I just returned from a 17-day journey with the idea that I’m my own kind of traveler, not like anyone else, and I need to define what feels good to me when I travel. Like many others I’ve read many vanlife and RV travel sites, Facebook groups, and blogs. I’ve watched the videos. I’ve discovered that what works for others and feels comfortable for them isn’t necessarily what feels good for me.
While cooling my wheels near Reno recently (waiting until the weekend to see my son there) I found some camping locations on nearby BLM land via the “Free Campsites” app. I drove to one and discovered I didn’t want to camp there, all alone in a desolate place. Maybe if I drove an older van I wouldn’t feel so conspicuous but in my 2019 Ford Transit I want to be around others. I have a consciousness of thieves and don’t want to become a victim, so I’m very careful. This surely takes away from my adventure opportunities. I do love solitude but there truly is safety in numbers. I might try BLM land someday while traveling with a caravan.
Consequently I evaluated the types of places that I’d feel comfortable sleeping at. Highway rest areas come out on top. Truck stops are a secondary choice. I could see myself mapping out all the rest areas on my route and driving from one to another on my way to wherever I was going.
Campgrounds are another viable choice for me, however since they usually cost money for overnight parking, I’m less likely to go there. On my recent trip I did stay at one campground in the Lake Tahoe basin area. This late in the season many of the campgrounds there were closed but I found that the campground at Sugar Pine State Park was still open and I could pull in late at night and pay through an ATM type machine with my credit card. Twenty three dollars! That was with the huge two dollar senior discount. I woke up in a beautiful place but wow, the cost of it! I obviously can’t park in campgrounds every night.
What Attracts Me
I’m a literary person. I read a lot and have a Booktube channel at YouTube. Books call my name and I answer. Therefore I found myself attracted to libraries in small towns. At each one there’s a shelf of for-sale books, and I’d buy a few as mementos of the places where I bought them. For me, this is more practical than any other type of common souvenir. At historic sites, anywhere with a visitor center, I also managed to purchase a book or two or three, but these were much more costly than those picked up at library book sales. However – I like reading local memoirs of places where I’ve been, so that was a great way to find them.
Recently I read Roughing It by Mark Twain, and while driving through the area around Reno I found myself at some of the places he mentioned in that travel memoir. That’s always so much fun for me. I even drove up to Virginia City one evening… a large Gold Rush era town that’s fairly well preserved even after all these years. It must be very much like it was when Mark Twain was there. I wanted to stay overnight at their rest area, but a storm was coming in and with the elevation change, I worried that it might snow and I definitely didn’t want to get stuck there in the snow. There was a 13% grade to get down out of there! No thanks. I didn’t have snow tires or chains!
I’m sure we all know what we are attracted to when we travel, or if we don’t know now we’ll find out as we go. I enjoyed having a few literary adventures on my 17-day trip and I’ll definitely be looking for more of the same next time I venture out.
We Can’t All Be the Same
Yes, we’re all different. It is important for me to remember that I’m not like anyone else. What works for one vandweller isn’t what’s best for another. I’m not like those people whose YouTube videos I watched. They’re them. I’m me. I have to do what’s right for me.