I’d done some prior research and knew exactly where I was going to try to do this. I drove by the area when I first got into town to scope it out. It looked pretty promising – plenty of spaces tucked between the water and a small park, good lighting so it wasn’t likely to be a place conducive to high crime, just down the street from what looked like a pretty upscale neighborhood.
I drove into town pretty late, but I wasn’t ready to go to bed right away. I wanted to get dinner (and work myself up to actually attempt this thing) so I went to my favorite Charleston restaurant (167 Raw – a really cool raw bar that usually has people lined up outside to get in and still does even though it’s now moved to a larger location right on King St.)
By the time I’d waited for my seat and eaten my oysters and fish tacos, it was pushing 11, which was actually perfect because there weren’t a lot of people wandering around by that park by then (until around midnight, when they all came out to play music at a very high volume.) I parked, surreptitiously put up my insulated window covers, sat there for a little while just to see if anyone tried to bother me, and eventually changed clothes and crawled up onto my sleeping platform (ripping most of twinkle lights out of the ceiling in the process.)
When I first started researching (i.e., watching YouTube videos about) camping out of one’s car, I wasn’t remotely interested in the idea of stealth camping in the city. What if I make a mistake and park where overnight parking is prohibited? What if I get the dreaded knock from the cops? What if I get the even more dreaded knock from a drunken stranger?
Over time, though, I began to think it might be rather fun to be lying there on my platform bed with all my windows blacked out, listening to the world around me continue on without knowing I’m there. Like the grown-up version of a pillow fort.
It does in fact feel like that. It also – when the weather is unseasonably warm for February, even in the South – feels sweaty. Those insulating window covers do their job well. And listening to the world around you is reasonably charming at 9 pm. At midnight, when the world continues to make noise, it’s less so.
I also wish I hadn’t drank an entire 750 ml bottle of water at dinner.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t sleep too well the first couple of nights. But I did stealth camp in my car, and I felt like a badass because of it. No one bothered me, no one knew I was there. It was nerve wracking, but it was largely successful. And I did wake up to the sound of water lapping gently at the quay on which I was parked. I got up before dawn, slid back into the front seat (ripping out the rest of the twinkle lights) and drove to a local Starbucks to get some work done.
While I will undoubtedly find myself doing this again at a truck stop or a rest area or a Wal-Mart parking lot – all places where that kind of thing is generally accepted and has the added benefit of a publicly available bathroom – I probably won’t be just parking in some random place in the middle of the city anymore.