A new class of nomads are modernizing a classic: living and working from vans.
When I say “van” you may instantly think of the VW or Westfalia vans popularized by hippie culture. Or perhaps you think of the family vehicle, toting 2.5 children to school and sports. Now picture this: instead of rear seats, you have a kitchenette, enough room to stand, a shower and comfortable bed … your own, more-fuel-efficient-than-an-RV tiny home. Imagine touring the continent, living and working out of your van.
With the resurgence of simplified living, it might come as no surprise that thousands are already living this way. Like the original days of travel blogging, those living the van life shared their stories and adventures on their blogs and Instagram feeds … but there wasn’t a great way for newcomers and prospective van dwellers to discover and connect with this van loving and living community.
Go-Van is the brain child of Julien Roussin Côté (aka Captn Julz). When he’s not traveling, he calls Montreal home—and that’s where I had the pleasure of meeting him via Skype. Julien is refreshingly authentic, unpretentious and speaks in a casual, French Canadian accent … causing me to instantly slow down and savor this cadence. We talked about our passion projects becoming thriving communities, challenges and tips for working on the go and may have sparked a Workfom + Go-Van Oregonian adventure. One thing’s for certain, you can’t help but get swept away in the idyllic inspiration that is Go-Van.
W: Looking at Go-Van, I instantly fell in love with your aesthetic and the variety of stories you’ve accumulated. When did you start Go-Van.com?
JC: A year ago this past January. It was on my mind at least a year before that … or two. I bought my first van 2 years before that. I was just traveling w/the van and meeting people.
I interviewed folks who are nomadic. Most of them are working as writers, translators, photographers … people that can work remotely.
That’s when I discovered that everyone has cool stories to share. They were sharing them on Instagram and their own blogs, but felt a platform would be relevant. The first year’s been great. People are so happy. At first, it was me finding people and as we’ve grown, people are sending me stories. So there’s a need for this.
W: Do you have a home base when you travel?
JC: Right now I’d say I’m part-time nomadic. No more rent. In the past 3 years, I’ve rented month-to-month, staying with friends at home in Montreal. In the short term, I’m looking at the road full time.
W: Did you have any challenges when you shifted to being part-time nomadic?
JC: It happened naturally. Many people have been traveling a lot, so I think it was something natural. Living in a small space was somehow convenient for me. Living small makes more sense.
W: How about your clients? You work as a consultant for a variety of companies—did any of them panic when you told them you wouldn’t be a full time local anymore?
JC: I don’t really think about my location when I meet clients. But their first question is often: are you going to stay here? If we work together, will you go away and not call us back? For many, it’s still new to have a supplier or partner that is moving a lot. As they know me more, they know … wherever I am, I will deliver.
Do you have any tips for others looking to travel more while working?
JC: Just try it. Once you get through it once, you’ll be there. Ask around and have good references. I’m experienced in the industry, so had previous clients who could vouch for me.
W: How about timezones? You might cross a timezone any given day while traveling.
JC: It can be quite a challenge. Like yesterday, we missed it. [This was more my doing than his, as I sent the meeting request before coffee and failed to do proper timezone math.] These things happen. We just need to make sure we connect at a certain point. Talking with people in California, there’s a culture thing … they may be a little more laid back.
W: Haha, yes!
JC: I think it’s lovely and it fits with me. You need to plan some time, like if they’re an hour late for the call. You’ve got to be flexible.
W: Where are your clients?
JC: Mostly in Canada and some in the US. These are all through emails, so the timezone isn’t really making a difference. Even if I’m from Montreal, all the content is meant to be … American public. I’m hoping it’ll pick up even more in the US.
W: I suspect there’s a future where Go-Van feeds you. Where is Go-Van in 5 years? What’s your vision?
JC: This is going to be a big year for us! We just pitched a TV show. I can’t talk too much about the project right now, but working on that aspect of the brand. Also going to develop the online store. You’ll see more and more product. I really want the online store to focus on … really help van lifers and van dwellers get the accessories that we use when we travel. Just the accessories—from books to apparel.
This is phase two. Now, it’s fun to show this experience online to others. Would like to offer the experience in real life, like California and European destinations. Build tourism in Canada, as our dollar is weak. We’re still building this and getting good response. Oregon may be a destination. [Yes!!] There have been some who’ve tried but have been either too busy and had other things to do. We have the expertise and the energy to.
W: Let us know when you come to Oregon! We’ve been exploring coworking caravans and workations to the more remote and scenic areas of the state and would love to collaborate.
W: What’s fueled you thus far? We know all too well how all-consuming and exhausting startup life can be.
JC: The van life community. We’re having a super good response from other van dwellers. There’s a few, more well known van dwellers who are really supportive. And some fun brands, like Go Westy, Westyworks … they’re sharing our stories.
I don’t know if you’ve seen our videos. [Check them out!] People are really enjoying the efforts we’re putting into our videos. We’re working with tourism bureaus. People from Florida … they supported our trips.
We go where the people want us to go. We have a plan, but the best plan is sometimes not to have a plan.