Vanlife and COVID-19

How We Stay Healthy on the Road

Alright y’all, time to dive into a controversial topic. Let’s talk vanlife in the age of COVID-19. We hit the road in July in our van, Casper, in the middle of the pandemic. This is a decision we did not make lightly. We had been gearing up for two years to transition to vanlife and placed our house on the market right before things began to explode in the United States. As our house sold, we moved into a friends driveway to ride things out. In June, moved the van to Missouri to spend time with family, further monitoring the situation. At a certain point, it became obvious that this outbreak wasn’t going anywhere soon. We shifted our focus to figuring out how we could travel in the van as safely and responsibly as possible. We realize this is a very hot topic right now and that everyone has strong opinions. Being on the road is not right for everyone right now. If you are in a vulnerable population, we feel for you. For those who do feel comfortable being on the road, we will share our rules that we follow to stay safe and responsible on the road in the time of a pandemic. If you want more information on recreating responsibly, visit the National Parks website for more guidance.

National Park Service Recreate Responsibly campaign
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Related post: Our Van Build

Wear Masks

This is one of the simplest things you can do to reduce transmission. The problem with COVID-19 is that symptoms do not show up for 2-14 days after infection. Additionally some people may never show symptoms! This is why it is so important to wear a mask to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets. We wear masks any time we are out in public whether indoors or outdoors. While it is less likely to spread COVID-19 outdoors, it is not impossible. We wear masks even while on hiking trails. Surgical masks provide the most protection however you can utilize homemade masks, bandanas, and buffs, just be sure to wash them often!

Couple wearing masks on hiking trail
Wearing masks on the trail, we will either wear a surgical mask, bandana, or buff to cover our mouth and nose

Social Distancing

This has been drilled into most of us by now but it is an important one. When we are on the road, we aim to keep six feet of distance between us and others at all times. If we are passing someone on a trail, we will stop and step to the side to give people their space. If we meet people on the road, we will wear a mask and maintain our distance while interacting.

Graphic from the National Park Service illustrating 6 feet of social distancing

Wash Hands Religiously

This is another easy one. Wash. Your. Hands. After going to the bathroom, before eating, after touching high contact surfaces, before eating, after eating, before going into stores, after going into stores. We carry hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE. You would be amazed how many times you mindlessly touch your face. The more you wash your hands, the less likely you are to contract or spread COVID.

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Avoid Traveling to Vulnerable Places

This is not the time to visit remote communities or travel through Native American reservations. While it may sound nice to go to a remote town right now, small communities simply don’t have the medical resources to handle an outbreak. If you are traveling through a small community pass through without stopping and save your shopping/resupply for a larger town.

Photo from our trip to Monument Valley last fall pre-COVID, this is an example of an area we would avoid during COVID

Avoid Traveling to and from Hot Spots

When we left Michigan and travel to Missouri we were going from a hotspot to a place with very few cases. To make this move as responsibly as possible we got tested right before we left (we were negative). We also isolated for 2 weeks before coming into contact with anyone in Missouri just in case we had a false negative test. If you have to travel from a hotspot, this is what we recommend doing. On the road we have avoided traveling to hotspots, we also don’t spend much time in huge cities.

Vanlife couple with their campervan
In Michigan before hitting the road, we isolated in Missouri for 2 weeks before seeing others

Dispersed Camping Over Established Campgrounds

This is something we recommend regardless of COVID. Camping for free without neighbors is far superior to being a crowded campground in our opinion. Dispersed camping is an especially good choice during COVID as you aren’t sharing facilities and are farther away from other people. We feel our van is a pretty good way to isolate out in the woods! Check out our post on how we find free, dispersed, and isolated campsites to boondock.

Aerial photo of campervan in the woods
An example of our isolated dispersed camping spots

Related post: How We Find Epic Free Campsites

Avoid Tours/Crowded Areas

This has been a tough one for us to swallow while on the road because we want to experience ALL the things. For us, it’s just not worth the risk taking a tour where we will be exposed to so many other people. It has been especially difficult to avoid crowded areas this summer as people are recreating in record numbers. We actually changed our route to avoid Glacier National Park this summer as we heard the crowds were pretty hard to escape. It is tough to skip places that we have longed to go, however we know those places will still be there after COVID-19 and we will be able to enjoy them more then. We aim to get to trailheads super early so we can beat the crowds. We also try to avoid busy areas on the weekend. If we come across a trailhead that is particularly busy, we will move along and find another area to explore. We have actually found some pretty great hidden gems by taking this approach, we have explored areas that weren’t even on our radar! We have spent a lot of time exploring National Forests over National Parks this summer, they are severely underrated areas!

An example of crowds we encountered this summer, if a trailhead looks like this: don’t hike it, find a less populated area to explore

Isolate If You Are Feeling Sick

If you do start to feel symptoms isolate completely. Do a curbside grocery pickup and stay in your van until your symptoms subside. Symptoms of Covid-19 include cough, shortness of breath, fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, and diarrhea. If you start to feel short of breath to the point where you cannot walk a few feet without getting out of breath, seek medical attention. We have been lucky this far to not show any symptoms and have stayed relatively healthy.

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There’s no easy answer for how to navigate van life during COVID. Obviously the most responsible option would be to stay put. For us this simply wasn’t feasible. We have aimed to be as safe and responsible as possible. After many months on the road, we feel these rules have helped us achieve these goals. We hope this post finds you healthy and well! Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a post!

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