• J. Kim

2021 By The Numbers: Our Tour Life


Three hundred and sixty five days, thirty states, two humans, & one van.

How often did we sleep in the van? Stay at a course? Or with friends and family? How often did we get our own place or split a spot with tour friends? How much did we spend on lodging? Where did we even go? A look into our 2021 tour season.


In the year 2021, we spent all 365 days in the US, & slept in thirty states. I began poetry workshops, and an online herbalism apprenticeship. We got our own Birdie Fuel coffee roast. James switched sponsors for the first time in his professional career, competed at the highest level of professional disc golf for the sixth year in a row, and won the 2021 Disc Golf World Championship (after throwing arguably the greatest shot in the history of the sport).

We spent a total of 321 nights in the van (87.8%). Paid for a place for 102 nights, and stayed for free 263 nights, meaning we paid for a place only 28.3% of the time.




Our average nightly cost for the year was $14.23 for the two of us (twice as much as last year...), compared to a person whose rent is $1,200 where the average nightly cost is $40.00, or $1,600 monthly rent with a nightly cost of $53.33 (and often this does not include utilities). Our monthly "rent" was $426.90. Our "utilities" are solar powered electrical, & water. We have two six gallon water tanks that supply our foot pump operated sink. Depending on the location & how often we are using our sink versus washing dishes and cooking in a shared space (Airbnb or hotel), the water lasts anywhere from about five days to two weeks, costing us $0.00-$1.35 per gallon when we fill up. (It's nice if we can use a friend or family member's spigot.) For these numbers, I did not include the van payment, insurance, or cost of gas. Even if we had a stationary home, these would still be costs we would have for a vehicle.

The two main factors for such a large lodging difference between 2020's $7.01 and 2021's $14.23 are 1) in the start of 2020 we traveled to Asia and stayed with hosts for most of the time, keeping our lodging cost for that month extremely low and 2) at the end of this 2021 season, James and I wanted to take some time to reset (and quarantine) before spending a month and a half traveling to see family for the holidays. In November we rented a place in Florida on Airbnb for 3 weeks, and while the nightly cost was not incredibly high, 21 days adds up. This accounts for $1,900 of the $5,190 total lodging cost for the year. (Meaning we spent over a third of our total cost of lodging in one month at one spot.) This was worth it to us to feel safe returning to our families during this time, as well as provide some rest after a long and exciting tour season.


Our total out of pocket cost for lodging per month:

January $280.00

February $137.00

March $60.00

April $60.00

May $414.00

June $500.00

July $125.00

August $350.00

September $220.00

October $1,144.00

November $1,900.00

December $0.00

Though we did not book hotels & Airbnbs at every opportunity, we definitely did not tour the cheapest possible way, either. This article is not intended as an example on how to live the most cost efficient life on the road/on tour, but more of a look into the realities of average van & tour life. We can "splurge" and get a place when we want a nice shower, an oven, or a large dining room table, and still live a lifestyle that is more cost efficient overall than other lifestyles. Even though we spent twice as much on lodging this year as we did last year, we still had an average yearly "rent" well under the US average. According to Google, in 2020 the average cost to rent a one bedroom in the US was $1,098.00 per month, an average nightly cost of $36.60. (Again, not including utilities.)




We spent a total of 149 nights (40.1%) camped at family & friend's place, split an Airbnb or got our own spot 80 nights (21.9%). Stayed at free campsites 40 nights (11.0%), paid campsites 17 nights (4.7%), & stayed at Wal-Mart/Planet Fitness/Rest stop parking lots 16 nights (4.4%), and camped at courses 51 nights (14.0%) last year on tour.








If we stay with family or friends, we almost exclusively still sleep in the van, usually in their driveway, or shared parking lot, or even simply along the street. Splitting a space could be sharing a hotel room with a few friends to have a warm place to keep the plants (and ourselves) if the temperature drops, getting a hotel for time & space for just the two of us, or splitting an Airbnb with three or more vans & tour family members to have a table large enough to play Catan on. Free campsites range from neighborhood parks, to beach lots, forested camping, or a quiet place along a river.


There is more than one way to live your lifestyle, and there's more than one way to live van life. You see this online all the time... Some people live in campervans with expensive top of the line woodwork, full working kitchen & bathroom (& laundry!), awnings, & internet, and some people live this life with Craigslist van and a few hundred dollars worth of blood & tears. Some people camp in one spot for weeks or months at a time, and some move daily. As I say, it's not for everyone, but it is for anyone.

In order from most time spent to least, we slept a total of 46 nights in California, 43 nights in Texas, 30 nights in Florida, 22 nights in Maryland, 21 nights in Utah, and in South Carolina, 19 nights in Pennsylvania, and Virginia, 15 nights in Minnesota, 14 nights in Nevada, and in Arkansas, 13 nights in Illinois, 11 nights in Michigan, 8 nights in Tennessee, one week in Kansas, Kentucky, Vermont, and Massachusetts, 6 nights in Arizona, and Oregon, 5 nights in Iowa, and Missouri, 4 nights in North Carolina, and Colorado, 3 nights in Indiana, 2 nights in Alabama, and one night in Washington state, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Ohio.


 

{The remainder of this blog is photos & video from our 2021 tour season, so if you're solely looking for van life numbers, scroll back up!}


We rang in the new year with my mother, at her Victorian era bed & breakfast in northwestern Pennsylvania. From there we traveled down to James's family in western Virginia, and spent some time with them at their home before we hit the road west.


Our first stop was Austin, Texas. We only intended to stay one night to visit our friend Nate Perkins, and ended up staying for nearly a week.


We filled up on tacos, caught some live music, had a tea ceremony outdoors along a river, & met Connor O'Reilly for the first time while Nate helped him build his van out for touring.

We would end up spending a total of 43 days in Texas, with Pro Tour tournaments & visits.



Our disc golf season began in February. We were in Las Vegas getting ready for the kickoff tournament of the season, the Las Vegas Challenge, when a last minute drop out of the All- Star competition in Arizona opened up a spot for James to compete there. We jumped at the opportunity to go, even though we had (only an hour before the phone call) just dropped off our van at a shop to be re-wrapped over the coming days.

James switched sponsors at the beginning of 2021, and we were eager to start representing MVP Disc Sports. The van is ours, but the wrap was done by his former company with their logos and design, & it was time for a change.



This was the first time James ever picked up a Nomad. A putter, and the first disc he helped design with MVP. The prototypes were mailed to Glen Perkins, father of Nate Perkins (that's him in the edge of the photo).


For those of you not actively in the world of disc golf, designing your own disc is a huge deal for a player. Few players get this opportunity with their sponsor, and I'm glad I was able to capture this moment for us.








Here we have the one and only Shasta Criss with his Texas State Championships trophy belt buckle during his winning streak in Texas.


James left for one weekend that spring during the "Texas Swing" of tournaments to go compete with old friends and his dad in the VTI (Virginia Team Invitational), while I stayed with the van and worked on projects.







This summer, James and I had the opportunity to camp at a sunflower farm. I'll share more photos from that field in a later post but until then, may I present to you these gems. I have no other explanation for my selfies-with-sunflowers-as-BFFs other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Practicing hole 16 at The Fort in Ogden, Utah. This is one of the most iconic holes on the whole course, and it has special significance for us this year. Not only did James ace this one during the second round of the five day World's competition, but it is also the first playoff hole-- where James secured his World title. (After throwing it in from 252' to force the playoff in the first place.)

Spoiler alert- Utah is hot. We went to a double feature one day to escape into some AC, and found the arcade room...

Behind the scenes snippets from after James wins Worlds and chaos ensues. The videos do not show much, but I think that speaks to the chaos and mania of the final day aftermath.

In July, we had the opportunity to participate in a charity Pro-Am event put on by the Disc Golf Pro Tour at the private home course of MMA's Ben Askren in Wisconsin. James partnered up with celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, and it was a true pleasure to meet him, & other people in the public eye with a passion for disc golf.

(If you haven't seen the coverage by GK Pro, you can watch the front 9 here.)

The energy & cacophony of attempting a large group photo is one of my favorite things to watch. Everyone was genuinely excited to be there, both professional disc golfers, and celebrities. I'm still not sure who was more stoked to be there, the disc golfers, or the celebrities.



This was the second time we had visited the MVP headquarters and warehouse in Michigan. Here, James is signing freshly stamped Envy's (a putter) with the 2021 MVP Open at Maple Hill design to be used in giveaways (and a few for the warehouse crew). The photo they used for this stamp design is actually one of mine! I posted it on The Chaotic Good last year in the 2020 By The Numbers blog post.








Camping at the course with the rest of the tour family is one of the greatest joys in my life.


We turn the place into a small village of good mornings, shared coffee, practice rounds, & co-opted dinners while the puppies run around smiling. Someone's in a hammock. Someone's out for groceries or laundry. Someone makes tea in the afternoon, we play games, set up a projector, & feel like family.







Loved this moment when James matched his Bendy James stamped Volt in Idlewild, Kentucky.


I don't walk with on every single practice round, but I make a point to be there for support during his tournament rounds. We call it "Snack Caddy" as my backpack is almost entirely edible goodies & extra water for the round, & he prefers to manage his own bag. James performs best when he can focus solely on the game, so we set up our team to support each of us the best way we can.







James & Jeremy Koling (Big Jerm) waiting on deck as they watch Philo Brathwaite line up a drive.



Idlewild in Kentucky is one of James's favorite courses he plays on tour. It's wooded, well maintained, & beautiful. A lot of the holes run along a small creek, there are a few ponds, and the first year we were here we foraged giant puffball mushrooms right off the course near hole 5!



In late July on our trip to Minnesota for the Preserve Championship, we were able to link up with musician Cory Wong for a round of disc golf, and a tour of his studio.

Absolutely wild to watch him unpack his Grammy nominations, show us the Fender Stratocaster guitar he designed, & of course- listen to him play. A few disc golfers joined in & we all left smiling.






This is Herbie- I met her in Maryland this year, and I think she looks pretty dang pleased to be 47.



(The uniqueness of the disc golf community cannot be overstated.)










To say we felt lucky this year on tour is an understatement. With the current state of the world, we are incredibly grateful to be able to still work, compete, and spend time outdoors.










I would also like to take a moment to express my gratitude for this man right here. He has been kind, patient, loving, & marvelous to me since the day we met. He is humble, brilliant, clever, charming, and so much more goofy than he gets credit for. He inspires me to continue to grow, and stands by my side when it gets tough. I feel lucky every day we get to take on this world as partners.

September brought about what is arguably James's favorite tournament of the year- MVP's Maple Hill Open in Massachusetts. The course is challenging, wooded, well-maintained, and beautifully worn in; it also sits on a stunning piece of land, with gorgeous ponds, a Christmas tree farm, and barn with a ping-pong table. (I went looking for James at one point and found him there watching his dad play Kevin Jones in a vigorous game of ping-pong and felt like I had stepped into another reality for a moment.) James's parents are Kris & Jim, you can see them here sporting some JC apparel at the course.

 

This is my favorite photo (that I took) of the Disc Golf Pro Tour Championships. Halfway down the fairway on hole 18, Missy Gannon staring down the basket and green where she will win her first DGPT Championship title. Her focus on that day was legendary, & I can't wait to watch her on tour this upcoming season.

Watching Nathan Queen win his first DGPT Championship title on his home turf that day was another memory I will cherish, and never forget. The people that pour their heart, mind, and soul into their work are the ones to watch. Whether that's in sports, art, or anything else in life.


The perfect finale to our tour season happened in Charlotte. We had had the pleasure of meeting notorious drummer Wes Finley in Wisconsin this summer at the DGPT charity celebrity Pro/Am event. This was the second to last tour date for the band, as well as it being the only time our schedules had linked up since then. It felt like the whole event was swarming with pro disc golfers, the atmosphere was incredible, & the music was home.

 

Thank you for reading! It means the world to me to be able to share our journey & lives with you. As Ram Dass said- "We're all just walking each other home."


If you missed 2020's By the Numbers, you can check it out here.

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