How to Hit the Road on the Cheap





Introduction: How to Hit the Road on the Cheap

About: skin on frame kayak builder since 1987

This isn't so much an instructable as an inspirational. The idea of this instructable is to inspire people to go nomadic. I highly recommend it. I did this way back when I was still in highschool. A friend and I took off on our bikes and pedaled from Milwaukee, headed south into Indiana, got as far as Tippecanoe state park and headed back north to Muskegon, MI to take the ferry back across Lake Michigan. The trip took a few weeks and we did the whole thing with 20 dollars in our pocket. We didn't have tents and we couldn't afford camping fees so we slept in dirt lots, on the front steps of a school, etc.

So anyway, last weekend we ran into this guy up in Mendocino, CA. He was walking his bike from Texas up to Oregon. See the next slide for more details on how he had his bike arranged.

Step 1: Lash All the Stuff You Need to Your Bike.

Here's a better shot of the bike and the layout of the stuff.
By the way, when you're on the road for a long time, you need a bank account to draw on or some skills to make some spare cash. This guy was both a preacher and a sign and mural painter. I suppose that's how he made some money. Don't know how much money you can make preaching, but maybe some congregation takes pity on you and gives you some money to spread the word.

Step 2: Support Yourself

I added this slide to give you the nomad's own explanation for how he makes a living while on the road. Did I mention that he didn't hit us up for any money? I suspect that means he made a living of sorts with his painting. Instructable readers and contributors are clever dudes and dudettes. No reason they couldn't do something clever on the road to support themselves.



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    It seems odd that this guy was walking with the bike rather than biking with a trailer. It would also think that you could get by with a lot less than that.

    2 replies

    I agree especially in the summer. Although it depends how long term you plan on being nomadic or I guess even indefinatley. Of course I'd have to have a solar panel and some kind of generator on the bike to charge a laptop which would intern charge other devices I can't leave home without. Otherwise I beleave the kit is a bit excessive but the side saddles and other side things make it look like alot more then it is.

    Hmm. I like how you say "can't leave home without".

    Yes, yes you can.

    1. Your cell phone (if you *really* can't live without that, because, ah, you can) doesn't use that much juice. You can easily get a solar-panel backpack, OR...

    2. Public libraries and internet cafes often have computers you can use. Either for free or for fee. If you can't stand to be offline for more than 48 hours at a time, this works just fine. You can also charge your cell at such places without hassle.

    Now, aside from that, this guy is basically just taking bike touring to the extreme. There's other details online or in other 'ibles with more information than this has. This 'ible is mostly completely lacking in information.

    I also


    I hitched right around Australia in my first year out of high school. I got by with what I could carry on my back, and did jobs I picked up along the way. It was a big education, I certainly was a lot older and wiser by the time I made it back home.

    Learning to sleep anywhere was a necessity, I got so that I could just lie down on bare concrete and get a good night's kip.

    Early on I met someone who gave me some good advice about sleeping by the road: don't sleep too close to the verge, if someone decides to do a U-turn or swerves they'll go right over you.

    I found that generally people don't seem to see you if you pitch a tent or lay out your sleeping bag in some bushes or behind trees, or if they see you they don't want to get involved with an unknown (and possibly crazy) person, so I never had any trouble from strangers while sleeping in parks, public land, anywhere beside the road, either in country towns or out in the desert. Even in big cities there are always bits of wasteland or deserted parks, especially if you pitch your camp after dark and get gone in the morning.

    1 reply

    Lots of good advice. A friend and I did some long bicycle trips when we were 16. No tent. Slept on steps of public buildings, in dirt lots, anywhere. I am amazed that we were never run over by a truck. After I got out of the army I drove up the UK in my beetle. Slept in the back. Always found a place where I could park it and sleep unmolested except in the big cities where I took a room. Yes it's possible.

    Nativewater Thanks for your inspiration ! I have lived many nomadic years in the US. Your article inspires me to write & share more about my experiences around the how-what-when-where of living a lifestyle that many are intrigued & motivated to experience. Having Living in treehouse, yurt, tipee, schoolbuse, On bicycle, earth shelters, cars, & caves has been an adventours & difficult lifestyle since 18 yr old. Food shelter clothing water & minúscula finances... my only focus for many years. I have found multiple way to live a free & wild nomadic lifestyle while also still being engaged with community & social gatherings.

    1 reply

    Yeah, write about & share your nomadic experiences. Seems like lots of people would like to do this sort of thing but are afraid to. Definitely possible when you're young and don't have a family. And now that the economy is shrinking, ever more people are freed of their jobs or leave school without a job and could maybe benefit from what you have learned.

    I can relate to this guy. I work in a sign shop, do art and would have liked to have been a muralist. I am settling for plywood yard art at present, not the usual stuff mine is unique. I am a married man so I can't do what he's doing but possibly in a van designed for two. I also am a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ and so I would REALLY like to meet this guy as we have loads in common and the real kicker is I love nomadic lifestyles and was looking at yurts and murals on the Instructables website when I accidently found this Instructable. I wish him the best and will say a prayer for him. Thank you or this I rally enjoyed it. Peace!

    2 replies

    I think this guy was headed toward Portland or Seattle. Who knows, more of us may be living this lifestyle in the future if the depression deepens. Back in the last depression lots of people without a job took to the road.

    I definitely agree with you on this, please check out this friendly Instructable also:

    I agree also with alaskan tent lady's philosophy and her political stance on anti-communitarianism. I also believe things are going to get rough. I myself went to the library yesterday and checked out a couple of books on tipi's. My wife would have a hard time with tipi living so I may go with the yurt idea as it is more of a home like structure. Tipi's and yurts are both portable structures but will we able to afford gas is something yet to find out. I think all of us interested should ready ourselves by building our own shelters in advance of a possible economic collapse while we can afford it. If we find ourselves unable to travel we will have to find land and permission to use it. I may sound extreme but this depression may be bad, if we have our own shelters we can't be kicked out of our homes. Peace! :)

    I've been hunting for the right microbus for the past while, along the lines of something like this, though with a vehicle. The biggest thing for me is that you can comfortably sleep several people in it. I've been planning an extended road trip with a couple buddies of mine, and I've been trying to keep it under 700 bucks there & back, lodging and such inside the bus. Taking free food from complimentary breakfasts and storing it ; the epitome of the american dream. Or maybe not...

    Me and my girlfriend are planning on doing something like this in Europe and Asia for an extended period of time, just kind of wandering from place to place, though we (obviously) can't walk or bike across an ocean. However, we do hope to stay for probably a year and hopefully do some work along the way to pay for food. I'm particularly interested in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland where we'd have the benefit of Every Man's Right to The Land (AKA Right to Access). I'm not sure how it is in other countries, but you can read about the general idea and specifically in the Nordic countries here:

    Not to mention Scandinavia sure does have some nice scenery, but I plan to go all over! I only hope it one day becomes a reality.

    It kind of seems like a bum with a bike. Almost as if the bike replaced his shopping cart. I guess the only thing that really seperates him from that is that he didn't ask you for money and he actually earns it. Neat instructable, although the information really doesn't help someone like me, still quite interesting.

    1 reply

    Bum has some negative connotations. I don't think they quite apply to him. Nomadic lifestyles in general are going out of style because of the lack of public land and laws that discourage people from living someplace without paying rent. There are no tax breaks for nomads but there are tax breaks for mortgage holders. Anyway, in today's jargon, we have to commend the guy for having a low carbon footprint.

    What are your recommendations for being good at finding places to sleep? Can you elaborate on "dirt lots or the steps of schools"? Also, how do you sleep comfortably on the road, if not camping? Do you bring a sleeping bag? I slept in a taco made out of a tarp and an airline blanket, at the bottom of a ditch, on a bike trip from Boston to Montreal. I woke up shivering and soaking wet from water collecting under the tarp from my own breathing. That DIY on-the-road refrigerator almost convinced me to go home and sleep in a real bed.

    2 replies

    I can't give universal advice because conditions vary. It might help to prototype or go on a short shakedown cruise to make sure your gear makes sense. On the trip I alluded to, we had sleeping bags but no tent. One night it started raining so we packed up and moved on to the front steps of a school that had some overhang to shelter us from the rain. We moved on when teachers started showing up for work. The guy from Texas walking his bike told us that he sometimes pitches his tent next to the highway since the highways are on state land. Cops will stop and run a check on him, but he says they let him stay once they have confirmed that there are no outstanding warrants on him. And check out sideways' suggestion for stealth camping.

    Do a search on 'stealth camping' for ideas on places to sleep.

    Thanks for the "Inspirational". I love bike touring also and find it is a great low carbon comfortable adventure. Two fun sites to check out for related inspiriation are: The bike tourer's journal posting site (it's like "adventurables" site for bike tourers), and, the bike touring group I rode across the U.S. with in 1976.

    A few years back I was driving down the road and this guy was pulling a full sized crucifix on his back. There appeared to be small wheels on the bottom the crucifix. I imagine it becomes way too difficult to drag one along, or you might wear out the bottom very quickly.

    Hey, I thinx I met him at the front of walmart in texas, did he ever get the shoes he needed? He looks alot better. His bike has shrunk a bit, me thinks he sold all the bigger stuff ta get by. Texas will ware out anyone.