Living nomadically during COVID-19

Earlier this year I wrote a short series of articles about community building in a few temporarily nomadic lifestyles. These lifestyles – van-living, boat-living, and motorcycle-living – each have their own fascinating community elements that seem to defy the traditional use of geography in community building.

These articles were written in as much of a timeless manner as possible and as such I didn’t discuss the current COVID crisis and the effects the virus is having on those living nomadically. Now that things are calming down – more or less – I wanted to take a moment to look back at these lifestyles and see just how they have been affected.

Firstly, I should point out that to the best of my knowledge, life on a motorcycle has been rendered impossible. I have been able to find no information of anybody currently living on the motorcycle. Given the lack of enclosure and the ever-present need to rely on community, this is unsurprising. Therefore, most of this discussion will focus on boat and van life.

Boat life during COVID-19

Lockdown for boats is a very tricky one. On the one hand, many individuals who live onboard fulltime are not unfamiliar with travelling for months and many bigger and better boats have the ability to hold enough supplies to not have to dock for several months. Therefore, with the correct preparation – preparation being the main issue here – it wouldn’t be unfeasible to flee the COVID crisis by taking to the waves.

On the flipside, however, many countries closed their borders during the crisis. For anybody looking to sail out into international waters, this was a potential issue, especially if you plan on travelling great distances. Just have a look at what happened to YouTubers, Sailing Yacht Florence (click here).

Many fulltime boatlifers also aren’t used to docking at a marina for extended periods of time so the prospect of having to spend the money on mooring fees may be too much to handle.

If you want to see a few different examples of boatlifers who have adapted in their own way to the crisis, I’ve added a few links . Some have set sail for remote isolation spots (like Sailing Yacht Ruby, click here), other have hunkered down somewhere in Europe (like Wildings Sailing, click here). Another, who isn’t actually linked below, has had to separate with their boat for the time being and set up in a house to ride this wave (pun intended).

Van life during COVID-19

For those living in a van, the challenges are slightly different. The prospect of disappearing for a few months in an attempt to avoid the virus is somewhat less possible in a van than a boat – many individuals living in vans tend to have one to two weeks of food supplies maximum. What’s more, with the hostility towards travel, there are some who have had issues with the police during the period of intense lockdown, with local law enforcement forcing individuals to find a more permanent home even if they were not on public land or near others.

With supplies of basic goods dwindling as people rushed to overstock their cupboards (remember when nobody could find toilet paper?) the usual habit of buying what you need, when you need it that many van travellers have adopted has needed to be rethought. While boats tend to have at least some storage space for food and essentials during travels, vans rarely do, with every inch of the small home used for one thing or another.

For many, it has become about survival, adapting in whatever way they can. YouTubers like Trent & Allie talk of abandoning their van in South America when the COVID crisis spread, rushing back to the USA before flights closed. The Indie Project had to abandon their plans to travel from Britain to Canada and seek shelter in a house sit. Others such as Wild She Goes have had to stay where they were but still get rid of the van and move into a house for the time being. When travelling is part of your lifestyle, everything has to be reimagined.

Nate Murphy (featured in the above article on police involvement) has a couple of brilliant videos on some of the issues of living in a van during COVID. If you want to have a look, you can find by clicking here and here.

There is a great deal more that can be said about these lifestyles and the challenges that have arisen during these last few months but I’m going to stop here. As things ease, these challenges are slowly subsiding. However, when life will return to normal – if it will return to normal – is anybody’s guess. The new normal may brings its own unforeseen challenges to nomadic life. Only time will tell.