A festival for van life nomads is coming to Tampa Bay

Gabrielle Calise, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Outdoors

If you’ve ever dreamed of leaving a mundane life behind and exploring the country in a van, the Florida Van Life Gathering is for you.

The event, hosted at Withlacoochee River Park in Dade City on the first weekend in February, promises “three days of peace, love and vans.”

There will be live music, vendors, food trucks and activities like a DIY van build contest and van tours. Workshops will cover topics like renting out your van for extra income and staying fit while living on the road. And for the less handy adventurers, professional companies will be around to discuss hiring someone to build out a van for you.

The target audience is nomads of all ages and experience levels. Newbies can explore van culture with a day pass for $15. More committed vanlifers (people who live full or part time in their vehicle) may want to splurge for a weekend pass, granting access from Friday afternoon to Monday morning.

Sarasota-based company Vanlife Outfitters is presenting the event. Co-founder Josh Theberge, 42, said the event is on pace to have over 300 camper vans present, with attendees coming from across Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee. He expects some will have a story similar to his.

Around 2016, Theberge had a totally different path. He owned a successful real estate business in South Florida and lived a comfortable life.


“I wouldn’t say I was unhappy,” he said. “I just felt like I was missing a little bit of adventure.”

He decided to sell his business and build out a camper van. He planned to live inside as he traveled the country and visited all of the national parks — before he got too old for an “extreme outdoorsy” lifestyle.

These days, vanlife is a mainstream movement. Young workers have taken advantage of flexible remote jobs and become digital nomads, working out of campers and changing locations frequently. A growing group of baby boomers have seized onto vanlife as an alternative retirement lifestyle, too.

This wasn’t yet the case when Theberge started.


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