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Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by Jamie Z, Feb 26, 2008.
It's not about cheap, or even frugal. Thrifty, maybe. Deliberate simplicity. Need reduction.
(Sorry about the length of this post...)
I tend to be frugal out of necessity... so I apologize in advance if any of my tips offend. I've been in some spots in my life before where a $30 dive hotel room was an unattainable luxury. I'm fortunate now that I can afford a motorcycle, gasoline and insurance, but that $30 still buys a lot of gas.
I've read the whole thread, and the motorcycle-specific tips (such as where to look for free camping - I hadn't considered cemetaries or churches!) are especially appreciated. It's a great guide, and the additions by other commenters are very helpful as well.
Here are the tips I've got. I spent 6 months in Berkeley intentionally homeless in order to learn urban survival a while back, and I think I spent less than $100 that entire time. I am still a novice at meshing these techniques with a motorcycle, but they may help someone or give somebody a new idea. It's always easier to do some of these things if you're spending more than a day or two in a given location, and some of these tips are useless if you're not in a major city, but those are the places I find to be the most expensive anyways...
* An alternative to hitchhiking is Rideshare. There are a number of websites and Craigslist usually has a section for it too in each city. Pitch in a couple of bucks for gas, offer to drive if the vehicle's owner doesn't mind, and you can get some great conversation. It's a good way to "pre-screen" people... as a driver you are assured that your passenger at least knows how to use a computer and you can find out a bit about them beyond looks before you agree to the ride. I've driven from Toronto to Vancouver with a passenger this way, it really helped with gas costs and sanity.
* BLM public land, if you can find it, has some pretty lax regulations regarding length of stay (14 days is common), and rarely requires any sort of camping permit or fees as long as it is undeveloped "primitive" camping.
* Starbucks. They are everywhere, they have clean single-serving bathrooms where you can wash up, and they almost always have comfy chairs, outlets and free wifi. I always buy something small to not abuse their hospitality, and I've never been bothered even if I hang out for hours. Libraries are also great for charging devices and wifi, plus you might accidentally learn something.
* Food not Bombs has been mentioned, they are a great organization. Find information on FNB in your area here. Most often these are run by "free spirited" types, if you chat up the people serving, you can sometimes network your way into free temporary lodging, but I'm a quasi-hippie so your mileage may vary. I spent three awesome nights sleeping in a wigwam built in a backyard this way. You can also usually find out where/when they cook at if you want to volunteer, it's a good way to meet more people and pay it forward, this group takes "trash food" (usually in my experience they ask the grocers for the ugly vegetables) and turns it into healthy, if bland fare for the homeless.
* Speaking of homeless, they know where everything is. If you don't look like you've got a ton of money, they're usually pretty willing to tell you where you can get whatever you need in a given city. I've found out where to get free showers, safe places to sleep, free food - soup kitchens, food pantries, churches, hare krishna temples, whatever, just by talking to them. There are a lot of folks with mental illness and substance abuse problems, but just be polite, stay away from inflammatory discussion topics, and be grateful for their advice. I've never had a truly negative encounter this way. Networking is a powerful tool, and social capital can be worth far more than money.
* Dumpster Diving. You might think it sounds gross, but I tell you, I've found some amazing things in dumpsters, and sealed containers wash off easily. It's illegal for stores to sell expired food, so if they've overpurchased something and it hits the sell by date, they chuck it and write it off as a loss. I've found over a dozen gallons of milk, 4 cases of yogurt, 10 lbs of fancy european Whole Foods cheese... There was one dumpster which was behind a bakery, continuously full of fantastic day-old bread. Did you know that many factories (such as breweries) throw away perfectly good products? Use your head, go late at night, and be a ninja. Stay out of trash compactors. You can also try going into grocery stores toward the end of the evening, explaining that you are hungry and asking if they have any expired/ugly food they're going to throw away. This is more hit and miss, as everybody is afraid of lawsuits these days.
* Abandoned Buildings. Easier by far out in the sticks, harder to manage in cities, I've squatted on more than one occasion. I'm not sure how it would work with a bike, as these tend to be in more run-down neighborhoods where I'd be concerned about theft, but if you can find a way to make it work, you've got free shelter where you're less likely to be hassled by the cops for the night. Arrive after dark, leave before dawn, obey no trespassing signs and don't make a mess. If a building is obviously abandoned, try the doors, in my experience somebody else may have had the same idea before you.
* Free Skool. Especially in larger cities, you can sometimes find free, "sliding scale", or "pay what you can" classes if you're bored. I've seen everything from yoga to juggling and sailing classes for free. Here's a list. You can sometimes find the same sorts of things on Craigslist events, or by going to a natural foods store and looking at the bulletin board full of fliers, but it's much more hit and miss. Sometimes you can find places willing to accept "work trade", meaning you spend some of your time doing something for them in exchange for something you want. I've seen more than one martial arts studio or yoga studio offer training for work trade, and I once got a free bicycle in exchange for disassembling donated bikes at a bike collective. I've networked with gardening/permaculture people and harvested tomatoes in exchange for big bags of produce. Barter rocks!
* I haven't seen anybody mention it, but a lot of wild plants are edible. Be sure of what you're picking, be mindful to not gather any plants too close to roadways (herbicides and heavy metal/chemical pollution from vehicles are common), and know how to cook them. I've been known to grab an orange hanging over a fence, climb fig trees, or gather wild greens or acorns. I find it fun to explore for these, it's like a treasure hunt! It also makes me appreciate my surroundings more, as my food does not have to come from a store. Be aware of the local laws, some places are less friendly about foraging than others.
* I'd like to echo the comments about the kindness of strangers. Many people are willing to try to help as long as you appear slightly in need but don't appear threatening. I've had a lady at a cafe notice that a friend of mine and I were eying the pastries but not buying anything - she approached us later and offered us what remained of the entire case as it was the end of the night and the food would end up in the trash otherwise. We gave the extras to the homeless people on the street, who were ecstatic about free muffins and scones. We are often taught in this society that other people are inherently out to screw us over and while that may be true in many cases, there's definitely something to be said by giving others the benefit of the doubt. You may be pleasantly surprised.
* The less you plan, the more awesome things will tend to find you instead.
I've also found this site useful for travel tips: http://www.digihitch.com/ - it's a forum for hitchhikers, vagabonds, and the like.
Welcome to Utah.
Amen to that.
Nice one. Thanks.
Hey, I just read through the article and several of the posts, and I want to thank everyone for the great ideas. I'm looking forward to making my first almost-cross-country ride in a couple of years (Route 66 in 2015), and many day trips to try things out. I'll definitely be watching and reading for more tips, and sharing things I've found as helpful.
Nobody has mentioned it, how come? Or did I miss it?
I always keep a ziploc bag of rice. Here in Canada we have Bulk Barn, stores where you can serve yourself rice in a bag in whatever quantity you wish. It fills you up, you can add anything you want to it for flavour, and is cheap. A multivitamin + rice is a cheap alternative to eating "well" if money is a primary concern.
Protip I haven't seen mentioned:
Toss your wet electronics in there to dry them. I have rescued several devices (including a waterproof camera that seemed to only be waterproof in regard to getting the water _out_) using this method.
Also, for the hammock campers - I've not yet tried attaching one end to the bike, wouldn't it tip over?
Great thread, thanks for the tips Jamie et al.
Mine certainly would.
You can make it work. You dont have the bike support the end of the "rope" just get it (the rope) up off the ground and anchor the end in the ground or some other point past the bike.
You guys are awesome! It's like KLR owner heaven.
cheap bastard that I am...
Hey man, our grandparents called that frugality and it used to be a virtue...
... at least that's what I tell myself.
Enjoyed meeting you the other day. I have enjoyed your tips on traveling light. Less is more. I learned that on our ride to Alaska. If you are in Texas(Granbury) you have a place to stay and dinner is included. Also FREE Beer. Hope to see you again down the road...
love the rice to get moisture out of electronics idea!
A couple of thoughts that occurred to me while I was reading this thread.
Consumer Reports did a little piece on bags of tuna. When you weigh actual tuna in both the cans and the bag then the price is about the same. You are paying for a lot of water in cans of tuna and it is also slightly cooked in the canning process which doesn't occur when it's bagged.
In Denny's restaurants there is a free magazine that lists lots of motels in a particular region. It is full of coupons for cheap stays. They might have them at other places but I've only seen them at Denny's.
I found this excellent thread today. Great ideas. Thanks all. I don't think anyone has mentioned 99 Cent Only stores. You can almost get almost anything in those stores, from canned food to fresh produce, to underwear and toothpaste. Everything is...... you guessed it 99 cents! I don't know if these kind of stores are everywhere, but here in Southern California they are all over the place. Great places to shop.
I've not read the entire thread, but I have seen several people mention that truck stops are a good place for a shower. What I've not seen mentioned is that truckers get a free shower with every fill up. Many times a driver is just leaving home or does not need a shower that day. They will sometimes leave their shower slip at the fuel desk for someone else to use. It doesn't hurt to ask if anyone has left a shower slip behind. You can usually get a driver to shout out on the CB for an unused shower slip.
I'm just coming off a week long trip, and during a visit to a National Park I saw the sign listing rates for park passes. $80 for an annual pass looked like a good deal, but it also said that a permanently disabled lifetime pass was available. I am classified as disabled by the Veterans Administration and Social Security, so I asked the ranger what I had to do to get a pass. I was expecting that I would have to fill out a form and mail it to someplace in Washington D.C. Instead, she told me I just had to sign an affidavit that I was disabled and had paperwork to prove it. The ranger then handed me a card and said to sign the back. She told me that I would need to show the card and an ID whenever I enter a National Park. It is also good for 1/2 price camping at the parks. If you happen to be disabled (or at least dishonest), you might want to get in on this action.
Not very admirable.
http://store.usgs.gov/pass/general.html for more information about the passes. My mom was traveling with us in '05 and qualified for the Senior pass, so she got one of those, which allowed us in the van to visit the parks.
As for the disabled pass, here are the requirements from the website:
I'll pass on the dishonest. I can wait another 7 years for the Senior pass.
And you can get your Senior Pass while entering any NP that has a staffed kiosk. I got mine at Crater Lake and missed getting it at Yosemite by two weeks.
Great post....lots of good tips there I'll have to remember!
What age is considered senior and would it apply to Canadians visiting the US?
Per the site: Senior Pass ($10.00 - valid for the lifetime of the pass owner; must be 62+ older, U.S. citizen, and a permanent resident)