Finding community on the road

Finding community on the road

Community is one of the biggest aspects of living in a van and traveling. Whether you live in your rig full-time, part-time, or only head out on the occasional weekend, you are just as a part of the community as everyone else. What vanlife can give you is exactly that, a community. There can be a misconception about getting lonely while living on the road, especially if you are living in your van as a solo traveler. Everyone can experience moments of loneliness, whether they live in a house or a van. Although, I believe living in your van allows you the opportunity to meet even more people than you would living stationary. You may revisit spots you know and love, but you’re not going back to the same house with the same neighbors, or going to the same coffee shop every morning, or commuting to your job where you see the same coworkers day in and day out. That is all beautiful in its own way, being stationary allows you to establish lasting relationships with neighbors and coworkers you come to know and love. In a van, your backyard becomes whatever you want to make it, and you get lucky to have new changing neighbors in every spot you stop in, whether it be for a night or a week. Throughout your time traveling, you meet so many wonderful people. If you have the ability to open yourself up to the beauty of life, you’ll experience it constantly. The kindness of strangers is incredible, and the more you travel the more kind strangers you’ll meet. Those strangers quickly become friends, and as the years pass by, you’ll notice how many wonderful humans you’ve had the pleasure of knowing in your life. Some will last forever, some years, and some, only the weeks that you’re around one another. All of them are significant nonetheless. If you’re open and willing to meet others, you will! 



One of the greatest parts of vanlife is really becoming a part of this community, finding people you connect with the most. People you share common interests with, people who you share your passion for life with. There are all sorts of different people who decide that vanlife may be a good option for them. Some have full-time remote work, others have seasonal work, or work when they can. Some prefer living in cities, and some prefer living out in nature or near small towns. Of course, your hobbies or preferences can help connect you to others with like-minded interests, but when it comes to finding community in vanlife, those things don’t necessarily matter. The one thing that brings us all together is our passion for an alternative way of living. That is a sentiment that likely anyone you’d meet in this community can agree upon. It’s understandable to think it may be difficult at first to find friends, but if you give yourself the time to put yourself out there, you’ll meet more people than you ever could have dreamt of. When I first started living in my van, I spent almost the entire first year traveling solo. Yes, I met lots of wonderful people, but most of my time was spent moving at a faster pace, exploring all that could be explored. I realized as time went on that I was going to need to adopt a slower pace of life if I wanted to continue living like this in the future. I allowed myself to slow down and slowly started immersing myself in more of the towns I would stop in when I wasn’t out on BLM land. Throughout this first year, I did meet many other travelers, other people who lived in their vans, trucks, RV’s, etc, but I usually wouldn't stay somewhere long enough to establish physical lasting friendships. I still talk to those friends often, but if I would have stayed that would have been a great way to grow my community face-to-face. That wasn’t what I wanted at the time, but those chance quick encounters can turn into more if you let them. If that's what you’re searching for, all you have to do is be willing to stay. As time went on, I quickly found myself meeting more and more people. People who became my friends almost instantaneously. Friends who wanted to travel to the same places, who wanted to explore forest land, who wanted to go on adventures, or attend the same events. You meet so many people that you connect with so quickly. Living in a van next to someone, you are more than just neighbors, you’re almost roommates. Despite the fact that you live in separate vehicles, you can camp within a twenty-foot radius of one another. When you wake up, you open your doors and greet one another. If you work from home there is a good chance you’ll be working outside on your computers next to one another. Maybe even heading to a coffee shop together. At the end of the night, you may find yourself around a campfire, sharing stories of your lives under the stars. Apart from the time you head into bed to go to sleep, you’ll find that living in a van and camping with friends, is similar to living with roommates, because the close proximity of which you live with one another allows you to get to know each other on a deeper level than a friend you may get dinner with once a week. It is a beautiful way to accelerate the speed at which your friendship grows.


I mentioned BLM land above, if you’re not familiar with that. BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management. These are public lands that serve a variety of purposes. They are used for livestock grazing, timber harvesting, and of course recreation. BLM land has a variety of designated free campsites and areas that you’re allowed to camp in, usually for up to 14 days. That is subject to change based on the specific area/state, but that is generally the given rule. National forest and national forest roads allow for public recreation as well. You should always look to camp somewhere that has already been established. You can tell if an area is a good spot to stay in because a small plot of land will be clearly cleaned out, some may even have fire rings or marks of other vehicles camping there. We should all be respectful of the land, always remember “leave no trace” policies, and only camp in areas that have been clearly established. As people that live out in nature the way we do, we have to be mindful of our impact, and do our best to take care of this planet together. Apps like Ioverlander, Sekr, The Dyrt, Campendium, and Boondockers Welcome, are just a few of the available vanlife/camp spot-centered apps out there. These will allow you to search out an area for camping ahead of time if you like to plan in advance. If you prefer more established campsites, you can look into Harvest Hosts, where you pay an annual fee and have access to a huge variety of campsites all over the country. 


Living and traveling in a van can be hard work. Having to take into consideration the amount of water you use, how far into the woods you can drive without running out of fuel, being prepared to work without having service, filling your propane, finding places to properly dump your waste, making sure you have enough battery power, and whether or not you need to find more sunshine to charge up your solar. These are all factors that make this lifestyle a little more tedious. Although they don’t take away from the overwhelming amounts of beauty that make the hard work more than worth it. Finding community will be the least hard aspect of traveling in your van. No matter where you choose to camp, or how you choose to ‘vanlife’, becoming a part of this community happens simply just by, being a part of this community. Living in a van, all of us who choose to travel more frequently, or live in a less conventional way, us nomads, are one of the most community-oriented groups of people out there. If you are feeling lonely, or are looking to meet new people, a great way to get involved is by looking up van and travel events in the area. If you have the ability to make the drive to another state, you can search for events in those states as well. There are vanlife events all over the country year-round. There are professionally run events, expos, van life meet-ups you can pay to attend, and van life meet-ups run by others living in their vehicles which are free to attend if you can get there. There are many different organizations that cater to meeting others while living on the road. Social media is another great way to connect with others living the same lifestyle. You may also find it easier to seek out events, get advice, find places to camp, or become friends online. Social media groups like the Winnebago Revel 4x4 group or the Storyteller Overland Insiders & MODElifers group are great for meeting other owners or getting questions answered. Social 

media allows for another avenue of connection if that is what you’re looking for. Another step you can take to meet people on the road is to stay somewhere for a season, get a seasonal job where other vanlifers may work, and immerse yourself into a community even if just for a short while. Maybe you work remotely and don’t have a need for a seasonal job, you can still find public lands nearby and participate in town events. Allow yourself to meet not only other vanlifers who are staying nearby but the locals as well. Staying at dispersed campsites in national forests that are close to towns is a great place to start because those are often more populated. Well-known towns like Bend, Oregon, Moab, Utah, and Boulder, Colorado, often have many other campers and travelers staying close by. Given that these towns cater more towards folks who enjoy outdoor recreation, and given our chosen lifestyle of living in a van, and spending most of our time outdoors, these are perfect places for us to gather and connect with one another.


If you think of the reasons why most of us are drawn to this lifestyle, we can all seemingly agree that most of our reasons may overlap. Of course, we are all individuals, with our own goals, passions, and pursuits, but at the end of the day, we all can agree that living or traveling in a van was a surefire way to get us to our goals faster, a way of living that allows us to live our happiest of lives. If you find you ever are in search of more community if you feel you need more connection with others, don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone, whether it be online, or someone you see pull up to a gas station in a van. We are a warm community and welcome anyone who would like to be a part of it. All of us individuals, all our unique aspects, paths, and personalities, are what make this community so beautiful. 


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