Every single human being present on our planet today was born in an era too old for exploring geographies of Earth and an era too young for interstellar space travel. The one glorious thing these generations have in their hands is to see and experience different states, countries, peoples, cuisines, and cultures. But the travel industry, like a lot of other things in life, has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic which has brought about the ‘new normal’ of social distance and paranoia of the outdoors. The past two-three months have passed like a hazy memory but humans are social and intelligent creatures, it is only time we’ll find a way around the problem. For example, motorhomes could finally catch on in India for they offer personal space and comfort.
Not a new concept
Vanlife has been rather popular in the West. There are several blogs one can find on the Internet about college graduates chipping in on a van to travel for some months before getting into the 9-5 grind, or those who left their well-paying jobs to live off the grid for some weeks or months. In broad terms, motorhomes or living in a van is an American concept, while hitching a caravan behind an SUV is more of a British thing to do. But both have the same concept – not having to book a hotel room for accommodation.
In India though, the concept is very novel. There are several reasons why vanlife never caught on in India despite having a very rich diversity ideal for road tripping through. One of which is the fact that gap years are rigorously frowned upon in the country. And then, there is the matter of affordability.
Indians may not be ready to move into a van or a caravan yet, but the pandemic will definitely give us something to think about since travelling will need to change. If not buying a van and converting it, renting one could be a viable option.
Flying still a no-go
The tourism industry is slowly crawling back to normalcy with the reopening of hotels and restarting of flights, but even so, flying for recreation will still be held back for a number of months. But driving holidays could lure many as the country begins the ‘Unlock’ and state governments announce cranking up tourism again. According to online reports, some state governments are also working on strengthening infrastructure to allow camping.
A major constraint is how much are you willing to spend on a driving holiday. While vanlife is about owning a van and living out of it but India’s approach to the concept will be through travel companies that offer caravanning experiences.
But even so, experiencing vanlife through travel agencies could be an expensive proposition for many. We spoke with Deep Banerjee, Founder, Indian Roadie, who opines that the biggest aspect of vanlife is affordability which if not controlled, beats the purpose.
If you’re going to do it properly, he says, it could take about Rs 14-16 lakh (Rs 8-10 lakh for a 14-seat used Traveller and Rs 5-6 lakh to convert it with all the bells and whistles of cooking area and toilet and everything).
But then, Banerjee continues that vanlife can be led for a couple of days to weeks even in something as small as a Tata Nano, Maruti 800, Maruti Omni, or a Maruti Suzuki Ertiga. “Spending a couple of days or weeks every year in a vehicle should not mean that you have to buy a new or pre-owned Tata Marcopolo or Volvo B9R and convert it spending Rs 20-100+ lakh in the process. A modest Rs 25,000 – Rs 1,25,000 is enough for a start.”
“People need to look around to realize that India already has all the facilities, if not better, to get set and go,” says Banerjee. He also offers assistance to such travellers with a place to park overnight or some nights to explore the city they’re passing through.
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