Nomad Community - What's missing from vanlife gatherings?

Hi friends,

One of the biggest pain points for nomads is the lack of physical community. I have been living on the road the past two years, and this is by far the biggest reason I work so hard to connect with other nomads online and create moments in time for us to connect in person.

As a regular host of vanlife gatherings and meetups, I’m wondering what you would like to see at the next event! What do you think is missing from the current gatherings? What would help you connect deeper to your fellow nomads? What educational resources could benefit our community at these events?

Let me know what you wish was at vanlife gatherings in the comments below so we can all have a great experience at the next event!


About me: I am a nomad, scientist and adventurer. I live with my husband and chihuahua in a 4x4 Sprinter van. I am also the co-creator of The Vanlife App, a resource that will help you connect in person with nearby nomads and locate critical facilities like campsites and restrooms.


I love the weekend gatherings and would like to see them hold on a monthly basis throughout the year in the path of the most popular areas (ie Arizona winter, Rocky Mountains in spring/fall etc). I’d also love to see one or two bigger events of perhaps 5 days in the winter and again summer. I’d also like to see events have daily meditation and/or yoga as well as two or three SIG (special interest groups) each day. these could be presentations like TED talks for vanlife or smaller workshops for helpful skills like basics of fermentation, zero waste, journal writing, or establishing healthy exercise habits in vanlife etc etc.

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Hi Jess and welcome to the forum!

I’m happy to answer your question from my perspective. Please forgive me if any of it sounds presumptuous since I’m not yet living in a van, but I am still, whole-heartedly, a van-lifer! (Going full-time and permanent as a 53 year old single male. <— I mention this because it’s can be helpful to know the demographics of your replies.) I have one concern and four suggestions. I didn’t even know about van life until last July. I knew immediately that it was for me. My goal date to hit the road is September 1, 2019. I chose to take a year to research the dickens out of van life and everything that it entails. I’m glad I did. Here’s why:

CONCERN: In the last nine months, I’ve seen a lot of folks get into van life, freak out and eventually quit… after giving up everything. While _they’r_e responsible for their own choices, I think the van life community (especially the well-known and visible folks on YouTube/Instagram) need to be very careful how they talk about it. I hear a lot of things like this: “If you’re even thinking about getting into van life, just do it! You won’t regret it! It’s the best life ever and you take back your freedom so you’re in control!”

Even though I agree with that statement personally, it’s not good advice for many people! There are a lot of reasons why people consider van life. I’ve been meeting, and keeping in touch with, people who are hurting and scared; who are choosing van life on impulse because they’re unsure how to fix their current situation whether it’s financial, living situation, work or emotional struggles. For some, it was a rash decision out of boredom and then they wondered what the hell they did. It sounded good at the time, but…

SUGGESTION: At these meet-ups, take time to remind people on social media that you never know who’s listening, reading or watching. You never know what situation someone may be in who ends up making big life choices based on your content. There is joy and freedom in van life! But there are also responsibilities, sacrifices, compromises and hard work. Van life requires learning a whole new mindset and way of living that requires some level of self-sufficiency that many people either aren’t ready for… or able to handle. Sorry for the long post but I speak with folks like this daily and I would just like to see van dwellers be reminded of their social responsibilities, too. Their content affects others in ways other than just being entertaining. Everyone has social responsibilities. We need to balance the dream with reality.

SUGGESTION: Would any regular van lifers be willing to hold a gathering for one day (or two if needed/wanted) strictly for those who are NOT in van life but are considering it? They can talk about REAL van life, get some demonstrations on cooking in a van, seeing how solar and propane work and the care these elements require, see a van build in person (vans looks so much bigger on video), and have a huge Q&A Session to answer all of their questions. This would be a fantastic community service! Once I start van life, I would make myself available to help do this! I think you could even invite members of the community, or city councils, who might have questions or concerns about seeing people living in vans in their area. Let them see how responsible most van life folks are!

As for the gatherings, I think they’re fantastic because many people love and crave meeting with like-minded people! I see that a lot too, from van lifers on YouTube with only tens, hundreds, or a thousand subscribers. They’re lonely. Personally, as do others I speak with on YouTube, I prefer smaller gatherings most of the time but would like to attend one big gathering once a year.

SUGGESTION: Maybe there can be a website, or app, where folks can announce that they’d like to have a small meet-up if others are in the area. They can announce the location and time, and other van lifers who are interested, and who enjoy smaller gatherings, can look to see who’s having them and where. I honestly think this is a great idea because the need is there. Whoever created that App could do well.

The RTR for example, was so large that folks were parked and piled on top of each other in the videos I’ve seen. I realize there’s the option to park a bit further out and that definitely helps. Even Bob Wells didn’t want to be in the crowd and parked on the furthest fringe of it.

But, at night, in these crowded areas, I saw videos of people blaring their music, flashing party lights, hooting and hollering, and most likely some drunkenness. If that’s their idea of fun, I don’t want to rain on their good time but did they consider, or have any respect, for folks nearby who just wanted to go to bed? Even those on the outskirts of camp had to have heard the noise because it was a wide open space. Some folks on YouTube who attended said they experienced this and wouldn’t be attending another RTR. I related to this complaint and would hate for it to hold me back from attending an RTR.

Lastly, I realize that it’s extremely difficult to find places to host such a large group of people. I can’t imagine the herculean nature of that feat!! But there have to be better places than windy, wide open places of just dirt or sand. Then, when it rains, everything gets muddy and vehicles get stuck. My suggestion here is to please vary the locations across the country so some others who might not be able to travel so far will have an opportunity to attend, too. Not everyone can make it to Quartszite. How lovely would it be to have grass and trees around to enhance the experience? I realize that businesses/cities don’t like having vehicles parked on their grass but there must be other alternatives to just brown, dusty and muddy Quartszite?

Just my two-cents! Best wishes on getting helpful responses. I think it’s a great idea!


I like gatherings, both large and small, and have occasionally driven cross country to attend, but I hate the RTR’s by Bob Well’s and his followers, many of which like Bob Well’s thinks the laws, common sense, and common courtesy don’t apply to them.

I hate the “Just Do It” mentality. That scam artist’s talk. Hurry up and do it before you come to your senses. You’ll regret it later, too bad, but they will have made their money off your stupidity. We need more honesty and less promoting. We need more emphasis on the problems, and their solutions. Example: I read about air conditioning and it’s problems and pitfall’s all the time… Many people suggest that that keeping cool is the hardest part of van dwelling. Well known people poo poo the idea of swamp coolers, yet I have one and it works perfectly good, even in humid areas, plus there are other good solutions that work. Exposing problems, and offering solutions is always a good thing.

They push a lot of expensive options, not because they are good choices, but because they make big money promoting them.

Money is one of the most important factors for van life, and life in general. I think workshops on travel friendly incomes are always a great idea. That’s how I learned about the mobile income’s I use. For both online and offline income, I don’t think you can ever learn too much.

I’m not into yoga or meditation or that type stuff, but I’m not opposed to it either. I really enjoy meeting old and new friends, but you need some strict rules like no alcohol or drugs, because some things can really mess up the whole experience for everybody.

So I’m curious about where the events you’ve hosted have been, and where you usually announce them at.


"It's all rainbows and roses... Just no pot of gold, and the roses have thorns." ~ CashTalks

I’m likely in the minority here but I’d like to see some of these gatherings outside of the western US. Perhaps in places like Florida in the winter.

Another idea might be organizing something like “upgrade workshops” where the tools and expertise are on hand to accomplish certain projects/upgrades such as a solar installation. I can imagine volunteering on efforts like that and it could be a nice way for folks to learn while doing and for those with particular skills to help others. With all the right tools and a team of experienced volunteers, these kinds of projects could be done a lot quicker and easier than working alone. This might also be an opportunity for a business to sponsor/support the effort with their teams or perhaps even discounted products, etc.

Thanks for all your efforts!

I also said in my post that the gatherings need to be in a various places, too, so I’m with you there.

If I remember correctly, I think there have been some talks at certain gatherings about different build elements like solar. I know some folks individually help out others while they’re there. But, I also know that there are some people who help others fix and remodel their vans, including solar, as a fee because that’s how they make their living on the road. It’s one of the reasons why they’re at every single gathering they can get to – for the business.

@Van_Dweller - I’m in complete agreement with you about Bob Wells and “his tribe.” I was just trying to be gracious. Truth be told, you’d never find me at an RTR. If I ever did show up, it would only be for a couple of hours to meet other van dwellers. To be fair, I’m sure that me saying I’d never attend one wouldn’t bother them in the least. I’m okay with that. Folks have different personalities, styles, and morals as well as different ways of living van life. We’re all responsible for our own choices and that includes the consequences of those choices.