As we swing towards the holidays, I find myself holed up in my DIY Truck Camper writing up my recollections of the year past, waiting for the rain to pass. While I generally in these situations head immediately to a moisture-free locale or at least spend rainy days at the cafe, I decided to stick it out this time, biding my time playing guitar and setting up a makeshift awning / water catchment system. (I'm pleased to have collected another 5-gallons in a plastic jug I just picked up at the thrift store.)
I've spent the last week or so steadily recording a collection of off grid cooking videos and discovering new ways to use my tiny backpacking gear to cook and bake in ways I've never tried before. I've also been totally reorganizing the junk my truck, planning an interior rebuild in anticipation of a visiting guest.
So as I sit down to write about my year... I have to wonder...
Has your year been as weird as mine?
If I had to guess - based on how weird the *entire world* has been? I'm gonna guess "Yes." 😊
Mine has certainly been surprising!
How do I even summarize it? I'll break it into four parts:
- New Income & Traveling Partner!
- Business Heats Up -> New Camper Upgrades & Cross Country Trip
- Disaster Strikes!
- Break Time -> New Beginnings!
Here's the story of my year...
NEW INCOME + TRAVELING PARTNER
I suppose the story of my year really should go back to summer 2015 - basically the last time I sent you a real update. At the time, my income - mainly from video memberships - had fallen to a very undependable $100/mo... obviously not enough to live on!
But right after I sent that update, two major things happened: 1) I began offering services on Fiverr.com, and 2) I made a new friend on Facebook who would soon become my traveling partner.
Those two things would define the entire next year. She met me in Arizona and we camped our way across the southern stretch of the country in the hottest and wettest weather possible in the USA! It was truly ridiculous - but so worthwhile to have someone to share the adventure with.
BUSINESS HEATS UP --> NEW CAMPER UPGRADES & CROSS COUNTRY TRIP!
Eventually we had to part ways - I returning to AZ and she returning home to VA - but around that time, my little Fiverr freelancing biz had finally started to kick in. I had zoned in on a few offerings of simple web services that were attracting clients, and by March to May 2016, I began to get really busy... enough to get my income up to $600-800/mo.
Of course much of that income went immediately into my camper! Two years of back-maintenance, supplies, and assorted fees absorbed it like a sponge. 😊
One of the cool "upgrades" I was able to try is the Karma Wifi Hotspot. Well, it *was* cool... I mean it still is, but I discovered that while it did get me out of a few jams when I really needed internet, it's just as tough to find a good data signal when you're out in the wilderness. In fact the best use I found for it is to set it up while I'm at a cafe whose internet speed isn't up to snuff. The cool thing about Karma is that others in the same predicament can temporarily use my wifi for free, and Karma rewards me extra data for spreading the word. 😊
But definitely the biggest upgrade was my roof! During that cross country trip through the Southeast and non-stop rain and humid summer, my cool roof with the three skylights had become an unfixable leak hazard, and after leaving the leaky water-soaked roof to bake under a tarp in the summer heat, it had become a peeling moldy mess in need of serious replacement!
So I redid it completely, this time with an ultra-lightweight using "poor man's fiberglass" technique over styrofoam boards.. and it's now *arched*! I'll be uploading videos of the whole process to my video member site very soon. (And raising the price when I do, so be sure to join now if you're interested in those.)
As for the rest of that new income... that went into another cross-country trip! This time I made it a point to visit Taos, NM (to see the Earthships!), then straight across the flatlands, camping here and there, a bit longer in the Appalachians, tending to Fiverr jobs as they came in. I spent some extra time in VA and DE - deciding that I MUCH prefer the dry air to the 70-90% humidity back east! - and when the funds appeared in my account, I headed right back.
While I was briefly stuck in Delaware, "disaster" struck. My websites were not only hacked, but for some reason, they decided to delete them completely!
As a result I instantly lost around $250/mo of sporadic but fairly dependable income. There were ways to restore those sites, but it would take some work, and because I wasn't sure which backups were infected - they often use Trojan Horse attacks that only reveal themselves years later - I had to rebuild some by hand. Some to this day still haven't been fully rebuilt, including my original MobileRik.com site.
Around that time, there were two other downturns to my income:
My Fiverr business had become unsustainable, due to too many little jobs with too many different clients and constantly needing to rush to wifi from who-knows-where. It was way too anxiety-provoking and quite the opposite of the "simple life" I was looking for. I was completely burned out.
The other thing that happened after camping a few weeks above Boulder, Colorado, is that my computer suddenly decided not to turn on! For someone who makes a living is the internet, this was one "hint" too many - I was "doing it wrong". I needed to take a serious break and reevaluate my approach.
BREAK TIME & NEW BEGINNINGS!
Fortunately, an old friend heard my distress call and offered a room to stay in while I pieced things back together. I found some odd work donating plasma, and I finally got the money to leave for AZ by doing day labor as a traffic flagger.
During my time there, a number of interesting things happened, but the most significant is that I met someone online with whom I would soon be spending hours a day video chatting. And our relationship developed to the point that she'll soon be visiting from overseas for a month of traveling around my haunts in the Southwest plus a few National Park hikes. I'm really excited!
And in the course of things, I've found myself reinspired to not only do some serious remodeling of the camper internals - (to fit two!) - but to dedicate more time to my DIY Off Grid Camping websites. Besides my original site (completely redone as a personal blog and hub) and my BuildATruckCamper.com site, I'll be launching a new website dedicated to mobile off grid in general along with a giant series of member videos, the first batch of which will be all about the various off grid cooking devices and hacks -- solar, thermal, wood gas, and more -- that I use every day to cook good food for nearly free. (ex. The other day I used my little backpacking set to 1. Bake cake, and 2. Bake one of the most amazing homemade pizzas I've ever had!) 😊 You can look forward to my camper-friendly dirt-cheap-off-grid-cooking package being available in January, as the videos - fifteen at this point - are nearly complete!
My immediate focus the January will be to raise funds to give my friend the best camping tour of the Southwest I can manage. (It's possible I may need to find work to afford it!) In my free time, I'll be steadily updating my blog with previous travel photos and videos and writing a few more articles on Camper DIY. I also hope to update the list more frequently as well.
In the meantime, feel free to tell me about your own "weird year"!
Have A Happy Holidays!
(Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!)