The Boondocking Life: Preparation

Boonbocked at rest area at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Boonbocked at rest area at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Until 2009 I was only an occasional boondocker, a weekend or a week here and there. In February of 2009 I decided to take an extended trip – 5 months on the road. Preparation took four months and included selling, gifting or trashing: my house, all of my furniture and decorations, kitchen wares, over 3000 books, eight large garbage bags of clothes and a shed full of yard tools that I never used. Lastly, I sold my beautiful Infiniti for an old minivan. My car was just too small to live in for five months. When it was all done all I had left for my move to Florida was what would fit in my van. At the end of the five months of adventure I just couldn’t give up the lifestyle. By the time I returned to ordinary life nearly two years had passed.

Whether you go for a weekend, a week or make it a lifestyle, planning is the key to experiencing more freedom on the road. Here is some planning I did for the trip. Some was necessary, some a waste of time, and of course there were some things I couldn’t foresee, especially hygiene issues.

  • I took a realistic assessment of my needs; both material and non material needs. How I would maintain the lifestyle I wanted?
  • I needed a place to stay so I chose to buy a minivan, it would be big enough to transform into a minicamper, big enough for one camper and a small dog yet small enough that I could park anywhere undetected as a camper.
  • To make my van into a livable camper I took a seat out and put in a homemade bed, kitchenette in the back, storage in the front and under seats and eventually a shower and toilet.
  • I needed money if I wanted to travel longer so I found a great way to make money on the road which I still do from home.
  • I thought hard about my daily life, my daily needs. What in my day needed to find its way into a much smaller home? I scanned photos and documents. I burned my audio books, music cd’s and dvd’s to an external hard drive. I needed clothes for a week, cooking supplies, laundry and cleaning supplies, and food; enough for a week. Once a week I would restock at Wal-Mart.
  • Hygiene and places to stay every night became my biggest issues and required continual rethinking. My hygiene practices evolved over the months until I finally developed a shower and bought a travel toilet.
Looking out my window.

Looking out my window.

Not only did my hygiene practices change but technology too. I began with a standard flip phone and ended with a smart phone. I began hunting down places to fax my work I ended with a travel scanner. I started with hot spots and paid Wi-Fi at truck stops to getting a Wi-Fi plan. While you’re traveling always look for better, more efficient way of doing, way of living.

After you’ve made your own preliminary plans here are a few points for research.

Places to stay:

Wal-Mart
Sam’s Club
State and national forests
RV World (if you have an RV)
Bureau of Land Management
City camp grounds
Rest areas
Truck stops

And if you’re in a minivan or a minicamper you have more options like hospital parking lots, parking along neighborhood streets and apartment complexes.

In the countryside some people with many acres of land allow boondocking, just check first.

Eating & shopping:

This was the least of issues I encountered. I kept a cooler and stored plenty in my kitchenette. The biggest problem keeping enough ice. Also I became a fan of Wal-Mart’s deli. I started the trip without the internet so I kept a list in my computer of Wal-Marts. Allstays.com has a helpful list of Wal-Mart locations with info on whether overnight stays are permitted. They also have an app for this too.

Hygiene:

I can’t count how many times I prayed “God, give me a sink, any place I can wash my hair”. Early on I saw a woman striped to her underwear washing in a rest area sink. I did cut my hair short because I knew I’d have to wash my hair in a lot of sinks but this woman gave me a new way of thinking about cleanliness. Here are a few options:

Rest area sinks and family bathrooms
Campground bathrooms
Truck stops have shower
Private bathrooms in businesses
City park bathrooms
Spigots at parks
Wipes
Dry shampoo
2 “Tupperware” with lids for water (one for washing, one for rinsing) for washing and brushing teeth

In later posts I’ll go into more detail on each of these as well as share information and my adventures.

If you have a fun story, challenges or advice to share I would love to have you write a guest post. If you have some helpful links or have a blog dealing with boondocking or extended travel I’d like to add the link to this page.

If you would like to write a guest post contact me at geophiliaphotography@gmail.com

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