John and Jayme Serbell are houseless, no, times are not hard, they did not get evicted or foreclosed on. I said Houseless, not Homeless. John and Jayme are former St Louis residents that decided life would be better lived while on the road, a nomadic lifestyle that allows them the freedom to take their home anywhere they choose. If you go on YouTube and search for “Van Dwellers, Van Life, DIY Camper van conversion, etc…. you will start to see that it is not a hobby, it’s a movement. While watching these videos you will notice that a lot of gatherings and photos taken from other van dwellers are from out west…. for the most part. Well, John and Jayme wanted to invite van lifers to the Midwest and what better place than Mark Twain National Forest on the Big Piney River.
I never had the chance to ask John or Jayme a ton of questions because I was not going to do a blog post on this, just post some pic here and there. But, without asking them you could tell they were over the moon with the turn out of this first annual event.
Midwest Van Life Meet-up
Take a field, a National Forest and the Big Piney River near Rolla Missouri and you throw over 100 vans in that field and you have one of the happiest places on earth for 3 days. Van lifers from all over the country came out to the first annual Midwest Van Life Gathering. It was a weekend of cool vans, Yoga clinics, Jam sessions, SUP Tours, and even a kids corner. The only thing that made this event better was the people. Three hard rain storms and a little bit of heat did not stop these people from having a good time. You were hard-pressed to find anyone without a smile on their face the entire weekend. Even when vans got stuck in the mud it was laughable and people rushed over to help push one another out and they did it with a smile. Hell, even the State Patrol and Park service officers had smiles on their faces.
The two main focuses on the entire weekend were, of course, the vans, the badass vans that people have turned into rolling pieces of art, and the people themselves. I have DJed parties and weddings and lake parties for over 20 years, I am a Parrothead “Jimmy Buffet Fan” and a Dirtbag paddler and I can honestly say that I have NEVER met any cooler people than I have at the gathering. Everyone was welcoming, told stories, sang songs, and shared their homes with everyone. In today’s world, this was a breath of fresh air and it gives me hope for the future. Everyone had one thing in common, freedom, freedom from paying for hotel rooms, mortgage “except for some” and the freedom to explore the U.S. and be able to take your own bed and kitchen with you.
There were a couple hours on Saturday night where people would ask and answer questions about how they do what they do, what type of electrical systems they run, insurance on down to what they do to make money on the road. Everyone was open about it and a lot of questions were answered. From Yoga instructors to music producers to bloggers everyone makes an honest living and they have figured out how to do it while living a life unbound from the regular 9 to 5. To society, this type of lifestyle might be looked at as taboo or they are poor or trashy people that don’t want to work for a living. Society could not be more incorrect. The people I met this weekend were richer than the richest fortune 500 CEO simply for the fact that they were happy in their lives, they enjoy adventure and yes, I will say it again…… Free, free from the norm of society.
As for me, I don’t live full time in my van, I built my van for weekend adventures and a place to lay my head when I am done playing a gig or on a paddleboard trip. I dream of being about to take my life on the road but for now, I will take what I can get. There were a few people like me at the gathering but no one judged them on being a weekend warrior, It was truly a “One Love, One Heart” type of event.
The Midwest needed an event like this, it gave people that love the van life a chance to attend a meet up like this without having to go out west or east. Some van lifers love to stay in the Midwest, one, because even the Ozark Mountains can offer years of exploration without having to drive more than 3 or 4 hours, two, some folks still work a land-based job but choose to live in their van so they take weekend adventures. The Midwest is also great because the event is centrally located to allow for everyone to save a little fuel to come to an event like this. John and Jayme made this event so organized they even had raffles with goodies like cast iron cookware all the way up to Yakima Awnings and WiBoost Cell phone boosters. This little blog of mine may not be heavily visited but It’s another way to thank Johna and Jayme for hosting such an amazing event. Shane Perrin and I had the chance to introduce some people to SUP that have never even stepped foot on a paddleboard, others were tossed around during acro yoga sessions. The highlight of Saturday night was the Potluck dinner, some of the food these folks can whip up in their little galley’s is beyond belief, I even had vegan food and liked it. As more and more of this weekend comes back to my memory I will do more post’s on it. There is to many amazing people I met to remember everyone’s names so I feel bad for not being about to call them out and thank them for the friendship but, as times goes on I am sure we will all talk more and my memory with come back to me.
In Today’s society, it is hard to find people without some sort of difference in views, Whether it is Color, Social Views, Political views and religious views. The only view we had all weekend was a rock outcrop on a beautiful cliff and the view of ONE LOVE, ONE PEOPLE. In the paddling world I meet those same people because they all have one main goal, to love our rivers and streams. This was the same for the Midwest Meet Up. Even at 4am “YES, I AM THE 4AM GUY”, just driving through the sea of vans you could just feel the love in the air. I could not wait to get parked and hit the bed to wake up and meet some of these people. Once I woke up I stepped out of the van and was instantly greeted with a cup of coffee. I call him the “Nameless Brew” because he handed me a fresh coffee and he took his and rushed to the shitter. After this meeting, I knew the weekend was going to be epic.
This is what society should be like, happy, loving people being nice to everyone. To some people outside the van bubble, we might be considered Taboo or hippy-ish. That’s ok, the happy people are always willing to still say hello to you and maybe hand you a cup of fresh coffee. A little more of this in the world and we can all live happily.
I know this blog post is a little bit rambly and really has no direction except one. My direction in this blog post is to let everyone know who reads this that I could not be more happy with my life than I am right now. The people I met, the vibes i got and the general peace love and happiness deserve more thanks from me than I could EVER give. After coming back to my house I had a sit down with my wife and we talked that ….. We could do this, we could uproot and plant our loves on rubber and live free. So with that said, we have a 2 year plan to convert a schoolie. It is because of you all that I got her to realize this dream of mine, the stories I told her, pictures I showed her changed her mind. I personally want to thank you all for one of the best times in my life. This was truly the breath of fresh air I needed to jumpstart the next chapter in my life.
Below I would like to post some photos from the event taken by other folks. They get the full credit for some of these amazing pics and i encourage you to follow their stories and pages and give them props for what they are doing. Below the photos will be links to their pages.
Oh, by the way we raised over $6000.00 For Adventure Works