I slept in a parking lot just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, one brutally hot night in June.
I had started to get deep into life on the road, and become someone at one with the landscape of highways and motels and roadside diners. I developed opinions on interstate highways, and opinions on the speed limit that varied from state to state. I also discovered that overnight parking in Walmart parking lots is a well known thing.
So the more I started to feel like a road weary type, the more I wanted to be able to overnight park at a Walmart, too. I wanted to be a Bad Ass Road Goddess, I just had to work up the nerve.
I wanted to, because I wanted ultimate freedom. Ultimate freedom is when you can drive when and where you want to, just point to any spot on the map, and go. And when you get tired, literally just pull your car over and sleep. Then there is nothing to stop your momentum. You are freed from schedules, freed from an exchange of money, freed from constraints on your time and choices.
Usually, finding a place to sleep on the road means I have to stop and waste driving time at free wifi hotspots like McDonalds and Starbucks. I have to look up a place to sleep for the night, and I have to attempt to plan it so I can cover enough distance, but not too much; hit that spot at exactly the time I am tired of driving.
But Walmarts, as we know, are all over the United States, and many of them allow overnight parking. Probably because the drivers then come inside in the morning and stock up on supplies.
If you want to try it too, the first thing to do is check this site for the stores that do not allow you to park overnight:
So I did it. That night, I pulled into the lot and surveyed the scene; discovered two other cars parked in the back, along the edge of the lot. I parked there too, and then spent some time arranging towels and my sun visor to cover the windows and block out the tall, bright, parking lot lights. Shortly after, I realized there was no way to cool down the inside of my car. I rolled down the windows, and mosquitoes dive-bombed inside, buzzing around me instantly.
Oops. The windows went back up, trapping the mosquitoes and hot air inside with me. I reclined my seat to lay back in style and slowly suffocate in the heat while bugs drank my blood. For a long time, it was too hot to sleep. I know this because I checked my phone at midnight while thinking what the F@#! degree is it? At midnight, the temperature was still 80. I cracked the door open a bit, desperate for that cooler, 80 degree air that was outside the car. More mosquitoes joined the party, but my need for cool air superseded any concern about them.
The biggest problems I had with overnight parking did not have to do with Walmart. There were three issues.
One – The hot night air, which only stagnates and heats up inside a closed car.
Two- Mosquito’s. They’re out there. And they’re buzzing. And they want your blood.
Three – My car is small and guess what? It is actually not meant to be slept in in any way, shape or form. I mean, it’s a two door car. What was I thinking? The answer is, I was thinking, who cares? I live on the road. I’ll pretty much do what I want at this point. It turned out my neck cared though. Cause it hurt for like two days.
Overall, I give the Walmart parking lot five stars. The store was open 24 Hours, so I could strut in to brush my teeth both at night and in the morning. I got to see the sunrise in the parking lot, which may not seem spectacular, but if you can’t appreciate small moments of beauty and uniqueness, life will probably be kind of a drag.
I also opened my eyes in the morning, and, covered in bug bites, realized, wow, I am instantly ready to hit the road again. Just turn the keys in the ignition. Do you have trouble getting to work on time? Sleep in your car.
Would I do it again? I would say no, although that ultimate freedom is so intoxicating. I’m pretty sure I felt like a Bad Ass Road Goddess, but it could have just been that adrenaline high you sometimes get from not sleeping very much.