It’s A Van Life World

Judging from what we have seen this summer, more and more people are taking to the roads in conversion vans, truck campers, travel trailers (like us) or some other form of gypsy existence. There really are so many ways to live nomadically these days. In fact, a lot of people just travel out of their car these days like my friend Bianca.

We actually had some difficulty last summer and this summer finding places to camp. We mostly dispersed damp on BLM or Forest Service land. We went to several places listed on Campendium for dispersed camping when we were in Jackson Hole. Granted, it WAS Tuesday before the 4th of July on Thursday so it was already getting busy. We were using AllStays and Campendium apps for our resources. We were having no luck at all.

The dispersed camping we could find on these apps was now limited to 5 days (most Forest Service or BLM allow 16 days at a time).The camping limit had been changed by the Forest Service from 16 days to 5 days from June 1st to September 1st. This was due to so many people dispersed camping in the last couple of years. The Forest Service outside of Tetons NP had to hire camp hosts to manage the campers and monitor camp fires.

A volunteer camp host I spoke with said that he found at least one unattended or not fully extinguished camp fire a day which is a really scary thought and reminds me to always have two ways out when we camp.

He felt the increase in dispersed campers is due to the smartphone age and having easily accessible info on campsites on apps such as VanLife, Campendium and AllStays. New ones seem to come available every month. They all make finding camping as easily as seeing what is around you on a map using your location.

We finally ended up on a beautiful piece of land adjacent to Clear Creek in the Gros Ventre River valley. We were about 40 minutes outside of Jackson, and we didn’t have any sort of cell signal where we were camped, but it was peaceful, and the 5 day limit that now applied to a lot of the dispersed camping areas around Jackson Hole and the Tetons National Park, didn’t seem to apply to this area as we stayed for 18 days because we attended a memorial for a friend in Chicago.

After our foray into Banff and Jasper National Parks this summer, we have decided that we need to have a smaller footprint to fit more discreetly into places. Size was an issue in Canada as well as some of the places we looked at in Tetons as well as last summer in Michigan. A 25 foot travel trailer like ours really isn’t big as RVs go, however, when you are trying to cover ground and camp discreetly in a parking lot if campsites have filled up, the travel trailer is too conspicuous.

There are approximately 10 million RVs in America about 10 percent are used as homes full time. In our travels, I have met people like ourselves who just simply love the flexibility and excitement of a nomadic life. Many jobs now allow or even encourage their employees to work from home (or anywhere) and this can easily be done in today’s electronic world.https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/11/12/million-americans-live-rvs-meet-modern-nomads/

Also, middle class wages never fully recovered after the 2008 recession and house prices have risen extraordinarily high in many cities making home ownership simply unaffordable for many people so they have taken to the road and made their home on wheels. I recently read an article in The LA Times about how many people live in campers and vans on the street in Mountain View, CA, because a median average rent for a one bedroom apartment at $3,450 is out of reach for a lot of workers. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-google-mountain-view-rv-living-20190522-story.html%3f_amp=true

I really love our nomadic life, and I wouldn’t want to live any other way, right now, but I am so thankful that this is a choice for us and not a necessity. That would greatly reduce the “fun factor” if we felt stuck.

With the increase in the number of people RV-ing, some cities have become creative with their accommodations for RV-ers. I noticed this on a work trip next to SFO Airport at the Coyote Point Recreation Area. The city had literally created 3 campsites in a parking lot.

There are so many modifications that you can do with your RV or van these days that make it very comfortable and homey. My favorite thing about full-timing that we always feel at home everywhere we go. Hans and I have our own very comfortable bed, all our clothes for any season or activity, my CD collection for when I don’t have a signal to stream, all my Doterra oils, all my supplements that I take, my Vitamix, my Instapot, our paddle board and canoe, our bikes…. I mean the list goes on and on because our home and all the things we love are always with us!

Check out the back of our pickup which is essentially our garage:I wish there was nano-technology to shrink this all down and take it in my roller bag for work!

We have parked in rest areas and truck stops overnight that seem unsettling at first, but when I pull down the shades and put on music, I’m completely at home.

But speaking of shrinking down, we have started the discussion of what we will go to next in order to be more fully mobile and less restricted. I love the conversion vans. Although they are tiny, I have seen them with brilliant set ups that include a kitchen, closet and wet or dry bath.

A class C with a Jeep “towed” may also work nicely for us. We could disengage the Jeep and park elsewhere away from the Class C if we are trying to camp discreetly.

Also, we are considering an in-bed truck camper also with towed Jeep. We could drop our camper and take off exploring and leave the campsite behind. This would also be super convenient on the occasion that we need two cars.

We are heading to the east coast this winter, and for whatever reason, it seems that many RV parks in FL do not take in-bed truck campers so we will hold on to our beloved travel trailer for now. We do not usually use RV parks, but the east coast does not have the abundance of public land that the west does.