Quick thoughts on the Hobovan Life:
I have proved to myself that I can live ultra cheap, and can endure hunger for an extended period of time. I guess I needed to prove this to myself and now know that I can do it. However, my ultimate goal is to build a sustainable life that is very simple and enjoyable... to find that point of "enough" in my life.
The Van. Living in the van is "enough". I have enough possessions (still too much, in fact). Bundling up in winter, fan cooling in the summer (with a marine battery) is enough. The current job combo of 20 hours a week is enough... as is the money. They gym supplies me with hot showers, a toilet, sink & a mirror, electricity to re-charge the phone, and a means of staying fit-- it is enough. A different model of van would probably be more stealthy (more "invisible" to police). Despite keeping mine (a 1986 Toyota Van) as simple as possible, and tinting/blocking the rear-area windows, it still looks too "hippy-like". Im thinking a "soccer mom" mini-van would be ideal.
Parking. I engaged in stealth parking for the last 4+ months and certainly proved it is possible... even in a conservative southern town like Gainesville, GA. However, I never quite banished the stress and worry of being "discovered" by cops. Ive been woken up by cops a couple of times and its no fun. Although my police encounters have been fairly friendly thus far (kudos to the Athens, GA & UGA police), I am still shaken by them and wish to avoid them completely. Recently I began parking in front of a friend's house (Jen's) and this is much more satisfactory. I have no worries about police and since its in the country, no worries about nosey and uptight suburbanites (Thank You Jen!). Clearly, this sort of parking situation is ideal (I continue to stealth park in Athens on the weekends... and avoid police now that I know where its safe and where its not).
Budget. Everyone's monetary needs are different. For me, I can live large on $7-800 dollars a month... which includes plenty of eating out (my primary vice)... weekend roadtrips to Athens.... occaisonal movies... and the ability to save about $200 dollars a month-- which is necessary in order to fund future travel and to guard against unexpected emergencies (car repairs, etc...). At $600 a month I can live comfortably but not extravagently. $400 a month, for me, is uncomfortable... while less becomes increasingly grueling. My cheapest month so far was $200 a month... which was no damned fun at all. [Note- A central principle of the hobopoet experiments is self-reliance... and thus no reliance on panhandling, begging, credit cards, etc...].
Clothes. In winter-- two pair of medium weight long underwear, 3 pair of wool sox, a wool sweater, a fleece pullover, a trench coat, scarf, gloves, and a wool hat got me through quite comfortably (plus a sleeping bag). I had a thick pair of wool pants (bought super cheap at an Army Surplus store in Greenville, SC... and only needed them for about three days... when the temperature dropped to 7 degrees). Also had a pair of jeans and a pair of army pants and 4 long sleeve shirts. In summer-- 2 pair of shorts, one pair of running shorts, 3 utility shirts (with collars, can be casual or semi-respectable), teva sandals, a hat, and a few pair of sox.
Misc. Cell phone has worked great and is a tremendous improvement over the previous method (beeper & calling card)... its more convenient, more reliable, and cheaper. Its been quite easy to re-charge it in coffee shops and at the gym. A car charger would add yet another option.