Cycling the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route

Today we're excited to announce that we have been featured on Paul Frolov's wesite, ExtraHyperActive!

The goal at ExtraHyperActive is to empower people of all abilities to step out of their comfort zone and help them plan, budget and take necessary steps to accomplish their bucket list adventures.

Read about our experience cycling the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, and be sure to check out the other inspiring posts on ExtraHyperActive. 

3 Basic Behaviors to Train your Dog BEFORE you Move into a Camper

Indy watching squirrels!

Indy watching squirrels!

Are you getting ready to travel full time in an RV or camper? Are you going to be traveling with your dog? You’ve probably spent hours researching the type of camper, the logistics of downsizing to fit in that camper, and where you will go in the camper. Very often I meet fellow full time campers who planned and prepared for everything except their dog’s behavioral issues. 

It makes sense! At home their dog caused no problems so they didn’t expect him/her to cause any problems on the road. However, the reality is that in a house dogs have a LOT of room so small behavioral issues are easily ignored. Furthermore, the routine and space of a house is a much easier environment for a dog to adapt to than a camper or RV. 

Luckily, some planning and work BEFORE you start traveling will make both you and your dog’s lives much more pleasant and peaceful on the road. Here are 3 basic behaviors you should train your dog before you move into your camper or RV. (If you're on the fence about traveling with your dog read about why our dog travels with us.)

1. The Default Sit

Your dog probably knows how to sit already, if he/she doesn’t here is a step by step guide to training “sit”. A default sit is simply taking sit to the next level, and turning it into a communication tool for you and your dog. A default sit means that your dog sits anytime he/she needs something from you. 

For example, if your dog wants to go outside he/she sits by the door, if your dog wants a toy from a countertop he/she sits in front of it, etc. 

The default sit gives your dog an appropriate way to ask for things from you (as opposed to inappropriate methods such as jumping, barking, nipping, etc.) This is particularly important in a camper or RV because in a tight space those inappropriate communication styles will quickly become a nuisance.

To train a default sit begin asking your dog to sit before he/she receives anything they value. Things a dog values include: food, treats, toys, a seat next to you on the couch, an open door to go outside, an open door to go inside, putting a leash on for a walk, etc. Before you get started you may find it helpful to make a list of the things your dog values that he/she should sit before receiving. Or just keep this rule of thumb in mind: if it’s something your dog wants he/she has to sit before receiving it.

Be consistent with this, and before you know it you will find that your dog walks up to you and sits when he/she needs something!

 

2. Go to your Bed

For this behavior your dog sits on his/her bed when you say “go to your bed”. For dogs who are moving into a camper or RV I recommend using a portable “bed” of some kind so you can use this behavior to relocate your dog to other areas of the camper easily. Things you can use for a “bed” include a portable dog bed, a towel, a blanket, etc. You just want to make sure that you always use the same item as the bed for this behavior.

indy sits on his "bed"

indy sits on his "bed"

To train this behavior start by putting the bed in a common area where your dog is likely to sit on it. At first, anytime your dog sits on the bed reward him/her with a small treat. 

Good examples of treats for this include: a single cheerio, a tiny soft training treat broken in half (most training treats are way too big, it should be no larger than the size of a pea), a tiny lick of peanut butter. 

The next step is to sit very close to the bed with your dog, and pat your hand on the bed while saying “go to your bed”. When your dog sits on the bed reward him/her. Continue this step for a few days, while slowly increasing the distance between your dog and the bed.

Once your dog will go to the bed from across a room you can stop patting the bed with your hand and begin simply kneeling near the bed while you say “go to your bed”.

Once your dog is reliably going to the bed without you patting the bed, you can begin asking him/her to go to the bed without you standing near the bed.

Once your dog reliably goes to the bed without you standing near the bed you can begin asking him/her to go to their bed from another room of the house. Be sure that you still follow your dog to the bed to reward him/her when they go to the bed.

You can use this behavior to relocate your dog to different areas of your camper quickly. Also, training this behavior builds a strong positive relationship between your dog and his/her bed, so the bed can be used as a “safe space” if your dog is getting overwhelmed while traveling.

 

3. Lay Down and Stay for Meals

For this behavior your dog lays down and stays while you prepare their food bowl, then you release him/her from the stay position to eat. This behavior makes feeding time much easier, and much more calm, which is very important in a small space. If your dog does not already know how to lay down or stay, use these step by step guides to train those behaviors first: Lay Down,  Stay

indy lays down and stays before eating

indy lays down and stays before eating

This behavior is most easily trained with two people. Person One asks the dog to lay down and stay across the room from where the Person Two is preparing the dog’s food. Person One should stand in front of the dog, partially blocking his/her view of the food, and also blocking him/her from being able to run for the food. When Person Two has fully prepared the food and set it on the ground, Person One says “okay” and steps out of the dog’s way so the dog can go eat the food. 

Over time Person One can position themselves closer and closer to the food preparation area, slowly increasing the dog’s self control. Eventually, Person One will be unnecessary and it will only take a single person to ask your dog to lay down and stay while the food is prepared. You should always release your dog from the stay by saying “okay”.

The reward in this training scenario is an entire meal’s worth of food, so dogs tend to learn this behavior very quickly as long as you are consistent and practice this every mealtime. 

 

That’s it! These 3 behaviors will help prepare your dog for their new, adventurous lifestyle traveling full time in a camper or RV. 

Have questions about traveling with your dog? Leave us a comment below!

How to Plan and Maintain a Budget for Open-Ended Travel

Traveling without an end date gives you the freedom to move slowly, make spontaneous choices, and change plans freely. Open-ended travel also presents some unique challenges, like figuring out how much money you will need for your trip, and managing that money while traveling. 

How much money?? 

Once you’ve decided where you want to go and how you want to get there do some research as to the day to day costs you will incur. It’s best to create an estimated budget per month of travel. Aside from the obvious costs such as lodging and food, make sure you include monthly costs like travel insurance, cell phone/internet service, and an emergency fund for unpredictable additional expenses. (Click here to read about our costs traveling through Mexico!)

Try to find travel blogs detailing the area you plan to travel to. Many travel bloggers break down their budget, and travel blogs are an incredibly useful tool in figuring out the cost of living in foreign destinations. 

Be realistic about the comforts you need, and the things you can do without on the road. For example, from the comfort of your living room the thought of wild camping for free 5 nights per week may sound like a great way to save money, but are you prepared to travel until nightfall, and get up and break camp before sunrise every day? Alternatively, do you really need a mocha every morning, or are you willing to make your own coffee in your hostel/on a camp stove/etc.? The answers to these questions are very personal, so try to be honest with yourself during the planning stage.

Now take a basic guess at how long you would like to travel for: 6 months? 1 year? Indefinitely? Figure out how many months worth of money you should save for your travels. If you plan on making money on the road, and won’t be starting out with some sort of income stream, I would plan to have at least 3 months worth of expenses saved so you have plenty of time to make more cash as you go.

 

Where will the money come from?

So you have a monthly budget planned out for your travel. Good work! Now, the big question... where will the money come from?

There are as many ways to finance your open-ended travel as there are destinations to visit. Some people own a home and rent it out to finance their travel, others save up for a year and hit the road with a lump sum in the bank, others work online while on the road to fund their trip. Figure out what you own that you could liquidate, what skills you have that you could monetize, and how you can save money while you plan your trip. 

We took a dual approach to funding our travels. First, we sold most of our possessions, including my car, so that we would have a cushion of savings in the bank for emergencies. This liquidation also funded our initial investment in gear (and eventually the purchase of our camper, which you can read about here) . We are lucky enough to have a small passive monthly income that will cover basic expenses, though we have to watch our budget very closely if we want to avoid dipping into our savings. Eventually we would like to create a location independent income that will fund our travels, but that takes time so if that is part of your plan, do not rely on that for at least the first 6 months. 

 

Sticking to your budget on the road

You’ve created a budget, you’ve saved up some money (or figured out how to fund your travels as you go), and it's time to hit the road! Now you have to learn to stick to that budget you spent so much time on. Sounds easy, right? You may be surprised by all the money pits you can run into while traveling. 

After a long day of travel it’s much easier to order a meal at a restaurant than it is to make yourself something, and on a rainy day a motel may be a lot more appealing than a tent (or a camper). It’s okay to splurge sometimes, but if you aren’t paying close attention to your budget it will be easy to spend beyond your means.

Long before we left on our travels I learned a system of budgeting that works very well for me, and for lots of other people as well, it’s called You Need a Budget (YNAB for short). While many budgeting systems are based on the amount of money you expect to have next month, this budgeting system requires you to work with the money you actually have at the beginning of the month, and it also allows you to categorize exactly where you want that money to go. YNAB offers a 34 day free trial through their website, and I highly recommend giving it a try at least one month before you leave for your trip.

When you know at any given moment exactly how many dollars you have to spend on lodging, food, excursions, etc it helps you make a good decision when faced with a splurgy purchase like a $15 restaurant meal versus a $5 meal you’ve cooked.

I won’t lie, after the one month free trial I did not pay for the YNAB program, simply because I was able to implement the concepts of the budgeting system without the software. However, this is a lot more work on my end, because I have to manually keep track of every single transaction I make. If you pay for the YNAB app/program it can be linked to your accounts, and everything is quite a bit easier/automatic.

YNAB is also an awesome tool to help you save more for your travels before you leave! It was a game changer for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who finds budgeting to be a pain in the ass (that’s most of us right?!).

What are your tips for travel budgeting? Share them with us in the comments!

3 Lessons we Learned in our First 3 Days of Travel

A woman camping nearby offered to take this photo for me :)

A woman camping nearby offered to take this photo for me :)

People are nice!

Before embarking on our trip many people asked us about safety. Would we carry weapons? Were we concerned about the security of our gear? Honestly we did not spend a lot of time worrying about protection while planning this trip, aside from basic securities like good bike locks. However, all these questions about safety must have planted a scary little seed in our minds because on our first day we found ourselves hesitant to approach people.

The good news is, just a couple hours into our trip, a Fedex truck pulled over, and out came a super friendly fellow cyclist named Ryan. Ryan told us he always pulls over when he sees cyclists to say hi and see if they need any help, since he is an avid cyclist himself. It was such a relief to be reminded that there are plenty of good people around, and plenty of fellow cyclists!

Thanks to our meeting with Ryan I didn’t hesitate to knock on the door of a farmhouse later in the day to ask for directions. When you’re in an area with no phone service, and you’re unsure if you made a wrong turn your options become very limited. The woman that answered the door was extremely nice, and was happy to give us detailed directions to our next stop.

Every day we have met some wonderful people, and we’ve constantly been reminded that people are nice!


If you need to push, push.

When you’re pulling a 75 pound trailer full of furry dog behind you there are hills that just are not possible, no matter how low your gearing. When I still can’t manage to pedal, even in my granny gear, it is time to get off the bike and push. And guess what?!........ In those cases pushing feels GOOD, better than pedaling! It’s a nice break for my butt, and uses different muscles than cycling, so it feels like taking a rest. So, one important lesson learned: if you need to push, push!

 

Take your time. Rushing leads to problems.

It’s easy to start rushing when you want to get going. Whether it’s rushing to pack up, rushing to get to the next city, or rushing through a break to get back on the road, rushing leads to stress and disorganization.

Every time we rush ourselves packing up we lose MORE time when we have to find things later in a crazy black hole of a pannier (panniers are the bags that attach to our bikes and hold our gear).

Every time we rush to get somewhere we stop enjoying the journey because we are far too focused on the time. We have to move much slower than most cycle tourists because we are pulling Indy, so we’ve quickly learned not to pressure each other, or ourselves, over speed.

Indy takes a much-needed break.

Indy takes a much-needed break.

Breaks are so important, and they are only relaxing if we take our time. On our breaks we take Indy for a walk, stretch, and sit down with snacks. It’s incredible how much stronger we feel after a 15 minute break.


So there you have it, our first big lessons learned on this journey! Have you cycle toured before? What were your first few days like? Tell us about it in the comments!