A Weekend Vanlife Gathering in Palm Springs

“I got a look into what makes full-time van life so amazing. I felt like I was at summer camp, meeting a ton of new friends, but these solo travelers do this all year long.”

APRIL 6, 2023 | BY INGRID SCHNADER
Picture this: You’re in the desert with 50+ other solo female vanlifers, one of which is standing in the middle of the crowd with a microphone in hand, and “Misery” by Paramore is playing on the Soundboks bluetooth speaker. The sun is setting pink behind the desert mountain tops. The song chorus is about to come on.

“Whoaaaa, I never meant to brag!” you sing in unison with everyone around you – is it even singing anymore, or just screaming? – while jumping up and down with your arms in the air. One camper brings out her saxophone and plays in tune to the music while dancing, an impressive feat.

As the night turns darker, you and the strangers-turned-friends around you don’t want the karaoke party to ever end. You turn on your phone flashlights and wave to the music as another friend sings a slow John Mayer song. You grab your bestie and do a silly slow dance with her.

When your throat starts hurting from the screaming and your hair is too sweaty from the dancing, you finally give in to exhaustion and plop down into a camp chair next to the fire. “Who wants s’mores?” you ask the crowd, and you’re greeted with a chorus of yeses.
We hadn’t planned the karaoke party. I was actually planning on leading a storytelling workshop, since I’m a former journalist and now write blogs for Storyteller Overland. But everyone had already been a part of so many deep and meaningful conversations over the weekend, a storytelling workshop started to feel redundant.

Karaoke, on the other hand, is something I’ll never get tired of doing. I love seeing all of the unique ways people perform. And when I’m on stage – or in the middle of a circle of people in the desert – nothing makes me feel more loved and supported than seeing my friends cheering me on and dancing with me.

It was the perfect ending to a four-day weekend at A Roam Of Our Own, a women-only vanlife gathering in Palm Springs, California, part of The Lost Places van life events by The Journal of Lost Time.
Our weekend had a jam-packed schedule. Campers hosted yoga, breathwork and sound bath sessions. Kayden Phan made a stunning charcuterie board, which we enjoyed from her rooftop patio. Our Art Director, Tori, led a resin jewelry workshop. I even found a watercolor painting station that a camper had set up outside of her van.

In addition to our karaoke party, there was plenty of dancing throughout the weekend. I loved how different the dancing was with it being an all-women event. It seemed like everyone vibed in their own confident way, not concerned at all with what others thought.

I’d have to say one of the most impressive things I saw all weekend was a fire dancing show led by a camper named Sunshine. I’d seen her dancing with poi balls throughout the weekend, but I was completely surprised Saturday night when she did a routine with balls of fire.
This weekend gave me so much respect for those who do vanlife full time. Our van had been parked on a slight incline, so my coworker and I constantly slid toward the bottom of the bed throughout the night. I couldn’t wait to get back to my king-sized, totally level bed at home.

I was also excited to get back to food that wasn’t prepared in the microwave. On Monday, before heading home, a couple of my coworkers and I stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Palm Springs. We got tacos, ceviche, street corn, and a flan for dessert – and we ate every bite.

But despite its challenges, I got a look into what makes full-time van life so amazing. I felt like I was at summer camp, meeting a ton of new friends, but they do this all year long. They travel the country finding the most beautiful places to camp each night, and they meet other nomads along the way. Maybe they’ll see each other again down the road, maybe they won’t. But with each new van lifer they meet, their sense of community continues to grow.

I can’t express how much gratitude I have to this community for letting me be a part of it for a weekend. It was a treasure to be surrounded by so many strong, independent women. I feel like I have so much to learn from them.

Want to hang out with us at the next vanlife gathering? Check out our tour schedule!

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