A Free and Private Way to #Vanlife

By Meghan and Matt

Matt and I started our vanlife journey from Connecticut after a six month van build.

Coming from the East coast, boondocking isn’t really much of an option in the wilderness – mainly because so much of the land is developed. We got to camp out at a state forest in PA but I’d say our first real experience was at “The Wall” in South Dakota, right outside of Badlands National Park.

It was unreal. The first night we got there it was about nine in the evening and totally dark; tons of stars were shining brightly. In the morning, we caught the sunrise over the Badlands and our mouths just dropped for at least an hour.

It was the first moment where we both were like: “wow, this is why we chose this lifestyle”!

Our Favorite Aspects of Boondocking

Boondock camping is free and you get privacy (most of the time). One paid RV park we once stayed at put us in a really dumpy part of the park while the really nice, larger Class A RVs were on the nicer side.

We like city camping because it’s a cool way to experience a city like NYC, but after a while it gets tiring trying to be lowkey all the time. After spending the last two or so months in the East coast cities, we’re ready to get back out West and boondock freely again. 

Challenges of Boondocking

Starting out boondocking, the biggest challenge we faced was figuring out where to go. We had a ton of different apps and they all have different spots and pros and cons to them, but just figuring out what felt right for us took some time.

We need to prioritize having cell service to be able to work, so there were a few times we’d pull up to a spot and have no service, and then had to keep moving to find some signal. Another challenge was learning how to feel comfortable in some of these remote places.

Possible Drawbacks of Boondocking

I would say that the main downside of boondock camping is the lack of showers. It’s fun to be out boondocking, but after a few days you can really start to feel it.

Plus, you can only stay for as long as you have food for. Our fridge is somewhat small, so if we want fresh food, we have to go into town every few days. Also, we’ve gone down some really sketchy roads that may have been questionable for a van like ours (haha)!

Advice For New Boondockers

  • Trust your gut. If someone or something doesn’t feel right or gives you a weird vibe, get out of there.
  • Arrive during the day with plenty of light to scope out the area.
  • Tell someone where you’re gonna be.
  • Plan out a second place nearby that you can go to in case the first place doesn’t work out.

I hope you enjoyed my tips and personal experiences boondocking while vanlifing! We’re grateful for the chance to have a voice on the Diversify Vanlife platform, and really appreciate the work and advocacy for the BIPOC and LGBTQ community that Diversify Vanlife does.

Find Meghan on Instagram @meghanandmatt! All photos courtesy of Meghan (@meghanandmatt).

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