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Stealth camping van cross country adventure with Jacqueline Walling and Carmen Vail. USA edition.

Stealth camping van cross country adventure with Jacqueline Walling and Carmen Vail. USA edition.

Documenting travel and adventure in several State and National Parks throughout the south west and western United States. What a long strange trip it’s been, living in a van, stealth camping, and not so stealth for a month.

Vandwelling, a portmanteau of the words “van” and “dwelling”, is a lifestyle of living full- or part-time in a vehicle, typically a van that has been modified with basic amenities, such as house batteries, solar panels, a bed platform, some form of toilet, sink and storage space. Some vandwellers live this lifestyle by choice while seeking freedom, self-sufficiency, and mobility without paying for conventional stationary housing, while for others it may be one step from living on the street or in a shelter. An idealized version has been popularized through social media with the hashtag #vanlife. Although the term vandwelling implies living in a van, many types of vehicles may be used for permanent, mobile living arrangements, including conventional buses, school buses (called skoolies), campervans, RVs, travel trailers, or mobile homes. Even SUVs and larger station wagons can be used for long-term living.

The history of vandwelling goes back to horse-drawn vehicles such as Roma vardo wagons in Europe, and covered Conestoga wagons in the United States. One of the first uses of the term “van-dwellers” was in the United Kingdom Showman and Van Dwellers’ Protection Association, a guild for traveling show performers formed in 1889. Shortly afterwards in 1901, Albert Bigalow Paine wrote The Van Dwellers, about people living on the verge of poverty having to live a nomadic life in horse-drawn moving vans. After the introduction of motorised vehicles, the modern form of vandwelling began.

The vandwelling lifestyle can allow for significant autonomy and a lower cost of living than having a mortgage or lease as in a more traditional living arrangement. Assuming they have the means, vandwellers are free to travel as much or little as they would like. Some vandwellers choose to remain in one general area, and work full-time or attend school while living in their vehicles. Others travel full-time while working remotely via the Internet or finding seasonal or short-term employment opportunities in various locations.

Since vandwelling consists of living in a vehicle with a footprint no larger than a parking space, there is usually little to no space for bathing or doing laundry. Some van dwellers use gym, campground or truck stop showers, or cleaning wipes when showers are not available. For washing clothes they often use a bucket and the van’s vibration to agitate the water, or will go to a laundromat or use friends’ or family members’ washers and dryers; usually in exchange for work, money or security, like when the homeowners are on vacation. Vandwellers will usually go to places close by for weekends and holidays which would be anything people living in conventional housing would do in their free time.

Vanlife definitions:

#vanlife is a form of adventure tourism that involves a van that is livable and self-sustained that can access remote areas to recreate in.
#vanlife is a converted a motor vehicle that can be used as a full-time home or a recreational vehicle, i.e some people are weekend warriors, some people on short-term adventurers and some people are full-time travelers.
#vanlife is a sub-culture of nomadic individuals who are embracing minimalism on a journey to reassess what is truly important for a happy and balanced life]
#vanlife is a form of ecotourism or eco-friendly living by goals to reduce carbon emission, i.e by using solar panels, minimalistic lifestyle, waste.
#vanlife is a social movement to try and get people more motivated to make small changes in their life to lessen these resource and energy demands.

Vehicle modifications:
Van conversions offer a wide range of options. A conversion can be as simple as a folding bed in the back, with only the engine battery for power, to vans that function like micro-apartments on wheels with complex power setups, a kitchenette, and even simple plumbing. Vehicles like the Volkswagen Westfalia, a regular passenger van, or a cargo van, can be modified for day-to-day living by a professional conversion company. Upscale van conversion can provide most of the amenities of a conventional home including heating, air conditioning, a house battery system, a two-burner stove, a permanent bed, and other conveniences that make the vehicle fit for full-time living. School bus modifications are also common among vandwellers.

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