Dear RV Shrink:
We spend most of the winter months boondocking in the Southwest. We’ve always said, “When we have to camp sardined into an RV park, we are done.” Well, it hasn’t come to that yet, but we are being shoved out of many of our favorite haunts.
Besides every boomer buying an RV, it seems like an ever-larger segment of the population is semi-homeless and ruining some of our favorite boondocking sites. I don’t want to sound like I think I own these places, but when people decide to live at these sites they tend to get trashed, and eventually the governing body that manages them pulls the pin and shuts them down.
We love nature and hiking. We are always looking for solitude and sunsets right out the front door. Lately, we are finding our favorite sites closed permanently – shut down to restore and revegetate because people have been illegally dumping their gray and black water, or they’re so populated with squatters it feels uncomfortable.
Please tell me I’m not just getting to be an old curmudgeon. Do you think we should try a new geographic location? We love the desert, but have thought the grass might be greener somewhere else. Please weigh in. —Wondering Where to Wander in the West
You will not find the grass any greener no matter how many hills you go over. The hundreds of thousands of RVs being built, sold, swapped and leased are coming to a site near you. Some will visit, some will linger, some will live.
Policies are changing every day on allowing overnight camping from retailers and municipalities. Boondocking on government land is also going through a metamorphosis for the vary reasons you state. RVers of all stripes are wearing out their welcome. What was once a recreational vehicle has in many cases become a mobile home. The media reports seem to focus on people living on the streets of large metropolitan areas in RVs, but it is just as common in rural America.
Housing costs have outpaced a large segment of the population. It has driven many young people into a nomadic lifestyle, many seniors into survival mode, and many homeless into upgrading to an RV.
It is changing rapidly as municipalities and government agencies come to grips with the fact that what used to be a small number of people living in the shadows of their jurisdictions are now front and center in ever-growing numbers.
You will find that most remote places are less occupied. It still seems to be a bigger problem near popular and densely populated areas. Many people are simply trying to survive a housing shortage and still need work and resources within close proximity of where they are parking.
My suggestion would be to spend more time in natural areas that you enjoy that have not been overrun yet. I would enjoy the half-price camping in the National Parks and Forests while you still can. The elimination of that program will be the next shoe to drop. Most of these areas are right up your alley – nature, solitude, and mostly reservable.
Wish I had better news for you, but you just have to go with the flow. Did I mention there are eight billion people on the planet? —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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