Living and working out of a converted van has been a different kind of hustle to just the daygame pickup. Aside from the “Where do you go to the toilet?” and “How do you shower?” most asked questions, the third one is about parking for the night.
If you’re out in nature then it’s simple. Just pull over into a forest road, next to a beach or in a rough parking spot by a lake. That’s the whole point of having the van in the first place. I don’t need a campground or an RV park because I’m carrying my own water tank and using solar to produce power.
Masurian Lakes, Poland
Find a place to park before sunset. Make sure it’s on level ground as even a degree or two will tilt the bed and affect your sleep. Orientate the vehicle so you’ve got a cracking view from your window.
Lower Tatras, Slovakia
Parking up for the night in a city is much more of a challenge. It’s why I did a “stealth” van conversion with the vehicle looking as boring and normal as possible from the outside.
There are many techniques to the stealth van hustle. First of all, aim to be “hidden in plain sight” by looking like a builders’ van:
Separate the cab from the rest of the van with a blackout curtain. Have blackout blinds on side windows. Throw a high-vis vest and scruffy items onto the dashboard.
City parking spots are usually metered during the day but free from after 6pm until the following morning, so arrive late and leave early. You shouldn’t have to pay.
Use quiet residential side streets rather than noisy main roads. With other vehicles around you’ll blend in more and be less of a sitting duck. To go unnoticed don’t park in the same spot two days in a row.
Enter the van from the cab, never the side door, so as not to attract attention. Park so you’ve got a clear getaway just in case, and sleep with your keys next to you so you’re good to go.
Use common sense. Avoid sketchy areas and dark abandoned sites. Keep the noise down. Pick up rubbish around the van so people don’t assume you’ve dumped it.
If your van doesn’t have a toilet or shower then park up for the night at 24 hour gas stations or truck stops, but these are nowhere near as scenic as wild spots or city centres.
Lake Vortsjarv, Estonia
What happens if you get the dreaded knock on your van door during the night? Depends where you are who it is (after peeking out of the window) but on the two occasions it’s happened to me it was easily diffused by being polite and ignorant.
The first knock was in a wild spot near a lake on the Polish-Lithuanian border. Polish police just wanted to check the vehicle wasn’t abandoned. After showing them my license they wished me good night and left me alone.
The second knock was in a car park next to a beach in Denmark. It was the Danish military telling me I was parked in a naval base. They pointed me to another site down the road and again wished me good night.
Lake District, UK
There are apps and websites that list good free parking spots (such as this one) but I prefer having no fixed plan and stumbling across ones myself.
For more information on the van conversion and how I’m using it for my work and daygame then watch this episode of the Black Sheep Bandit: