Van life in the city, places to frequent while living in the town

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Lance22

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I did van life in the boondocks and next time I return to living out of my van it will be in the city working a fulltime job. Just wanted to get others viewpoints on places they utalize and frequent the most and make it enjoyable. I know the basics...

Sleep:

Walmart
Truck stops
street parking

Spend the day outside:

parks and bike trails

spend the day inside:

Starbucks, McD's, Library,

Washup:

fitness gym, truck stops, SOME public parks

However, just wondering if others had more places and things to do when you are not working your day job but still living in your van?

I will be working a full-time job, it just won't be enough to make ends meet, and save some for retirement and medical bills.. Not complaining, just stating I plan on being in the city. Likely will take a few months off to leave during the peak heat to be easier on me. I just don't want to pay 12,000 a year just for AC while I sleep in my white box.

Not set on the city, but thinking Oregon or Washington or maybe California but will avoid the MAJOR cities. I like cold, but the heat makes it difficult. Was thinking about working overnights but might be to hard to sleep during the day in the van with the warmer temps. Not sure, still flexable as I have some time to plan now.
 

bullfrog

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First off I don't think anybody here is paying $12,000 a year just to have AC! Most places I have stayed at on the outskirts of town with older parks at most run a max of about half that. If you can use public transportation, electric bike or a cheap economical car you can sell when you are done it will be easy to find cheap places on the outskirts of some towns. We years ago stayed several months at where we were employed working in a school districts transportation department/bus parking and garage. We were provided a reduced YMCA membership which was next door, electrical hookup, and 24/7 access to the break room/restroom area with TV and internet. We have friends now working in a tiny house community as administration and maintenance/landscaping with a furnished house. There are lots of possibilities just start looking and asking.
 

scaredycat72

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I plan to do tourist stuff in the cities I visit. I'm going to look for the best attractions suggested online and pick up stuff from the chamber of commerce. Even without doing the tourist attractions, I like to visit bookstores, movies, museums and galleries. I like to attend artist and author talks, do photography walks, hit festivals, go to seminars on interesting things, see bands and go to open mics and comedy shows. There are 100s of things to do in most cities. I always find interesting events on the bulletin boards of coffee shops and libraries. Plus there's meetup.com and most cities have websites about local events.

Edited to add: When I'm in a quiet mood and want to hang out in my SUV, I paint, embroider, tat, collage, read, and/or watch videos.
 

D'L

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NO one is paying $12,000 a year for air conditioning. You only need it in the summer, for one thing. Where I live summer is half the year, and it gets HOT. 115F for several days at a time is not unusual, all days are over 90 and most over 100. My abode is not at all well insulated or tight, and I air condition about 900 square feet all summer because it is necessary. My total bill for those months comes to less than $500 more than my electric bill totals for the other 6 months. Of course, I don't make it chilly in the house, only about 83-84 which if you are well adapted is comfortable for both animals and person.

Places to hang out...I have had to do that, too, years ago. I really liked public libraries, because as long as you look presentable, don't ask for anything, and read or browse while you are there, no one will bother you. You don't have to buy anything so it's free and it is always air conditioned or warm. The main thing I found is that you gotta rotate places where you spend a lot of the day so you only show up in each one twice a week at most. Then no one gets suspicious, or if they do figure you out they don't care. But in cities you can rotate libraries and unless you are really noticeable or a problem they rarely communicate with each other about you.
 

maki2

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The libraries are public. You can spend all day in one reading and researching if you follow their rules. But it is not meant to be your personal, alternate daily living room to hang out in. Space for sitting is often limited, especially desk and table space.

That being said last year in Quartzsite I had to remain in town into the hot temperature season waiting for my 2nd senior vaccine appointment. I did speak to the librarian about coming into the library and hanging out with my laptop during the hottest part of the afternoon for a safety cool down time. The librarian stated that was perfectly acceptable with them. Of course they were not all that busy as most of the nomads had left town.

This year with the RTR happening right next to the library they became overwhelmed with people wanting to hang out using devices on their wifi or laptops. There was not a place left to sit down at a desk or on a couch.
 
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jonyjoe303

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If you will be living fulltime in your van, its best to heavily insulate it. In the back of my van I have 3 inches of insulation on the roof, 1 to 2 inches on the sides and windows. Then get a swampcooler and a solar panel on your roof. Then you don't have to worry about finding places to go.
I work monday to friday and on the weekends I just spend all day in my van parked in the sun (for the solar panel) ,if I go anywhere is to the taco shop a block away, which I can walk to but I prefer to drive there.
When I had a car, I had to go find places to go during the weekend which I hated to do. With the van I had to do the same because it got too hot during the day. But once I insulated the van and got the swampcooler, I can spend all day in my van no matter how hot the weather is. With enough insulation you might even be able to go without a heater in the winter, I havent used one in 3 years.

This is an inside picture of the back of my van, the front of the van is on the other side of the insulation wall, its a sliding door. The front of the van can get over 150f during the summer on a very hot day while in the back its in the 90's. Where the swampcooler is blowing it will be in the 80's which is comfortable. To me this is the easy way to live the van life.
I only paid 750 for my van so if the van loses resell value it doesnt bother me too much, I prefer having a good comfort level while living in it.
The solar panel is to run the swampcooler and 12 volt fridge, laptops and charge your phones. It will also keep some heat off your roof.

1 inside rtech.jpg
 

Headache

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Welcome to the forums Lance. I'm urban camping in town while undergoing radiation. Research the places you're interested in and find out what their parking rules are. The town where I'm at knows I'm here, the sheriff's wave at me as they drive by and no one bothers me. I do push the envelope here a bit on the parking but since I'm just on the legal side of things, don't trash up where I park and there have been no complaints, I'm doing pretty well in a hoity toity part of southern CA.

That being said my fiance now lives in the van with me and luckily our entertainment wants are similar. We started working out at the gym where we shower, we love movies and gaming in the van and out, there are beautiful parks and we sometimes just take drives to get out of the van. Now that we've expanded the storage capacity of batteries for the solar, were hooking up my PC so I can play my games. I'm an energy hog so having some beefy solar was a must. The window a/c going in will take a bunch.
 

Lance22

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To clarify, I was talking about renting an apartment for AC aka the white box.

I don't have much desire to insulate my minivan and build any AC-type unit. I do have some solar but not nearly enough to build a whole new system. I think the most logical solution for me as I don't intend to upgrade to a larger rig is to plan to use public spaces, then cool off the minivan on my way to my night spot.

I did come up with a few more places..

Malls that have several food courts

"work-share spaces" - you pay a small fee and can then use the space as a community office. Would be a great option for those working online.

Parking ramps - I recall an underground parking ramp that was much cooler on hot days since it was underground, would be a nice place to watch a movie in your driver seat for a few hours.. of course no sleeping given security and the rules.

Public transit -My old town they have a LRT train that took 40-50min end to end, but they are expanding it to another 40-50 min so end to end that's nearly 2 hours! (would be 3.5 hours when it's fully built WOW) Deffently not something you want to do every day or late at night but on a nice early afternoon before rush hour ...hmmm, might be a nice cool train ride!

Although I wonder if the novelty would wear off over time and end up back to wondering what to do..

Don't get me wrong I could spend days inside my minivan during the colder temps (40-60 degrees) but 70's I'm opening doors, and 80's I'm stressed, and 90's im running for the hills!!! and god forbid... 100's likely passed out on my last leg if I hadn't escaped already..

I know Bob's answer is to "seek higher elevation" well... what about those who want to stay in bigger towns? What are those bigger citites and can you keep doing van life in urban cities and towns of 60K+ during the summer heat... I been involved and actively doing Van life partly over the last 2-3 years, and I still havn't found a solid way to definitively answer YES.

To each their own, if you want to boondock and enjoy life at 10,000ft. on a mountain during the summer I'm happy for you... but is there a few 10,000ft mountains with 100K people with wifi, fitness gyms, libraries, a few public parks with bike trails, and a few grocery stores too? I'm guessing NO.

So my follow up would be what is the CLOSEST places and lifestyle that can be obtainable to getting that lifestyle and yearly rotation without having to drive to far and not having to deal with undesriable like mosquitoes and other awful things.

Right now only thing I can come up with so far is Phnoiox during winter and Flagstaff during summer. Maybe I'm just bad at trying to answer this question over the years and I just been looking in all the wrong places.
 

bullfrog

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There again having access to grid power allows for a cheap window AC unit or expensive RV AC unit. We have survived 100+ degree summers for years and when we had to cold winter temps by having access to grid power. It is necessary for us as we have gotten older and like the the many other benefits the area we are in provides many times while the temperature is out of our comfort zone. Working a physically easy job that offers a full hook up space, paying for a cheap space where we can access grid power, even run a generator or rent an AirBnb if necessary works for us because we still do fun easy seasonal jobs at 70 and 65 years old that provides the extra income and has for coming up on 20 years of working and traveling each year. Living in something mobile allows you to survive the weather by moving to the best weather but we have found by working we can enjoy being someplace where the weather is not ideal if we choose to. There are jobs that provide access to grid power or pay enough to get it you just have to find them.
 

Spaceman Spiff

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..... then cool off the minivan on my way to my night spot.....

I know Bob's answer is to "seek higher elevation" well... what about those who want to stay in bigger towns? What are those bigger citites and can you keep doing van life in urban cities and towns of 60K+ during the summer heat...
If your van has been sitting in the sun for 8+ hours you are not going to be able to cool it off with a short drive. Van body will take a lot more to cool off.

A quick search turned up 3 cities above 10,000 ft, all in Colorado. Another bunch over 6,000 ft, including Flagstaff. You need to research to see if temps and public spaces meet your requirements.
 

RoamerRV428

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find charities to volunteer and help others.
so much good you can do at a ton of charities from ASPCA to Meals on Wheels or any other organization that is in your 'camping city zone' and be active with others. If this floats your boat but you don't have to 'entertain yourself' by 'yourself' doing touristy stuff all the time, you can give back in a very honorable way finding WHO requires your help in the area you are in so.....just a thought.
 
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