Camper Van Europa: VW Enthusiasts Gear Up for Vanfest 2011

Who says mobile home camping is for old people?

Have you ever found yourself wondering, whatever happened to Right Said Fred? Of course you have, unless you’re too sexy to admit it. Sit down. Park it. I have some news for you: this September in a field somewhere in Worcestershire County England, Right Said Fred is headlining Vanfest 2011.

What, pray tell, is Vanfest? It is the world’s largest event for owners, lovers and enthusiasts of the Volkswagen Transporter Van. More than 8,000 vehicles and 25,000 people are expected to attend.

Imagine events like a Cooking in a Camper Contest wherein contestants are given an hour to prepare a three-course meal (in their camper) and a Show & Shine competition for the shiniest and prettiest camper. Experts from Germany are being flown in to lead a VW tuning workshop.

In a word, it’s going to be wicked. Like this van:

Wicked Campers is a van rental company that specializes in travel and “wicked paint jobs,” as seen above.

Vanfest 2011 takes place from September 9-11 and promises to be every bit as exciting as in years past. It’s been going on for 17 years now, growing in tandem with the popularity of a sub-culture that’s swept the British Isles and the continent itself: the Camper Van Traveler.

Here in America, our equivalent of Vanfest might be the parking lot of an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet en route to a National Park or Great Lake. That’s because we think of our vehicular campers as retired seniors with massive pensions and even bigger motor homes.

Not so in Europa, where highways are dotted with sleek German engineered VWs like The California (oddly not available in the US) or refurbished classics, sometimes converted to biodiesel and other times manufactured to be eco.

My cousin-in-law in Brighton, UK has one; she and her husband simply motor off whenever they fancy. Color me jealous.

My neighbor in Spain has one and my tummy bubbles with envy every time I see him load his kids, bikes and wife into the van for another impromptu Andalusian adventure. His VW campervan is red, like a Porsche. It’s not fair.

And I’ll never forget the sexy Mediterranean couple I pitched a tent next to a few years ago in Cabo de Gata. They pulled up in their camper van and engaged in a silent ritualistic dinner prep, their bodies tan and lithe, the smells wafting from their trunk making me regret the pizza I grabbed in town.

Europe is particularly campervan friendly because it’s home to some of the finest campgrounds in the world; you can even pitch a tent in Paris, totally vagrant-free in a family friendly lot. Granted, it might not be most fuel-efficient form of travel, it is certainly kind on the wallet, energy-efficient in that you needn’t rely on a hotel to power your holiday, and fosters community.

Just take a look at these photos from Vanfest 2010.

Tell me, where would you rather crash for the night: here or the Holiday Inn?

Images: Wicked Campers; Lloydi; Little Peppercorn;

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.