More people, more trash, less parking
Chelsea Hirdman and her partner, Paxton Mueller, bought their van on July 4, 2019, shortly before the lease on their home in Boulder, Colo., was set to end.
The couple, both 27, worked in Boulder and would go camping on the weekends. “During the workweek, it was just random side streets and parking lots that wouldn’t kick us out,” Ms. Hirdman said, adding that when they were asked to leave, it would usually start with a knock on the side of the van, which startled their two dogs.
“A year in,” as van life was becoming more popular, she said, “we started getting the knock more regularly.”
Ms. Hirdman, a graphic designer, and Mr. Mueller, a carpenter who builds climbing walls across the country, said in a phone interview from Taos, a small town in northern New Mexico’s high desert, that the boom had made it more difficult to find a place to stay for the night. “It used to be only on weekends, when we were at a hit climbing spot,” Ms. Hirdman said.
Parking lots in Taos that had previously been reliable — like their normal spot, the library — now have signs posted prohibiting overnight parking.
“It just makes it a little more interesting to find where you’re going to sleep,” Mr. Mueller said, adding that he understood such measures were meant to “protect the local community.”
Ms. Schaffer, the photographer, said that natural spaces were being forced to contend with “more trash, more foot traffic, more illegal campfires,” noting that there had been an influx of others to the outdoors who don’t live in vans full time, like “weekend warriors” who camp in their tents or cars.