About a month ago, Jef and I met up for a short van dwelling adventure. We spent 5 days in and around Pismo Beach, hitting up Oceano, Cambria, and San Simeon State Park. It was fun!
All in all, it was great trip. But it was also very stressful. Why? Because we spent our first three nights in cities. I learned that…
City van dwelling can be stressful
Van dwellers often worry about street noise impeding their sleep. Not me. Stealth camping on the street outside of an apartment building, I worried constantly that someone outside would hear us moving around inside the van. The water pump made noise. Sake barked at motorcycles whizzing by. The bed creaked whenever anyone sat on it. All of it upped my stress levels.
Waking up in the morning
I really didn’t want anyone to see us getting out of the van in the morning, especially using the side door. I didn’t want it to look like we’d slept in the van overnight, and I knew that Jef would stretch his arms big and wide as soon as he set foot outside the van. That stressed me out.
Finding a place to hang out during the day
In the city, it isn’t kosher to park on the street, open up your doors, and chill inside your van. It’s just weird. You not only feel like the weirdo living in a van, you ARE the weirdo living in a van. You have to go somewhere during the day. And that can be stressful because … where are you supposed to go? You can go to a coffee shop for about 2 hours, but then where do you go next? A restaurant? The park? Not to mention that if you go mainly to coffee shops and restaurants, it gets expensive (you really should buy something to justify taking up a table and a chair).
Bringing your dog everywhere
If you’re in the city, you cannot leave your dog unattended in your vehicle. Someone will break your window to “rescue” your dog. Remember, people love being heroes, and they hate minding their own business. So, that means that if you have a dog, you’ll have to bring your dog everywhere you go. Since Sake has two parents, one of us can go into a restaurant or a grocery store and get what we need while the other stays with Sake—and that’s really nice. But during the day, we generally have to find cafes and restaurants with outdoor patios that allow dogs. It can be a challenge.
IMHO van dwelling in nature is much easier!
After three stressful nights of stealth van dwelling in the city, I decided to pay $35 to camp at San Simeon State Park for one night—just to see if it made a difference.
And boy, did it ever!
All my stress went—poof! Gone! The difference between being “allowed” to camp in the van vs. “stealth van dwelling” was absolutely huge (in my mind, anyway). I didn’t worry about making noise inside the van, Sake barking, or lounging inside the van with the doors open. All of that was acceptable—and even expected—and the difference that made on my stress levels truly surprised me.
I don’t think it’s the stigma of living in a van that gets to me. I think what gets to me is the small chance that I could conceivably “get in trouble” for stealth van dwelling in the city. Someone might call the police, and the police will come knocking and then—what? I get arrested? Sake gets put in a shelter? My van gets impounded? No, I don’t really think any of that would happen. They’d probably just tell me that I can’t loiter in my van in their city, and to go somewhere else. But still, if there’s even a tiny possibility that someone else will think that I’m breaking a rule or law, that makes me nervous. Yeah, I’m a bit of a worry wart. “Very conscientious” is what all my teachers used to say of me. That’s a fancy word for someone who’s been yelled at for spilling milk.
There’s one last thing that made our trip stressful:
Wifi—needing it and not having it!
Pretty much everything we did was centered around finding free wifi so that I could get work done. I could have taken a week off of work so that we could enjoy our trip, but I wanted to see how difficult it would be to work while on the road, using only the free wifi that was available at cafes. In short, it was really freaking hard.
The next time we go on a van dwelling excursion, I plan to load up a Verizon pre-paid mifi device so that my wifi worries will be a thing of the past.
I have to admit that by our third night of city van dwelling, I wasn’t sure if van dwelling was for me. I briefly thought that I’d wasted two and a half years of converting my van, and that my consolation prize was having learned a boatload about solar power and how to get creative with building materials. But not to worry, I’m still very much into the idea of van dwelling—as long as I get to do it out in nature. With wifi.