Before the pandemic, I considered moving from Airbnb to Airbnb as I explored the country. After attending a music festival in Joshua Tree, I became increasingly fascinated with the idea of living out of a vehicle via a rooftop tent or sleeper camper. I toyed with several other ideas when trying to decide how to be on the road full-time.
When the pandemic hit, I had already grown attached to the idea of RVing. After all, it combined the best of both worlds: adventure and tiny living. I don’t know that I’ll be RVing full-time, but I do know I intend to travel full-time. I love being on the road and try in vain to wrap my head around settling down in one location. Anything longer than 30 days is now more than I can bear of almost any location.
I often think back to the fact that I almost put off this adventure until 2022, because of the jumbled mess of pandemic responses. It’s still a jumbled mess, but it doesn’t faze me. Here’s what it’s like to be travelling during a pandemic.
You Might Spend Holidays Alone
Had it not been for the pandemic, my mom would have travelled to see me for Christmas, Thanksgiving or New Year’s. Instead, she remained in Atlanta. I spent all three holidays alone. I’m an only child, so solo time is always appreciated. For someone else, I imagine they might become lonely or quickly cast the pandemic aside to accept that invitation to a 20-plus-persons holiday dinner.
Outdoor Attractions Are Crowded
When gyms and indoor entertainment died with the pandemic, people started looking for any excuse to leave the house. Because of this, outdoor spaces are a lot more crowded than they used to be. Outdoor spaces in rural communities are not as crowded, but expect company in cities and tourist destinations.
Weekend Warrior Numbers Have Grown
For some people, escaping the monotony of home for just a few hours is not enough. Instead, they prefer to take the weekend, holidays or a few nights off. When I stayed at campgrounds in Lake Mead, they were always packed on weekends and special days. The camp hosts and long-term tenants told me they had never seen so many people at the park. Sadly, many weekend-warrior RVers didn’t bother doing any research before renting their RVs and were often nuisances at the parks. One weekend-warrior family almost burst a sewer line and nearly set their campsite on fire in just 15 minutes.
Campgrounds Close and Reopen
When I left Nevada in November, two of the friends I made there also left. They travelled to Joshua Tree, where they spent time boondocking. When California cases spiked over the holidays, the campgrounds restricted overnight stays. This prompted them to join a liberal RV group in Arizona. New Mexico has also closed its campgrounds for some time and even paused the sale of its annual camping passes. If you rely on free camping on public lands, this can present some risks for you.
RV Parks Restrict Reservations
I recently tried to book a monthly stay in Blythe, California. It is part of Riverside County, which has allegedly restricted the parks’ ability to accept reservations. When the pandemic hit and Nevada shut down, their restrictions were even tougher. Out-of-state RVers were given the ultimatum of leaving immediately or staying put until further notice. Some RV Parks I contacted recently have also changed the way they accept reservations. The one I will be moving to today no longer accepts online reservations.
Parks Require Self-Contained Units
Even though RVing had moved to the top of my list during the pandemic, I really liked the idea of a sleeper camper. However, when you have such a small space, you do rely on the amenities of places you stay at for things like a good shower or laundry services. I gave up the idea when RV parks and campgrounds started to refuse units that were not self-contained. To be self-contained, your RV must have facilities for cooking, eating and using the bathroom, without the need for park amenities. So far, laundry facilities have remained open at all parks I visited.
Pandemic Responses Vary Widely
States rights and local rights mean that various jurisdictions have their own choices in how they deal with the pandemic. These differences are often polar opposites. For example, in Mohave County, AZ, almost no one wore masks and they gave me dirty looks everywhere I went. In Imperial County, CA, people wear masks even when walking their dogs alone. When booking campsites across jurisdictions, it can be difficult to keep up with all the guidelines.
Travel Quarantine Is a Real Thing
When I came to California from Arizona, the state had not yet shut down. Instead of telling people to quarantine, Newsom asked nicely. As per new COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC, I quarantined for seven days when I arrived. After travelling to Las Vegas, I am once again limiting my interactions with people. This is easy when you travel alone, but when you’re at a campground for a while, you get occasional outdoor visitors. I let everyone know I’ve travelled to Vegas when they approach my campsite and maintain an appropriate distance. Sadly, not everyone quarantines when travelling or makes any effort to limit interactions upon arrival.
Meeting People Is Still Easy
I have seen many people on social media trolling California for its shutdown tactics. However, I saw no difference between Nevada and California, when travelling this week. People are still out, but keeping their distance and wearing their masks. Six feet is plenty to strike up a conversation with someone, outside. While waiting for Samson to get checked out in Vegas, a Jeep owner started asking me questions about the truck. Our conversation ended with Instagram adds and an invitation to go offroading with his crew the next time our schedules lined up in Nevada. I also met the friends I have at this current campground and the ones who left Joshua Tree, during the pandemic.
Republicans Can Be Hostile
In every other country, the pandemic is a public health crisis. In America, it became weaponized for political reasons. This fuelled many Republicans who, even now, refuse to wear masks and tell me that the pandemic is a hoax. The worse the pandemic gets and the lower their chances of reinstating the Orange Man, the more aggressive they become. One of those very passionate Orange-Man supporters is why I decided to cut my stay short and give up the warmth of the Mexican border to move further north.
Police Have Bigger Fish To Fry
My Georgia tags expired in October, but because of the Nevada lockdown, I was unable to register my vehicles until last week. When a Nevada highway trooper came to complete my VIN check for registration, last October, I asked him how to avoid a late-registration ticket or fine. He shrugged and said, “No one’s paying attention to that right now.” I didn’t believe him, at first, but I have driven through Nevada, Arizona and California with those tags and have never been pulled over. I’ve even been followed by a sheriff in Arizona, who I’m sure ran my Georgia plates — still no pullover or ticket.
Travelling during a pandemic is a lot better than I thought it would be. Even so, it has its challenges. I have visited cities my friends live in and not seen them. When I visit new places, I no longer try to sample the cuisine from local restaurants. The friends I do meet keep six feet of distance and when a friend forgets there’s a pandemic and gives you an unexpected hug, you spend two weeks waiting to see if you get COVID-19 symptoms. Even so, I wouldn’t give this adventure up to be back in the Peach State. I like being a Nevada runaway in California, just fine!