This has been my childhood dream to travel in a motorhome which has its own small kitchen, Bedroom & Toilet. Need to roam in each & every remote villages in India and know about their culture & live among them for some days to know more about them. Interested in visiting all the hill stations & historical places in India and live close to the nature. Also interested in exploring our neighboring country Bhutan to know why Bhutan has continually been ranked as the happiest country in all of Asia, and the eighth Happiest Country in the world. I really enjoy road trips more than any other means of transport, whether it is with family or Solo trip. Advantages of road trips are that we can go in our own pace and stop anywhere we want and have our own itinerary. Also we can change our plans instantly according to the our own decisions.
But, in India, there are various reasons why it is not that much practical to actually live full time in an RV(Camper/ Caravan/ Motorhome) in India. Even though we can have short trips of less than a month or can have long trips of more than 6 months. But full time living in an RV in India is not yet practical in India compared to US and Canada.
Some of the reasons why we can’t have full time Van life are:
1.RV Price : RV is quite expensive. One with all gadgets and big enough to accommodate a family of four or more will cost you more than 50+ Lacs. We may get used RV’s for 10-15 lacs, but we cannot rely much on second hand vehicles, especially for long drives to unknown terrains, if we are not technically inclined to deal with breakdowns which can come as a surprise at any terrain. So, I don’t think many Indian’s will invest such a huge amount on a Motorhome, when you can easily add few lacs extra and buy an apartment. So this Van Life culture of living full time on a motorhome is not that easy at present in India. Also there is no infrastructure support available in Indian roads which supports RV culture like in abroad.
2. Parking : RVs are huge usually and parking is a big problem in India as in Indian cities many narrow roads are there. As per the current situation in India, especially in Metro’s and major cities we may find place to live, but finding a place to park is much difficult. Also, if parked in a wrong place, you may get towed or have to pay parking ticket.
3. Work: If you are doing a 9-5 job for your living, then this dream will die with you only as your good age will pass , when you have the energy to do such adventures trips. Average Indians will be tied up with their job for earning daily bread. Also, if you are doing Business also, if your Business can’t be run without your presence, then you also can’t travel.
4. RV’s within Budget: Why the RV life is a common thing in abroad is because there the infrastructure supports RV life. Also, if you are not rich enough to afford a branded RV, most of the people there are skilled to make there own RV’s. So, it is suited for DIY people, Indians are more laid back in this aspect. No offence.
If you follow the Van life of popular travelers abroad in YouTube, you can see that almost all the travelers buy Cargo Vans like Sprinter, then convert it themselves to a motorhome with more perfection and features compared to the million dollar Campervans available in the market. Below you can see one of my favorite Sprinter Cargo Van conversion to motorhome. Awesome design and the end result looks so appealing and such a perfection.
Recently am seeing a sudden change in mindset of Indian post covid season compared to 5 years ago, lot of youngsters in India, especially from Kerala, are either having there van life or in the process of starting there van life. This culture has been started by many during this pandemic time. Not family van life, but initiatives are seen from bachelors and friends group. One reason is due to the popularity of many successful YouTube channels of established Van Life travelers and option of Adsense monetization also attracts many youngsters to this Van Life. Also, it will indeed help to fulfil there hobby of travelling as well. if there Van Life YouTube Channel get’s hit nothing to lookback also. We will showcase about some new Youtube channels which are recently started at the end of this Blog. I will post some of the Youtuber’s who are having van life mainly Keralites. While Indians might not be ready to move into a caravan full-time or even try to monetize a new lifestyle, the pandemic is making them rethink how they holiday. And renting campers could be one of the options.
As far as I know, it is not illegal to live in a campervan in India, as long as we don’t encroach somebody else’s property and we don’t indulge in any obscenity or any other illegal activities while living in the campervan. But without studying properly the area which we visit and don’t have any proper guidance or lack of contacts from locals, visiting some places in India can turn to be very dangerous. I have seen some videos recently where the travelers got into real trouble by visiting Maoist affected area’s. Also, highway robbery happens in many places in India, especially when travelling at night. Camping at remote places or in forest area without any proper knowledge of the surrounding places can also lead to real trouble. If you don’t have basic knowledge of Hindi, it can also cause some communication gap between us and the locals, if we travel on remote places in north India.
As of now in India mainly caravan’s are used by Celebrities as Vanity Van and also by Politicians only during the time of Elections. Many rich people also used to own very costly RV’s made by DC as a status symbol. Recently there is a change in this and some people have started Van life even by converting Maruti Omni, Eeco, Tata Winger and popular option from earlier times, Tempo Traveler. As I mentioned earlier, most of these travelers have started there journey by thinking of monetizing there travel expenses from the earnings of YouTube, which is quite possible for many, if there channels get popular and get more views. Such channels get sponsorship also. As those travelers are living the dream life of there subscribers. many people including me, who can’t follow our dreams right now, get entertained by following these travelers on Youtube.
Lest us look on the history of Caravan
Believe it or not, caravans were originally the homes of nomadic people such as the European Romani or Gypsies (think more Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, less Brad Pitt in Snatch) and travelling showmen & women. They were made of timber, dragged around by a few horses and were lucky if they had a wood burning stove inside.
Eventually these wooden wagons spread worldwide, including to the wild west of America and were often used by travelling preachers and John Wayne. The first recorded recreational caravan was built in 1880 for Scottish author Dr William Gordon Stables. He travelled around the British countryside in his 18 foot ‘gentleman’s caravan’ and probably stopped at a few Big4’s along the way to have a bounce on the giant pillow.
When motor cars began to replace horse drawn carriages at the turn of the century, caravanning for leisure really took off and the first caravan club was founded in England in 1901. Until the 1920s, the humble caravan was pretty… well… humble. Initially, they were just built out of wood and canvas.
In the early 20th Century as automobiles were really taking off, campers in Europe and the USA began fashioning their own RVs. These were essentially just big wooden boxes plopped on the back of trucks and cars, but pretty soon manufacturers were custom building mobile homes for people who were willing to saw the back off their family car.
Golden Age Of Caravans – Vintage Caravans
The 1920s & 30s saw the real birth of caravanning for the middle classes. Families had the time and the money (and the car) to take a caravanning holiday. Mostly, people would just set up camp wherever they pleased, but many official caravan sites also popped up during this time. During WW2 however, many caravan manufacturers collapsed. Even in the years following, petrol rations and nation rebuilding pushed caravan holidays to the back of most travelers minds.
Caravans Today are making History
Unlike early last century when recreational caravanning was just picking up steam and there wasn’t a whole lot of choice, today’s market is flooded with all kinds of different manufacturers and designs to suit any budget or camping style. Whether you’re after the simplicity of a small, off-road camper trailer, or the luxury of a grand motorhome with cable TV and a rain shower, there is an RV out there for everyone. A far cry from the wood burning stoves and stained glass windows of yesteryear, today’s caravans are decked out with all kinds of mod cons and up-to-date technology, including electronic stability control, LED lighting, independent rubber suspension, solar power and fancy toilets that would make your real home jealous.
Real VanLife in India was first noticed by Online world about the Road Trip done by Rohit Subramanian and Ankita Kumar in 2017. They travelled across the country, from Kerala to Himachal Pradesh for 100 days in a Matador. Their abiding love for travel took them on a path of bringing these two paradigms together and create content out of their travel exploits! However, it is their latest outing, Caravan Chronicles, that will leave you completely awestruck.
“The idea behind Caravan Chronicles was conceived by Ankita’s biker friend Rohith Subramaniam, who had observed the concept of caravanning throughout his travels in Europe. When he shared the idea with Ankita, she was totally game, and in 2017, they travelled across the country, from Kerala to Himachal Pradesh for 100 days in a Matador. That was the Season one of Caravan Chronicles,” says Ankita.
Sharanya joined these guys while they were in Rann of Kutch, which happened to be one of the most challenging terrains they had travelled to.
Also, Ankita Kumar and Sharanya Iyer together had a holiday trip to Sikkim on a Tempo Traveler. They were content creators from Bengaluru and Mumbai, respectively.
“We faced many difficulties during this time, but she stuck on and we still ended up having so much fun. That’s when I realized that if she could manage so well in some of the toughest phases of the journey, she would be the first choice if we were to go forward with Season two,” she adds.
“From getting a vehicle together to getting it to Sikkim and then traversing through one of the toughest states, when it comes to securing permits as well as challenging landscapes—the trip was filled with crazy moments, but it was also incredible!” Ankita adds.
“Both of us are fascinated with Northeast India. However, since we planned to travel between April and May, which is the peak time for monsoon, we were worried as not all the states there are equipped with good roads and infrastructure. We were seeking a balance, where a state would give us an ample amount of things to do in a month while giving us variety in terrains. That’s how we zeroed in on Sikkim,” Sharanya explains.
Through their posts, one can observe the myriad changes in Sikkim’s landscape. West Sikkim, which is where their journey began, is full of green and verdant panoramas, while the northern parts gave them cultural experiences with the area replete with monasteries and interactions with the local community members from the Bhutia tribe.
why not hire a caravan?
This is the hottest holiday trend of the season, say travel enthusiasts, Sanjna Hangal and Vathsala Rangegowda who launched Trippy Wheels in Bangalore, which offers rented caravans, at anywhere between Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 a day
Sanjna Hangal and Vathsala Rangegowda, two travel enthusiasts who, back in their college days, would bunk classes and hit the roads around Mysuru. Without the help of a GPS, they would explore unknown routes to satiate their thirst for adventure. As time passed, their lives took different routes and both of them drifted apart.
But when they suddenly met again in Europe, they took a caravan trip across Sweden, lived like locals, parked in random places, cooked where they wished to and lived an absolute nomadic life. When they returned to India, they wondered, “Why don’t we do a caravan trip in India?”
Their search for rented caravans in India began, but in vain. “The rentals were 15k per day. Although they were huge caravans, they had a cook, a cleaner, a driver. We felt there was no sense of adventure if we hired such caravans!” recollects Vathsala.
That’s exactly when the idea of Trippy Wheels struck them. “We thought – why not start a caravan rental in India as there’s nobody doing that. Moreover, we both wanted to travel in caravans across India. That’s how the concept of Trippy Wheels travel company started taking shape,” explains Sanjna.
‘Into the Wild’ was the first caravan the duo launched, which was a 9-seater whose exterior was artistically done (overnight) by Baadal Nanjundaswamy, artist known for his street art and 3D paintings and his moon-pothole video. But until it was finally done, the two women faced several challenges.
“Even after watching umpteen videos about what goes into making a caravan and becoming familiar with the ins and outs of its manufacture, we were told to “get our men” at the hardware shops in Shivajinagar to help us. We were stared at, disbelieved, questioned, denied help but we wouldn’t give up!” adds Sanjna.
Finally, a mechanic allowed them to enter his shop, after a week of persistent waiting. He allowed the ladies to explain why they were there and what they wanted. But the struggles didn’t end there. The vendors working with them kept changing. Their caravan disappeared once. “Of course, we found out later that the vendor had no workshop of his own, therefore, his location kept changing,” says Vathsala.
The next set of challenges was the absence of predefined rules and regulations for this caravan venture. Their persistent efforts got even the RTO thinking about new rules for this new caravanning culture.
After facing many challenges, Sanjna and Vathsala founded Trippy Wheels, a caravan rental company, in 2017. It claims to be the sole company the country that offers affordable rentals for caravan trips.
“Our motto is to provide people an experience of caravan travel which is why our rentals are affordable and we don’t provide itineraries,” points out Sanjna. Their rentals vary from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 8000 per day, based on the number of people it can accommodate. A trip navigator always accompanies the travelers.
Toilet can help you in Van life a lot, if we are travelling in India.
Recently some of the caravan builders in Kerala have successfully accommodated a toilet facility in small vehicles like Mahindra Bolero and also on an Innova as shown below :
So, as I mentioned earlier below am posting some of the travelers YouTube channel who is enjoying there Van Life.
Some have already started there Van Life recently during this pandemic season and some of them are in the process of starting their Van life soon. All these travelers are from Kerala. Here you can see all types of vehicles are getting converted to motorhome by each travelers according to there budget.
Some of the Youtube Channels which I closely follow from abroad travelers are:
So now we will conclude with my plans for a Road Trip & Van Life which is in the pipeline.
I am curious to travel all over India & Bhutan initially. Since, the roads in India are not in good condition everywhere and also to visit most of the remote places and hill stations, big vehicles will not be a violable solution and we will require 4X4 option. So, my plan is to convert an Isuzu D-Max V-Cross 4X4 Pickup Van to a Motorhome similar to the GEHOCAB having all those features in it.
On the Isuzu Pickup Van, below alterations can be made to convert it to a Motorhome like Gehocab. Inside the Gehocab Kora Amarok Camper we get about 13 windows to let the light in, a convertible dinette, an alcove bed, a full bathroom, and a kitchenette. There’s a heater, compressor fridge/freezer, and induction cooktop. Options also include built-in Jura specialty coffee machine, microwave oven, hardwood flooring, and air conditioning.
The cost of Gehocab Kora Amarok Camper is roughly $151,000 (1.1 Cr) which is not affordable for me. Also, we need to make changes according to the allowable current RTO rules for getting RTO approvals under caravan category. Even now, we need to pay a big amount as Luxury tax for registering Caravans & Motorhomes in India. Need to see for how much we can get it done in a similar way on Isuzu DMAX by an expert Caravan builder in India. There are many well-known caravan builders in Kerala itself like Ojes Automobiles & JOSH DEZIGNS who makes Caravans for Celebrities like Mohanlal, Mammooty & Prithviraj