Mark Rickert

Digital Nomad

One Year of Location Independence

Today - August 15, 2015 - marks the 1 year anniversary of my location independence! I’ve been living in my Class B motorhome and haven’t missed living in a sticks-n-bricks home one single iota1.

Never before have I experienced the freedom that comes with living a completely location independent life. It’s amazing how selling (practically) everything you own and downsizing your life can have such a profound impact on virtually everything.

You learn to live with less.
You learn to appreciate the things you do have.
Multi-functional items become a necessity… anything that has only one function not used on a weekly basis is just taking up space and contributing to lower fuel mileage.

Most people thought this would be an experiment. I’d do it for a bit, see the country, find a place I really liked (or meet someone I really liked), and settle back down. Now that I’ve been on the road for a year, I really see no signs of stopping. It would take something radically changing my life or desires to get me to stay in one place. Perhaps I’ll meet that aforementioned soulmate… but I’m not actively searching anyone out.

Serendipity is a way of life. Minimal planning (only a few months in advance for most things) and leaving myself open to new experiences and saying “yes” to almost everything has truly transformed my life. It’s taken me to places I’ve never thought about going and I’ve met some pretty amazing people along the way.

  • Hiking in National Parks all over the country.
  • Countless skydiving events I’d never heard about.
  • Gazing at the Milky Way in all its glory from the deserts of the South West United States.
  • Crazy detours to really cool places just because I saw a road sign that looked interesting.
  • 4 wheeling with my brother and sister.
  • Being able to experience family events I might not otherwise be able to attend: Christmas with my parents, the birth of a niece, a nephew’s wedding, a niece’s high school graduation, & a nephew’s rock concert.
  • Speaking to a group of Computer Science students about career preparations.

Some fun things about my first year on the road:

  1. 30,430 miles driven.
  2. 2,065 gallons of gas consumed.
  3. 81 fuel stops (average of 375 miles per tank).
  4. $5,720 spent on gas (average of $2.77/gallon).
  5. 1 job quit.
  6. $67,065 net worth increase (I’m a software engineer with an expensive hobby and almost no bills working about half time).
  7. 35 states visited or driven through.
  8. 3 foreign countries visited.
  9. 8 nights spent in paid campgrounds (here’s now I find places to camp for free).
  10. 1 Night spent in a hotel while repairs to my vehicle were being done.
  11. 328 skydives (2 cutaways).
  12. 7/7 siblings visited.
  13. Countless new friends made.

The future:

Who knows what the future holds? Certainly not me.

I have no plans on changing this lifestyle. That being said, I’m fully open to change. I’m having the time of my life right now add I’m happy. Once that changes I’ll change something about my life so I continue to have amazing adventures and my happiness meter is off the scale!

1 The one thing I’d change If I could: the ability to use two-ply toilet paper. It’s not compatible with the RV’s black tank, so I live with 1-ply. It’s the simple things, folks.

RV Home Invasion

KNOCK! KNOCK!

SLAM on the side of the RV

KNOCK

Harder this time.

SHATTERING GLASS

It’s 4am. I leap into motion. This is not a police officer—a police officer would have announced himself before breaking a window. I was being robbed. *beep*beep*beep*beep* - my gun safe door springs open and I grab my 9mm handgun from its resting place, touch the bottom to ensure the clip is inside.

As I put the gun in my left hand behind my back I use my right to draw back the curtain that prevented shattered glass from spraying all over my home. I see a hand reaching in through the broken window reaching for the lock.

Solar Panels

I’ve been wanting solar panels on my RoadTrek for a while now. There were 3 ways I could recharge my batteries:

  1. Plug into shore power - this involves tethering yourself to the grid and sometimes paying for the privilege. Picking up and driving away becomes more complicated when you’ve got an electrical cable hanging off the side of your vehicle.
  2. Running the onboard gas generator - this uses gas (duh) and is generally loud and annoying. I run the generator as little as possible.
  3. Driving - the act of driving at highway speeds charges the batteries due to the excess energy created by the engine’s alternator. But sometimes I don’t need to drive anywhere but still need my batteries topped off.

Solar panels seemed like the ultimate solution: silent, always on, no consumable fuel, always working when the sun is out.

So I went in search of solar panels.

Opening a Modal View Controller From a UITabBarController

I recently had to implement a workflow for a client whereby they had a UITabBarController and tapping one of the tabs would open a modal view controller.

This seemed obvious to implement. Just add the tabBarController(tabBarController, shouldSelectViewController:viewController) method in my tab bar controller’s delegate and return false, then open the modal!

Creating Your Own Stylers for UIControl Subclasses in RMQ

I love using RMQ. It makes it so easy to initialize, append, and style views you add to your iOS app’s hierarchy. The styling subsystem is robust and elegant. But what to do when you have a custom class that you want to be able to style?

Having recently ran into this problem and solved it, it’s actually pretty easy.

I wanted to implement DCRoundSwitch in my app and style it with RMQ. DCRoundSwitch is a UIControl subclass, but it needed a custom styler defined to be able to style it in my controller’s stylesheet.

Questions and Answers

People seem to be endlessly fascinated by my lifestyle and with endless fascination comes a myriad of questions. Maybe it’s because they don’t understand the lifestyle. Maybe they envy it. Others ask questions because they’re in the process of transitioning to a lifestyle on the road like mine.

This brings me to Carol. She is a family member of a coworker and has been thinking about retiring to live in a van and travel the country. She has a lot of questions so instead of answering them privately, I’m going to take the opportunity to answer them here on my site for the benefit of everyone!

Homeless by Choice

I’m homeless. By choice.

Well… I’m houseless. My home is a Roadtrek ‘98 Dodge Ram van converted to a motorhome by some fine folks in Canada.

Some may find this lifestyle off-putting, but I’ve joined the ranks of an estimated quarter of a million Americans living full time on the road. It was a conscious decision I made in early 2014 after thinking about it for a while. It took a few months to put my plan into action and I officially left my sticks-and-bricks apartment in the trendy neighborhood of Plaza Midwood, Charlotte, NC on August 15th, 2014.

Prepending the Default RubyMotion Build Task

UPDATE - I’ve rewritten this article with a more elegant solution.

Thank’s to the helpful Hipbyte team member Watson1978, I was able to figure out how to run tasks before and after build processes in RubyMotion. I’ve ofeen wanted to do things before building to the simulator like downloading assets into the Resources folder, but never knew how to do it. My solution was to extend the core RM build processes and alias methods, override the methods, and then run what I wanted to before running the aliased methods… yeah… annoying, huh?

It’s actually really easy to do with a little know-how and the rake-hooks gem!

One Month Living in a Van

Today marks my 1 month anniversary of living full time in a Roadtrek Class B RV (1998 Roadtrek 190 Popular). I live with all my worldly possessions in about 140 square feet and it’s amazing!

I’ve never felt so free!

Listening to User Feature Requests

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on my new iOS app aloft. One user emailed me and asked if I could make the weather station screen searchable. I told him “no problem, it’ll be in the next version that ships”.

Searchable tableviews are not hard to implement (more on that in a bit), but I had left it out simply for the fact that I didn’t think users would need that feature. The app sorts the weather stations based on closeness to your device and I incorrectly assumed that users would just want to use the closest weather station.