Thursday, May 28, 2015
Gotta keep it mobile
Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to the nomadic lifestyle. Now I'm only semi-nomadic, but I'm on the road for enough months of the year to get some insight. This past travel season we did a lot more van living than we normally do.
The big thing about van living is you have to keep moving. Most people know that Walmarts allow overnight parking. Not all of them do so a smartphone app is a really handy tool. Also truck stops won't bother someone who spends the night.
When I stop at these places I make a point to do some shopping there, or in the case of the truck stops, eat a meal. Shopping and eating have to be done anyway so I'm not just some guy parking there but a customer. Keep the receipt handy in case they decide to hassle you. That's very unlikely to happen if you are staying just one night.
Problems arise when people take advantage and settle in for the duration. Not only will they ask you to move, they will get the police involved. Vehicles have been towed and impounded. When you live in in a van, it's your house they are towing away. You end up without transportation and homeless.
We stayed at a lot of Federal Parks. The price is reasonable, especially if you qualify for any of their discount programs. Commonly it was under $10/night. They have limits on how long you can stay, usually about 2 weeks. Sometimes you can't just scoot over to a nearby Federal Park and stay another two weeks. If they are in the same regional system your two weeks in the previous campground count against you. Rules vary so check and see what there at the places you want to stay.
One thing to do is to mix it up. We've bounced around from Federal, to state, to private campground with the the occasional overnight in a Walmart. There a few free places to park that don't have time limits. They are uncommon. Some are even in nice places. However, some of the people who stay there may be sketchy so keep up your situational awareness.
Your vehicle must be in good working order at all times. This, of course, is impossible. Even new vehicles break down. A good roadside assistance plan can be darn useful. Last winter we broke down on rt. 75 in Tampa while towing our boat. The good news is that our $37 dollar Boat US membership saved us a $500 tow.
Fortunately, we were able to go to my dad's place where I could do the repairs myself. Having family or friends with room to work on a vehicle is a godsend. Not only did I have a place to work on the van, we stayed at my dad's and I could use his car to pick up parts. Had we no place to stay we'd have had to pay for the repair work, pay for a hotel room, and maybe even rent a car. We could have done all that, but it would have blown a big hole in the budget.
There are those who only drive the newest RVs and only stay in full service parks. For the rest of us, having inexpensive or free places to camp is the key to making it work. It really pays to get to know others living on the road. They share information on good places to stay. They also share information about places that are no longer welcoming to the nomad. Sometimes that's whole communities.
One solution is the stealth vehicle. A stealth vehicle is one that looks like it belongs. It might be a plain looking van that doesn't seem out of place parked in a residential neighborhood. Some people have vehicles like cube trucks that looks like commercial vehicles. People have even found ways to blend in while staying in a car. One strategy to lessen discovery is to stop late and leave early. If residents never notice you, they won't call the cops about a strange vehicle in the neighborhood.
Never hesitate to move along if things don't seem right or if asked to move. Mobility is the nomad's greatest strength.