Greetings from Casa de Amy! That’s right…I made it home! I just explored the Continental United States solo while basically living out of my car. That’s 48 states and oh my goodness – it was AMAZING!!
Upon return, I immediately took a lengthy, temperature-controlled, sandal-free, bug-less, pressurized shower & slept in my uber comfy and clean (my amazing roomie washed my sheets because she is adorable!) bed last night. Needless to say…it was MIRACULOUS!
My sincerest gratitude for your love & support during this journey!
The U.S. is full of incredible places & people and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to explore it’s nooks & crannies. And so it is with bittersweet emotion that I close this chapter unable to control the curious butterflies awaiting my next adventure as I continue to follow my heart instead of those damn carrots. I hope you will join me![Click here for my other U.S. road trip posts.]
Here are the FINAL stats & details of my U.S. road trip with Priscilla (my Prius):
Days on the Road: 62
Miles Driven: 16,023!
States Explored: 48!!!!!
Goal = All Continental States Explored (aka 48 states): 100% Complete!![Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming (again), Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada & UTAH!]
CAR RELATED COSTS
Money Spent on Gasoline: $1,093.72 (thank goodness Priscilla is a hybrid with kickass mpg!)
Seriously, if you have a gas-guzzling vehicle why not switch to a hybrid or something similar? As you can see, the savings are incredibly significant. If I had an SUV that averages 15mpg this trip would have cost me $3,645.73!!! So crazy!
Also, car maintenance is important especially if you are racking up the miles on a longer trip. Priscilla requires synthetic oil that’s recommended to be changed every 5,000 miles. So I did that. I stopped in Oklahoma, Ohio (ironically both were cheaper than what I pay at home in Cali) and now with my return home will have to get a 3rd based on the number of miles driven.
And if you read my New Mexico travel story you know that I got a flat tire on only my 3rd day into this trip. Which, upon further inspection, resulted in needing 4 new tires. Again, I saved money because I did this in New Mexico versus in Cali but this was an unplanned expense.
Soooo…regardless of how much you prepare for a road trip adventure unforeseen things can pop up. It is best to have an emergency fund set aside just in case and make sure you know what to do should these moments arise. Budget properly for gasoline based on your specific vehicle and anticipate any necessary maintenance costs such as oil changes.
Money Spent on Sleeping: $326.28…yup that’s it!
Priscilla (my Prius) was not only my bus/train/taxi but also my hotel room as often as possible. Due to a very tight budget AND the need to be in nature (this hippie girl loves the great outdoors) I basically lived out of my car on this trip. I camped sometimes (which is about $10-35 per night) and am so lucky to have friends and family willing to allow my usually dirty self to sleep on their couches (and use their showers thank goodness!).
Other nights I just slept in my car and once in a great while, usually when in a large city where I needed to park Priscilla overnight and explore on foot, I would get a hotel (via hotels.com) or a hostel. However, over the course of this adventure I slept in my car more and more. I became obsessed with finding ways to avoid spending money completely & surprisingly it was a blast!
Nights Spent in a Tent: 6, On a Couch: 12, At a Hotel/Hostel: 7 & in Priscilla (my Prius): 36!
So bottom line if you are willing to rough it, and really it is so much fun I swear, you CAN travel for long periods of time on a small amount of money. And if you are traveling with friends you can split these costs! Even better!
Fast Food Eaten: NONE!!
Goal = Absolutely Zero…Zilch!: 100% Complete!!!
As tempting as it is when you pass ga-zillions of fast food places on a U.S. road trip I made a promise to myself to completely avoid eating any fast food on this trip.
I could definitely save some money by eating it but value my health way too much. After all, fast food isn’t actually real food and I needed proper nutrients to provide my body with plenty of energy for hiking/walking, exploring and driving hours each day.
In addition to this vow I also chose to avoid large chains as much as possible. This means no stops at restaurants that I can eat at back home, no large chain stores for necessities and even no Starbuck’s (this was the hardest by far as it is basically guaranteed to have wifi and a restroom…two constant needs of mine).
“Why?!?” (you say)
I have nothing against large-ass companies and think they are capable of providing great services as well as having bigger ways of giving back due to their resources…but I want to support the small businesses instead. My hard earned money going to a small ‘mom and pop’ shop or small farm-to-fork café just makes me feel good about my spending. As I create the small business of my dreams I want to support others who took a leap and are doing the same.
From a budgeting standpoint I also made most of my food. I would find a local market or farmer’s market for fresh produce and brought a few pantry staples from my home to make sandwiches and what not. I kept a tiny cooler in my car that I filled with ice as needed and brought a 3-gallon water container that I filled with filtered drinking water regularly. Sure this might take more time than fast food and be inconvenient sometimes but the savings were significant and I stuck to the rules I gave myself.
Because of all of this, when I did eat out I enjoyed my experience so much more!! When I was in a city with local cuisine that is a ‘must try’ I would splurge and try it. I love eating and local food is a huge part of the travel experience in my opinion. In fact, I was raised completely vegetarian from birth but while traveling I always try meat! Hence why I refer to myself as a hypocrite vegetarian. Again, it is part of the experience for me and trying new things is one of my favorite parts of traveling!!
Soooo…when budgeting for your own trip first decide your food goals. If you love fast food and plan on eating it often you will definitely save a lot of money (but may not live quite as long…just saying). I would guesstimate $5-$15 per day per person. If you plan to eat out in restaurants often (this really depends on the city you are visiting combined with how fancy your food requirements are) this budget quickly doubles or possibly triples per day per person. I, personally, had days where I spent $0 because I stopped at a local market days earlier and days where I ate out 4 times in 1 day spending $132.76! (I could NOT stop eating in New Orleans & New York…I seriously had to make myself leave so I would stop).
I recommend sticking to a tight grub budget and then spending more in the places where the food interests you. Local staples are popular for a reason so whenever possible give them a whirl! Lobster in Maine, crab cakes in Maryland, BBQ in Texas, shrimp n’ grits in Lousiana, maple candy in Vermont etc. Just remember…alcohol is expensive compared to food and can add up very quickly. Limiting your intake of the booze (and recreational drugs LOL) is a simple way to save a lot of money. Budget according to your taste/substance preferences. 🙂
Books Read: 12
Goal = One Dozen Books Read (IE 1 for Every 4 States): 100% Complete!!
12. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage) by Cheryl Strayed, 11. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman, 10. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, 9. Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves, 8. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau, 7. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, 6. Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World by Benny Lewis, 5. Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche, 4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac, 3. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts, 2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, 1. The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss
[Read the book summary and/or purchase the book (and support AHC in the process) by clicking on the title]
If you are traveling solo on a road trip there is quite a bit of actual time spent alone. Except for the rare hitchhiker pickup (I can’t wait to tell you all about that) you are actually by yourself for hours. This is the opposite of the solo Europe trip I did earlier this year because there, even during transport, you are always with other people.
So I chose to use this solo car time to my advantage because I am crazy and must feel productive at all times in addition to my obsession with knowledge in general. I listened to audiobooks, mp3s & podcasts the entire time! This combined with keeping in touch with friends & family via long phone call, turning up my tunes loud enough to not hear myself sing, and stopping ridiculously often to park illegally for photo taking kept me very entertained. If I ever needed a break I would just stop in a town and start talking to people which often resulted in new friends, food/sight recommendations, photo opportunities or at minimum fun conversation.
When not exploring the city/town/wilderness, I spent my solo non-driving time (which was actually rare) locating reliable wifi and filling my iPod/iPad with lots of new goodies as preparation for long spurts of driving while updating the AHC site for lovely readers like you. If wifi wasn’t available I would write, edit photos, read non-audio books & create location-inspired playlists because I am also infatuated with music.
The bottom line is that there is never a lack of something to do or see…whether you are alone or with carloads of people.
Hey, have you tried Audible yet? It is fantastic! They have an enormous selection of audio books that you can listen to while you drive (obviously a must on road trips), get ready in the morning, workout at the gym, hike, cook etc. I am finally putting a tiny dent in the long ass list of books I have always wanted to read and never made the time to do so until this lovely app came along. (Click on the link below to try it out).
Just go! Make a budget, save your money and just go on an adventure! If you don’t have a car all the larger cities have plenty of public transport. If you have a large family get creative with your cash and make it a true bonding experience. Traveling the world is amazing but don’t underestimate your own backyard. There is always something new to discover.
And who knows…perhaps you will return home with a new found appreciation for some of the things that I am OH SO GRATEFUL for…such as:
1. Showers – This was the ONLY thing that was a true pain in the ass on my trip. You can only bird-bath so much when visiting the Southern U.S. in the peak of summer heat/humidity after hiking all day and not all campgrounds have them available. So again…you need to be creative. Truck-driver gas stations have showers you can pay for and don’t forget about rivers/lakes. I can now say that I successfully washed my hair and shaved a bit in a rest area sink! Also in this ‘don’t take this for granted’ category are temperature controllable sink faucets.
2. Refrigerators (and freezers) – I have NOTHING in my fridge at home and yet I spent 10 minutes starring at it and smiling this morning…daydreaming of the infinite possibilities. To put something perishable inside and days later still have it available for safe consumption is something I will never forget to appreciate again. And obviously, the freezer with it’s endless frozen water (aka ice) availability.
3. Walls – Changing from my PJ’s to actual clothes without performing some sort of contortion act this morning was such a treat. I usually do yoga daily at home but when living in Priscilla changing in the car/tent/gas station restroom was all that was needed to stay bendy.
4. HUMANKIND – Not only do you develop an even deeper appreciation for your loved ones back home when away for a bit BUT you truly realize just how amazing your fellow man is. At home you tend to watch the news/read the paper which unfortunately focus solely on the negative happenings in the world. People are actually fantastic! They are thrilled that you chose to visit their town/city/state/country/village and/or cardboard box. They want to ask you questions about your journey and make suggestions to improve it. They compliment you for making the trip and thank you for visiting.
There is a very small amount of bad people out there giving an extremely large amount of people a bad reputation. As a solo traveller you do need to pay attention to your surroundings and never put yourself in an uncomfortable situation BUT that is it! Please don’t let your fear of bad things happening persuade your decision to even go. Give humankind a chance to prove this to you. You will not be disappointed!
Overall, I am so thankful for the wonderful people I got the chance to meet on this trip. As I continue on this quest to inspire others to pursue their dreams and explore I actually had the amazing honor of inspiring a few people along the way. I am so thrilled to see where their journeys lead!!