THE WEEKENDER EVERYONE NEEDS TO TAKE
A couple summers ago we hit the road to cross the country on a classic American road trip. We went from Michigan to the west coast and back. We loaded up our little VW Jetta (not cool, trendy van) and hit the open road to explore the wild west, do some hiking, climbing, and even a little surf. As we were preparing, we were figuring out how we could do it on a budget. So like any good millennial I googled “free campsites,” and the first thing that popped up was freecampsites.net. This awesome little (super simple) website has locations all over the U.S. where you can camp for free. Some are less glamorous than others. Some are parking lots or empty space behind a gas station, but some are legit, beautiful campsites.
Shelby and I just got back from three weeks in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and it was beautiful! We did spend some nights in traditional campgrounds but we spent most of it at places we found on freecampsite.net. And here is the best part, we went to some of the coolest little towns and saw some of the most epic views we never would have found if we didn’t wander off the far-too-crowded, paved road to the campground. There is something mystical about heading down new roads to unfamiliar places that is invigorating. It almost feels like looking for buried treasure and when you pull in next to that lake, or over that hill, you feel like you’ve found a gem, and maybe even like you shouldn’t be there. I think there is a myth that nicer things cost more money, in some cases this may be true, but I think usually it just takes a little bit more hunting to find. And maybe that makes it more worth it.
So my encouragement is to take a break from the traditional campground and go explore a new place! There is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and National Forests that are beautiful, open, and the best part- FREE! You can meet some great people and explore some new places. So do it. Load up your corolla, or your Subaru if you’re cool enough, hit the road with GPS in hand and go find a cool new little spot by a lake or in a Podunk town. Go spread your tent out in a spot where you feel a little more alone and aren’t bogged down by campground rules.
The website provides you with a GPS location, and everything you need to know about the place, what amenities they have, and sometimes even pictures of what it looks like. People can comment and review a place, so you can know actual people camped there and it was ok. Don’t get me wrong, traditional campgrounds are great, and often in some really great places, but my challenge to you is to go on a real adventure, to an unknown place and enjoy a little weekend road trip exploring a new place. Start heading down that two track… see if your car will make it.