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One of the best parts of Vanlife is the community. It’s something that is repeated over and over but until you meet and find your people it might not click. This is why it’s important to put yourself out there and meet more people who are traveling just like you! The vanlife community keeps growing and with that more and more vanlife gatherings are popping up every year! Here is a current list of the vanlife gatherings available in 2021 in the United States. Plus don’t miss my top tips for your first vanlife gathering!
Psst- don’t have a van yet? You can car camp or rent a van from Outdoorsy!
UPDATE: Due to the Corona Virus many of the below have been or will be canceled. I will be updating as events are canceled or rescheduled. Originally posted 2/1/2020 and Updated on 05/04/21
1. The Vanlife App Meetup Monday
The Vanlife App in an attempt to keep the community together has started virtual meetings on Mondays, Meetup Mondays. Each week they come together on Zoom to talk about tales from the road. If you want to join head here to register. If you want to be able to guarantee a time to talk about your famous tale, email them and let them know in advance here: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Black Nomads Meet
Meeting in Warthen, Georgia Black Nomads Meet will be holding a meetup gathering this June from the 4th-6th. Their goal is to bring together the Black Nomadic Community. Pre-Registration is now open! For more information check out their Site!
3. Asheville Vanlife Rally
One of my favorite places is a small town in North Carolina near the Smoky Mountains. Asheville has tons of incredible vegan food options and is known for its plethora of breweries. This is why it’s a no-brainer to check this vanlife gathering. The Asheville Van-life Rally as it celebrates its 6th year, tickets are available now for September 16th-19th 2021, head here to grab them before they are gone!
4. Descend on Bend
Other than the Teton Vanlife Gathering, Descend on Bend may be the most talked-about vanlife gathering in the community. Hundreds of people come to Descend on Bend every year to hike, bike, chat and meet people they can connect with. It is typically held in September in Oregon.
5. VanFest Utah 2021
If you are a current vanlifer or are dreaming of becoming one then VanFest might be absolutely perfect for you! VanFest is a little different in the fact that it focuses on featuring campervans and meeting your favorite vanlife influencer. You have the day to walk around, see different builds from DIY to professional and ask all your favorite vanlifers questions you may have!
This May 8th head to Legacy Park in Hurricane Utah to meet up with vanlife friends and influencers. As a bonus, the National Parks Band will be headlining! Buy tickets here.
6. TinyFest 2021
TinyFest is also a little bit different than your average vanlife gathering as they focus on tiny living. This means tiny houses, campervans, trucks, trailers, you name it! There will be tons of people to meet, vendors, and influencers all there to talk about tiny living and how you can make it happen for yourself!
TinyFest is great as they have multiple meetups all across the country this year:
- San Diego California – May 14-16, 2021 – Tickets
- Austin, Texas – Sept. 25-26, 2021 – Tickets
- Midwest – TBD
- PNW – TBD
7. Adventure Van Expo
Adventure Van Expo is like Tiny Fest in that it isn’t like a typical vanlife gathering. The Adventure Van Expo is geared toward helping those that want to build a van, buy a van, or add on to their van. There are typically builders, van supply vendors, and influencers at Adventure Van Expo. If you are in the market for a van or want to learn more about vanlife then this would be the event for you!
The best part? The events are free!
- Hood River Fairgrounds: June 19-20
- Cache County Logan, Utah: July 31st-8/1
- Dillon, CO: August 21-22
- Bend, Oregon (Deschutes) Sept.4-5 (Labor Day weekend)
- Lake Tahoe, CA: Sept. 18-19
- Chattanooga, TN(Eastridge) Oct. 2-3
- Big Bear Lake, CA: Oct. 16-17
Postponed Vanlife Gatherings
1. Vanstock Alaska (Canceled Until 2022)
The very first official Alaskan vanlife gathering was being held in Anchorage this year. It’s a pretty big deal and quite a bit of the vanlife community planned to head up to Alaska this summer. Tickets are being refunded and you can purchase merch from Vanstock Alaska if you want to help them to recoup some of the money they lost. Shawn and I have been wanting to go to Alaska for years and were looking forward to going this year so instead, we are putting all of our efforts into planning for next year! If you plan to head up there next summer let us know, maybe we will see you there!
2. Open Roads Festival (Canceled)
The Open Roads Festival is focused on the outdoors and gives you a chance to kayak, hike, bike, and even attend workshops mostly focused on outdoor activities. The Open Roads Festival had its first event last year held by Kristen of Bearfoot Theory in Idaho. With the beautiful scenery, fun workshops, and outdoor fun, I don’t see why you wouldn’t attend! Sign up for their email list to be updated for next year’s event!
Tips for Rocking Your First Vanlife Gathering
It can be super intimidating going to a gathering for the first time and meeting so many people at once. Most of us are introverts and putting ourselves out there with the intent that we might find a few like-minded people that you connect with and occasionally travel with on the road is insanely exhausting.
Someone like me with some slight anxiety and total introverted-ness during my first vanlife gathering, I had moments of exhaustion and self-doubt. On the other side, Shawn and I came out of the event with so many new connections, great spots to visit, and a brightened outlook on vanlife. To help you with your first vanlife gathering here are a few tips to help you through the weekend.
1. Sign up to be a Volunteer
I have heard this from so many people but the best way to make friends in the vanlife community is to volunteer at a meetup. The duties are never extensive and you immediately make friends with tons of van-life people. Typically you can email the host of the meetup or look on the event page to see details on how to become a volunteer. Bonus: Often if you are a volunteer you get in for free!
2. Get Your Van Instagram Ready
At vanlife gatherings, there are so many people taking Instagram stories, pictures, and even van tours. If your goals are to make money off your blog or Youtube this is a good chance to meet people you can collaborate with. So make sure your van is clean and decorated so you feel comfortable showing it off.
However, let’s not get sleazy. Let these collaborations come naturally. Your true colors will show if you are only trying to use people for their status. You aren’t getting famous from hanging out with Influencers. It takes tons of time, dedication, and a sprinkle of magic from the online gods.
3. Be Yourself
This one is my favorite. Everyone is different and that is what makes life beautiful right? In the vanlife community and life, there are so many different kinds of people. Entrepreneurs, social media influencers, vacationers, vegans, fast travelers, slow travelers, introverts, partiers, seriously the list goes on and on. Pretending to be one thing or another is not going to help you to make strong connections.
Don’t feel the pressure to be something you are not. For instance, during our first vanlife gathering, we felt a little left out as we are vegans. The first two days all we met were meat-eaters and at that, people who like to bond over cooking a good meal. I completely understand this and can absolutely bond over a good meal but that looks a little differently to vegans. The good news is by the end of the meetup we had met so many vegans and people regardless of diet who didn’t care what you ate or didn’t eat.
4. Keep an Open Mind
There are so many people at vanlife gatherings. Different ages, lifestyles, couples, dog owners, partiers…the list goes on. It can be easy to zero in and try to hang out with ONLY the people you think you will like. GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD. Even if you don’t end up being BFFs, here is your opportunity to hear amazing stories, connect, and make an unlikely friend.
5. Take a Walk
A great benefit of going to vanlife gatherings is seeing all the amazing vans! So get out of your van and start walking around! Most of the time, there will be people at their van, ready to show it off and make a friend! At every meetup, there are countless vans there. This is your opportunity to check them out and get inspiration. Whether you are planning your build, building it out, or thinking about updates here is your chance to get up close and personal with all the Campervans you can imagine.
6. Come Prepared with Food
Haha, maybe that’s just me and my constantly hungry stomach talking but seriously come prepared with food, toilet paper, water, and any other supplies you might need. If you’re a vegan, bring extra! There are often so many other vegans in the van life community, and it is so amazing to connect. A great calling card to other vegans is to cook something for everyone. For instance, at our first vanlife gathering, there was a pancake breakfast for everyone but unfortunately, it was not vegan. We decided to make some pancakes for ourselves that were vegan, we had extra and started asking around if any other vegans were hungry! People were so grateful and our only regret was not bringing enough Bisquick to feed everyone!
I hope these vanlife gatherings and top tips will serve you well this year and I hope to see you on the road!