#vanlife - Hashtag Van Life

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An online community to connect you with fellow van dwellers and share stories from living on the road.
4 Days of Silence at a Retreat
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I went to Siddhayatan Retreat north of Dallas, TX for a personal, silent retreat for 4 days. I did not talk to anyone once I checked in at the retreat and did not use my cell phone. I journaled each day and read a few passages from the book, Untethered Soul. I meditated outside throughout each day, went on long walks on the 220 acre ranch, did Hatha yoga each morning, mantra chanting before breakfast and dinner each day and ate delicious vegetarian food during my stay.

It was a wonderful, blissful experience. I was quite scared of being silent for so long. I have been alone for 4 days but I had never been silent, with no distractions, for that long. I have always had music, an audiobook, a podcast, or something read to distract me throughout my days. At the retreat, I had to deal with my shit that came up - there was nowhere to escape…

Through meditating, I was able to view my thoughts as exactly what they are - thoughts - and nothing else. Having certain thoughts does not mean that I am a good or a bad person. I just have thoughts and that is all there is to it.

I had a big realization on the first day that I can CHOOSE to have an open heart. I can choose to see things as they are not as I want them to be. I know now that daily meditation is my path and the basis for me staying open.

Silence was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be... It was quite refreshing since I never had to worry about what to say at any given moment! I simply used hand gestures, bowing my head, or writing on a piece of paper what I needed to communicate. It also helped that everyone asked me yes or no questions so it was easy to answer with simple gestures.

At meal times, I would put my fork down after every bite, close my eyes, and be grateful for the delicious food that I was chewing. It was not a race to see how fast I could get food into my stomach. A side benefit was all of my food was pre-digested due to my extensive chewing. The long walks and chewing aided in excellent digestion during my retreat.

Overall, it was a wonderful reset and recommitting to daily meditation. I expect to do more silent retreats in the future.

Going forward, I'm going to:

  • continue my morning meditation (10-20 minutes)

  • add one hour group meditation in the evenings

  • slow down at meals - chew and taste my food!

  • stop distractions - meditate when repairing my van instead of listening to a podcast

  • do outdoor walking meditations in nature

  • be more open-hearted - I close at times and I aim to always have an open heart.


The picture is the tree that I meditated under each day.

Nathaniel Bruno
Building a Tiny Home and RV Community
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Over the past 2 years, I have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about community and relationships. Specifically, the lack of them in my life.

I think back to how my father grew up with 25 first cousins all in Providence, Rhode Island. He had an endless supply of friends to play with, babysitters, wise elders, and many different relationships to lean on.

This was due to everyone living close together within walking or biking distance and having a bond (through family).

My desire is to return to that way of living - loving your neighbor, sharing resources, and living in a small, tight knit community with friends and relatives of all generations.

My vision is to create or join a community in which we work to expand our consciousness by living in the question: How does one live sustainably in harmony with nature and spirit?

An ecovillage model aligns with my sensibilities the most - an ecovillage uses the principles of permaculture, it emphasizes sustainability by mimicking the design of nature.

It is designed to be self-sufficient, low-cost and it promotes a culture of love and cooperation.

Ideally, the ecovillage would:

  • be self-sufficient in power and heat

  • harvest and recycle their water

  • will have enough farmland or greenhouses to support each home’s basic fruit, vegetable and meat needs.

  • have an equal amount of open green space, woods and lakes for the enjoyment of the residents and the wider community.

Possible Strategies:

  • Care for a commons - a land trust and RV/tiny home ranch that will ecologically support a small community of 50+ people.

  • Build a self-sustaining infrastructure and organic food requirements to support our basic needs

  • Create homes, gathering places and guest houses using sustainable or reclaimed materials and energy sources.

  • Create and nurture a spiritual center as the core of our community

  • Create an interdependent social system

  • Create enterprises to assure economic viability with minimal dependence on outside funding sources

  • Establish educational, leadership, internship and exchange programs that will enable us to be of service to others, share our experiences and connect with similar local and global efforts.

If what I wrote aligns with you or you are currently living in an ecovillage like this, shoot me an email at hashtagvanlife@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Nathaniel Bruno
Intentions for 2019
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My intention for 2019 is to 'Build'.

Reviewing the previous year, I accomplished many of the things on my intention list. I drank Ayahuasca in the Peruvian jungle and learned some profound truths. I went to Burning Man and my heart opened up to receive love. I have been rock climbing regularly and paddleboarding. I did many group meditations and some breathwork. I went paraglliding and deer hunting in Minnesota (harvested a small buck). I did a fast while driving for a few days and it was surprisingly easy since I never had to worry about eating. I ate a raw diet for 2 weeks last year and the energy boost that I received from it was substantial. However, it was tough sourcing high quality raw meats so I haven't continued that diet.

This year, I have a strong urge to build and use my hands to create a living space.

My plan is to get an old, beat-up tow-behind travel trailer, rip out the interior and rebuild it to my desire.

I am also consulting for Salvage Shelthers in Goldwaithe, TX and I plan on building my first tiny home.

If you have or know of an old TOW-BEHIND TRAVEL TRAILER, shoot me an email hashtagevanlife@gmail.com. It can be anywhere in the US.

I am continuing my foundation daiy habits from 2018:

  • getting out in the sun for 1-2 hours each day (at least mostly naked!)

  • meditating each morning

  • gratitude each evening

  • movement of some kind (Crossfit, walking, hiking, yoga, etc)

  • cold exposure each morning (shower or ice bath)

The things that I want to accomplish are:

  • Build a travel trailer

  • Take swing dancing lessons

  • Go on a cruise with a big group of friends

  • Take piano lessons

  • Pay off all of my remaining debt

  • Travel to Hawaii and Asia

  • Do monthly NAD and vitamin IV treatments

  • Build my first tiny home

  • Do Egoscue therapy to re-align my hips

Nathaniel Bruno
I Survived Burning Man
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I had always been interested in attending Burning Man but I thought it was out of reach (even for someone that lived in a van for years). I was scared of the required logistics, running out of water, the dust storms, having a major health issue in the desert, etc.

I finally bit the bullet and attended and I am SO grateful that I did. Burning Man really is something that you have to experience first hand. No matter how many videos or pictures that you view, it does not come close to capturing what it is like... I'm going to try my best though!

Burning Man is an annual event where a temporary city of 70,000 people is built in the middle of the Nevada desert.

It is an experimental society that is driven by 10 principles. A few of these principles include radical inclusion ("Anyone may be a part of Burning Man"), gifting, decommodification (no money passes hands at the festival), radical self-reliance and self-expression, leaving no trace (" We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather"), and participation.

The first few days I walked around stunned and speechless at the magnitude of the impermanent city. It is SO different from the 'default world' (in a good way) and I seriously overwhelmed.

The grounds are called the playa and the city’s grid is set up to mimic a clock.

Every year, thousands of people come to the playa months before the event to start setting up this complex city with roads, art, civic centers, buildings, neighborhoods, and camps. And every year thousands of people work for months to remove all trace that the event ever took place.

Burning Man is:

  • The most incredible display of installation art on the planet.

  • One hell of a party. It's about being here, now. Immediacy.

  • A city full of the friendliest and most accepting people you'll ever meet. Radical Inclusion.

  • A space where people aren't trying to sell you things. Once you're in the gates, you can only buy a very tiny selection of things - coffee, ice, gasoline, RV pumping, and a couple other services like that.

  • A place to participate, and to eliminate the barrier between performer and audience. Everyone is a participant.

The idea is: everyone works; everyone builds (if only a tent or yurt); everyone fights, and loses to the dust; everyone amasses social capital by giving things and experiences rather than earning or paying for them; and everyone — whether riding atop a massive fire-breathing art car, or simply riding a glow in the dark bicycle — is equally a participant, whether just helping and collaborating with those strangers in your immediate vicinity, or building some massive art installation for all to enjoy.

The dust is alkaline and destroys everything which is why we used blue painters tape around the outside of the RV's windows. Burners bring Mad Max-style goggles and scarves with them everywhere in case of the inevitable dust storm.

The book of scheduled events is full of hundreds of classes and seminars about sexuality, spirituality, activities, connection, fears, dreams, goals, addiction, loss, and everything in between. There is literally a group, camp, or event for everyone.

Each camp is 100% self-sufficient. There is no cell service so no one is walking around looking at their phone.

There is a DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles) that registers the art cars. There are medical centers (with real medical staff). There are Rangers who are the type of police we all love in the “default world”– they are not looking for people doing anything wrong, they are 100% there to help and support the citizens of Black Rock City.

People dress however they want or not at all. I saw more naked breasts and an absurd amount of penises than I have in my entire life. Pasties are considered clothing.

There are no lights at night except for the art and art cars, so everyone must cover themselves and their bike in LED lights or they risk being run over by an art car.

Burning Man is where people go to be whoever and do whatever they please.

Towards the end of the week, I started to settle in and accept the vastness of the city and the new freedoms. I began to greet others with hugs and finish conversations with 'much love'. The 10 principles gave everyone shared values to live within and by the end of the week, it was like one big Burner family.

At the end of the week, some of the art was burnt. On Saturday night, the Man burns Designed by a different architect each year, the structure is built to burn. The burning is a celebratory event with fireworks, explosives, and partying. It’s the New Years celebration at Black Rock City. It’s the time to release to old and embrace a new start. People wish each other “Happy New Year.”

On Sunday night, the Temple burns. It is a spiritual place for citizens to go to honor lost loved ones and to release emotions. The energy at the Temple is heavy. It is covered with photos of people who have died and notes to these lost loved ones. It was a beautiful, painful place.

Overall, Burning Man opened my heart and I am so excited for next year. We will be bringing more virgins and I might even go out early to help build the city.

I can't thank our campmates and the others who supported us on our journey to Black Rock City - love you guys!

Nathaniel Bruno
I Took Ayahuasca in the Amazon Jungle

I recently completed my first Ayahuasca retreat about 60 miles North of Iquitos, Peru in the Amazon jungle. 

Ayahuasca had been calling to me for a few years but it only started to become something that I could actually see myself doing in the past few months. I bumped into so many people that had drank Ayahuasca and experienced transformational things. So I decided to book the flight to Peru. 

Ayahuasca is a traditional medicine that comes from the Amazon jungle. Peruvians have been using it for thousands of years to heal physical and emotional problems. Ayahuasca has medicine spirits that come into your body to heal you when you drink. It usually happens through purging: throwing up or diarrhea.

Hamilton Souther, the founder of Blue Morpho, describes it as “the most terrifying, most beautiful, darkest, lightest, saddest and most joyous experience of my life.”

“At the most fundamental level everything in the Universe is made up of energy. When you drink Ayahuasca you take the spirits of the plants into your body where they'll travel all around, seeking out and removing ‘crossed energy’, which can manifest as physical illness, past mental or emotional traumas, or spiritual ailments. At this level of working there's no differentiation. It’s all energy that no longer serves you. It's got to come out. So you ask the spirits to heal it. Then, sit back and let them do their job.”

They say to drop expectations coming into an Ayahuasca experience.  Set your intention beforehand, but once the cup is sipped, let go.  During my retreat I took part in four Ayahuasca ceremonies, each one being very different from the next. 

I didn't experience anything during the first ceremony (my dose was very small). The second ceremony (with a substantially larger dose) was spent healing my physical body and purging occasionally. The third was spent with constant nausea, fear and trapped energy in my head with a desire to purge out of both ends but being unable to let go.

They say that Ayahuasca gives you what you need, not necessarily what you want. During the third ceremony, I tried to control my experience and bend Ayahuasca to my desires. As a result, I did NOT get what I wanted! The fourth was the most transformative - I truly let go and surrendered to the medicine and I was taken on a blissful journey of enlightenment.  

I chose Blue Morpho Tours because of:

  • The team's constant supervision and support during each ceremony. I feel like I was able to really let go and surrender to the medicine because of my confidence in the team's ability to help me when I needed it. As wild as a night might get, I felt safe with them around.
  • Their 16 successful years of offering Ayahuasca retreats.
  • Their well-thought approach to offering smaller Ayahuasca doses early on and allowing you figure out where your 'sweet spot' dose lies.

Lessons Learned:

  • Life is supposed to be easy - I need to swim downstream not upstream against the current of life.
  • The more that I let go and surrender and breath into a feeling or emotion, the faster the feeling will be released. Holding onto it and not letting it go is what will cause disease.
  • Plant medicine (Ayahuasca) is very real, nothing to play with, and very powerful and fast acting.
  • Humans are all one consciousness and there is no separation between myself or another human being.
  • There is no need to search or look for answers - they will arrive in time. The reason behind something (like a trapped emotion) is irrelevant.
  • I need to feel more and I need to think less.
  • I have a heightened awareness of energy (energy in my body, in others, etc.)
  • On the final ceremony night, I had a big, profound realization - each one of us is a 'sovereign universe' and I have total control of my body and my experiences in the world. 

I feel as though Ayahuasca ceremonies are like peeling an onion where more and more layers are removed and my heart will become more and more open. So I will definitely be doing another trip down Iquitos this year or next.

For more Ayahuasca related documentaries, search 'Ayahuasca' on Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

If you have questions, post them in the comments. If you want to book an Ayahuasca retreat with Blue Morpho, don't hesitate to mention my name (Nat Bruno).                 

Nathaniel Bruno
Intentions for 2018

My intention for 2018 is to 'Let Go'.

I will let go of my desire to earn lots of money, my ego (this will be hard), my judgement of others, judgement of myself, my identity as an entrepreneur or a Crossfitter. I want to simply be present in the moment and not worrying about the future. Just be and know that I will be provided for....

Personally, my strengths lie in being persistent, reliable, ambitious while at the same time being polite, easy to fit in, diplomatic and very adaptable. My creative side loves new ideas while my practical side allows me to manifest and create these ideas. With all of these things, I have a deep rooted confidence in my abilities.

I am a seeker and searcher. 2018 will be more of that - seeking a higher truth. I don't know what that looks like but when I find it, I am confident that my initution will let me know. I am going to devote most of my time to visiting communities/communal living of all kinds - ecovillages, cohousing, intentional communities, etc.

The foundation to 2018 is my daily habits:

  • getting out in the sun for 1-2 hours each day (at least mostly naked!)
  • meditating each morning
  • gratitude each evening
  • movement of some kind (Crossfit, walking, hiking, yoga, etc)

Experiments that I will try in 2018:

  • fasting for 3 days once or twice per year
  • eating a raw protein diet (meat/fish/eggs/milk/cheese) and lots of fermented veggies
  • stop using deodorant and build up my natural skin biome to combat stinkiness

Occasional activities throughout the year:

  • Stand up paddleboarding
  • Rock climbing, Mountain biking
  • Take ukulele lessons
  • Surfing, body boarding and skateboarding
  • Take dancing lessons
  • Group meditation and breathwork
  • Body work (rolfing, ART) and functional medicine doctor

Trips/Events 2018:

  • Attend Burning Man
  • Do plant medicine (Ayahuasca)
  • Go paragliding
  • Go deer and pheasant hunting in Minnesota and Pennsylvania
This year will be full of transformation and change.

What other 30-day experiments should I try?

Comment below and I will try them!

The video is my 'mind movie' for 2018 recommended by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I watch it each morning after my meditation.

My Annual Review of 2017
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This Annual Review will answer three questions. What went well this year? What didn’t go so well this year? What did I learn?

  • WHAT WENT WELL: This has been an epic year - a year of great adventure, much introspection, and a better understanding of my purpose in life. I traveled throughout the US and Canada for 8 months (Jan-Sept), started down the spiritual path, and began 'letting go'. I made more money than I ever have in my life in only 4 months of work.
  • WHAT DIDN'T GO WELL: I shutdown my land investing business while I was traveling. It wasn't a bad thing - I was able to enjoy the freedom of the road. It simply took some time to get the business started back up and running in September.
  • My last consulting gig was very stressful and I found myself reverting back to my old way of being - I was frustrated at the lack of change in the business and wanted to use shame to produce change. After speaking with my mentor, I chose positivity and the gig finished on a high note.
  • WHAT I LEARNED: Earning more money than I ever have in only 4 months is shocking and amazing to me after struggling and swimming upstream all of my life. Abundance is all around me - I simply need to let go and accept it.
  • I also learned that I must lead with love. Nothing productive will come from trying to force change.
Here is a 'quick' review of the year:
  • JANUARY-MARCH: The year started off on a 3 month ski road trip in January using the Mountain Collective Ski Pass to hit 12 different mountains. The highlights were 300" of snow in Mammoth, California, driving through Canada in the winter, catching first tracks in deep powder at the unknown gem - Revelstoke, Canada, skiing and exploring Banff, Canada,  and finishing the trip in Telluride, Colorado and Taos, New Mexico with powder days.
  • APRIL-JULY: It was then off to Denver for a consulting gig in April. Then a cross-country drive to see friends and family in NY, MA, RI, NH, and Maine. Went to my cousin's wedding in Massachusetts, saw many college friends for the first time in 4+ years, and the van broke down in upstate Maine (luckily Kara and her family were there to help!).
  • Then I drove from Maine to Minnesota through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (beautiful country in the summer) for the 4th of July to see my cousins. After that, I drove to Denver to begin a summer roundtrip with Jen.
  • JULY-AUGUST: It started a little rough with altitude sickness camping outside of Telluride and some bad food but it quickly improved once we arrived in the North rim of the Grand Canyon. We then drove to Lake Powell for a week on a huge 70 foot houseboat with her brother's family. We towed a speedboat so we could waterski and tube during the day and go paddleboarding at night. I definitely plan on exploring Lake Powell more - just in a smaller boat!
  • Once we departed from the boat, we hiked Zion, Capitol Reef, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton National Parks. After that we drove up to magical Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada. It was packed with tourists but was still so impressive. The Canadian Rockies feel like they are monstrous and right on top of you and there are clear, cold deep blue lakes every few miles. I swam in almost every lake that we passed especially the snow melt lakes at the high altitudes.
  • SEPT-NOV: It was then back to Denver for a followup consulting gig and then to Austin for another consulting gig. I returned to Denver for the final consulting gig with the same company - over the course of three 2 week visits, we fired 3 employees, hired 2 employees who subsequently hired enough people to triple the staff. Revenue has increased substantially and the foundational business systems and processes are in place for big future growth. Also invested in a business coach for my real estate company.
  • DEC: After Thanksgiving in Denver, we drove to Gaudaulupe and Big Bend National Parks for some great hikes. The short roadtrip finished in Austin, TX for Ryan Moran's awesome Capitalism Conference. I then drove leisurely back (except for an uneventful stop by border patrol in Alabama) to Washington, DC for Christmas.
SPIRITUAL HIGHLIGHTS: a sweat lodge in Sedona, saw two Native American healers in Banff and Sedona, breathwork with Zach Rehder, walking many labyrinths, hiking to vortexes, meditating in nature, had readings from a pyschic and an astrologer, group meditation with Tara Brach, many floats, full moon meditation in Boulder, CO.
How I Make Money On the Road
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The day and time is seared into my mind. I was parked 2 blocks from Venice Beach, CA, hanging out on the beach, surfing, and working a few hours per week. Life was good - relaxing and enjoyable but I was itching for something else, something bigger than simply having fun. I was listening to Ari Meisel's Leverage Podcast and that is when I heard, The Land Geek, Mark Podolsky being interviewed. I knew with 5 minutes of listening to him describe his business that it was going to be my next venture.  I am ambitiously lazy - meaning that I hate to do repetitive tasks - and this business fit that 'process-driven' model perfectly.

However, I had a few requirements that my next business had to meet:

  • It had to be automated and require very little input from me (which meant that I could work from anywhere and be location independent)
  • It had to not require hiring employees (virtual assistants and contractors were OK)
  • It had to create passive, recurring income every month

Mark's 'land investing' business fit all of the criteria so the next month, I bought his Land Investors Toolkit online. I then attended his free bootcamp a few months later (however I didn't purchase coaching from Mark).

I dove into land investing full-time in July 2016. Since then, I have purchased 14 parcels and 9 sold of them (a few for cash but most are financed).

My monthly recurring income for the next 8 years (revenue coming in from financing the sale of a property) is $1200 currently and growing.

The benefits of buying land versus houses:

  • No need to protect it
  • The land lasts forever
  • There is no upkeep and is headache free
  • Consistent, passive income from owner financing a sale
  • Huge margins (+300% rate of return)
  • Simple to operate  business
  • Very low risk business if properties are purchased at the right price
  • No tenants, no termites, and no toilets.

In hindsight, I would have purchased The Land Geek coaching - it would have jumpstarted my business and I would have been profitable much sooner than I was... but I'm a do-it-yourselfer at heart and I struggled through the ups and downs early on investing in land.

More links:

I bet you are thinking - why is he sharing this gold mine with me? The reason that I am more than willing to share is because there are more than 3000 counties in the US with 1.9 billions acres of land (in the lower 48 states). There is MORE than enough land to be bought and sold in America!

I will answer any questions in the comments.

How to get Free WiFi On The Road
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I recently added a wifi adapter in my van and it allows me to connect to any open (no password required) wifi network without having to go into a store that has free wifi (e.g. Lowes, Starbucks, Home Depot, McDonalds, etc). Since the antenna that I purchased is a directional antenna, I have to park the backdoor of my van facing the storefront since the antenna is mounted on the backdoor. Otherwise, it may not amplify the signal. I recommend mounting a directional antenna on the roof if possible.

I went from one bar of wifi signal to full bars of wifi even though I was parked more than 100 yards from a Lowes.

PARTS REQUIRED:

The Alfa wifi adapter connects to my laptop via USB.

This setup only allows for one device to be connected (via USB) at a time.

The solution to this problem is to re-broadcast the wifi signal and allow other devices to connect through a wifi repeater (your smartphone, additional computers or tablets, etc): Alfa Wifi Repeater and Range Extender. Note: this device requires AC power.

All in this, wifi amplification system in my RV costs about $60. Not bad for some free wifi in my van!

Mountain Collective Road Trip Wrapup
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In January 2017, I left from Los Angeles, CA to start my road trip to all of the mountains on the Mountain Collective Ski Pass. The mountain, the conditions and my accommodations for each ski resort is listed below in order. I drove a total of 6,800 miles and went through one windshield wiper, two bottles of windshield fluid, one oil change, two ball joints, two struts, and five glow plugs. Mammoth Lakes, California 300" base of snow - 30-35 degrees F - sunny and blue skies One of the largest ski resorts in the US. It was a great start to the trip - great coverage and blue-bird conditions with low wind. The terrain was very accessible and easy to get around. Lots of steep, fast runs (which I loved!) ACCOMMODATIONS: Mammoth Guest House (an awesome old wood A-frame).

Squaw Valley, Tahoe, California 158" base of snow - 39 degrees F - raining/sleet/snow mix and windy (40 mph at mid-mountain and 100mph winds at the peak) Squaw has their first big snow season in almost 5 years however it was one of the worst days of skiing in my life. All of the locals had squeeges on their gloves to wipe away the rain from their goggles. The snow was like Elmer's glue. Conditions weren't going to improve so I only skied one day. ACCOMMODATIONS: Tahoe Hostel right on Lake Tahoe (about 30 minutes from the mountain) .

Alta and Snowbird, Utah 102" base of snow - 30-35 degrees F - cloudy and light snow Met up with Ian who was also doing the Mountain Collective resorts in a van. His Sprinter van is completely new and he has a toilet. Watched the Super Bowl in Elko NV and stupidly left after halftime and Tom Brady proceeded to have a huge overtime win. Snowboarding is banned from Alta. Had some fresh powder both days. Also bought used powder skis and poles for 100 dollars. Alta was my favorite - lots of steep, fast runs. Overall a small mountain. Snowbird had either extreme steeps or moderate, blue runs - almost scary at times.It was fun under the Peruvian lift. There was a Rebel Wilson sighting (Fat Amy from the movie, Pitch Perfect) at Snowbird (sorry - no picture evidence). ACCOMMODATIONS: Walmart Parking lot in Sandy, Utah - next to an Anytime Fitness, Starbucks, and 5 minutes from the Ski Bus shuttle up to the mountains.

Sun Valley, Idaho 146" base of snow - 25-30 degrees F - cloudy and light snow Definitely one of the richest and nicest resorts ever. Excellent groomers and caught some powder the 2nd day. Would love to come back on a powder day! ACCOMMODATIONS: Stayed in an AirBnB since it was damn cold at night and parking wasn't allowed on streets due to plowing.

Whistler, BC, Canada 101" base of snow - 30-35 degrees F - clear and no wind Crossed the border in one hour including a secondary stop and thorough search of my van. Whistler/Blackcomb was overwhelming big - there were so many runs and wide open terrain to ski that I didn't know what to ski. I skied Whistler mountain in the morning and then took the peak-2-peak tram to Blackcomb for the afternoon. Whatever type of terrain your heart desired, they could provide it. I was there on a weekday (albeit a Spring Break weekday) and 20,000 people were skiing which would crush any other mountain. Watch out in 2017/2018 when Whistler is on the Vail Resorts Epic pass - this place is going to be mobbed. ACCOMMODATIONS: Parked in the driveway of a heli guide in town.

Revelstoke, BC, Canada 99" base of snow - 25-30 degrees F - cloudy and heavy snow I arrived in Revi on a Sunday and I waited for a few days since powder was in the forecast. I skied two days of fluffy deep powder on the biggest vertical of any North American ski resorts (almost 8000 feet). Only 3 lifts and 1 gondola service the whole mountain and there is a fair bit of traversing needed to access the whole mountain. This was easily my favorite mountain on this ski trip (fresh powder doesn't hurt either!). Met two cool Aussies (Harleyand Benny). Will definitely come back in the summer. Revi is a hidden gem. ACCOMMODATIONS: Stayed in the Samesun hostel in town (about a 10 minute drive to the mountain).

Banff, Alberta, Canada (Lake Louise and Sunshine and Norquay) 78" base of snow - 10-15 degrees F - cloudy and light snow Finished a great few days at Revi and said goodbye to the Aussies - Benny and Harley. I will hopefully visit Harley in Australia in the winter. I then drove over the most avalanche prone strecth of road in North America - 163 avalanche chutes and the Canadian military drives around and shoots a huge howitzer gun at the tops of the cliffs to cause avalanches. As I was driving through a tunnel an avalanche was going over the top of me! Amazingly, even though it was snowing heavily, the roads were fine. The town of Banff is magical and beautiful at night. I followed the storm that came from Revi and I skiied some deep powder in the back bowls of Lake Louise.

Switched hostels to HI apline center and it had a commercial kitchen which was awesome! I skied Sunshine which was OK since some parts of the slopes were very flat but I found some good steep stuff later in the day. Locals told me about Toonie day ($2 to ski) at Norquay and warned me about the Jerrys. I went there and skied for 2 hours and then got the hell out since no one knew how to ski! I wasn't skiing - I was avoiding other skiers. ACCOMMODATIONS: Stayed in 2 different hostels - HI Alpine and Samesun in Banff. Both were great places to stay. About a 40 minute drive to Lake Louise and a 20 minute drive to Sunshine.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming 157" base of snow - 40-45 degrees F - clear and very warm Stayed overnight in Bozeman where it was considerably warmer than the -10 F degrees in Banff. Then drove the remaining time to Jackson Hole and arrived to 50 F degrees. I was bummed that it was so warm. Switched all of my ski gear to spring skiing. The 1st day was awesome - icy in the morning but it thawed and was great until 3pm. Jackson Hole is big mountain skiing and I only wish I could have skied it with fresh powder. The 2nd day was rough since it didn't freeze overnight and was slushy. I skied only 3 hours. Met a cool German guy - Sebastian (who is a doing a 12 month road trip) and we had dinner. ACCOMMODATIONS: A rough, old hostel built back in the 1950s with the best location ever - ski in/out right at the base of the mountain!

Snowmass, Aspen, Colorado 78" base of snow - 40-50 degrees F - clear and very warm Skied Snowmass - long, wide open runs. Most of the mountain is blues, very few green runs or catwalks. The bowls looked great for a powder day. I really enjoyed carving the long, blue runs. ACCOMMODATIONS: Parked at the Carbondale park and ride and the Intercept lot near Snowmass.

Telluride, Colorado 75" base of snow - 30-35 degrees F - clear and big powder on the second day Skied the first day on a perfectly windless, clear day. Met an Aussie - Dane at the hostel, caught a ride up with him to the mountain the next morning and skied a crazy amount of powder on the second day (approximately 20 inches). My ski popped off on a run and went shooting down the slope and over a cliff. Luckily a tree branch caught it before it went off the cliff! ACCOMMODATIONS: Stayed at Old Mine Shaft Inn in Rico, CO (about 30 minutes outside of Telluride).

Taos, New Mexico 98" base of snow - 25-35 degrees F - cloudy and snowy Hands down some of the best powder skiing of my life. It didn't hurt to be riding with a semi-local (shoutout to Lucas) to show Dane and I where the prime hiking spots were to be found. We skied some fresh powder on so many runs - it was a great end to the road trip! ACCOMMODATIONS: Parked in the Taos ski parking lot on the mountain.

In total, I spent about $1250 on accommodations over 2.5 months and $780 in diesel fuel. I went into the ski road trip with very low expectations - I would be successful if I didn't crash my van and didn't break any bones. Luckily, neither of those things happened! Overall, this was one of the most fun road trips of my life - obviously the skiing was great but the people that I met and connected with along the way were what made this road trip really special.

My Favorite Vanlife and Travel Apps
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These are the apps that I regularly use to find spots to park my van overnight and to find interesting foods to eat, trails to hike, and sights to see. Most have apps for your smartphone and some have websites as well. Overnight Parking and Camping Apps

  • Rvparky.com (iOS | Android) - displays a map of rest areas, Wal-marts, truck stops, and RV parks to park your van. I typically use it only for Wal-mart parking lots.
  • Freecampsites.net (No smartphone app) - Displays a map of free and low-priced 'boondocking' or dry camping spots typically in the Western half of the US.
  • Hipcamp.com (No smartphone app) - This is a website similar to AirBnB but is directly solely at camping rentals. You can also search for state and national park campsites.
  • AirBnB.com (iOS | Android) - You might be surprised to find 'camping' spots on AirBnB. I rented a parking space in a guy's driveway off of AirBnB in Whistler, BC, Canada. Simply filter for low price ranges (less than $35 per night).
  • US Public Lands (iOS | Android) - This app show you all of the FREE areas to camp. If you can find a pulloff or cleared area off of a road in a National forest, BLM land, or National park you can camp on it!

Travel Apps

  • Foodspotting (iOS | Android) - I'm a big fan of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and I love to eat weird foods like tripe, tongue, liver, heart, bone marrow, insects, etc. This app shows all of the unique near your location.
  • AllTrails (iOS | Android) - This app shows you hikes that you can filter by short/long, easy/hard, small/large elevation. Highly recommend this if you enjoy hiking even in the slightest.
  • Trover (iOS | Android) - If you want the cool spots to visit while on the road, you can search by photos from locals and find unique places to check out.

Vanlife Apps

What are you favorite apps that you use on the road? Post to the comments.


Picture is my Sprinter van in the freezing cold of beautiful Banff, Alberta, Canada.

How-To Videos of T1N Dodge Sprinter 2003-2006 Model Repairs
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These DIY videos are meant ONLY for the Dodge Sprinter 2003-2006 T1N model. I have done all of these repairs myself and most were fairly easy (no more than 30 minutes). The struts took me a few hours since the van needs to jacked up and the wheels removed. Cabin filter

Air filter

Front Struts / Shocks

Glow Plugs

Fuel Filter

Oil Change (I highly recommend using this part when you change oil)

Rear Differential Service

Brake Pads

I have used a mechanic for the ball joints, transmission fluid change, and coolant change.

Here are some useful documents: The Sprinter service manual (PDF) that mechanics use. The Sprinter parts manual (PDF). The Error Code spreadsheet

If your repair isn't listed here, check out the Sprinter Source forum and your repair will most likely have been answered there.

I also recommend the Sprinter Conversion Sourcebook for additional help.

-- Picture is the van in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada frozen in -10 F weather.

AboutNathaniel Bruno
Jan 2017 Monthly Expense Report
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The real power of living in a van is lowering your monthly expenses. Being able to live on so little money, gives you freedom! I can live on as little as $850 per month (cooking all of my own meals and not doing any fun activities). By converting my vehicle (a Sprinter van) into my 'home', I was able to put an expensive 'asset' that was unused for the majority of each day and was able to cut out my mortgage/rent payment completely. That simple act cut my monthly expenses down considerably - then I took a hard look at my fixed, recurring expenses. After two years of living on the road, this is what my monthly expenses look like:

Monthly, RECURRING Expenses (services that I either have auto-billed or I am in a contract with):

Total Monthly, Recurring Expenses: $595


One-time Expenses (these change from month-to-month)

  • Yoga (I pay the drop-in fees): $40
  • Eating out (Chipotle, Pho, etc - I try to keep it under $10 per meal including tip): $261
  • Food and supplements (Costco, Trader Joe's, Amazon): $387
  • Fuel for my van (depending on how much I travel): $98
  • Fun activities/Going out with friends: $180
  • Van maintenance: $29

Total One-time Expenses: $995


My total monthly expenses (one-time plus recurring monthly) for January 2017 is only $1590.

Notice that I have do NOT have the following expenses:

  • a car payment
  • a mortgage or rent payment
  • a Netflix/Hulu or Spotify membership
  • debt payments (credit cards, student loans, etc)

A few notes: I value my health hence the majority of my spending on chiropractic and gym memberships.

If I want to watch movies or listen to music, I watch or listen to what is included for FREE with my Amazon Prime membership (Prime movies or music).

I do buy clothes, but no very many each year. I typically buy merino wool clothes (shirts, underwear, socks, etc) that last for a long time (1-2 years of daily use) and are anti-microbial (so they don't smell bad!).

If you take away only one thing from this post, it is that the real freedom comes from cutting and ultimately minimizing your monthly, recurring expenses.

TO READ MORE:

TO LISTEN MORE:

AboutNathaniel Bruno
The First Step Toward Living the VanLife
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The first step is not an obvious one - it is not researching vans or build outs or where you will travel. The first step toward living the VanLife is getting rid of most of your possessions. It sounds easy but it can be a surprisingly long process.

When I began to purge my belongings, I used the Minimalist's 'Packing Party' technique.

It is simple and easy to accomplish. Here are the steps:

  1.  Pack up all of your belongings as if you were moving (clothes, kitchenware, towels, electronics, toiletries, etc)
  2.  Continue to live in your home for 3-4 weeks
  3.  Unpack only the items that you need
  4. Donate or sell everything that is still in boxes

The video is the Minimalists TED Talk about their packing party.

You will find that you don't need the majority of your possessions. You will also find that you will feel free and unencumbered.

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” - Marie Kondo

UncategorizedNathaniel Bruno
How-To Ski Four Colorado Mountains in One Day
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It all started apres ski at Beaver Creek while riding the bus back to Bear Lot. We started talking to a bro on the bus about our plans the next day. He told me about how he skied all four Vail Resorts-owned Colorado mountains (Beaver Creek, Vail, Breckenridge, and Keystone) in one day (Arapahoe Basin is owned by Vail Resorts but they don't have EpicMix on their slopes - so you can't track your vertical feet skied). After getting a drunken download on how exactly to accomplish skiing four-in-one-day, we decided to hit it hard the next day. This plan is ideal for a Colorado local living on the Frontrange since you will be starting at the mountain farthest from Denver (Beaver Creek). What you need:

  • an Epic pass that gives you access to all Vail Resorts
  • a 4WD car or truck to get you to and from each mountain
  • lots of snacks and a camelback and/or drinks
  • a place to stay in or near Avon, Colorado
  • an opportunity to accomplish this during a weekday (or during a late season weekend)

Here is what we did:

700am - Grab a big, delicious and hardy breakfast at Northside Cafe in Avon, CO

800am - Park in Bear Lot (free parking) and shuttle up to base at Beaver Creek

830am - Catch the first chair up and start skiing newly groomed runs

1030am - Shuttle back to the parking lot and start driving to Vail Ski Resort

1045am - Grab a quick snack and drink in the car while driving

1100am - Park in a covered parking garage at Vail (2 hours free parking)

1115am - Walk to the gondola and hit Vail for a quick 3 or 4 runs

1245pm - Head back to the parking garage and start driving towards Breckenridge

130pm - Eat lunch in the car (or stop for a quick bite - we ate all of our food driving from Beaver Creek to Vail)

200pm - Park in the main Breckenridge lot (typically it costs money to park but it should be open and free by 1pm or 2pm)

215pm - Catch the gondola and ski Breckenridge until closing at 4pm

415pm - Head back to the parking lot and start driving to Keystone (eat some more food!)

445pm - Park at the main Keystone Resort lot and walk to the slopes

500pm - Catch the gondola to the top of Keystone and start night skiing

630pm - Get in a good number of runs under the lit-up slopes of Keystone

700pm - Call it a day and a fun challenge completed. Start driving back to the Frontrange


A total of 1.5 hours of driving - 60 miles.

Potential Obstacles:

  • getting stuck in a gondola or ski lift for a long period of time
  • running out of gas, a flat tire, or other car troubles
  • not having enough food or water in the car with you
  • arriving at Breckenridge at 4pm (closing time)

When you complete skiing at four resorts in one day, you will receive the 'Day Tripper' pin from EpicMix. In total, we skied 34,464 vertical feet over four resorts. It was a long day but it was a fun challenge to complete.

Vertical Feet Totals:

Beaver Creek - 2 hours skiing - 14,944 vertical feet

Vail - 1.5 hours skiing - 5,328 vertical feet

Breckenridge - 2 hours skiing - 9,873 vertical feet

Keystone - 1.5 hours skiing - 4,319 vertical feet

The Total Number of Feet Skied: 34,464 vertical feet

 

My Epic Skiing Road Trip to 11 Mountains
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I will be starting an 11 mountain ski road trip on February 1, 2017. The ski pass that enables this is the Mountain Collective pass. For only $400 (about $18 per ski day), it gives you 2 days of skiing at every mountain. This trip wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for this pass - I am eternally grateful for it! The retail price for 22 days of skiing would be over $3000. I plan on staying at each mountain 3-4 days bookended with one day of driving (and sometimes two days). So I will have 1-2 days of rest/non-skiing play at each mountain - if you have any recommendations of things to do, drink, or eat PLEASE comment below.

Most of the driving between mountains will be about 5-6 hours except for the 2 days that it will take me to drive to and from the three Canadian mountains (Whistler, Revelstoke, and Banff).

I plan on sleeping in the van only when it is reasonably warm (nights that are not below 20 degrees F). Otherwise, I will be staying with friends, AirBnBs and hostels (which I love). I do have a small camping heater and 12 volt plug-in blanket to keep me warm. I have a new set of winter tires, a spare tire, snow chains, 24/7 roadside assistance and I just changed my oil to a lower viscocity of oil (0w30) for the colder weather.

My criteria to define a 'successful' trip are very low - as long as I don't crash the van or break my body or get horribly sick, the trip will be considered a success. With so much winter driving, inevitably something will go wrong. I want to be as well prepared as I can be.

The mountains (in order) are Mammoth (CA), Squaw Valley (CA), Alta/Snowbird (UT). Sun Valley (ID), Whistler, Revelstoke, and Banff (all in Canada), Jackson Hole (MT), Aspen (CO), Telluride (CO), Taos (NM). Of the 11 mountains, I have only skied one (Telluride) so almost every mountain will be new to me! Here is the map of my planned route (starting in California and finishing in New Mexico).

Please comment with any ideas, recommendations, or places to see or visit on my epic road trip!

----- Photo is Telluride, Colorado where guys ski in cowboy hats!