Van life is about more than just living in your van. What started as an escape from 50-hour work weeks and encroaching debt, has now evolved as a lifestyle that hundreds and thousands of individuals have sought, and continue to seek.
On September 21st to the 23rd, the Asheville Van Life Rally will celebrate just that.
“The van life community is a tribe — we’re a family” Micah Pulleyn, Director of Asheville Van Life Rally (AVLR), tells me. “It’s a way of choosing to be on this planet.”
Micah has been involved in the Asheville Van Life Rally for the four years of its existence. On her first go, she lead the charge as National Events Coordinator for 5Point Adventure Film Festival and Festival Manager of the local 5Point Asheville Festival. That first year, 25 vans circled up for an “open house” of sorts, but the focus remained on the films of the festival.
When 5Point withdrew from Asheville as a tour location two years later, friends encouraged Micah to continue the rally without the festival as the focal point.
Instead of writing the event’s obituary, she’s turned it into the largest van life gathering on the East Coast. “It’s almost like looking down on a coral reef,” Micah told me about the event, referring to the juxtaposition of rusty old VW buses next to six-digit Sprinter vans with walnut inlays and LED lighting. Micah tells me it’s harmonious, even when two vehicles are vastly different from one another.
The Magic of the #Vanlife Community
In recent years, van life gatherings have sprung up across the United States, usually in partnership with Vanlife Diaries, a company based out of Australia, and Tiny House, Tiny Footprint out of North America. Both companies are sponsors of the Asheville Van Life Rally.
These rallies are community gatherings. They’re less about the food and the booze, and more about the relationships and connections fostered during the long weekend. For many, it’s a pilgrimage, and a way for members of the community to connect in an offline setting.
“You create the space for this type of event, and the people bring the magic,” Micah said.
By magic, she might be talking about the generosity, kindness, and authenticity of the van life community. According to Micah, these are people who choose to live off-grid, venture into the unknown, live simply, and embrace the “not knowing-ness of the open road.” Asheville Van Life Rally serves as a catalyst for members of the van life community to geek out on each others builds, ask pressing questions, and sit around the fire-pit together (there will be four of them).
The rally, and #vanlife in general, focus less on living in a van, and more about the way you choose to live, which is why AVLR welcomes almost all types of vehicles, except motorhomes. “We like there to be a DIY component,” Micah told me. Other than that, anyone can bring their Tacoma’s, Subaru’s, or Kia Rio’s. The only prerequisite for AVLR is to focus on fun. Their website welcomes visitors to “Join the Party.”
What to Expect at the Asheville Van Life Gathering
On Friday afternoon, travelers will gather to share craft beer and farm-to-table food around the campfire, and talk about pain points and victories of living in an adventure mobile. There will be a van life Q&A. Friday festivities are vehicle-owners-only, but the event opens to the public at 12pm on Saturday.
Saturday events include vehicles on display, live music, a kids corner, a vendor village, and DIY mini-workshops. Attendees are encouraged to tour the vans on display, ask questions, and continue to foster the community created by this event. Saturday night camping will include live music, and local craft beer brewed specifically for the rally by Wedge Brewery and Zillicoah Beer Company.
Sunday will be more mellow with coffee provided by Foundry Coffee, and community yoga.
Year over year, the rally doubles in size. At the 2017 rally, 100 vehicles registered and nearly 3,000 people attended. For 2018, there are already 200 registered vehicles, and if that’s any indication, this years turnout could be massive.
One thing’s for sure: this is an event you won’t want to miss. “I’ve had to enlist superheros to pull this thing off,” Micah said told me. “Between them and our generous sponsors like Mercedes-Benz of Knoxville, we’re going to have an event that’ll bring us all closer together.”
Along with Mercedes-Benz of Knoxville, other major sponsors of the van life gathering include YETI, NCLine Adventures, Ujoint Offroad, Blue Ridge Adventure Vehicles, Navitat Canopy Adventures, Gnarcissist, Quigley 4×4, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, Skoolie.com, & Skirven & Croft, among many others.
Headed to the Asheville Van Life Rally without a van? Pitch your tent at one of the 200+ campgrounds near Asheville.