Vanlife Within Today’s Society

Vanlife has officially become a trend. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. With the rise of rent, debt making it impossible to buy a house, and social media showcasing traveling and endless exploring, it’s no surprise to see this way of life taking off. But with #vanlife becoming more mainstream, I thought I would shed some light on the major issues that threaten the simplistic lifestyle turning trend.

More people in vans and RV’s, means more people out recreating on public lands, national parks, national monuments, state parks, and forest lands.

Yes, public lands is for everyone and everyone should take advantage of the natural surroundings. The issue is impact. The huge rise in travel seeking individuals means more and more people are flooding the area, meaning more impact on the land.

More impact on land can mean, people walking off trail, leaving trash, human waste, and increased fire risks from campfires. These issues are becoming more apparent as more people access the outdoors. It’s best to be mindful of nature. Leave nature the way you found it. If there’s trash, pick it up. Don’t walk off trail. Never bother wildlife and minimize fire risk by either not having one or making sure to put it out.

Different Attitudes

Seems like every town, city, state, and country has a different view on how to deal with people sleeping and living in vehicles. For most towns and cities on the East Coast, it seems as if states don’t know where to start on how to handle vanlifers. The concept of living in a van has been around forever, especially on the west coast but with the rise in debt, social media, and the interest of living simply, more of North America is seeing vans taking over.

Take a look at a popular outdoor town of Squamish, British Columbia. You will see a town struggling to handle the vanlife movement. In fact, a new bylaw was just passed that has targeted the people living and camping out of their vehicles. The bylaw aims to just move people around by fining people $100 for sleeping on public roads as well as Crown land (the U.S. equivalent of public lands,) instead of actually solving the issue. For many people in the town of Squamish, van dwellers are contributing members of society, working, and making a living in the town. This bylaw targets their own community as well as lower income residents.

On the opposite side (literally,) we have Seattle. Seattle has allowed anyone to sleep in their vehicles up to 72 hours before having to move the vehicle. This has allowed a lot of van dwellers to live in Seattle, pretty much full time.

Of course, there are a lot of different factors that make up the varying opinions. Seattle is a larger city and has a lot of space. Whereas Squamish is a small landlocked town getting bombarded with people in vehicles and RVs. Open public space is what is needed for campers to stay camping. Currently, Squamish is not interested in building campgrounds but instead condo’s and apartments. We’ll see if those spaces are even affordable.

People are watching you.

With the rise in this lifestyle, many people with big houses, big businesses, and big cars are getting annoyed. With this refreshed movement, it feels that people are watching vanlifers more, waiting to pounce on any mistake.

It feels as if people are annoyed that they have to pay their bills while other people get to play, forgetting that van dwellers have bills and debt as well.

Lets not forget that a lot of people living in vans also work and pay taxes that fund public land management. Let’s take a look at Squamish again, and you will see that the part of the community that is complaining are the ones living in houses. (Ironically enough, the ones living in houses actually have more impact on land than van dwellers). Bottom line, it can be very frustrating to have anyone think negatively about how one chooses to live their life.

People are watching, continued…

When a community of people complain to town officials, the town has to react in order to keep the peace. For example, in popular towns such as Boulder, Colorado, you’ll see no camping signs posted on public land and forest land, leaving vanlifers to struggle to find a spot to sleep. You’ll see cops and rangers knocking on vans, kicking people out, until the next van dweller comes along thus creating a circle of moving people along. We even had an incident where a ranger assumed we had been overstaying the 14 day limit on BLM land when in fact, we had only been there for 10 days. Essentially we had to be woken up and told to move when there was no legal reason to move us. We were being watched incorrectly.

Okay, so how can we as a society coexist with vanlifers?

I don’t have a definite answer, but I think society can work with vanlifers instead of against them. Instead of building condos and expensive apartments where people are being encouraged to rent when they can’t afford it, create campgrounds and parking lots. If there were more campgrounds, it would help encourage vanlifers to park in a controlled space instead of nature. There can even be a fee to help add to the economy. The other positive, is that if there were more campgrounds, more people could fit into a smaller space, instead of building larger homes that stay empty.

Vanlife is a solution to the housing crisis. After all, that is why most people are living in vans. It’s cheaper to buy the most expensive van than to spend your paycheck on rent. Rent that ends up going to someone else. It’s clear there will be another housing crisis. Just driving around, you can see multi-million dollar homes that my generation can’t afford. A clear direction for our society and this nation would be to allow tiny home communities. Create appropriate space for those that want to live within their budget, stay minimalist, and live environmentally friendly.

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