FINDING THE PERFECT SPOT ON A ROAD TRIP
Where can I sit to be quiet?
It all depends on your destination.
- If you go for the mountain or country side, it will be much easier. There are plenty of small paths or recesses on the back roads. The departures of hiking trails are often a good option.
- If you stop in the villages, the cemeteries are rather quiet and without any particular prohibition. You can also find free water to refill your tanks.
- If you're heading to the sea or ocean, it gets a bit more complicated. Municipal regulation have been springing up everywhere for some time, so check with the municipality where you want to land. Especially in the South-East and South-West of France! There are still some accessible beach car parks but often with barriers so if you exceed 1m90 in height, you will have to find plans B.
What are the B plans if we can't find a wilderness spot?
Plan Bs are easy to come by when we must find one.
- First, the easy solution, but not the most exotic, camping. Certainly you did not buy a truck to be parked between 2 tents in a campsite, I will gladly grant you that. But be aware that there are more and more campsites that want to be eco-responsible with a lot of greenery and very pleasant spots. In the middle of summer, when all the spots are saturated and you've taken several fines, you'll see that this option is pretty cool after all.
- We also often find farms and/or inhabitants who rent a small piece of land, a good way to support the locals and buy their products, while being well immersed by culture and environment. They are often very friendly and happy to help you find good deals in the region.
- If you go to town, comfort will certainly not be there. Find a small alley, municipal stadium parking lots, or RV parks. Best option, if you have bikes (or skateboards), park at the entrance of the city, you will find many more small quiet corners, and take a leisurely stroll.
Why choose one spot over another?
So obviously it will depend on the size of your faithful traveling companion. For my part, I drive an Opel Vivaro H1L2 van (height 1.90m)
- The positive point : it goes everywhere and nothing suggests that it is fitted out. So I can land anywhere without attracting attention.
- The negative point: no toilet or indoor shower.
So here are, in my opinion, the most important points when I decide to land somewhere in the evening:
- The area is quiet, I will be able to sleep well after a busy day of road tripping (because yes, road trips are often tiring, the days are busy!
- I am surrounded by nature when possible.
- I can access a toilet not far from the spot, if I'm not spending the night in a parking lot.
The place inspires trust in me. Safety first! If I have the slightest doubt, I leave and choose another one.
If other vans or motorhomes are already installed, I look a little at the style of the travelers. It often reassures me to see other girls like me in their van or small couples in "romantic vanlife" mode.
And something i've luckily never had to say to myself: "Hey, I don't feel comfortable here, I'm leaving" because generally everyone is there for the same reason, to have a quiet night.
What will help you find the perfect spot (or almost)
So of course there are Park4night style apps that are super handy. I often use them when I have to stop just one night somewhere and leave the next day.
The big advantage of these apps for me are the reviews left by users. This allows you to see if the spot is still authorized, if it is noisy, secure …
You can also mark favorite places which will allow you to make a pre-selection before leaving to places that are on your route.
And obviously the negative point is that no spot is "secret" and therefore you will rarely be alone, especially in the summer season! (which can be a plus point if you are traveling alone and want to meet other travelers)
So it's up to you to see how you use it!
Other apps are making headlines, such as Spot On Travel, a brand new app that helps plan your trip and find spots, whether to sleep but not only! You can also find activities, restaurants, water filling stations... There are even routes already drawn if you don't have too much idea of a destination.
The old-fashioned way (just as effective!)
Another option that I really appreciate and used before these applications appeared, is our good old road map, coupled with IGN maps.
I traveled by van to Turkey passing through more than fifteen countries, with an atlas of all the roads and all the countries. I also used Google Earth when I had network. It's a gold mine for finding water points, meadows...
I admit it was a lot of work. But I was able to come across places so magical and remote that no one (or almost) knew. This method still brings us a little closer to the Vanlife adventure.
Look for the place to land in the evening, start studying all the roads, paths, small dirt passages. Obviously you should start looking in the afternoon, around 4 p.m., so you don't have to land in the middle of the night. The trip takes on a whole new dimension. The phone is put down, we only trust our flair and our feeling. We wake up in a different garden every day, often alone, we can fully connect with nature. This is what the vanlife looks like without using the apps!
My technique was to follow the waterways. I love to land near a river so I looked a lot at the fields and spots at the edge of the water, rather in a forest or hidden behind the trees. When you are in natural spaces, it is much easier to use maps and atlases and let yourself be carried away by the feeling. On the other hand, pay attention to the signs, at each street corner or at the start of the paths, which may indicate that you are prohibited from passing through or camping.
Finally, it will often be your own feeling that will guide you. The most important thing: leave the place clean, without leaving any trace of your presence.
Because if prohibitions are popping up everywhere, it's often because some travelers before you (often a tiny fraction, incidentally) haven't respected their surroundings think they're alone in the world. The municipalities therefore have no other choice than to prohibit the places (there are also other reasons, much more economic, but we will talk about them another day).
And the main reason is obviously to protect our beautiful planet. Eco-systems are increasingly fragile, the places visited cannot, for the most part, withstand any additional degradation. Knowing that Vanlifers are often the first witnesses to the deterioration of the environment and that we are a community made up of people who feel close to nature through the practice of "outdoors" activities, the way we travel should reflect the attachment we have with nature by preserving it as much as possible from our human activities.
The applications that can help you:
- Spot on travel
The websites to consult:
- Google Earth
- Welcome to the farm
- France Passion
- Home Camper
Always have in your van (especially when we don't have a network!):
- The Atlas of Europe
- Road maps and IGN