I have always felt comfortable in my cars. They have always felt like a safe space that was all mine. The first time I slept in my car was a few years ago when there was a fire going thru my town and I needed to escape the smoke. My sister and I loaded a ton of blankets into the back on my 2004 Honda CRV and headed out of town. We ended up on a forest road and tried to make ourselves comfortable. All I had for protection was a pair of scissors and a bottle of perfume I could use in place of pepper spray. I’ve come a long way since then with my car living experiences, but I do still have scissors for protection and still love a forest service road to set up for the night.
I always had a fascination with road trips and people who lived in an RV (It’s in my blood, i.e. my grandparents, the travel channel stars) I don’t ever recall genuinely wanting to live in a car or van though. My best friends live in Alabama and they were expecting their 2nd child and I wanted to be there when he arrived. The issue with me flying out there was that it was uncertain when he actually would be born and I’d have to stay at their house for a long time. That usually wouldn’t be an issue since they are family to me, except I have been cursed with being allergic to wonderful shedding dogs, and they have 3. So that sparked the idea to actually drive out there and just sleep in my car so I could breath and what not.
That spark soon ignited a fire in me and it’s only grown.
I decided to buy a new-to-me car so that I wouldn’t have to worry about breaking down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I purchased a 2016 Honda CRV and put it to use almost immediately. I knew I needed to do a test run or 2 to figure out how to make it comfortable and work.
My brave sister Grace joined me in a car excursion once more and we put the back seat down and threw in lawn cushions and a small car blow up mattress, along with a bunch of pillow and blankets again. We drove all day and stayed in Slab City in California. Now if you are a first timer with sleeping and living in your car, slab city is not recommended for you first week or two, and def not your first night. But we got there in the dark and went with our gut feeling that we were safe and in a good spot.
I tried to hang a curtain to block out my back window by tucking it in the door and shoving it in cracks with paperclips. I hung fabric scraps on the 2 back windows by draping them over the windows. I had 2 umbrellas that I opened in the car to help so that you couldn’t see into the back seat. I was feeling pretty proud of it and good. The back window shade lasted about and hour but the others held up at least for the few hours that we needed them. Luckily it was in the desert so it cooled off at night otherwise it would have been toasty. We woke up and looked around and we were literally parked next to a giant pile of garbage and weeds lol I had a sore back and we were feeling a bit cramped and flustered about next steps of somewhat putting the car back together to go find a bathroom. That whole trip was a funny mess, but a great trial run.
The next weekend we left for Santa Fe. There was the coolest interactive art place that we had to go check out (Meow Wolf – Go there if you want to have the best day of your life) I learned from the California trip that the air mattress worked ok for 1 night, but made a ton of noise anytime you moved (I move a lot) so it wasn’t a good fit. Also learned that we had to try to even out the floor with the back seats that were folded down. I had so large plastic shelves that I could take apart that I laid down to try to even it out and it was a start. We then took more lawn chair cushions and pillows and tried again.
We slept in a lot next to the landfill but it didn’t stink and did the trick. We got ready for the night at a nearby gas station. We put up our “curtains” again but this time I brought a sheer curtain that I had in my goodwill pile and used that as a bug net so that we could have the windows down and let some air flow into the car. That worked well and once I really figured out a good method, it has been excellent. We woke up in the morning feeling pretty good, a bit stiff but better then the past week.
Above photo is the morning we woke up in Slab City, California. We had the sunshade up to block the front window, an umbrella open to help block the view in from the front windows. You can see the white sheer curtain hanging on the drivers side, we used that for bug protection.
Below picture you can see where we parked in Slab City. You can see the curtain partially hanging on to the trunk.
Above photo – Santa Fe, 2nd trip car sleeping. This one we used a fitted sheet to put over all of our lawn chair cushions to make it so we don’t fall through the cracks. We managed to get some sleep.
Below photo – We woke up to cows and another excursion to find a bathroom. At this point I realized that figuring out where the closest bathroom was the night before is the way to do it.