"The Wanderer" - The world’s first touring caravan created by William Stables

How Did Vanlife Start?

Key takeaways

While vanlife may seem like a recent trend, the truth is, people have been transforming vehicles into portable living spaces for centuries.

The first traveling home can be traced back to the 1850s, when a Scottish medical professional named William Stables used horses to transport the world’s first touring caravan (which he dubbed “the Wanderer“).

Dr. Stables’ invention went on to inspire a number of traveling caravans. For example, in the early 1900s, Henry Ford attached support cars to his Ford vehicle and advertised “auto camping trips.”

In the mid-1900s, the trend of modifying campervans into mobile homes took off. One of the earliest examples is the VW Transporter Camper, which was created by a German company called Westfalia.

After achieving success in the caravan market, Westfalia decided to sell conversion kits for microbus owners. The kits, which could be attached and removed with ease, were designed to convert buses into small, mobile homes ideal for camping and short overnight trips.

Nowadays, vehicles like the Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, and Mercedes Sprinter, have become synonyms with vanlife culture, partly due to the popularity of the #vanlife hashtag on Instagram.

During the 2020 pandemic, vanlife exploded in popularity as the mobile workforce gravitated toward van life as legal way of escaping lockdowns.

Today, vanlife continues as a popular lifestyle choice for young professionals seeking alternatives to historical high housing costs.


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