of ExpressionEngine to be the sole provider of Certified ExpressionEngine training.  We decide where to do the classes so are able to plan them to dovetail with our travels.  We are actually able to write off a percentage of our mileage because we are traveling for business reasons.

Book Sales
As part of the launch of Train-ee my wife and I published the first ExpressionEngine Book.  We’ve since completely re-written it and it’s available for purchase both in digital form and in print via Amazon.com. While writing a book (and a technical how-to one especially) is a vastly time-consuming endeavor, now that it’s done it largely sells on its own, at all hours, to all parts of the globe.

Affiliate Income
For a while we made money through affiliate sales for ExpressionEngine, but that program has since been cancelled.

Sponsors
We had some sponsors when we first started the trip. What we learned is that the random, serendipitous way we like to travel doesn’t lend itself well to sponsors who want detailed plans for events and promotion.  We’ve since ended all sponsor relationships as ultimately they weren’t worth the time & hassle they presented. 

Lack of Overhead
In addition to the money coming in we’ve taken great pains to lower the amount of money going out.  We sold our house and gave away most of our possessions. We aren’t paying to store anything. We have paid off the truck and trailer which made us completely debt-free.  We pay for a few monthly services (cell phones, aircard, mail forwarding, digital file backup, etc) and have the typical insurance and healthcare costs, but overall the money we pay to stay in campgrounds covers the typical household expenses of water, electric, sewer, garbage, yardcare, recycling, etc).

Slowing Down
We are also desiring to slow our travel pace down.  Since we are no longer on the “see what we can in a year” plan we can spend longer in each place. This has the dual advantage of spending less money on fuel and also getting cheaper weekly or monthly camping rates.

Workcamping
Generically workcamping is a situation where you provide labor in exchange for your campsite. Workcamping essentially kills our camping fees and laundry costs and greatly lowers our fuel costs while being stationary.  The risk that we’re taking on is that the camp-hosting duties will infringe on time for more lucrative client work or training development - so we’re still considering it an experiment.

We’ve had three workcamping experiences. The first was acting as “camp-hosts” for a private campground in Washington and it wasn’t that great.

The second experience was again camp-hosting but for a government-owned county park in Arizona and it went much better.

Our latest experience was for a private Texas Hill Country ranch and it was the best yet.