When I first downsized my belongings I found I was left with less material possessions than I had imagined possible at the start. I began my downsizing as an effort to declutter my over-flowing kitchen cabinets. During the process I realized I was existing in the shadow of a former life. Here I was a mother who no longer had children at home yet every where I looked in my home the stuff I was caring for, cleaning and maintaining, was the possessions of a mother whose children still lived with her.
When I had finished reclaiming my space I realized I didn’t have enough stuff for the one bedroom apartment I was living in. I stumbled across stories of tiny houses at this time and loved the idea of them but not so much the need to find a place to park a house of this style. Sure, I had friends with land that might have been open to the idea of allowing me space to park my home but what would happen if zoning regulations at some point forbid tiny homes in that community. Similar situations had already been passed so this was a real concern.
My next thought was a small RV. With my adult children living in two different parts of the state I could easily move back and forth between them and be able to live in my RV on their property. I dismissed this for two reasons. First, keeping a RV warm in the winter months isn’t easy and the other was that my youngest son didn’t have room to park such a vehicle by his home.
Recently, I’ve been seeing more people talking about living a “Stealth RV” lifestyle. For those of you who aren’t familiar, stealth simply means that these people are choosing to park on the streets, often in residential areas, or in places like WalMart parking lots.
Most stealth RVers are living in their vehicles illegally – because zoning laws say so. In residential areas it is illegal to live in a vehicle because people fear the homeless will move onto their street and reduce property values. They also fear the intentions of strangers near their homes and thus their families.
As I continued to ponder this, I circled back to the idea of parking on the street instead of paying for a campground space. Aren’t the streets public spaces, therefore established for the commons? Therefore, if there is space set aside to park a vehicle on the street shouldn’t we then be allowed to sleep in said vehicle?
I understand the fears homeowners have of strangers. I also understand the fears of strangers causing destruction on their property, I have a damaged fence where someone trying to park too close to my fence hit it and rather than offer to help repair the fence drove off and I am outside picking up trash that is tossed onto my property regularly, as well.
Yet, I started to think about this issue from another point of view. What if we all gave up our big homes and acquired a small dwelling. If we had homes as small as an RV, even a larger model, we wouldn’t be able to surround ourselves with so many material possessions. Aside from the issue of the fuel needed to move a camper van or RV wouldn’t this be a greener way to live? There are fewer resources needed to build them versus a house and while the insulation in a vehicle is much less than that of the walls in a house the sheer reduction in square footage needed to heat would seemingly reduce the amount of energy we need to heat them. But maybe because they are less insulated we would resort to more of a nomadic lifestyle to avoid long term stays in the worst of winter.
We’ve all seen images of Native American teepees. The tribes that lived in Teepees did so to move around. No they didn’t have the same motivation we currently have to move around – just to see the country – they did it because each area provided them with some necessity of life. Winter camps were where they hunkered down with their stores of food to ride out the cold and harsh conditions. As spring arrived and food stores were running low they moved to a location where they could find new edible vegetation and thawed streams for fish. As summer progressed they moved again to where different vegetation grew. In each location they would put up food to hold them over through winter when fresh food would be unavailable to them.
They lived and traveled as a community. We don’t even know our next door neighbors any more. Which way of living sounds better?
It may seem I’ve lost my mind but this makes sense to me. No, not stealth camping on streets but rather to embrace a modified nomadic lifestyle where I could move around familiar areas where I could forage for food and other necessities. Stealth camping just reminded me of the possibility we gave up when we chose to follow the European model of living rather than the Indigenous example we found when we first stepped foot on North America.
We chose a lifestyle that has us all tied to a system that requires we work for an income solely to hand our wages over to pay for the basic necessities of shelter, food and water, and clothing. We increase our hours of work to then pay for the various other material and entertainment luxuries we use to fill our non-work hours.
As one who has taken on the job of restoring an older home, I can attest to the amount of time and resources it takes to complete the task. One day this home will show it is loved again but will still need maintenance and the daily tasks of normal upkeep.
Stealth RVing isn’t for me. I think it would be a stressful life worrying about when the police would be called. That said, I do see why many are choosing to give up homeownership and being rooted to one place. It would be nice if we could find a middle way that would help us all live more sustainably.