The pandemic has amplified inconveniences for vanlifers and taken some of them off the road. Finding places to stay has been a problem. They will often park overnight at campgrounds and national parks. But those are largely closed down as a result of COVID-19.
Reaction of Police
A family escaped a tiny expensive flat in Barcelona, for the off-grid life. A group of young friends who adored alternate traveling had finally managed to find a place to live. Then the police forced them out.
A van dweller called the Offgridnomad has hate mail delivered to his van by local neighbours.
This is “van life” in the age of coronavirus.
The groups were living in their vans and staying on the private property of a young Brit named Nathan Murphy and his neighbor. Murphy himself lives in a van with his girlfriend while he renovates an old house somewhere in Spain.
“Policemen often can’t imagine that you don’t have a home somewhere,” said Murphy, speaking from his van. “It’s such a hostile environment for people who are living here in a vehicle.”
The police labeled the refuge an “illegal campsite,” so the off-grid tribe had to move on. Some are now staying with family, others didn’t know where they would wind up.
While there’s been an explosion in the last five years of people pursuing full-time vanlife, off-grid life, and tiny house living; the lifestyle is still an alternative one. This been especially problematic as coronavirus wreaks havoc across the world.
Border regulations, stay-at-home orders, and mass closures of campsites have all been a big headache for people who originally went off-grid to live a life of freedom. Depending on how a van lifer builds their rig, they’re struggling with different essentials right now: water, toilet, food, power.
The problem is especially challenging in Europe. Murphy had offered some fellow van lifers refuge on his land after police told them to “go back home.” What policemen don’t realize is that their “home” is the van they’re already living in.
Murphy’s neighbor Angela Jackson, a mom with two young children, said wherever they would stop on public lands police would approach them. They would admonish her to keep her kids inside their vehicle for the entire day. “You can’t keep children locked in your van,” said Jackson, in one of Murphy’s coronavirus-focused YouTube videos. “We were going a bit crazy.”
People like Murphy and Jackson have practice adapting to crazy situations. But this may prove to be their toughest challenge yet! Many who are living in their vehicles are now being forced to abandon their vans altogether. While some are continually moving from spot to spot to find a cheap, safe place to stay.
Finding places to park
Van lifer Matt Alexander said the most important thing right now is for people like him to find a spot and stay there. As it is important for everyone to come together to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We have to be responsible for the betterment of society and make these decisions to stay put for a little while,” said Alexander. He has recently found a spot for his 2005 Dodge Sprinter on public land in Nevada. “You know, the freedom and flexibility to travel are amazing, but then you bring in health issues such as this and it changes everything.”
For those living the Vanlife it is best to get to a safe place and stay there for the duration. That’s proving nearly impossible in Europe as public spots have been systematically closed to people living in vehicles during the coronavirus crisis, Murphy said.
“If you lead a vanlife and you can go home, or you have a home to go to, that’s fine,” said Murphy. “But let’s say you basically live in your van, then essentially your off-grid lifestyle is outlawed.”
For Canadians Heather Gallant Reilly and her husband, Randy Reilly, their RV has become their full-time home. They’re both retired — Heather was a flight attendant and her husband was in the Air Force.
They’ve been catching sunsets, photographing vistas, and making other RV friends since they left Ottawa, Canada. They were loving their new vanlife, making it all the way to Arizona.
They’re on their way back to Canada to stay near their family where they’ll remain for the foreseeable future. When they arrive, they’ll have to quarantine inside their RV for two weeks. They were lucky enough to finally secure a spot in Canada for a month but will play it day by day after that. Regardless, they still feel that they’ve made the right decision to go mobile.
“I don’t think I want to live any other way than how we do,” said Reilly after her husband finished some furious vegetable chopping.” It’s the freedom you get with vanlife, and you live with less and you realize you can live with less.”
This off-grid community has always been full of people who may have escaped the confines of society. But it’s wonderful to see they are eager to help each other out in a pinch.
Since coronavirus hit, they’ve been using websites and blogs to help connect mobile homeowners with people who are offering parking spaces, driveways, and spaces on farmland. This community of people living in vans, tents, school buses, and even old army tanks will still persist.
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