Van Life: How To Legally Become A Nomad

Van Life: How To Legally Become A Nomad had a picture of a man backpacking in Iceland.

If you’ve been following us, Kevin and I have been planning on traveling parts of the United States in our homemade camper van for over two years now.

Van Life: How To Legally Become A Nomad has a picture of our hippie van surrounded by snow.

We would have been able to embark on this journey sooner, but we had to wait for our house to sell . . .

. . . Well, it sold and we’ll be full-time digital nomads in less than a week. 😜

I wanted to write about how to legally become a nomad because I’ve had quite a few people ask me how we would be getting our mail while we’re traveling without a permanent address.

How do you establish a legal residence on the road?

Van Life: How To Legally Become A Nomad has a beautiful picture of a clean road surrounded by lush green mountains.

If you’re wondering as well, keep reading, and let’s dive in.

You need to establish domicile in a nomad-friendly state.

South Dakota, Texas, Florida, and Nevada are the states you can do it in.

South Dakota is the best one out of the four and fortunately for us, we live a half an hour away from the South Dakota border. 😊

So why does South Dakota outranks the rest?

1.) They make it super easy to live a nomadic lifestyle.

2.) There is no state income tax.

3.) No personal property tax.

4.) No state vehicle inspections.

5.) The auto insurance rates are the lowest in the country.

6.) Inexpensive driver’s license and plates.

 7.) You don’t have to be in the state to register your vehicle.

 8.) You only have to stay in a hotel for one night to get your driver’s license.

 9.) You’re only charged a 4% excise tax on vehicle purchases.

 10.) You have to come back to South Dakota every five years, stay in a hotel overnight, get the receipt, and renew your driver’s license.

Kevin and I were going to go through a mail forwarding service. A few of them are America’s Mailbox, Dakota Post, and Your Best Address.

However, we decided to do the whole process ourselves because it’s a lot cheaper and honestly, we weren’t getting a good vibe off of the one mail service we were going to go through.

Also, not that this would happen, but a popular mail service that my fellow nomads were going through closed, and then they had to figure out what they were going to do about their mail.

So, what we did was we went to a UPS store in South Dakota and paid to have an actual physical street address and not a P.O. Box for a year.

We can use it as a residential address.

The cost was less than $200.00 and we got 3 months for free.

All we have to do when we’re on the road is call them, have them check our mailbox, and then forward our mail to us. They will even throw away our junk mail if we ask them to.

When you sign-up for a private mailbox, you’ll have to get a form notarized so they can legally handle your mail. Fortunately, the gal who helped us at UPS was a notary.


The whole process was easier than I thought.

After we were done, we tried to get a storage unit, but it didn’t work out, so we moved on and switched banks.

You probably won’t have to switch banks, but we had to because the bank we’d been doing business with wasn’t available in most states.

We went with Wells Fargo.

Stagecoach on a dirt road.

The next thing we had to do to establish domicile in South Dakota was to stay in a hotel overnight, then get a receipt from the hotel with our new mailing address and name on the receipt.

I read that in Nevada you’d have to stay in their state for 30 days to be considered a resident there.

That sucks.

We decided to stay at a Super 8 hotel and let me tell ya . . .

. . . it wasn’t Super. 😂

The room was clean, but the heater was loud and obnoxious and would make an awful loud clunking sound when it kicked off.

Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night.

Also, there were things in the room that didn’t work.

But we got our receipt and then went to the DMV to get our South Dakota driver’s license.

Before you go, find out what documents you’d need to take with you.

I needed my marriage license, my birth certificate, my social security card, North Dakota driver’s license, the hotel receipt, and the receipt from the UPS store.

That was a lot of paperwork, but the process went smoothly and the people who helped us at the DMV were great.

It cost us $56.00 for both of us.

After we got our license, we went and got plates and tags for our van.

The process flowed perfectly.

The cost was $126.50, which was cheap.

In North Dakota, we paid over $300.00 for plates and tags.

We didn’t have to get auto insurance because the insurance company we use has offices in SD as well, which was cool.

So, yeah, South Dakota in our opinion is a wonderful place to establish domicile.

The people, the services, and the prices were great.

We’re pleased with our decision to not go with a mail forwarding service and do the whole process on our own.

We’re not against mail forwarding services, but how we legally became a nomad worked out best for us.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them.

This Post Has 2 Comments

    1. Thank you. 🙂

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