New Documentary Coming: Home Free!

Hello, everyone!

It’s been a while since my last blog post. But I’ve been busy!

As you all know, I’ve been making films now for about 10 years all around the world. In that time, I’ve also finished a handful of degrees, and climbed the ladder from teaching in high schools to teaching in colleges internationally. I’ve also grown my interests in filmmaking.

While at my last job, the American University in Bulgaria, I kept a close eye on the nomadic movement happening in the states. There’s been an uptick of social media hashtags like #VanLife and #BusLife and #Skoolies and so on. These describe custom-built living spaces that were made to hit the road long term.

For many years, I’ve wanted to do the very same thing. But for reasons surrounding the stigma about a full time nomadic lifestyle, I was too embarrassed to do it. But then I thought, ‘Well, I am a nomad. I’ve been living out of one sea-bag full of clothes and a couple crates of production gear for the better part of the last decade! So why would I not do this?’

An unfortunate accident forced my mother to suffer through a two-year spate of surgeries, which necessitate my return to the states to keep an eye on things, and help her move out of her house in the midst of a divorce, do grocery shopping and drive her around to her appointments.

I’m happy to report that she is better now, and that I spent all those in-between hours building my long time dream of having a mobile editing studio! I called it Linus the Land Yacht, and it comes complete with on-demand propane hot water, a wood stove, an editing bay, running water, full bathroom and a transforming bedroom/living room combo! You can watch videos of the build here.

My plan was just to live in it for a year, film my experiences and head back out into the world of teaching and traveling. But what I found out on the road was incredible!

People are doing such amazing things with their builds! They have roving art shows, they use their rigs to fund-raise and cook for the homeless. They have mobile businesses like handymen, seamstresses, hair studios, massage parlors, yoga session – anything and everything you can think of, people are doing on the road.

But that’s not the whole story! People are finding healing in places like the high sierra and outlying deserts. They are finding communities and lifelong friendships. They are creating gatherings like Descend on Bend, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Skooliepalooza. They are creating tiny home communities for homeless veterans and drug addicts. They are helping and caring for each other in ways that simply wouldn’t be possible in sedentary lifestyles.

And it doesn’t stop there! There are cities and towns across America that have become not only supportive of the nomadic movement, but completely dependent on it for their seasonal economies! Places like Quartzsite, Arizona, the epicenter of traveling swap meets and gem shows, swells from a population of 3,000 to 300,000 almost overnight!

Tiny home villages are cropping up in Colorado, California, Nevada and others. Retired folks are using minimal social security checks to live the life they’ve always wanted and to see parts of America that they’ve only dreamed of. People are escaping high rent and upside-down mortgages. Young families are finding that life for their kids is more peaceful and even easier on the move! Middle-aged folks are paying down old college debt and gaining financial freedom for the first time in their lives!

Long story short, I found out that there is an amazing story to tell here. So much so, that I spent the rest of my life savings just getting out to cover events, gather interviews and piece together the amazing saga being lived out all over America’s highways and byways. But the bad news is that I’ve also… spent my entire life savings!! Which means I’m more or less on my last leg out here, sitting on an incredible story, and hoping that something turns up so that I can finish this thing that I really believe will be an epic discovery of a movement in the U.S.

So I’ve pitched it to PBS and several streaming channels, and I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to support the rest of production.

It’s only been a week, and I’ve already received a promise of $15,000 from a promoter, if, and only if, I can raise the rest of the production costs myself!!

So I’m asking for your help to get me to that spot. All the details are below. Please donate to this great cause. Every little bit helps – even if you only have $5, it will be that much closer to the total. I have set the total at 10K, but I need a minimum of $5,000 before I can withdraw the funds and begin the last leg of completion.

Read below for details:

Plot Layout

This film will commence in three segments.

  1. Segment I: History – Told through found and archival footage, this segment delineates the history of the nomadic movement
    1. Families took to their cars and followed the agricultural work during the “Grapes of Wrath” portion of the Great Depression
    2. The popularity of the movement peaked in the 60s and early 70s when the Hippie Movement exploded into a cultural phenomenon with touring musical festivals, Rainbow Gatherings and other mobile events.
    3. An down-spike in the U.S. economy again forced people to pursue alternative lifestyles in the 80s.
    4. The latest wave of the movement now exists as the nomadic lifestyle is popular once again.Segment I: History – Told through found and archival footage, this segment delineates the history of the nomadic movement
  2. Segment II: Current Trends – The bulk of the film, told through interviews, contemporary placement
    1. Location: Quartzsite, Az – Snowbird capital of North America. Locals discuss the notion of being the epicenter of the nomadic movement. Quartzsite Mayor, Chamber of Commerce Members, business owners, radio personalities, nudist colony leaders, street stall vendors and native residents discuss how the nomadic movement has shaped their town, and discuss their own roles within it.
    2. Location: Quartzsite, Az – Footage and interviews at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Skooliepalooza: Famous YouTubers chime in on the VanLife/BusLife and Tiny Home movement through their eyes.
    3. Location: Slab City, Ca – Interviews with nomads on both sides of drug addiction (those treating, and those seeking non-traditional healing away from cities and towns).
    4. Location: Chicago, Il – Tiny Home Village. Dedicated to eradicating homelessness among military veterans, one effort creates “Kit Houses” that promise to offer a new path to shelter those in the greatest need.
    5. Location: Bend, Or – Organizers and visitors of the Descend on Bend meet-up discuss their vanlife diaries, the differences between full time and seasonal road life, and where they see it going in the future.
    6. Location: San Diego (including Fiesta Island), Ca – Flying in the face of ordinances in cities both inside and outside of California, city council members chime in on their decision to rescind a regulation making it illegal to sleep or dwell in one’s vehicle on city streets.
    7. Location: Various State and National Forests, and Public Lands – Officials from the National Parks Service and the Bureau of Land Management give their take on both the benefits and the true costs of the movement in terms of statistics or financial drains.
    8. Location: Various – Journalists, citizens and the opposition at large, give their side of why the movement is a bad idea, what effects it has on local and municipal resources and economies, and generally where they hope to see it go in the future.
  3. Segment III: Closing
    1. Culminating with success stories and memorable quotes of key players in the movement, the film closes showcasing the hopes of dispelling the reputation of those choosing a life on the road.
    2. News reports, online footage, and other archival footage offer a closing glimpse of the most recent social sentiments among the status quo.

One Minute Promotional Teaser Video:


Campaign Video:




Film Proposal Teaser:



Visit the crowdfunding campaign HERE.

Want to donate directly or anonymously? Just go to, and put in any amount you wish!

Can’t Donate? There are a TON of things you can do to support that are FREE, EASY and CRUCIAL!!

  1. Share Links:
    1. Share website link:
    2. Share campaign link:
    3. Share Campaign Video:
    4. Share Promo/Teaser:
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  2. Share Hashtags:
    1. #HomeFreeDoc
    2. #CyleODonnell
    3. #MovingStillsMedia
    4. #TravelGeekDocumentary
  3. Share social media handles:
    1. TW: @cyleodonnell
    2. IG: @cyleodonnell
    3. FB: @HomeFreeDocumentary
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  4. Be a part of the film:
    1. I am looking for interviews on the tiny life. What’s your opinion? Do you love the tiny movement? Hate it? We can set up an in-person or remote interview that could make it into the FINAL CUT!!
    2. Send me your best travel pictures from a bus, on the road, volunteering for a cleanup – whatever! I’ll add them to the website, promo materials, or even the press kit for distribution! Note: images and documents must be less than 2MB, in either .DOC or .PDF format, or be a shared Google Doc). Upload HERE.
    3. Part of the effort of the film is also volunteerism. I was part of the BLM cleanup prior to this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and Skooliapalooza. You can be a part of next year’s! Email me to find out how you can help, and where the next cleanup will be.
    4. Help me make the film!! I am in need of production people. I have crew and *some* post-production stuff largely taken care of. But I will need graphics editors/animators, a colorist, and anyone involved in the distribution market. I’d also like to have some custom made soundtracks. So if you’re in the film industry, and can do any of these things, contact me HERE!!

About the film:

Working Title

Home Free


The new face of American homelessness is simply Home Free.

Film Slug

America is in the midst of a radical movement.  But it’s not new, and it’s not unknown. It’s just getting bigger. Since the Great Depression, the alternative lifestyle of vehicle-dwelling has been fueled by everything from economic downturns to the housing crisis, to skyrocketing rent, and upside-down mortgages, to a generational distrust in contemporary society. As a result, people young and old are living in buses, building tiny homes and skipping out on the traditional home life. Professor and participant filmmaker, Cyle O’Donnell, films the movement the best way possible – as a member of the tribe! Chiming in on the nomadic lifestyle are everyone from famous YouTubers, government officials and citizens of the snowbird capital, to veteran’s rights groups, tiny home village leaders and political activists, and even lawmakers trying to quash the lifestyle.

Film Synopsis

Having built a solar powered, off-grid “skoolie” (converted school bus), director and narrator, Cyle O’Donnell, spends one year living on the road, documenting the “nomadic movement” and interviewing others who have taken to the road. He also takes his father, a retired ex-military photojournalist, along for the ride.

Sunset over the RTR 2019

Showcasing events like the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, Skooliepalooza, Decend on Bend and others; and visiting places like Slab City, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) encampments, and even Walmart parking lots; Bus-Lifers, Van-Lifers and tiny home dwellers chime in on what the movement looks like to them.

A special segment will also be dedicated to homeless veterans benefiting from the tiny home villages springing up in Colorado, California and Arizona.

Principal and supporting footage has all been completed for this film. However, there are interviews slated for production in the next few months with: Quartzsite Mayor, Ed Foster; Dr. Alan Auerbach (expert in economics from the University of California); and officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service. Local residents of Quartzsite, Arizona, (the snowbird capital of America) will also be interviewed, along with street interviews (opposition, and those waging counter-actions against the nomadic movement).

Note from the Director:

As this is one of the simpler documentaries I’ve set out to create, there will not be “above the line” staff in the true sense of the title, cutting the budget down from six figures, into the very low five figures. Creative direction is more journalistic in nature, following where the most compelling story leads. Thus far, the interviews and ambitious undertaking of creating the visual landscape of the film (tiny homes, nomadic events, epic state/national park vistas), have provided the best means for the documentary style of presentation, with very informative interviews largely controlling the artistic flow.

Popular YouTuber, Jaime (TheVanBuild), stoking the ParTyR campfire.

Locations include the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, Skooliepalooza (both completed), Decend on Bend (TBA), Fiesta Island, and others to interview event coordinators, van dwellers, and well-known YouTubers in the nomadic movement. Footage will focus on challenging the status quo perception of vehicle dwellers and reveal an unexpected sense of safety, community and healing for those involved.

Deeper looks into the lifestyle reveal an entire world of different things people are doing on the road – from roving art shows, to yoga and meditation retreats – the new face of Rubber Tramping is the biggest and best it’s ever been.

Showcasing interviews from some of the biggest YouTubers in the #BusLife, #VanLife and #Skoolie communities, popular nomads and snowbirds alike are at home in their roving abodes. The interviews to come will cover the opposition, local residents of the Quartzsite area where a tiny village inflates to tens of thousands every winter.

The Campaign

You don’t have to donate through the crowdfunding campaign, if you want to remain anonymous, or you just want to get 100% of your proceeds directly to the film effort. The perks are the same either way!

Check these out below:

      • All donations of any amount get a copy of the film regardless of distribution delays!
      • All donations of $20 or more get an extended cut of the film!
      • As a huge perk, all donations of $40 will get a special edition of the film, where all of the YouTubers interviewed in production will say a special thank you during the credits.*
      • All donations of $60 get the extended cut, plus a 20-page, full color PDF of behind the scenes pictures, maps, production notes, and more.
      • $80 gets you all the above, plus an additional download of long-play extended scenes, aerial photos and video of the grounds, and sneaky drone flights into parks!
      • Donations of $100 get the above, plus all the podcasts I recorded with all the nomads throughout the entire trip!
      • $120 gets the above, plus all three seasons of Travel Geek Films. That’s 24 Episodes!
      • $150 gets your name and/or business listed in the credits as a co-producer!
      • $200 gets you an exclusive interview in the film!


Pre-Production and Development…………………………$1,500
Production Staff………………………………………………….$2,300
Rights, Music & Talent………………………………………….$1,450
Crew & Personnel………………………………………………..$5,600
Travel Expenses……………………………………………………$5,741
Office & Administrative costs…………………………………$800
Bookkeeping, Copyrighting & Transcription………….$6,135

Budget Total………………………………………………………$31,471

Finances covered so far……………………………………$5,915
First Crowdfunding Total……………………………………$25,556

Private Donation (Campaign Reduction!!)……..$15,000

Grand Total……………………………………………………$10,556

Looking for more information or have a question? See the FAQ

Why this story?

While distilling a strange, but ultimately inevitable result of an evaporating middle class, a corporate grab at the real estate market, and an ensuing housing and financial crisis, this film is deeply seeded in both adventure and the scope of the human will, for an underdog story that touches us all.

Help me tell the story of the evolution of the true American Spirit!

*Upon agreement with all interviewees.

Monk on Fire: The Rila Monastery

So, beyond the sense of entitlement religion offers religious leaders around the world, it also works to validate concerns over whether or not it even has a place in our community. After all, we are currently witnessing what entitlement offers groups like ISIS when left unchecked and free to grow.

My visit to the Rila Monastery in Southwest Bulgaria is indicative of something along the same vein.

But first, the pleasant and rewarding intro:

Headed to the Rila Monastery, you’ll go through this neat little stucco’d  town where basically nobody lives. It’s so underpopulated that even the people that own houses here mostly live somewhere else and visit during the holidays or with family. The year-round population mostly works in agriculture, with some in the service of the nearby Rila Monastery.

You’re actually more likely to get into a road delay because of sparring cows than you are from vehicle traffic.

This time of year is really great to visit most Southeastern Bulgarian monasteries, in my opinion, because the mountains are right at the cusp of changing color, and that’s where many, if not most of the monasteries are nestled.

Of Bulgaria’s nearly 100 monastic centers dotted around the country, the Rila Monastery is the largest and most heavily visited. In 2009, nearly a million visitors came to see this location. It’s definitely an interesting sight. And this being among the earlier of my Bulgarian monasteries, I am finding that they seem to have this common thread of all feeling totally rebuilt and slightly unauthentic.

Every monastery that I’ve visited so far has burned to the ground at least once and then been rebuilt many years later. So each time this happens, the construction, while attempted in the preceding style, was still influenced by more recent architectural techniques – and beholden to adhering to updated standards of safety and fire regulations.

Not that that prevented fires, since the diocese can’t seem to keep from burning down their religious monuments with such frequency that one might wonder if blazing monasteries might translate to hearty financial benefit to the church. I am not sure I will get anyone to confirm this longstanding conspiracy theory, but when considering the three facts that, 1) there are plenty of monasteries in neighboring countries that don’t have such a “heated” history of fires, to use a pun, 2) that the number one biggest real estate company in the entire country, the company that owns more hectares per capita of low-wage employees in the entirety of Eastern and Southern Europe, is the Eastern Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, and 3) that this very same church has seen drastic decreases in their membership – and their membership fees, as they might be called, there are definitely some questions of exceedingly coincidental benefactors of disaster restructuring monies to be accounted for.

Each time a monastery burns, Tsars, Presidents and wealthy families are expected to shoulder the burden of paying for reconstruction and restoration of the religious relics. These entities take on the responsibility as something of an achievement or a charitable honor to be a contributing part of the “rebirth” of a historical, national monument. But is it really a charitable action or simply a contribution to a medieval  scam that’s simply worked so well that it’s continued for centuries.

In any case, it is still a visual spectacle to visit. And located in the mountains, it’s also a pretty leisurely way to escape the heat. So in the summer, this place really packs in the crowds. It’s difficult to find parking even now, during the off-peak season, so I can imagine that it’s a better bet to take a tour bus from the city if you’re really interested in making this trip. For reasons that will become apparent shortly, however, I actually have to strongly suggest that you do not visit this particular monastery. More on that soon.

Bulgaria has an interesting history with its religious ties throughout the ages. Bulgaria has always been seen as a European “outsider” by other countries in the continent – which stands true even today. Up until the 7th century, the population was mostly pagan, adhering mostly to Slavic and Thracian traditions.
The Rila Monastery has been something of a refuge for revolutionaries throughout the ages as well. And outside of its 2002 visit with Pope John Paul II, it’s housed such names as Vassil Levski, Gotse Delchev, and Peyo Yavorov.
The asshole:
A free PDF available at states that Rila Monastery is the largest monastery in Bulgaria. It was built in the tenth century and has kept and preserved the Christian values for over a millennium.

I would definitely agree, given the fact that the 10th century was actually the period of Christianity when Pre-scholastic theology found the church in utter disarray, that it’s kept not only the values, but also the self-aggrandized entitlement of Christianity since it was built. If that century defined the religion in this region, with the fall of the Carolingian Empire and the all-out feudal separation of the Roman and Eastern Orthodoxy from the Church of England, then I can see how it also defined how they recruit their monastic heads – like the one we see here who is literally throwing a tantrum and screaming at my producer in the middle of his own place of worship.

The conundrum in the 10th century, by the way, came about because of petty squabbles over issues like whether or not leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist. Conflict was said to have arisen out of theological disputes of the remotest and most minute differences in interpretative disputes on everything from scripture to original sin, purgatory, and the nature of Hell. In fact, this period was so tumultuous, that it came to be known as the Great Schism, and in 1054 culminated in the Bishop of Rome calling for his own personal jurisdiction over determining the final word to the most controversial questions at the time.

On its masthead website,, the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox church states that it wishes to teach by both word and deed, to inspire all to lead a life of Orthodox Christian belief, worship, and service to others. Well, if this is how they teach in deeds, they might want to revamp their stance on what they claim is “service to others.”

Look at this guy go. He really has nothing better to do than to cause a huge stink over getting filmed in a place where he probably ends up in more tourist photos than anyone most people know.

Rila Monastery is located inside of Rila Monastery Nature Park – a national park which, though endowed by the orthodox church, was designated as public lands. Being a professor of journalism with more than two decades of filming under my belt, I made sure to find that out before filming.

Why is that important? Because that makes this public land. And in Bulgaria, anyone standing on public land has no expectation to privacy. By profession or volunteerism, monks who find themselves here are in public domain. So, no, I actually don’t require your permission to film.

The monk ran off to complain to the police officers directing traffic about the incident, claiming in his combative argument with my producer that he would have them order me to erase my footage. As we exited the monastery and walked past the police, they nodded and smiled at me, giving me a hand gesture that assured me not to worry about the monk’s conversation.

As this man, who looks as old as my father, was having a hissy fit about me filming him in an open and public space, a crowd had started to form behind me. I found it quite ironic that most of them were taking pictures and filming this ridiculous charade.

Let’s forget for a moment that this man just walked up, assaulted me and tried to take my camera. He then continued on a tirade that literally lasted enough time for me to describe the last 1,000 years of Orthodox conflict. And here he is perfectly exemplifying the plight. One member of the crowd actually had to approached him and remind him that, while I probably should have asked his permission, this was, after all, a church, and that he should calm down and act like a responsible adult.

Thanks, Mr. Monk. I’m sure the YouTube views that you receive will make your hostility totally worth it.

You can see the outtake of this interaction, with subtitles, on my YouTube channel.

Bulgarian Retro Commie Showroom

Yep. You read that title right. On the way to Rila, in Southwestern Bulgaria, there’s a coffee-fueled passion for collecting communist era relics.

A visit to this place feels a lot like being cast into a whitewashed, concrete room with grayscale machines and being interrogated by the KGB – but with pleasant people offering coffee. It is either the perfect scene for a horror movie, or the burial place of Lenin’s TV double.

And before you say it, guys, yes. I know that the big picture I referenced here was actually not Stalin. Mixing a-roll and b-roll can be problematic sometimes. But thanks to those brainiacs out there for picking up on that and being fastidious, helpful viewers and pointing it out!

To find this place, just head toward Rila. It’s on the main road.

Finally Back Out In the World!

Oh, how I have missed you all these past two years. And also missed journalism. And traveling. And making neat, little travel shorts. I think the last time I actually sat down and wrote a blog was before I went back to the states in 2014 to start my latest of two graduate degrees – a terminal master’s in Intermedia, at the University of Maine.

It’s been a whirlwind adventure with plenty of ups and downs and lessons big and small. I am proud to announce that I have completed all of my coursework and have actually been offered a full time professorship at UMO’s sister campus, the American University in Bulgaria, which they helped open in 1991 (and are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year). The ties that I have built at the University have grown so strong that I’m even planning to complete my PhD studies through UMaine while I’m here!

To put it lightly, I couldn’t be happier. I am living in Bulgaria and enjoying a splendid little corner of Eastern Europe. I have plans to be filming in Serbia and Macedonia soon, having already traveled throughout Bulgaria and Greece for some great photo opportunities so far. So this note is to let you all know that I am back out in the world, boots on the ground, camera in hand and creating more content for you to read, hear, watch and enjoy of my humbling journeys around the globe.

Here’s a short video of the trip to Thessaloniki this past weekend, with the promise of more to come.

Travelcast with Lisa Egle of Chicky Bus, Podcast #16

In this podcast, Lisa Egle, author of Magic Carpet Seduction and creator of, covers global politics, talks about her latest and greatest tales on the road and offers her insights as a single, female traveler abroad.

Lisa is one of the most accessible and genuinely involved travelers out there. Stop by her page, subscribe to her monthly newsletter and help support her engaged writing by buying her newest title. Also follow her on twitter: @chickybus.

Check out more podcasts at:

follow on twitter: @cyleodonnell & @travelgeekmag

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Travel Geek: Documentary Penang (Full HD, Feature Length)

In the heart of Penang lies a recent but rich history of colonial British culture. And through it, I explore in style and with a long time local.

This film is part two of the Travel Geek: Documentary Malaysia series.

So stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to get the videos when they are released!!

You need to watch cool videos; I need viewers. So if you enjoy my videos, please pass around the links. It’s a win-win!!

For all the extras from Travel Geek: Documentary Malaysia, visit

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