This past fall, I had full intentions of building a small log cabin up on Flattop, right at the edge of Chugach State Park. The property was a total steal and the view was worth a million bucks, but after surveying the land, shooting grades and elevations with my old man, and meeting up several times with the excavator, I realized the land was just too steep to be accessible by vehicles in the winter, which is a no go for me.
So… here’s to a 5th winter living full-time in the little Toyota motorhome in Alaska!
I have been lucky over the years to have an exorbitant amount of friends offer couches to sleep on or driveways to park in. However, I think one of the most rewarding parts to full-timing without a dedicated parking space is the creativity and technique involved with finding places to spend the night without using friend’s resources. It’s a cool feeling to survive without depending on the use of anyone’s offered space… doing so truly makes me feel like I have a “home everywhere” despite others’ perception that perhaps I’m lost on wheels with no place to stay. However, I’d like to thank everyone (you know who you are) in the past that have offered/shared their space with me. In 5 years I have not paid for parking or “camping” a single night. I feel like I will do nearly anything to not pay a dime to sleep on this earth. It astonishes me how many people pay 40+ dollars to park their motorhome somewhere for a night. There are so many places to not spend a cent if you just do some research.
Here are some of my personal tips to successfully full-timing without a dedicated parking space:
1) NEVER sleep in the same spot 2 nights in a row. I always move on early the next morning.
2) DON’T ARRIVE at your “spot” until late in the evening/night. If you get there at 4:00pm in the afternoon and sit around all day, everyone will see your camper sitting there all day and you have a much higher chance of getting “called-in.” Go watch some live music, have some coffee/tea in a coffee shop, read in the book store, dinner with friends, just don't park too early in your "spot."
3) When you move in the morning… STAY in your camper when you leave. Don’t open the door and walk around to your driver’s side door to drive away… this increases the odds that you will run into conflict since there are no longer walls between you and the outside world.
4) Sit down, pull out a map of your city, and make a LIST of the places you can stay and ROTATE these places. When I open my closet door, I have a list of 70+ places I can stay written down on a paper taped up to the inside of the door. This means I don’t have to think about where to stay. I simply check out my list and find the closest “spot” to where I’m currently located and there you have it, good to go! Also, make sure to adhere to rule #1 and never stay in the same spot 2 nights in a row… in fact, I never stay in the same spot within a 2 week period as a rule of thumb, it’s worked really well.
5) Get a porta-potty! You can go to Cabelas, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and several other places and buy yourself a sweet, flushing, mini-portapotty for $80. Then you literally have a bathroom in the winter that doesn’t need plumbing and there are free places to legally and sanitarily “dump” all around town. There’s nothing that will get overnight camping spots shut down quicker than someone using the parking lot or camping spot as a bathroom and leaving it there.
6) Keep your camper looking good! If you have black garbage bags and foil all over your windows, NEWS-FLASH… you probably look sketchy to most people, so clean that stuff up and make your camper look respectable, you won’t have half the issues.
7) Go do things OUT-OF-TOWN on the weekends. If you’re moving around to other towns on the weekends or recreating in the woods, that’s a few days a week where no one in the city is seeing your RV.
8) DON’T use a generator. If you have a generator running, EVERYONE knows you are home.
Speaking of generators, one bit of advice for other full-timers out there… trade in your generator for some solar panels and a wood stove. Generators are annoying and they aren’t necessary. I have one, single deep cycle battery that powers all of my lights, TV, fridge, and can charge appliances. This single deep cycle battery is charged by only 60 watts of solar panels (two 30 watt panels) and the engine’s alternator since I drive around every day. The primary battery draining feature in any RV is the propane furnace, so if you can eliminate using the propane furnace, you can eliminate your overall need for on-grid electricity.
That's about it folks, see you on the road!