How to welcome vanlife nomads (laws)


So I may end up doing the #vanlife full-time, as I am semi-retired (I will have to go back to work, eventually.)

The number of laws AGAINST “Living in a vehicle” are, to me, to be unconscionable, against the poor, the vacationing, or even retired people.


This is why I am writing this thread:

They have a point.

From what I have seen, “People living in their vehicles” can bring drug use, improper disposal of trash (Leaving campsites and parking lots filthy when they leave), crime in general (Similar to "homeless camps), “eye pollution” in more upscale neighborhoods if you’re sporting an older vehicle or one with bad or faded paint…

I know society right now is on a “punish literally everyone else forever for a bad thing happening once” type of dynamic, but is there an answer for all of this?

A kind soul buying large amounts of property for people to live on for very cheap, or even to work on their rigs- is few and far between. The “Liability” of that, alone, is staggering, sadly, too.

That said, unless a housing crash comes- and it hasn’t in over 20 years- we are looking at at least two younger generations who, as their parents and parents parents begin to age out of their air addictions, are going to FLOOD the streets in vehicles, because they simply have no other choice. (Again, a complex issue, socioeconomical issues are not cut and dry, and neither is this)

Regardless of what the future holds, the #vanlife dynamic is being embraced by many new people.

I am curious to hear what others think about this issue, potential, temporary, or other solutions to this, especially in light of more places making laws discriminating against people who call their vehicles home.

I think that once it became trendy as with everything else it has been over glamorized and ruined. The more people doing it because of social media, the more and more the land will be ruined because people have a romanticized idea of how easy it is.

Typically you give someone your hand and they’ll bite off your arm and allowing people to simply freeload on your land is a terrible idea. Why, because it’s impossible to get rid of them after the fact and they will trash it without proper sanitation and refuse solutions.

I personally think you should have to pay some type of fee to use any and all public land. Even if it’s something like $20 year it would really help if that were put towards cleaning and keeping places better.

There are some very scary places on public land due to it being ‘free’ and ‘accessible’. Social media doesn’t show this and it doesn’t show people suffering in their vans all night in a 100 degree desert.

People literally poop everywhere and trash just about every spot we’ve ever been too, from the east coast, to the west coast and all the way down through baja.

The laws are made for this reason, not because people are living in their vehicles, but because they can’t be trusted to clean up after themselves and dispose of their waste properly.

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Agreed that it can get ugly (visually as well as criminally.) From dysfunctional singles with the overloaded hatchback that looks like they’re about to collapse (c.f. the Bluesmobile at the end of “The Blues Brothers”) to the van with no paint left and UV rotted curtains in the windows hiding a mobile hoarding situation…

I’ve done the “Walmart RV Park” thing while selling at the odd rock and gem show where RV parks are too far away to manage and not run at a loss. When attending a religious conference in Austin, I stayed at Pecan Grove - and it was fabulous, a little pricier than some but clean, neat, and safe.

Keeping things neat goes a long way. Old Elwood was tolerated well at the Anthem AZ Walmart as a long-term lot RV, because he picked up after everyone and kept his pup quiet and cleaned up after, and even watched out for late night women leaving work as a courtesy. (He was a bit of an eccentric, we spent time in the evenings chatting, and for you Blues Brothers fans, yes he was in fact on a mission from God.)

Some areas have issues with parked RVs on the street for any length of time, because they park and then don’t want to leave, or can’t because they’re broke down. Living on your own that way can leave you at the mercy of circumstance. And there’s also the fire hazard issue -any of the older RV/TTs have known wiring issues or wiring breakdown - a block away someone parked an old one along-side some kind of group home, and one night it caught fire. Nobody was hurt but the small family lost everything - they’re now in an RV one house down that seems to have constant motor issues they’re still trying to fix. Only rapid response from the FD kept the two houses on either side from lighting up, and months later the fire damage is still obvious to the two yards.

After all that: yes. Charge something so people feel like they have a stake in the land. Avoid the Tragedy Of The Commons, where you end up with land covered with trash, feces, broken down abandoned vehicles, feral dogs and cats, etc.

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This is such a prescient topic and I’m glad you posted it! For myself, I tend to stay in spots that are not frequented by sketchy ppl, usually because they are more than walking/biking distance from an urban area or because they require a fee (although I don’t stay in pay areas too often as I chose this lifestyle partially to stretch out my social security income). This does limit my selection sometimes, but usually some research prior to exploring a new area proves worthwhile. Also, I’ve learned to look for areas like where I’m currently camped, which is regularly patrolled National Forest land that practically starts at the edge of the city (Reno in this case) but, in order to curb the problem you’re addressing, authorities have made overnight camping or day use after 10 PM illegal in the areas closer to town, so one has to drive a bit further up (but I’m still only 25 miles from downtown Reno). It’s gorgeous here, cooler since I’m up in mountains, still accessible with my RWD, and no sketchy people. Unfortunately there’s still trash here and there, mostly at the many dispersed camping spots the NF have established on various spur roads off the main forest service roads. I’ve observed, however, that this trash is almost entirely from people who come up here to target shoot (the WORST offenders because they leave trash and broken glass) or ride their ATVs and side by sides, which is even more criminal in my mind because they are not destitute and living out of their vehicle. It’s even worse in many of the desert BLM areas that I camp at in the winter. I spent Memorial Day weekend at a high desert area called Moonrocks (cool geology there!) but had no idea it was a popular rock crawling spot, there were several thousand people spread throughout that BLM area with all sorts of rock crawling vehicles, dirt bikes, ATVs, etc not to mention that most of them had expensive motorhomes or toy hauler RVs, but even though the BLM brought in a garbage dumpster and port a potties for the busy holiday weekend, these supposed non-sketchy, “respectable” members of society left this beautiful area trashed just as bad as any homeless camp. It truly saddens me.

What about a simple sign that says, “No visible trash allowed. Any visible trash left will result in a fine and or a van.” And have patrols that write down and take pictures of license plates, have pictures of “offenders” on their website, so they can’t really escape… Eventually offenders will learn to pick up after themselves or be banned from all parks…

I like your idea of “outing” offenders with pics of their license plates and banning them altogether after repeat offenses. Many public lands areas already have signs posted and fines ranging from $500 to several grand but it’s so seldom enforced, unfortunately. This, I’m told, is for several compounding reasons, but the two main ones are that the Rangers have to witness the offense, and many areas (especially BLM public lands) are underfunded and understaffed. Plus, the areas that are close to metro urban areas and are overwhelmed with homeless campers who cause problems and leave garbage and feces- such as parts of Lake Mead just outside of Vegas- those areas require more Ranger presence which reduces their ability to patrol more outlying areas sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I know that only a small segment of the homeless car camper population are guilty of doing this, but it unfortunately makes all of them look bad and it degrades it for everyone else too. My experience is that the truly sketchy meth head types stay in the city or at the very edge because they have to in order to enable their addiction. So, for me, driving another ten or fifteen miles out is worth it, especially when it allows me to enjoy Nature more. Plus I like privacy. This is why having solar power, cell service booster, and large water capacity is important! (Gotta be able to stream Netflix lol).

By the way, your user name Tundrawolf really resonates, I like it! My family used to run a sanctuary and relocation operation for gray wolves in the 70s (my mom was friends with Farley Mowatt).

I live in Europe and the controls are very tight in the Netherlands. You MUST be registered with the local government to be legal. This means you MUST be living in a physical space with an address. If you don’t have a physical address, you cannot get insurance, health or otherwise, bank accounts, etc. Your parking permits are revoked, so you can’t park without paying by the hour. In my case, if I am not registered, I lose my Dutch residency permit. If I use someone else’s address, their taxes go up. If they are on benefits, they are halved by the presence of an additional person in the house. So - it’s difficult.

I understand this to some degree. After an El-Al airline crashed into a neighborhood in Bijlmermeer in 1992, Dutch authorities had a hard time determining who was dead and who had survived. The city decided they needed better checks and controls on who was living and where. So - not only do those controls now exist - but it is illegal to camp anywhere except in a designated campground area.

I will probably ask a friend to let me be “registered” with her so that I have a physical address and then pay the uptick in her taxes (assuming her landlord agrees). I will then stay in campgrounds when I need to be the Netherlands - and then do my traveling/working where it is less restricted. Germany and Belgium are only a couple of hours away. Spain and Italy (12 hours) are more lenient. And in Albania, a U.S. passport means you can stay for a year without a visa. (They have gorgeous beaches and mountains.)

The most ironic thing is that housing is critically short in The Netherlands and while the government is working on it - there’s simply not enough. No one is sleeping in the streets (Amsterdam only has about 500 homeless in it.) The government understands that people sometimes need assistance - and they do help with apartments, subsidies, even temporary addresses, so that people can get back on their feet. So - while there are controls - there is also help for people who really need it.

The problem is when you want to be “houseless” not “homeless”. And as Nomadland points out - there is absolutely a difference between the two.

That’s brutal, and is anti-homeless.

We have a thing called a “post office box” which is a box you can rent for a small fee that can be accepted as an “address” in many situations. Do you have something like this in the Netherlands? Or do they kick the homeless while they’re down over there?

That said, I have an idea.

What about an app that people can use to show places that have been “trashed”, that places it on a map, for good intentioned, bored, or people with plenty of time to park at, and clean up.

I wouldn’t mind parking somewhere and cleaning it up before I leave (burning trash or packaging it up in trash bags)

Just an idea

Good idea! Just need to find someone who knows how to make apps :slight_smile:


Thanks for your response!

The issue is that the Dutch do not recognize that anyone might want to be “house-less” vs. “homeless”.

They are actually more humane that most countries in that if someone does not want to be homeless, they can ask for help. Approximately .018% of Dutch people are involuntarily homeless (about 33,000 people). If they don’t want to be on the street, they just have to go a shelter and ask for help.

They will then be given immediate shelter, free medical and dental care, mental health care, if needed; free job training, a monthly income benefit and an apartment once their situation is assessed. So - not sure that qualifies as really “kicking them while they’re down”…!

The problem is that they do not recognize “house-less” (no stick-and-mortar home by choice) as a valid option. The reality is that in some ways that is good. If it were legal to live in your van, you would be looking at lots of safety inspections and restrictions on RV parks. It’s a double-edge sword. And parking would be very restricted. People are not allowed to keep their RVs parked in their neighborhoods by law. They have to rent a storage space to park it. (It is one reason I am taking my time putting my van together. Right now, I have a permit because it is my business vehicle - not an RV.)

To the post office box question - yes. They have them here. :slight_smile: But - you cannot be registered as “living” at a post office box. You must have a physical address. So - they are widely available, but of no use when it comes to the question of registration.

I hope this clarifies a bit.

Thanks again,