We bet there isn't a single human being on social media that have never stumbled upon the #vanlife movement. #Vanlife is particularly viral on Instagram with close to 6 million posts with the #vanlife hashtag. Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, and almost any other image-related social media is getting stuffed with accounts promoting and preaching the vanlife movement.
Before we move on, let's dig a little deeper into vanlife. There is a trend mainly among millennials where they give everything up to start their life anew – in an old bus converted into a campervan. Millennials call this #vanlife and they document their experience on social media. This lifestyle is often portrayed as something many of us would dub “dream life”. Young couples roaming the world, living off-the-grid, financially independent, shooting breathtaking photos in the great outdoors, enjoying the magic of a campfire, embracing the harshness of the wild nature... You get the idea.
Essentially, vanlife is all about traveling and discovering new places and documenting your journey. Many of these full-time travelers have their own blogs or websites where they share their stories from the road. Instagram is packed with accounts of “vanlifers” and most of them seem to fit into following criteria – they are almost every time middle-class couples in their 30s, they do yoga, they are athletic and preach a healthy lifestyle, they might have a dog, they have colorful blankets inside their vehicles, and some even decorate the inside of their vans with Christmas lights, plants, maps, etc. When it comes to their vehicle, the chances are it is 20+-year-old van (Chevrolet and Volkswagen seem to be the most popular) converted into a campervan.
Usually, the travelers themselves convert the old bus into their dream home on wheels and there is nothing bad about it. When you browse through #vanlife photos on social media one thing will definitely stand out – there are either surf or bicycles on the top of the campervan. There are also solar panels and DIY showers. It all looks too good to be true – these people are actually living the life we all crave for – they spend their time traveling, they watch the sun goes up and down every single day, they shower in lakes and waterfalls, they sing-along around the campfire on a beach that looks like it is taken from the cover of a magazine.
Many members of the vanlife society share their personal stories on their travel blogs. Among the reasons they cite for joining the vanlife movement, you can find out the following – a desire to travel (obviously), desire to live a lifestyle that brings them closer to nature (that's obvious too), saving money or a feel of discontent with their current lifestyle.
There are hundreds of reasons why some people are ready to sell everything they own, including their homes, furniture, and any other belongings only to pursue a travel life. In most cases, when the daily routine kicks in, millennials realize that the life they live is not what they want – there are leasings to be paid, there are cold corporate jobs that are emotionally draining, there houses and apartments that require maintenance, there is a peer pressure forcing you to have a partner, to get married and eventually have kids.
We have all been there – ending up doing the things we hoped we'd never do when we were teenagers. And then all of a sudden there is this vanlife alternative that offers exactly the opposite – adventures, tours, new destinations and new people on a daily basis. You get the freedom to be exactly where you want to be. You have the freedom to explore yourself and test your limits. You have enough free time to prepare your own meals and have a beer at the end of the day while watching the sunset.
Even though social media will never tell you that, there is more to vanlife than happy couples and stunning photos. In fact, there are many pitfalls that only a handful of vanlife enthusiasts will share. The harsh truth is, everyone who has ever tried living on the road knows that it could be exhausting and at times it feels that the whole world is crumbling down.
Vanlife could be cheaper than housing but it doesn't mean it is free. Those who are embracing the #vanlife culture are usually able to work remotely and thus fund their lifestyle. However, digital nomads cannot survive without a stable internet connection. Mobile data could be extremely expensive in some countries, which leads us to the crux of the matter – how do you find a wi-fi?
Finding a secure and reliable wi-fi connection on the road could be a real pain and this is a major issue. And it's not just about being silent on social media. You are literally unable to work, which could lead to unhappy clients (at best). On the other hand, how do you plan your next stop without internet? And no, paper maps don't do the trick because it's only navigation you have to think about.
When on the road it is hard to keep your clothes fresh and clean all the time. Plus, when you actually live in a campervan there isn't much space for all of the clothes you would keep at home. What I am trying to say is, you have only a limited number of clothes, which makes keeping them clean even harder. And believe me that hand-washing them in the shower is like trying to make a cappuccino in a bottle cap.
What about sleeping sheets, towels, blankets? You can't even take them with you in the shower. Even if you decide to wash them in a stream or a lake it would be just plain dumb to use soap or any other washing liquid. This not only forbidden almost anywhere but it could also lend you a hefty fee. Well, public coin laundries are an option but we were on our way to get closer to nature remember?
Ask anyone living in a van this simple question “Where do you poo?” and you will be surprised by the variety of extraordinary answers you will hear. It may sound trivial but when you live in a vehicle going to the toilet could sometimes be a hard task. This is why vanlife travelers are forced to look for cafes, restaurants, and public restrooms every single day. Needless to say, Instagram profiles tell a different story.
The vanlife reality is packed with all sorts of problems that are plaguing this otherwise idyllic lifestyle. A gross amount of money is spent on a daily basis on keeping your vehicle in order. Unexpected failures such as flat tires or more serious technical issues are capable of ruining not only your journey but your bank account as well.
In order to ditch everything and start a #vanlife, one should be prepared to face and overcome any technical issues. This brings us to my next point – you should be sort of a mechanic yourself. This will help you fix minor problems, meaning it will save you money. And believe me, these old vans you see on Instagram are prone to breaking up on a regular basis.
Now the big question is – how can you as a campsite owner win these people and turn them into customers? Assuming that you already have an operating campground, here's how you can help:
Talk with your campervan guests and identify their needs. This will help you better understand what it is to actually live and travel in a campervan. When you already draft some ideas on how you can make their lives easier, share them with your guests to validate your ideas. If they are positively met, move on implementing them.
You can actively promote your campsite as a vanlife-friendly place. Share the stories of the vanlifers that have already been your guests. As much as these millennials love nature, they love attention. Put them in the spotlight of your social media feed (even for a day) and you can rest assured the whole community will love you.
Make sure your campground offers a solid (and free) wi-fi connection. Nothing sucks more than a campsite that has wireless only at the reception. What's even worse, having to pay for wi-fi in the 21st century is just plain wrong. When you have a proper internet connection on your ground, you virtually make sure vanlife travelers stay longer. Why? Because they need to work, remember?
You already have toilets and bathrooms but do you offer laundry services? Well, you should. As we mentioned earlier, keeping your laundry clean is almost impossible while on the road. What I am trying to say is, you can step in and solve this problem as well. Plus, this is an additional revenue stream you shouldn't neglect.
Vanlife people are in most cases, digital natives. This means you should speak their language – attract them online, show your offers online, allow them to make their reservation online, allow them to pay online. You get the idea, don't you?
It may seem that #vanlife is all about spending the night at the outdoors but in reality, you can see many campervans parked in front of supermarkets, close to the beach, on a quiet street in your neighborhood. The reason why vanlife travelers don't use campgrounds is because regular campsites don't meet their needs. Once, you actually meet their needs you open up your business for new opportunities.
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