HERE’S THE SCENARIO: You’re boondocking on public land. You’re not in a paid campground with a designated space. You don’t have a trailer, tow’d, motorcycle or bike. You want to run errands or engage in a recreational activity that’s beyond walking distance from camp. You need to drive there in your vehicular home. How do you save your excellent camping spot while you’re gone?
In my opinion, you don’t.
This land is your land (sometimes). This land is my land (sometimes).
A lifetime of living in buildings probably conditioned us to be territorial. “This is my home, my space. It’s mine even when I’m not here.” But the conventions of private space don’t apply to public spaces. For example, a parking space at a mall is yours only as long as your vehicle is in it. Or you might love the park bench under the shady tree with a view of the pond, but if you get up to feed the ducks, it’s not your seat anymore. Anyone is free take it. “Hey, I was sitting there,” carries no weight.
I think it’s the same with boondocking spots.
Some people try to save spots by leaving things like tents and tables set up. That can work. Or you could end up losing not only “your” spot but also your stuff.
The more we cling to something, the more it holds us back
Nomad living requires us to be flexible, to adapt when things don’t go as we hoped. It’s part of the letting go process. Not only do we let go of excess possessions, we let go of predictability, we let go of needing to have things our way. Somewhat surprisingly, the fewer things that matter to us, the more free we feel, the less stressful our lives.
Now, some of us have had lives where we rarely got what we wanted or needed, but now we’re finally in control and can have some of the things we want. It can feel like we’re back in that old life of deprivation and exploitation when someone takes away a campsite we enjoyed. It’s all the more reason to decide which things absolutely matter (personal safety, autonomy, sufficient finances, and such) and which things we can let slide. For me, having an ideal campsite is one of the things that matters less.
I’m remembering a time I had found a nice boondocking spot near Arches National Park. It was down in a slight bowl that blocked the view of the road and any neighbors. There was a nearly level slick rock slab at the bottom. It had an expansive view. And it was handy to Moab. But when I returned after a day of hiking, someone else had moved in. Darn. I found another spot. It wasn’t as good (actually it kind of sucked), but I was still in a wonderful part of the country, living free, and filled with gratitude and joy. No one had taken that from me.
But, okay, if you really want to make certain your campsite—and your stuff—is there when you return, I think the best solution is to camp with at least one other nomad. Then one person stays in camp to watch things while the other is away.