Before COVID-19 hit, #VanLife was something that many took up not because it was seen as trendy to the folks hangin’ on social media, but because it was a free and easy lifestyle. Now that a pandemic has taken over the world, campers across the globe are asking themselves if they should take shelter by staying where they are, or if they should travel to find somewhere else more permanent.
However, with the closure of most public places, access to essentials like water and power becomes a problem. So, the real question is: Can #VanLife go on during the coronavirus?
To Stay Or To Leave?
Many van dwellers have called up their family or friends to depend on during this time of need. Those who have been able to contact friends or family have made the trip back to the parents’ house or friend’s place for the time being, while keeping their social distance.
Some van lifers have made the decision to keep their distance completely from friends and family. It may sound strange, but it’s for good reason. For example, those who come from an extremely rural area with health services hours away may feel like they would be putting everyone in town at risk if they were to travel back home. Others feel that they would be exposing themselves to potential infection by having to refill the gas tank at many gas stations and by using public facilities along the way. These cases make a good point; the risks can actually outweigh the benefits of returning home and staying put would be a better option.
Other van lifers who haven’t been able to head back to their hometown have had no choice but to reach out to strangers. Yep, strangers. But these aren’t just any strangers; these people have willingly offered their properties for campers to park their vehicles at, or to temporarily reside in one of their bedrooms. Although we give full disclosure that we do not endorse any “lists”, googling “Space for Roadlifers” will find you an excel doc that connects travelers with property owners. The document’s purpose is to offer those with no options left a parking spot or spare room to stay in. Plus, relevant information like available water sources can be added in as well. Talk about big hearts! Van dwellers can rest easy knowing they’re in a safe and secure space with some new friends.
Staying On Public Land
Meanwhile, some others have decided to really define social distancing by finding spaces to park (legally, of course) and stay at, for free! Where, you may wonder? Federal lands.
Since developed recreation sites with campgrounds, running water, and toilets are closed in most areas, dispersed camping is allowed on most properties of the Bureau of Land Management and National Forest. Dispersed camping is camping outside of designated camping spaces with no services available. Since there are no services around, finding a place to access water, dispose of your waste, and the like is a must before settling on federal grounds. You don’t want to set up your camper to realize the nearest access point to shower is many miles away!
As settling down on federal lands means you’re far away from grocery stores, van lifers have to occasionally make the venture into town for food and supplies. Since grocery stores are essential, take comfort in knowing they’ll continue to stay open throughout the pandemic and provide us with the food, water and supplies needed.
The Bureau of Land Management
In the US, the Department of the Interior has plenty of information on Federal land. It’s important to check this regularly to see what is current information in the time of Covid-19.
Here is a current link to its policies of Camping on Public Lands HERE.
Also they offer a link WHERE TO RV HERE.
An outside link to an interactive map HERE.
Whether or not you decide to find an uncrowded space on federal land, or make the journey to a family member or friend’s house, is your decision. However, you should also keep in mind the setup of your van when making this decision. Your vehicle’s setup could limit where you want to hunker down at!
But, if the federal lands decide to shut down dispersed camping (as some worry may happen), van lifers who park at these places will have to relocate. It’s an unfortunate and inconvenient possibility, but also a real one -- so always be ready to move.
It’s a matter of finding a safe place with supplies available within close proximity, and adapting to a new kind of van lifestyle for the rest of this self-isolation phase. Just make sure you’re doing so in a safe manner, both to look after yourself and others.
As always, if you find yourself with symptoms of illness, head to your nearest clinic. Just be aware that smaller clinics may have limited resources compared to others, so you may end up having to make the trek to another clinic closer to urban life.
The #VanLife isn’t about constant traveling and “doing it for the gram”.
Means you do things in your life so you can take pictures and show off on Instagram.
In real life, these free souls take on this lifestyle for much bigger philosophical reasons, like getting away from consumerism and appreciating the world from a very basic need perspective.
P.S. No matter what you’re sleeping on, you may find yourself on some pretty unlevel terrain in the coming months, so please have your Lynx Levelers along for the ride.