By now I’m used to being asked the same questions over and over again regarding my vanlife. Don’t you get cold? How do you shower? What do you do without wifi? The list goes on and on, but the one that I always have the hardest time answering is: Where do you park at night? In my head I want to respond ‘I park wherever I damn well please’, but of course I do not. Being asked this question makes me wonder many things about WHY I am being asked. Do they want to come visit me? Are they concerned for my safety? Do they want to learn in case one day they choose vanlife as well? Or, do people seriously think finding a place to park is difficult??
Where do you park at night?
Simply put the answer is ‘everywhere’, but this is not generally found to be an acceptable answer for the inquiring individual. I understand how finding places for park for a night could be a struggle in a metropolitan area, especially if you wish to enjoy your night. Here in Squamish, BC though it’s easy to drive 5 kilometers and feel worlds away from town. I’m not sure all van dwellers feel the same way, but for me a big part of why I live in a van is to be closer to nature. This desire to be in the wild leads me to spend my time living and travelling in less populated areas virtually negating all the issues a city-parking counterpart would face. There are many places I have parked for only a night, and may more I park at so frequently they have nicknames. When a spot gets a name such as Cut Block, Up Top, Riverside, and Fern it has become home and has proven itself as a great location.
I tend to keep the exact location of all the favourite spots close to the heart. While I try to always be as helpful as possible to other vanlifers I believe the best spots are those you find yourself. Summer can bet pretty busy here with people living in vans and it’s nice to know that some spots won’t likely be found by tourists.
With so many different locations available to call home for the night it can be a little overwhelming to make a decision at times, but I love the freedom and spontaneity. More important than where I park is WHY I park where I do. As a dog owner one of my first priorities is choosing a location where Frank can run freely while minimizing the risk of him bothering people or being run over. While it’s easy to get away with parking in residential neighbourhoods as long as you vary your location, it’s not a good choice with a dog. Residential areas are also lit which I do not like either. I enjoy really dark locations, especially those far from people, and no I am not scared of bears. If the sky is clear I will often choose locations to cater to photography and star gazing. If the moon if bright I will choose spots to catch it lighting up mountains, and when the moon is new I search for the darkest skies with neat silhouettes to watch the stars roll by. When I want to sleep in I choose a spot with shade all morning, and when I work early I park as close as possible. If I feel like having a campfire I have places with great views and virtually endless dry wood. Sometimes I don’t want to be bothered, so I go where my phone has no service and no one would find me. A heavy rain will almost always send me to the same location where I have my tarp system dialed, and a single day off will send me to another.
It is true that when you live in a van home is where you park it, but not everywhere you park feels equally homelike. Regular locations will always feel more like home, while anywhere with passing traffic and lights will feel less homey. It’s always enjoyable to park in the yards of family, although I will never say yes to spending the night inside. Finding sweet new views and locations feels a lot like camping, and camping feels a lot like home after living in a tent for months. The most at home I will ever feel is nestled in a tight valley with a river running past. Shielded from the world outside I drift into my own until all that exists in the universe is my tiny home of roughly 4’’x7’’. I fall asleep breaking apart the different sounds in the rivers roar, and enjoy the clearest dreams.
Being the type of person that craves the new I find great satisfaction in the hunt. I am always testing new places to park, and discovering what works and what doesn’t. I don’t have much inside space, but my back yard is endless.