Freeloading with Style
Let's face it. When you're living in your van, your freeloading off all the community's facilities and the government tax dollars. It's not a bad thing at all. We lived in Australia in our van and only paid $8 dollars the entire time on camping. We live in our vehicle for the freedom it brings not only on the road, but the economic freedom we have from rent, mortgages, utilities, and other cost that arise while living in a home. Some people despise our lifestyle and give us dirty looks or don't even say hello back to us in the morning while they walk on past with their dogs. Unfortunately most of the time, other backpackers/vanlifers have left a bad taste in their mouths making all of us look bad. If everyone freeloaded with a bit more style then, we woulda all live in peace and harmony. Here are a few tips to help this happen...
Clean up after yourself. Littering and trash is easily one of our biggest pet peeves. How hard is it to clean up after yourself after a night of camping? Well apparently, it's very difficult for some people. This is the #1 reason locals have no respect for vanlifers. This also leads to the best spots being shut down.
Clean up after others. While we are still on the litter subject, we may as well talk about being a steward to the land. I don't know how many times we've taken home more trash than we can fit because past campers have filled up a rubbish bag and chucked it on the ground at their spot and left. We always try and leave the place cleaner than it was when we arrived.
Human waste. Not all spots have toilets, people ask us all the time where we take care of business when out in remote areas. This is hiking 101. Everyone should carry a shovel on them to burry their turds. It's recommended to bury all poo at least a foot or more deep. No one likes to encounter a nice smelly pile of shit while out enjoying nature. Also, toilet paper should be buried with it's companion. Pee jugs are the answer for urine, same as shit, no one likes pulling up to a spot that reeks of piss. All the ladies out there if you do have to pee in the bush, it's absolutely unacceptable to throw your TP on the ground. This is slowly becoming an epidemic. Wipe your pee pee and take the TP back with you and dispose of it properly. If you are on a hike, carry a ziplock to collect TP and dispose correctly, but by no means should you ever leave a trail of TP anywhere.
Respect at least a 10pm quiet time. As van dwellers, we share the space we live in and sometimes it's peoples backyards. Nothing will get the authorities called quicker than rowdy crew. You not only put yourselves at risk for a fine but the others that are camping around you.
Respect the fire bans. I know how tempting it is to pull up to a beach or campsite and instantly light a fire. Shit, for the first 6 months while in Australia, we never had an opportunity to have fires due to restrictions in our favorite spots. Think about it this way, if everyone disregarded the fire bans, every site would be a massive burn scar and all the bush and trees would be picked apart and that isn't exactly leaving no trace.
Keep secret spots secret. With the rise of camping apps like WikiCamps and social media geotagging, epic spots are becoming a bit less epic. It's a bummer to have one of your favorite spots turn into a dump or a backpacker haven because everyone decided to post the location on a social media platform. I'm not saying to keep it a secret just to yourself, you can always share the info with other trusted campers. But once it's on the World Wide Web, any kook can have access to it... which could lead to the end of your favorite spot.
Remember that you share the environment with other living creatures. With this being said, if you must take a shower or clean your dishes in a waterway or the ocean, please use trusted natural products that do not harm the environment. It pains me to see someone using their oxide shampoos and conditioners in waterways. It's not safe for you and it's def not safe for the environment. For a list of natural cleaners check this out.
Cig Butts and other smoking apparatus. If I had a dollar for every cigarette butt I've seen and picked up, I'd have a fully loaded 4x4 custom sprinter van with a mother-in-law suite. This also goes for homemade bongs. Hey, I like to have a toke every now and then too but, could we stop chucking the homemade Gatorade bottle bongs and cigarette butts on the ground. This is one item I have completely given up on as it makes your van and hands smell rank as, not to mention picking up your homemade bong and disposing of it properly is a risk for me getting caught with it and I'm not down for that.
If it's not from your body, don't put it in the potty. Just have some courtesy for the bloke that has to clean some of the rough toilets we come across. It clogs their gear and makes their job rougher than it has to be.
Last, but not least, respect gets respect. Respect the land and other vanlifers and you will be treated with some of the most amazing experiences ever.
At the end of the day, we're human and we're all not perfect. Sometimes, we accidentally litter or maybe we are out camping celebrating with friends and being a bit too loud. This post isn't to come off as a rant. I just want to bring it to vanlifers and backpackers knowledge to be aware of their surroundings and the effect their actions can have for everyone chasing this lifestlye. If we want to continue to live the lifestyle we do without it being compromised, we all just need to freeload with a bit more style.