Location: Mount Franklin Campground, Victoria
It wasn’t too long ago when I wrote about agonizing over that question (the ‘what am I doing with my life’ question), because life on the road can be a very lonely enterprise. It’s just you, your companion and the open road keeping you sane. However, no matter who you’re with (or not with) or where you’re at, it does become repetitive after awhile; you yearn for the company of others to inject some much needed versatility into your days, a new point of view to add to your conversations, or even just a different energy to your two some vibe. And as much as I can (and do) point the finger at social media for what I call ‘the downward spiral of society’s social skills and etiquette’, it’s also been a massive help to Siu On and I when we are missing the company of others to connect us with other likeminded people.
I first stumbled upon the Vanlife Gatherings on Instagram, where pictures of vans in the outdoors were popping up on my feed, and I started to follow them for inspiration and to make note of potential places we could take Bea to on our Great Australian Roadtrip. After two months on the road though, we were missing being in the company of likeminded, creative and outdoorsy travelers, so when a Vanlife Gathering was announced and aligned with our travel circumstances, it was simply an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
The reality of our chosen method of travel was that meeting people wasn’t easy. We found that generally travelers either kept to themselves, weren’t in a place long enough to form a friendship with, or were heading in the complete opposite direction to us. Although we have met and spoken with some great and interesting travelers, we weren’t able to create any friendships that would last beyond the smoldering campfire embers the next morning; which is why we were happy to go along to the next Vanlife Gathering.
Driving to the Mount Franklin campgrounds was slightly nerve wracking, as we wondered ‘what if we don’t fit in? What if everyone is weird?’ or worse, ‘what if no one else turns up?’ However, we were already on our way and figured if it ended up being just the two of us, at least we gave it a try. However, much to our relief, as we drove into the campground and saw a row of vans parked around a lively campfire and kitchen, we knew we were at the right site. So with a deep breath I reminded myself that I’m not a weirdo yet, and after two months on the road I still have my social skills intact (I think); and we walked up to the group and said hello.
We swapped introductions, chatted about our set ups (and found we weren’t the only ones who weren’t in an actual van), where we’d been, and where we were going. It was a huge relief to finally meet some new likeminded people and as the night wore on, it also struck me how important it is to have not only a network of friends when you’re traveling, but also access to a community of people. With all these new faces animated by the glow of the campfire, sharing stories, laughs and food, all of us engaging in life in a way that united us for the night; it was the best antidote for the loneliness Siu On and I had been feeling on the road at that time. It really did feel good to be in the company of people who share in your vision for life, and in the end it was hard to pack up Bea and leave.
I am so thankful and grateful to the Vanlife Gathering crew, for creating a community where everyone is welcomed and united in the idea of living the van life, and for being such awesome and friendly people. We had such a great night with some incredibly funny, talented and genuinely laid-back people, and are already looking forward to the next gathering and seeing some of those amazing people again. Perhaps this experience may have softened my views on the corruptive nature that social media has on the slow and painful death of social skills in society… maybe a just little.
Are you thinking about living the vanlife but are without a van? Believe me it is possible, and you can convert just about any car into a cosy home on wheels. Or if you’re already on the road and are interested in meeting up with other likeminded people, check out Vanlife’s Gatherings page for write ups on the latest meets or to be kept in the loop for the next one.
Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.