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.

Headed Back Home

That’s right, you heard it. I’m on my way back stateside. In just a few hours I’ll do a quick stop in Qatar and make my way to the U.S. from there. Why would I do such a thing (is what you should be asking) when I am out here having the time of my life, publishing books, taking amazing photos, interviewing awesome guests for my podcasts and making epic movies on countries the world over?

I’m glad you asked. I’ve made a video to answer that very question.


Hi Travel Geekers, This will be my last update from Southeast ASia for the foreseeable future. I know that many of you have become accustomed to getting my updates from this region, but I’d like to reflect on some of my past successes as well as to talk about the upcoming changes that will be taking place on the Travel Geek network.

In the past five years I’ve grown from a simple travel enthusiast, to something of an entrepaneur in culture and international concerns with media coverage spanning more than three dozen countries.

My growing library of books from this and other regions of the world focus on anthropology, geology and even the traditions of various different cultures of the world.

My blog, which started out as a journal to chronicle my bicycle trip across the states with a handful of readers, has grown to a frequented location for travelers seeking experiential advice and which is constantly attracting marketing and advertising from all over the world.

Produced more than 120,000 images, 85,000 of which are fully edited and released on a rotating gallery of photography from 40 countries.

Started a podcast show in which I’ve talked to radio hosts like Mark Vogler in San Francisco, Web hosts like Chris Christensen, of Trip Advisor, Rights advocates like Adam Kokesh, the host of the History Channel’s Hidden Cities, Anthony Morse, and a ton of other very influential people around the world.

My videos have been aired on network television in the U.S., like KVMD Los Angeles and others; my footage has been seen on the BBC in the United Kingdom and used in everything from hotel chains and government websites to charitable organizations and tourism bureaus. And I have even entered into an agreement to have my current six films as well as my upcoming seven other films represented by a worldwide distribution company that will begin work on putting them on networks all over the globe like Canal+, Eurosport, Sony Entertainment Network, MTV, Fuel TV , ESPN and others.

In addition to that, my films have also been listed on IMDB, a place of esteemed recognition and a highly sought-after listing for any filmmaker in any market. Four of my current six films have been listed, and they’ve already approached me about listing the remaining films as well.

On top of all this, I’ve launched my latest and greatest venture so far, the Travel Geek Magazine which includes all of the above, and brings it all together in what has become a very popular travel and research resource for people the world over. I have actually met people on the road who have said that they have heard of and visited my website. It’s amazing to hear those kinds of comments about my work.

In fact, the last decade has been an amazing and wild ride altogether. Each year of the last five years has been better than the one before. But because of what’s around the corner, it’s actually just beginning.

And that’s actually why I’m making this update. In the spring of this year, 2014, I was told by a very prestigious university in the U.S. that I was nominated for a full scholarship to attend classes free of charge and pursue a dual program MFA/PhD. I did not solicit this nomination, it was offered to me outright by the university. But what’s even better, I was also offered a fellowship with this university in which I will be teaching visual media — things like photography, videography, documentary filmmaking and journalistic integrity and media ethics, are all on the table throughout the time that I’m there.

What’s more, I’ll also hope to be taking my students all over the world to film and photograph and document their media in the places where culture meets creativity and share the insights that I have learned in the last decade of being a digital nomad.

Okay, all that is amazing, and I’m hugely humbled by all of that. But probably the most significant thing for me is that during the MFA portion of my degree, I will be using the last ten years of media creation and putting them to work in my magazine. I am going to try and make a magazine that is completely unique, something that’s never been seen before, something that combines global interests and experiential travel insights and a personal perspective that bonds it all together.

Driving all of this content will be an entirely new way of consuming online content. It’ll be more than just a magazine. It will combine all my books, photos, films, podcasts, journals and blogs, and drive them in a vehicle made up of a host of new apps, interactive platforms, vivid visuals and prepped for technologies that don’t even exist yet. It’ll be a blogazine for the next generation of tech-hungry consumers. And I can’t wait to get started on it.

So, what does all this mean for the Travel Geek Magazine, the Travel Geek Blog, the Travel Geek Podcasts, the Travel Geek Documentaries, and the Travel Geek Channel? I will be scaling back my releases of videos and blogs, as expected during this busy time. But remember: I’ve just finished collecting footage for seven brand new films from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei and North Borneo. So while my studies continue, and I find myself in a collective of media enthusiasts, I’ll also be editing on the world’s most advanced software, using studio quality components and in an environment where I’ll be sure to have the best advice on how to really make an impact with it when it’s all released.

So… Stick around. If the last few years haven’t kept you on your toes, I hope that this next step will be a very impactful one. I hope that it will be something that makes the world a little smaller, a little more accessible, and a little more real to those of us hoping to learn more about our amazing neighbors.

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

Friend me on Facebook:

Read the blog at

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Travel Geek Short: Documentary Malacca

In this short documentary, I explore the culturally and historically rich port of call after which the Strait of Malacca was named. Talking with locals and exploring the city, this short follows me as I get in touch with the real Malacca that is seldom seen.

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

Friend me on Facebook:

Read the blog at

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Travel Geek: Documentary Malaysia (Full HD)

Having spent 2013 filming in all parts of Malaysia, this documentary showcases six of the nine selected filming locations. Starting off in Malaysia’s cultural hub, I move northward from Malacca to celebrate Thaipusam outside of Kuala Lumpur. From there, I discover street foots, mile-high temples and Malaysia’s smallest and most diversified national park, roaming sand, sea and jungle in Penang. Then I take to the rafting waterways and climb active waterfalls in Gopeng. Following that is a trip through the tea-rich mountains of the Cameron Highlands where I find the world’s largest flower. And I end my journey on a tropical island getaway, snorkeling on Tioman Island.

Check out additional footage from Travel Geek: Documentary Malaysia

follow on twitter: @cyleodonnell & @travelgeekmag

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For the rest of the footage, as well as outtakes, extended cuts and extras that weren’t included in this film, check out the “Short Documentary Films” playlist, or select from the links below:

TGS: Documentary Malacca

TGS: A History of Georgetown

TGS: Hiking Tabur West

TGS: Documentary Gopeng

TGS: DOcumentary Thaipusam (Extended Cut)

TGS: Documentary Thaipusam

TGS: Cameron Highlands

TGS: Taman Negara

TGS: Hiking Tioman Island

TGS: Snorkeling Tioman Island

Serdang: Giant Hamster Ball Adventure

Gourmet Chicken Tandoori Cuisine in Malacca

December 16, 2013 Update

Hey Travel Geekers,
Next week I’ll be back in Malaysia for the umpteenth time for a short weekend doing visa paperwork. But while I’m there, I’ll more than likely run into something cool to film. So maybe I’ll do an update from the road. Those of you who caught the documentary that I filmed in Penang might enjoy seeing more of it from a different angle.

In other news, for those who have been following my video and Facebook updates on my recent filming junkets in Northern Thailand and Laos, I’ll start editing the footage from the Phuket Vegetarian Festival and northern hill tribes of Laos and Thailand after I return.

It will be fun finally getting these out since, all told, I’ve been back and forth filming in this area since the end of 2009.

These won’t start releasing until after the New Year 2014, and will only be about half of what I have planned for my docs in Laos and Cambodia.

Then, hopefully around March, I’ll finally complete filming down the Mekong, through the Ho Chi Minh Trail (and other war-torn areas that I talked about in my latest Laos update) and down into Cambodia where I’ll be completing a focus piece on the freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins living just south of the border.

Their numbers are in huge decline. So this will be a bittersweet trip, encompassing not just the awe of seeing freshwater dolphins for the first time (not to mention a rare opportunity), but also to film these creatures in what may well be their remaining years in existence. Hopefully I will be able to add my footage to the pool of collective media behind this wholly necessary movement to save them from extinction.

It will be as important as anything I’ve ever done. And so when that time comes, I’ll hope to call on my 35,000 readers and friends and social networks and contacts and those who have enjoyed my efforts in documenting international cultures and causes these last ten years.

Help me get the word out and maybe we can help the impoverished people of Cambodia and these amazing creatures in one fell swoop, by increasing the eco-tourism to the area and decreasing the need for net fishing along this fragile strip of waters.

More to come on that. It’s going to be an exciting year!

Thanks for spending it with me!