Vanlife? We have a problem.

Travelling in camper vans and motorhomes is becoming increasingly popular in Australia.

Due perhaps to COVID-19 limiting both overseas travel and the hesitation to utilise public transport (planes, trains, buses) or hotel accomodation.
It is also due in no small part (IMHO) to the increasing popularity of hashtag vanlife. The perfectly filtered Instagram representation of a free, bohemian lifestyle. Waking up each morning to immersive beach or mountain scenes, filtered coffee and fairy lights (see top photo).

In a recent article for the ABC local residents living in Rainbow Bay on the Gold Coast have complained about camper vans parked illegally for weeks at a time on prime beachfront locations…littering, and urinating in public spaces.

We see this a lot during our travels and I think it is only going to get worse.
The risk is that local government and councils are going to come down hard on road nomads making it very hard to park anywhere at all.

Vanlife at Flagstaff beach Duranbah (on the Queensland-NSW border). Photo via ABC Gold Coast. Tom Forbes

Now, I totally get why locals become pissed off with camper vans, motorhomes and caravans parking for prolonged periods or parking in prime locations. This behaviour only shows a disrespect for the local community and a disregard for its resources.

Disruptive behaviours, setting up messy campsites, leaving a footprint of rubbish, illegal fireplaces and the worst of all.. using the surrounding area as a toilet. 

Whilst travelling across the Nullarbor, Kelly and I were appalled by the number of free campsites that were littered with plastics and soiled toilet paper (often hanging in windblown streamers from bushes). In some places it was disgusting. 

Thing is, I am a total hypocrite here because I like to camp for free in some towns as well.
There are plenty of paid or free campsites in most locations we stay (& we use Wikicamps to find them). But sometimes we like to try to snug into a discrete spot of our own choosing for the night.
This is for a variety of reasons. 

Sometimes I am just tired, and we have run out of daylight and I don’t want to drive-on looking for a site any further.
Sometimes there just are not any free legal campsites in the area and I don’t want to pay the price of a van park for the night. Especially if we arrive late and plan to depart first thing.
And to be truthful, sometimes it’s just a little bit fun to pretend you are an outlaw on the run and try to covertly complete a free-camping mission.

But we have developed some ground rules which I think should apply to everyone:

Rules for stealthy parking overnight in non-campsite areas.

  1. No parking within 50 metres of a residential house.
  2. No parking within 100 metres of another camper van or motorhome.
  3. No parking at lookouts, popular carparks or beachside locations unless permitted. 
  4. A maximum of one night for any one location.
  5. Know thy destination. We have already chosen our potential overnight stay during the day, so we are not driving around the streets looking for a spot.
  6. Arrive late (dusk). Depart early (as soon after sun up as is practical).
  7. No noise. We eat dinner before we arrive. Once we arrive in our location we shut up the blinds and get ready for bed & quietly watch a movie or whatever.
  8. If you are not completely self-contained, you must be within 50 metres of a public toilet. Leave no trace.
  9. Be respectful. If you get that dreaded knock on the door during the night. Be respectful, apologise, and get moving. No excuses.
  10. BONUS POINTS: When appropriate a rubbish collection in the area should be done before leaving. We have THE CLAW to facilitate this. Leave the site better than you found it.

Featured image credit: @nicolegeri

One response to “Vanlife? We have a problem.”

  1. 100% agree! Back in 2008 – 2010 we travelled Oz with the kids – we worked and home schooled. And like yourself we enjoyed the peace and freedom of the ‘free camp’. I can’t count how many times we pulled into a camp and had to fill a garbage bag full of rubbish before we even set up. When we did the Nullabor there was also a lot of graffiti which looks dreadful. I also remember visiting the most amazing spot of Emma Gorge in WA and people had wedged cake containers and all sorts of rubbish between rocks etc – this absolutely broke my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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