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Full Version: Taking the leap...urban van dwelling. Advice?
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I've been on this site for quite a while, thinking 'What if?', 'Could I do it?' and 'I wish I could' and it looks like I'm going to find out.

In the next few weeks, probably by the middle of January, I'll be out of the house and living in the van. I will have a place to go if I need to, but think I'll spend more time staying in town, camping in my van in various parking lots Smile

But, with the realization that it is going to happen, I find that I am a little uncertain. I know I can do it, and am looking forward to it, but it is still a bit daunting to think about.

I'm sure I'll be ok, I have a job, and know of several spots that you can boondock in town and am looking forward to peace and quiet. My job, Planet Fitness, the mall and Walmart are all within 4 miles so I may not have to drive much when I'm on my own so that will save money for the times I have my kids and we stay at my family's home, 25 miles out of town. 

Any urban dwellers care to pipe up and give some advice about the first few days?
Congratulations on making the leap!

Although I have only been at this for six months I will offer two bits of advice:

First, consider how you will handle police or security officers if you get a midnight visit. This has been discussed at length here and you can read those threads and decide. I thought it unlikely I would ever get a visit and had two in my first three weeks in the van (none since). My point is to expect it will happen eventually and to have a plan before you see flashlight beams on your windows.

Second, know it is natural in the first few days to question the wisdom of your decision. Being a nomad is radically different from how others live and you will feel uncomfortable initially. But soon you will realize the benefits and your doubts will fade.

Damian
I only had two encounters with LEO’s in 2 ½ years of urban stealth camping. The first time was only after a few weeks. I was in a park and ride commuter lot under a bright light ( I always do this, rather have the police bother me than a crackhead. ) Anyway it was winter and he banged on the door and shook it a few times. I have a solid barrier separating the cabin from the living quarters so I just slept it off. In the AM I had a ticket and when I went to pay it ( $20 I think ) the officer on duty took it from me and asked if I lived across the street so I said yes and he tore it up. 

The 2nd time,  same spot a new guy knew I was crashing there ( this just happened a few weeks ago ) He was waiting in my spot. I pulled up next to him and said what’s up and he said I notice you parking here a lot and staying here overnight. I told him I was just gonna play guitar for a while and he said be safe. I figured I was busted and got lucky having this spot in my rotation for all that time. I’m pretty clean cut at the moment so maybe that’s why I didn’t get hassled.

*I have had my doors checked three or four times by the crackheads. The reason I know is my van tells me if someone tries to open a door when I turn it on.

Be safe and goodluck!
A few things that have worked for me. I'm not sure if you have a cargo van but if you do a solid barrier behind the seats and a roof vent/fan has been the biggest key to a good night sleep in a city. 

*I keep a 5 gallon bucket on the passenger seat floor for dirty gym clothes and if I have a good workout ( sweat ) I take my shirt in the shower and rinse/wring it out and it goes in the bucket. 

**Laundry is cheap by me 75 cents so every three days I do it. That bucket gets sprayed and wiped out with some natural stuff from Walmart every time I empty it. Leave the lid slightly off and crack the windows a half inch when dirty gym clothes is in it. I use a laundry bag for all other dirty clothes.

I use a drylite towel ( still brand new after 100's of washings ). It hangs from the passenger side hand grabber thing and the sun dries it. I just bought an extra ( $35 ) but It's proven 
itself worth it.

Peace.
For awhile the newness of it all can be very nerve-wracking. Every noise and bump will startle and concern you. That's normal and if you are expecting it you can cope with it better.

Expect to wake-up to strange noises and feel disoriented, wondering where you are. Even once you remember "I'm in the parking lot of ____" you'll still lay there and try to figure out which direction it is.

The strangeness of it all does diminish and eventually you will start to relax and take it all in stride. If you hang in there, it's very likely you will start to like it and finally even to love it! I know I did!

The best thing is when you used to pay your rent or house payment, now you get to pay yourself--that is a sweet day!!
Bob
Think of living an alternate lifestyle like building a house. The first thing needed is a foundation, without that the rest is futile. You can buy the roof first ( van, rv, etc. ) but you soon realize that you need the foundation. You've been around here a while, you were building that foundation. You are working on the walls, the job, Walmart, Planet Fitness, mall, those are your walls, your world right now. Easing into it is smart, less shock, shorter learning curve. I have no doubt that you can swing this. Please let me share with you one of the most important things I learned. Friends are critical in life, some will refuse to understand your choices. They and their lifestyle will be threatened by your life change. Be understanding and take it in stride, don't divorce yourself from friends. Some will pull away, let them go and keep yourself open to new people. Keep doing the things you enjoy, your sports, hobbies, entertainment, education. Allow some of those interests you haven't had a chance to develop to take a place in your life. I hope you have a smooth, easy transition and an interesting life. Take care
Thanks for the advice, it is very appreciated. This site has been very helpful, it's true, I do have a foundation of knowledge of what to do. I also have a decent van to dwell in, althoguh it is a little rough looking, so I think I'd sleep in Walmart or other parking lots.

All I really need is some black out window coverings, a good cooler and a grill and I'd be able to live pretty decently. Still working on the when but it may be pretty soon. Looking forward to it, actually. Would be good to get out from under the black clouds...
If you are going to stealth camp on city streets, the best thing you can do is park in different spots regularly and often. Don't stay parked in same spot for more than 2 days max or risk neighbors getting uptight and calling the parking patrol peeps on you. I have been full time urban camping in my van nearly 2 years now. Still going strong.
(12-16-2015, 08:24 PM)Rugster Wrote: [ -> ]Thanks for the advice, it is very appreciated. This site has been very helpful, it's true, I do have a foundation of knowledge of what to do. I also have a decent van to dwell in, althoguh it is a little rough looking, so I think I'd sleep in Walmart or other parking lots.

All I really need is some black out window coverings, a good cooler and a grill and I'd be able to live pretty decently. Still working on the when but it may be pretty soon. Looking forward to it, actually. Would be good to get out from under the black clouds...

You can make window coverings for cheap with materials from the dollar store. I used the poly clear wrap that people use to wrap gift baskets, black poster board, scissors, and a marker. What you do is lay the clear wrap over each of your windows and trace the shape of the window. Then you can cut out the shape and trace the shape onto the black poster board, cut it out and tape it behind the windows and I kid you not it looks just like black tint, especially if you do it as neat as possible. Mine aren't even that neat but from the outside looking in I can't see into the car at all and can remove them whenever I'm ready to. 

Good luck on your transition, though I think you're gonna be fine. It's a liberating experience. Makes you really start to think deeply about life and the things that most people value vs. what's really important.
I see you already like to go the gym. I have similar community resources like the pool, library and the local college. The local college won't limit my internet use, I take an online course and get it done there. I go (and contribute) to the potluck dinners at a local church. And when I need down time, I am so grateful for the solitude and tastefully decorated (bragging) cabin of my dodge cargo van while reading the newest John Grisham book. Welcome to your new life and I pray for the ease and grace that has accompanied me.