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 2022 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 02/06/23
Table of Contents
Vanlife Virtual Summit
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: email@example.com
2. TinyFest 2022
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:
- TinyFest California – San Diego – March 11 &12th – 2023 – Tickets
- Southwest – TBD
- Midwest – TBD
- PNW – TBD
2. VanFest 2023
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!
Details are TBD for VanFest 2023, so keep your eye out on their site for details!
3. Black Nomads Meet
Black Nomads Meet has various events throughout the year. Their goal is to bring together the Black Nomadic Community. Although they had quite a few events last year, there are not any tickets yet on sale for 2023. For more information, check out their Instagram!
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 being held AUGUST 1 – AUGUST 4, 2023; find more information out here.
5. Adventure Van Expo 2023
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!
- San Juan Capistrano, CA 4/29-4/30
- Lake Tahoe, CA 5/13-5/14
- Adventure Series: Cable, WI June 10-11
- Hood River, OR June 17-18
- Evergreen, CO July 8-9
- Topsfield, MA July 29-30
- Ogden, UT Sept. 2-3
- Adventure Series: Palisades Tahoe, CA Sept 16-17
- Bend, OR 9/30-10/1
- Chattanooga, TN Oct 7-8, Expo and Camping Rally
- Finale! Big Bear, CA Oct 14-15
6. Open Roads Festival 2024
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. With the beautiful scenery, fun workshops, and outdoor fun, I don’t see why you wouldn’t attend!
The next event will be in 2024!
8. Asheville Vanlife Rally (Canceled Indefinitely)
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!