Dear RV Shrink:
We have just started living the RV lifestyle and immediately the price of camping caused sticker shock. My husband now wants to do what he calls “stealth camping.” He likes to park in crazy places when we are traveling that cost little or nothing. I know many people spend nights at Walmart and other retailers who seem fine with short-term camping, but my husband is now starting to look at hospital, church and VFW Hall parking lots as his personal KOAs. He claims “we pay our taxes” and pulls off into fields that he thinks are government-run public lands.
I am as nervous as a squirrel in a bird feeder most of the time. I can’t relax when we are parking in suspect spots. Maybe I watched too many horror films when I was young. Every time I hear a noise I think it’s Eddie Scissorhands at the door asking us to leave. I swear, one night in Texas I heard a chainsaw outside our rig. I keep telling him, “If we can’t afford to stay in RV parks we shouldn’t be traveling.” Oftentimes I don’t think we are safe. Please give me some ammunition to argue my point. —Sleepless in Seattle
Stealth camping, boondocking, or whatever else you want to call it, is fine to a point. It sounds like your husband might have an addiction to free camping. Safety should be your first priority. Walmart is a great pit stop when making time and looking for a safe harbor for the night. Most have security and welcome RVers for overnight parking.
If your husband is insisting on staying in areas you feel are not safe, and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to let him know that you are not going to continue this practice. My suggestion would be to become efficiently involved in finding reasonably priced RV sites. Use FreeCampgrounds.com or Overnight RV Parking, various campground books, and start a database of nice places you find and places other campers tell you about. Most are not actually free, but very reasonable.
Invest in discount camping services, get your senior camping pass from the government if you are seniors and U.S. citizens. Some states, for example New Mexico, sell reasonable annual passes for state park camping. There is a whole host of ways to save money and camp in amazingly beautiful, safe places if you work at it.
There is a difference between frugal and free. There is safety in numbers and usually if it’s a good idea, some other RVer has already figured it out and will be there camped alongside of you. If you are nervous about being asked to leave in the middle of the night, ask in advance. Many Walmarts will not allow overnight parking because of a city ordinance.
You have to help your husband understand that there is a difference between an RVer and a person who is homeless. Don’t let your husband sleep soundly while you are up all night worried about every little sound you hear. Wake him up and say, “Did you hear that?” He didn’t, of course, because he was sleeping and there was no noise. After you do this a dozen times a night he will think twice about parking in places where you can’t sleep. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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