The Facts of LIB

Posted July 19, 2017 – Narrated by Jim
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Where do you go?

Where do you stay?

How much does it cost?

These questions are highest on our frequently asked questions list – even before we left San Diego.

Until today, the answers have been anybody’s guess.

Yes, it might be as boring as egg-salad, but the facts and figures are now in.

Introducing: LIB Infographics!

From our first complete year, we’ve mined-out 12 months of information and created a landscape of facts about our travel adventure. Okay … truth is there’s no “we” about it.

Since we’re talking about facts here let’s keep it real … this is my personal project. Just because I’m a retired CFO doesn’t mean I should stop doing what I love – play with numbers.

But, to be fair, most people get no kicks from mundane – so, as a gift to Carmen I curated the data with visuals.

Last night we opened a good bottle of Cabernet to celebrate Year One and I presented Carmen with the beautiful data, and we called it a date.

Essentially, this is the bare-bones facts of our journey: We bought our Airstream, Beauty, in April 2015 in Alabama, towed her to San Diego in July 2015, moved into Beauty in April 2016  and, finally, took her on the road full-time July 18, 2016.

So, the following statistics begin on July 18, 2016, 365 days ago.

Okay, without further ado …Unveil the infographics!

Below is the map of our journey as of July 18, 2017. Click the map for an animated version at your own risk. Jim’s a Star Trek fan, so we apologize in advance.

Now for the details as of July 18, 2017 …

November 17, 2023 Update – Click here to see the latest updated travel map and facts

costs and statistics of full-time traveling

So, what surprised us and what didn’t?

What part of our experience was hidden in the data? How can these pictures inform our future LIB plans?

Well, fuel costs were much lower than projected and camping fees much higher. Around a ¼ of our nights were spent with no out-of-pocket costs!

And, it’s been a challenge to adhere to the 4-3-2 rule. Our opinion hasn’t changed that a perfect year would be spent in 24 unique locations as we follow the weather – but we’ve stayed in three times as many places with an average of 4 days in 88 different places – far, far from our intended forecast!

But, this first year has been a period of discovery.

How can we know where we’d like to be if we’ve never been there?

Example: Michigan. While just passing through the Mitten State last month we learned to love the place, the weather, the people … and we hope, someday, to spend an entire summer of two-week “vacations” around Lake Michigan. Here are 50 best things to do in Michigan.

Our original plan had been to frequent the National Parks, but unless a park fell directly on our route, we usually passed. Several reasons for that:

  1. Federal parks are hard to access without making reservations – especially in the summertime, weekends and holidays.
  2. Cell service is usually nonexistent.
  3. Sites are mostly primitive with no electrical hook-ups, water, sewer or a source for propane.
  4. Few sites are large enough to accommodate our rig.

We love our national parks, so we’re working to adapt by:

  1. Installing solar and a DC to AC electricity converter to relieve our dependency on infrastructure. And, now that we don’t need electrical hook-ups (which are often faulty or disrupted by weather situations, anyway) we’re also conserving propane.
  2. Our new energy efficiency has enabled us to focus on water conservation. Now – given fair weather – we’re confident enough to plan for fourteen-days straight of dry camping (no hookups at all).
  3. Now, with a grip on solar and water, our current project is to boost cell service. Connectivity is a primary necessity for a two-week stay. Most National Parks (and many State Parks) intentionally resist providing services, or they throttle provided services during peak hours. Lack of services hinder hiking, kayaking, shopping, or even walking the dog at night unless we stay together in case of emergency. The walkie-talkies are okay for short trips apart, but connectivity is a safety issue for us – not a toy or media dependency.

So what did Carmen and I learn here?

Not much.

But the data confirms and, therefore, advises our plans.

As a result, we’ll visit protected wilderness areas more often; drop in on more Harvest Hosts and BLM sites  because we prefer public lands, top-notch resorts (both urban and countryside) and quiet, secluded hide-aways.

As we continue LIB the data will grow and, periodically, I’ll update the infographics.

Our home certainly isn’t static, but the data we gather along the way will be a familiar place – a clearing, if you will – where we can return again and again to reflect, think, plan and where I can hoard as much as I want.

I’m a simple man and my needs are few … a big pile of data, a growler of beer and my beloved beside me in the wilderness.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

Here are all our “On-the-Road” Anniversary blogs posts.

44 thoughts on “The Facts of LIB

  1. Wow! Great data and I’m impressed you kept such detailed records while traveling. (PS I lived near you when we were kids). You’re inspiring!!!

    1. Lori, thank you for your kind words. Where did you live when you and I were kids? Did you go to Sweetwater High School? Your aren’t Lulu are you?

      1. I lived on Rachael across from Gaston’s which I think was behind you. I remember your magic shows in the backyard! SUHI 1973! Now in Kansas having adventures in my 1959 Oasis trailer 😃

  2. GREAT DATA!!! Enthralling! Like you, I too love compiling and analyzing practical facts! Very interesting. I’m sure Carmen was swept off her feet by the plethora of information (or maybe she was so swept because she drank more than her share of the Cabernet, listening to the stats!). Your stats tell an interesting economic story, and the Blog fills in the “color.” We are now avid devotees of the LIB Blog, and enjoy the vicarious adventures right along with you! Keep ’em coming!!

    Jim and Melinda

    1. Jim and Melinda, It was so great to meet with you two after being gone a year. You are my inspiration for retiring !!!!! We do indeed have so much in common.

  3. Great info!!! I am like Carmen, don’t bore me with the stats, just pour the wine and keep driving! But my husband, retired Engineer & COO, had me read this blog aloud and was entranced!!! Thanks for the info! Perhaps we will cross paths someday, in Michigan?! @4000Rivets

    1. Kristin, well I must admit this blog post was not Carmen’s favorite. But, I sure enjoyed it. We LOVE Michigan and will be back for a long visit for sure.

  4. Living the dream as you travel through the good ol USA, who could ask for anything more!
    I love your travel log and all you adventures!

  5. I loved the graphs, the data and the journal entries! Awesome info! I’ve learned a few things just from this one post! (HH. & BLM and the average monthly cost of campsites!) thanks!

  6. Love the data. Surprised you found campsite costs high. I thought $25 a night was pretty good. Love that map, can you make year 2 red? Should you go to Michigan let me know…you can stay in the apple orchard . Beautiful there.

    1. Jan,

      We were surprised by that too. Campground prices vary widely due to season and location – and because we’re full-timing, we get the benefit of off-season rates. We were surprised by how expensive some campgrounds are but off-season they’re cheap and the weather – so far – has been fair. We’re noticing that some state park fees are going up and they’re adding unavoidable extra fees for parking your towing vehicle and for services like the dump station. Some of these fees are not advertised, so we’ve learned to ask.

      Love your birthday hair!


  7. I so wish you would do this for us! Haha I have all of this. It haven’t put it together. We were one year July 2nd in ours

  8. Jim, as you know I love statistics, numbers, graphics, even financial data. Having traveled across country by auto many times, the first thing I noticed was your travel through Texas and you choose to drive through the entire width—about 770 miles as the bird flies. Reading further, I saw you didn’t record an overnight stay in Texas…and then you mentioned adhering to the 4-3-2 rule….! Those three points of data didn’t work for me since you would have had to be traveling at 192.5 miles per hour to get through Texas in a single day!! Then I clicked on the map animation and discovered that you INCLUDED the portion of the trip where you towed Beauty from Alabama to San Diego and I remembered that you stated you didn’t include that portion of the trip in your statistics (4th piece of data). Yea, I did that in my first read through. Sorry Jim, scientifically speaking, this is inconsistent or misleading (but only to numbers guys like me) as it makes your trip seem longer in respect to your data graphics. And in today’s politics this would be called ‘fake news’ or something worse. Of course, I am totally teasing you! But I am letting you know I haven’t changed much and can cross reference data in a few heart beats. You are now officially on notice: You will be audited…with a big giggle. Thanks for the post and so glad you are having fun. 😉 I am off to Lisbon August 5th for four weeks for a ‘recon visit’ before I obtain my Portugal residency visa in October. Keep up the great adventure and keep posting. Your posts always provide me an alternative to my world traveling adventures… Cheers! herb

  9. Brilliant! I love the how do we know till we’ve been there statement also. We feel like you did about Michigan but for us it is Maine and Arkansas, and now Virginia has been added to the list of go back and spend the summer. Thanks for sharing, love it

  10. By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
    By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
    At the doorway of his wigwam,
    In the pleasant Summer morning,
    Hiawatha stood and waited.
    All the air was full of freshness,
    All the earth was bright and joyous,
    And before him, through the sunshine,
    Westward toward the neighboring forest
    Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,
    Passed the bees, the honey-makers,
    Burning, singing in the sunshine.

    Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow
    about Lake Michigan

  11. This is great— thanks for sharing! One question: how big is your rig? You mentioned it was too big for a lot of national parks

  12. James, This is awesome! Love the graphics. Wish you’d included your rig monthly maintenance average! It’s the biggest mystery for my planned budget. Too big for NP; Which AS do you have? 30′? I’ll be traveling full-time in the AS Flying Cloud 19′ very soon. ‘I ‘plan’ to do maybe half your monthly miles of 1200. Congrats on your solar

  13. I love the graphics and the info. This is the easiest way for me to give my husband the information he needs to see that it’s possible to live this lifestyle without a million dollars in the bank!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Irvie. Yes, as we travel we’ve seen that the economic landscape of RV travel is most flexible. Now that it’s over and behind us, we can’t overstate the importance of our planning and preparation stage.

      Safe Travels!


  14. Very helpful; thanks. With Judy being a soon to retire (two weeks!) CPA/CFO married to this retired CPA/Banker, the info was in our language! You might not wish to share it, but would be curious to know monthly costs for food (wine is a separate line item for us!), technology, and repairs/maintenance/upgrades to Beauty and Beast. Have you found any other expense category large enough to track?

    1. Great questions, Michael. We’ll probably talk more about food in the future. It’s complicated. Even before LIB our food and wine stats were higher-than-average and we’ve pretty much taken our culinary habits on the road with us. We like to eat good food and drink good beer and wine. We seek out the most popular local eateries which are usually not the most expensive. Local produce, farms and farmer’s markets are some of our favorite visits. The more we travel, we realize that food is what “we do”. It’s our entertainment and how we like to pass the time. We like to cook and find the highest quality eggs, meat and produce. So it might be embarrassing to show our food and wine stats.

      I’ve heard other full-timers say their food budget is less than ¼ of ours and I know they eat healthy and are great cooks! So, I think it’s safe to say that what you spend on food is entirely up to you. Food does cost more in some areas and costs less in others – so, it balances out. For instance, our trailer was in the maintenance bay at 7AM this morning at AS, so we ate out. We had eggs, bacon, toast, home fries (that were homemade and not out of a bag) and coffee. The bill came to $13. In San Diego it would be closer to $20-$24. The other night we had a pitcher of Stone IPA for $14 on a beautiful outdoor patio. Hmmmm… maybe we should stay in Ohio for a while and make up for what we spent on food, beer and restaurants in Jackson Hole, WY 😀

      Same answer for repairs, upgrades and enhancements for our rig. Unless the issue is critical, it’s a splurge. Repair for the blowout was critical – everything else is a lifestyle choice. The solar installation and inverter will save us money in the longrun, but we opted to go solar for different reasons – lifestyle – and we’ll have more to say about that soon.

      I hope that helps!

      Great to hear from you Michael! Congratulations to Judy 😀 Woo-hoo!

      1. Thanks for the detailed response. Judy and I love to cook and we enjoy good beer and wine, so our food budget is always higher than the average couple. Cooking together over a nice glass of wine and then enjoying the meal over another nice glass of wine is one of our favorite experiences. You should see the cooking gear we take; that is why I had to add air bags!

  15. Thanks for all the interesting data. My husband and I will be departing Michigan this November in our 25ft airstream for a 18 month (minimum) journey across the US. We too, are planning to “going where the weather suits my clothes” (thanks for the idea, Harry Nilsson.)
    We’ve created a budget and looking at your numbers, I’m happy to say that we may have over estimated our travels.
    We also tend to search out the best eateries and breweries so our f&b budget may eat up our other savings. But, in our opinion, that’s a good thing!
    I follow your blog and plan to create my own once the journey begins.
    Maybe we will meet at some local eatery one day, eating farm fresh food, drinking fine wine, or local beer overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan or another yet to be determined lake along the way.
    Happy travels

  16. Love your detailed stats. I was born in San Diego in 1944 (my mom and dad worked in aircraft plants, she was one of the few female flight mechanics) but moved to L.A. when I was 5. Loved to take the train back there in my teens. Always nostalgic for the San Diego of my youth. We have had 5 vintage Airstreams: ‘65 17’ Caravelle we still own, ‘72 and’75 31’ Sovereign Land Yachts, ‘78 25’ and ‘95 Classic motor home (gift from our 3 sons), consecutively. Travelled across the USA separately and on several Wally Byam Caravan Club caravans including the Canadian Maritime provinces and the all around New Foundland. Highly recommended! Some of the best times of our lives were in WBCCI as well as made some of our best friends! Unfortunately had to give it up due to my husband’s failing health @ 2015. I’m so jealous of what you are doing! Will be following your adventures avidly!

    1. PS Loved our stay at Jackson Center having a washer/dryer installed in our motor home. Alumapalooza was going on then and we participated in that as well as spent time in the lobby with our Labradoodle pup—they called him a “love sponge” and said he was so well behaved they hardly knew he was there!
      2 of our 3 sons enjoy Airstreams: oldest son redoing the Caravelle and middle son and family currently camping in Falls Creek State Park in TN in their 1986 Sovereign he’s been working on since he bought it gutted @2005.

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