Thursday, December 20, 2018

Living on the road

There are more and more people living in their vehicles. They could be anything from a giant RV to a tiny economy car. Van living is particularly popular. It's not just retired people either. Sometimes it's people who've lost their homes. Some people are living a mobile life because they can't afford housing. It's not just minimum wage earners either.

At the same time there's been some push back from different municipalities against those living in vehicles. Even Warmarts have fewer locations that allow overnight stays. However, there are phone apps that make it easier to find places that allow overnight parking.

When I was traveling in my ambulance conversation we didn't have too many problems finding a place to stop for the night. If you are just passing through it's not too hard to find parking. Problems start when you want to stay somewhere longer term. Of course, we did a lot of camping. Inexpensive Federal campgrounds and free woods camping is available.

That's fine if you are retired or on vacation. If you have to make a living, backwoods living is less than ideal. Jobs and services are in the cities. The urban camper has a lot more limitations. They are also more likely to run afoul of property owners. The police know who pays their wages so don't hesitate to knock on doors and get people moving.

That makes vehicle living tough. The stress of finding a safe spot wears on a person. Constantly having to move is an issue too. Fuel isn't free. Wear and tear on a moving vehicle adds up. Eventually the vehicle turns into a worn out piece of junk. An eyesore like that sticks out and makes residents nervous. To successfully live in a vehicle, you have to keep it maintained and be able to replace it when it wears out.

Plenty of vehicle dwellers are their own worse enemies. They leave behind containers of urine and feces. Some dump their garbage in the parking lot even when there are perfectly good waste containers nearby. Those with alcohol, drug or violent mental issues really get people up in arms. Can't really blame them for doing so. Those bad apples make it hard for everyone else.

Should the economy take a steep downturn, there are going to be a lot more people living in vehicles. I talked to quite a few people who've been on the road since the 2008 real estate collapse. These people never went back to “normal” living.

It can be a fun adventure. My lovely wife and I enjoyed it, but we weren't trying to earn a living while on the road. It's one thing if you choose to travel. It's another if circumstances force you on the road. The more successful ones have had time to plan. They tend to be in vehicles more suited to living than a Honda Civic.

One woman I talked to bought a newer van with cash while she was still in a house and employed. By the time she was out of the house and job, she had a converted van and some traveling cash. She found a way to earn a little money on-line. That takes care of her few needs. Right now I don't think she wants to move back into a house. The vagabond life has its perks -if you do it right.



  1. From the travel and vehicle living blogs I see, it seems to be quite an adventure. And it truly does teach you what is essential, vs. just having 'stuff' that requires you have space to store it.

    Winter must be a difficult time to live like that, especially in snow country.

    1. Cold weather requires a whole different skill set and good gear. That's why I like to head south for winter camping. I've tented in the snow, but it was more fun 30 years ago.