Part 2: The First 30 Days Of Van Life: Spending The 1st Night in A Van With My Son

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

A week after arriving in St.Louis with my new campervan, my son Carter and I hadn't spent our first night together in it van yet. I was pretty much driving it around like a standard car visiting family.

"When we officially said goodbye to our family and friends, that's when Van Life got real!" -Bionca Smith

Day one living in the van felt like a cross between the feeling you get when you're a kid about to go on a field trip and day 30 felt like three months after your high school graduation if you didn't go off to college. You have a lot more time for yourself, but you continuously ask yourself: "What now?" Or was that just me? Lol, My new reality was that I no longer had the morning drill or to face traffic. I now had all this extra time, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it.

Bionca Smith takes a selfie before heading out in the van home.

Where Should We Go First?

I sat in the driver's seat, pondering this question for about 10 minutes. We had zero plans, and the only expectations we had were to 1. To wander with the least restrictions possible. 2. Find Hidden Gems around the U.S, and 3. Find free WiFi as much as possible! (3 years later, this hasn't changed lol) The only event that we had on our schedule was to plan around our friend's wedding, which was in New Mexico 10 days after our Van Life launch. I jumped on the highway and headed west until it was time to rest.

Our First Camping Spot

I figured the safest place to park would be somewhere we could park in the public view. I felt this way because I imagined that in the event of an emergency, we'd be seen and be able to get help quickly. I also felt that if we could be seen in public sight, someone was less likely to attempt to do a break-in, or they'd be seen if they tried.

8 Yr old Carter sitting outside of McDonald's watching YouTube on his cell phone.

I parked at a 24hr Mcdonald's off to the side of their drive-thru window, and we went inside immediately to get food and brought it back to the van. This is when we then made our first ever Youtube video documenting our first night in our van together. We used Mcdonald's WiFi to upload it, and then we went to bed right there in the parking lot.