One of our goals in 2019 is to meet more people and make more friends who also live in vans, travel full time, or we relate to in general. We tend to be very introverted and have difficulty putting ourselves into uncomfortable situations, new situations, or situations where we might feel judged. But this is the year of overcoming that fear and just jumping in.
So when I found a vanlife meetup happening in San Diego just a week or two before we were originally planning on being there, I knew we had to change our travel plans. Which wasn’t hard to do since we were following a loose idea of what we wanted to do and could easily skip some areas of the California coast and go back after the meetup. The meetup would be the perfect opportunity for us to step into the vanlife community a bit more and find like-minded people. And boy did we ever!
We arrived a week early in San Diego (so we could do the drive down over the weekend), explored the city, spent many days working right next to the beach, and enjoyed the sun. We even made some friends in Balboa Park before the meetup! We decided to check out the city more and work at Balboa for the day when we saw an RV already parked there. After a little investigating, Ben saw they had their Instagram name on the side of their RV (@livingnozipcode), so we messaged them letting them know we were their neighbors for the day and would love to meet them. A few hours later, we hung out with Adley and Solange in their RV, showed them our van, invited them to the meetup, and had 2 hours of laughing and chatting. It was a great start to making new friends.
The basic plan of this meetup was that people would open up their vans in the morning for tours, then everyone would share a potluck lunch, after lunch, there would be a Q&A session with seasoned vanlifers, and finally a bonfire on the beach. We were really excited and arrived early to make breakfast before the tours but made sure to park along the edge in case it wasn’t our cup of tea and we wanted to head out early. However, we had so much fun that we ended up staying longer than we could have ever anticipated! We did not participate in the potluck lunch and only listened to part of the Q&A, but we ended up spending all the rest of that time meeting people, touring their vans, and talking to people who want to build their own van.
There were approximately 150 vans, campers, RVs, etc. at the meetup and even more people (probably around 400 people in total). And there were so many different types of builds; from commercial builds by Winnebago to custom professional builds to home designs in all types of vehicles and every other type of build in between. It was bananas! And sooooo cool!
We met people with so many different, unique, and all equally amazing stories. There were people traveling together, people traveling alone, part-timers, full-timers, older people, younger people. The diversity was insane. And EVERYONE was friendly. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a more welcoming bunch of people. All of our worries about making friends were for naught; we left the event with so many more friends and people to potentially meet up with later on in our travels.
Here are a few of the really cool people we met at the meetup:
And so many more!
The event was surreal in its own way. Van life on a day to day basis can feel sometimes isolated and like you are the only people doing it. It can also feel like no one understands the everyday struggles you deal with. But being at this event, everyone got each other. We all knew what it was like to try to find somewhere to dump water or find a place to park at night. We felt such a sense of belonging and community. Something I have definitely been searching for.
Our first intro to the vanlife community was incredible and we can’t wait to join more meetups and get to know other vanlifers. And hopefully, we’ll be able to attend the San Diego vanlife meetup again in the fall!