The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

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The Ultimate Guide to Living on the Road - 15 Tips from a Veteran (PT 2)

Hit the road with these tips
Whether you are planning a short-term road trip on a shoestring budget or out on the road for an extended period of time, there are ways to make your experience all the better.

After having lived on the road for two years next month (and planning on continuing!), this is what I’ve come up with. Enjoy Part II of this installment (and don’t miss out on the 15 big tips in Part I and a second set of goodies in Part III!).

These safety tips might seem like they go to the extreme, but hey, if I were really that paranoid, I wouldn’t be living on the road at all.  These tips have kept me safe and my mom at (relative) ease. Pick and choose, or collect all 5.

Removable pepper spray & keys in the ignition
1. Don’t assume. Just because an area looks safe doesn’t mean it is. Locals know the rough parts of town, but as an outsider, you don’t have that luxury. Keeping in mind that people are generally good, there are still those who want what is inside the car which can include you. Lock the doors, keep mace/pepper spray and/or something sharp handy.

2. Cover up. Cover up valuables even if you are driving around so others don’t see what’s in your car then break in to get it when they see it unattended later.

Ladies, this part is especially for you!  Like it or not, our gender can make us seem more vulnerable. Reduce your risk of being a target.

A. Keep modest. Don’t be flashy—no need to advertise your wares to anyone creeping around.

B. When it’s time to turn in for the night, pull the sleeping bag up to conceal your face; if you want to go the extra mile, a bag with a color scheme that is not gender-specific may help. Tuck in long ponytails.

3. Sleep at the ready: Keep your keys in the ignition so you don’t have to search for them if you need to get up and get out. If you can do so relatively comfortably (or get yourself used to it), sleep in the driver’s side seat. This gets you out of sticky situations in short order.

4. Keep others in the know. This should be common sense for every adventurer; adopt it as a road tripper. Tell a friend or family member where you are each time you head somewhere new. Let people know how long you will be in each area. When you are on the road, check in with them when you stop for the night. Make use of trailhead and ranger station sign-ins. Tip: If the sign in asks for the number in your party and you are by yourself, it might be safer not to mark the number in your party so crazies don’t try to seek you out on the trail. Extremely unlikely, but I’ve heard of it happening.

Develop these habits and people will become accustomed to you checking in, thus noticing something’s up if you don’t.

5. Shh! Don’t go overboard with sharing your location. If you are traveling solo or even with a partner, it’s not always wise to tell the entire world a pinpoint location of where you are headed or where you are overnighting. You can let the world know what you just enjoyed once you are already on the road to a new location. Keep social media followers guessing.

6. Night lights are your friends. It might be hard to sleep under a big bright light, but there is a reason those lights are there — lights are known crime detractors. If you're in a city, park your car near a light so it is decently lit when you are leaving it or going to sleep for the night. (Then refer to tip number two.)

Keeping your car clean and organized is the secret to passenger(s) happiness.

Clothes closet
7. Bag it. We’re talking tote and reusable grocery bags here. Boxes are rigid and can’t be compressed, but bags fit most anywhere as contents in them can shift and mold to their surroundings. Most have handles that make taking them out and carrying much easier, which comes in handy when you are on the road and need to grab and go.

8. Living room: Don’t pack the car full with only space to drive – you need some room to maneuver so you won’t feel caged in. Keep the aesthetically pleasing things and items you reach for most (snacks, a duffel bag of clothing, books) in the main portion of the car and utilize the trunk for gear, cooking items, and other things that are generally unruly.

9. No hoarding. Keeping bits of gum wrappers, plastic bags, empty food cartons and other unnecessary junk in the car only makes long periods in the car stressful. Start your trip right by designating a place for a trash bag near the driver’s area to throw things in.

10. Closet space: You’ve heard of gear closets and clothes closets. Reproduce these with backpacks and duffels. Keep your gear organized by putting each sport’s gear in its own bag so you can grab it and go depending on what the day calls for.  Clothing goes into a backpack or duffel with different pockets: socks go in one side pocket, underthings in another, clothing in the main compartment.  

I even separate clothing into regular everyday clothes and climbing or ski clothes and put them in different bags — that way I don’t have to dig through massive amounts of jackets and ski pants to find a pair of shorts for a driving day. Rolling clothes instead of laying them flat takes less space and makes it visually more efficient to sort through.

11. Laundry basket: Used all the freshness out of that outfit? Throw it in a designated bag that so it won’t get mixed up with your clean clothes.  Then, when it’s time to do laundry, you can just grab the bag without having to search for what’s dirty. Planning an active adventure trip? After your sweat fest, place dirty clothes in a zippered anti-microbial bag to keep smells contained.

Stock up on two- one for your climbing shoes might not be a bad idea. :)

Music, though the universal go-to of almost every road tripper, can grow monotonous after a few thousand miles. It also doesn’t cut it for the periods between driving and falling asleep. Check out these other suggestions to pass the time.

Podcasts a'plenty
12. Roadshows: In love with Seinfeld? Can’t get enough of Shark Week? Get entire seasons of your favorite shows and put them on an external hard drive. This is especially nice when you are by yourself; the voices of other humans, even from a show, cuts the “lonely” edge off your travels and makes life seem somewhat more normal.

13. Local scene: Even better than watching actors on a show is going out and hanging with real folks. If you are near a town, make sure to explore bulletin boards at grocery stores or stop in at the visitor center, post office or gear shop. These places usually have postings or regional magazines showcasing local events. Check out a concert in the park or a pork rind festival (yup, it’s a thing in Ohio). You’ll meet new friends and bring home fascinating memories.  

14. Start a blog: This will take plenty of time off your hands. A  blog makes a great logbook for your travels, helps you keep in touch with family through video, photos and your written experiences and even helps you connect with others who are living the same way.

15. Spoken word: drive time is learn time! Think of your car as a mobile university and expand your mind by learning a new language, brushing up on a subject you haven’t investigated in a while, exploring new interests, or finishing books you didn’t have time to read before. This is all possible through podcasts and audio books, many of which are free and available on hundreds of subjects and book titles.

For a huge library of free classics and other popular audio books, check out Librivox — available online and as an app. Want a few suggestions on podcasts? Ask me (or suggest some) in the comments below!


  1. Gina, you rock! Talk about living life to the fullest! How much planning is required before you start an adventure like this? Do you have any advice for funding your everyday needs?

    1. RACH! So good to see you! :) And thank you. You know, it really depends. You can kinda stumble into this lifestyle, or you can plan it out for quite a while before. My first go around with this, I planned for about eight months prior. I took a three month break to ski back in Utah, then hit the road again, without any real plan.

      As far as funding, I have learned to be frugal. So when I have a full-time job, I save, knowing that my priority is traveling. I work jobs on the side, such as journalism, design, and as an independent distributor for ViSalus (which, come to think of, you would be really good at with your background). If I pursued any one of them full-time, I would make a lot more money :) but I like having the time to play.

      Are you thinking about taking a roadtrip?

    2. As in money? See my reply to Rachel, just above your comment. :)

  2. Good read! Would love to hear some bits on braving the winter and the challenges that go along with it (cold, moisture, etc).

    1. A good add for sure! To start, you can always crack the window just a bit to allow moisture to escape (as long as it's not snowing too much outside). I have kept the window open a lil even when their is a bit of snow; just the tiniest bit will keep air moving. Try cross-ventilating by opening windows kitty-corner to each other. Cold is an easy fix: just make sure you have a great down (or quality synthetic bag). In the wilds of the Yukon in winter, I've doubled up sleeping bags and slept in my down jacket as well. Feels like I'm wrapped in a soft pillow. Not good if you're claustrophobic, but I slept wonderfully. Stuff the clothes at the bottom of your bag to make changing in the morning an easier process. :)

  3. What advice would you give to someone looking to indefinitely live on the road?

    1. It wouldn't change much from what I've included here, since I was on the road for over two years. All the tips in this 3-part guide would be helpful. Solar power would be a great add. Get a cargo box for the top of your car. Get a nice little stove. Look for mini-appliances that are made for the car (there are lots of options out there if you do a google search.

  4. Hi! I am planning my move to move in January! I was wondering what kind of reliable car would you recommend? I have months to plan and save but my concern is figuring out how to get going and stay going!

    1. Hi Diana!

      Awesome — so excited for you! Where will you be going and how long will you be out on the road?

      I did a lot of research before getting my car and decided on the Mazda 3. They get great gas mileage (especially the newer ones with SkyActive technology) and well-built: I've never once had to stop in my travels due to car trouble. I've put 145,000 miles on it, from dry desert heat in Death Valley to the frozen roads of the Yukon in winter. It treats me so much better than I treat it. :)

      Another girl also purchased a Mazda 3 after talking with me about what I drive since she was making a move from Texas to Colorado and planned on road tripping quite a bit. I asked her a little while back about how she's doing with her car & she had the same feeligns about it —she's so happy she went with it.

      I fully recommend it.

      What adventures will you be going on? Keep me in the loop!

  5. I'm retiring soon, sell my house, and live out of my truck while travelling Canada and US. Great ideas in the entertainment section. Being antisocial, I really need to get out and meet people. It will keep me from getting board and prevent me from turning into the creepy old guy in the truck :) Also, I've checked into and will be spending some of my time helping on farms, hostels, etc. This keeps me in touch with others and allows me to stay somewhere room/board while saving my pension. Extra money put away for emergencies.

    1. That's sick a great idea with! Thanks for sharing, Jon!

  6. Hi Gina!

    I've read the whole thing and you must had such a great time! :)

    To make a long story short, since i'm posting from an anonymous account: my name is Phil i live in Quebec, Canada, im 33, and i'm looking to go across Canada in my car (or i might buy a van).

    I have a good job right now, but feeling i'm not living the real life. So my road trip might last a couple years like yours, and i will land where life will show me.

    The question i have:

    -Since you are on a road trip and you live in your car, when you need money and apply for a job, on the application form, what is the adress you write on the form? Fake adress or adress back home?

    Why i'm asking this is because as far as i want to live off the hook and will be looking for job paid in cash, i want to keep clean with the governement and do my tax income... Might want to settle down in the future and i want to avoid a paper trail nightmare getting back in the system, if i ever do ;)

    Ok thanks!

    Phil :)

    1. Hi Phil!

      When filling out tax info, I always put a real address. I used my parents' address or you could use a friend who you know would be willing to collect your mail for you and forwarding it to different stops along your path, if something ever needs to be sent to you. I haven't had to apply for jobs in the different places I've stopped for since I have worked remotely the entire time, so that makes it easy. But with a job where you are working for cash in a town for a few months, I would just either get a PO Box (not sure if they are called the same in Canada) in the town where you will be — OR — write in your home address and explain below it that you are living in town but your permanent address is back home. Does that make sense?

  7. I will be graduating high school soon and I'm very eager and anxious to hopefully begin my year off before college to travel. I am a girl, not so expierenced with living on my own. What is the best way to live on the road with making friends, carefully spending money and how making money for and during the trip would work? I would hopefully like my trip to last a year but the planning had only brought frustration from my lack of knowledge and the fact I can not find anyone to give me advi. Thank you! ~

    1. Hey there — exciting for you! Have you had a chance to read the other two parts in this series? Part I: (missing photos, sorry about that!) and Part III:

      I also wrote this for Liftopia about a few other of my adventure friends who make a living from the outdoors:

      There are other options as well. Feel free to email me! :)

  8. OkAy. Part time job in a dead and town. Taking online college classes. Few hundred saved up. I want to get the hell out of here, what tips do you have for money on the road

    1. Hey Catie, you're already part way there with your "online class" mentality. I made my money online through writing and photography. I spoke with three other travelers about how they did it and ended up writing this post for Liftopia that might be helpful:

      If you are going to go the writing route and haven't already started, blog now and ramp up your social media. I would plan on a solid six months of doing that before hitting the road; by that time — if you've been learning along the way and steadily writing and growing your network on social media, you should have some opportunities coming your way that can help you financially on the road, at least to supplement what you've saved. And it will just keep growing if you keep at it.

      It's not easy (see this post where I get "real" from the road: but if you have the feeling that it's for you, you should go for it. Just know it takes work, but it sounds like you're already putting work in.

      Hopefully these resources and tips help — let me know if you have any other questions. And I'm happy to introduce you to other long-time road trippers if you have a Twitter account. :) @ginabegin

  9. Amazing post! I am a solo traveler and I love reading these type of articles. Thanks a lot for sharing this informative blog. I am planning a san francisco road trip with my friends and family and I hope your tips will work out.


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