Overland Expo 2017
we finally made it We have heard of Overland Expo since back in 2012 when we drove our 67 VW bus through mexico and central america and somewhat accidentally joined the Maya Rally.
When we set out on our journey we didn't even know "overlanding" was a word, much less that we were already doing it... but we enjoyed the people we met during the rally and have always been intrigued when people suggest this event. Year by year we were never quite convinced it was going to be a good fit for us and have always seemed to choose some other event or adventure last minute over the drive down, but this year we decided to see what it was all about (and were pleasantly surprised).
Not only was it a chance to catch up with a few old friends, but Expo offered to put us up as VIP Travelers and a Featured Vehicle... which seemed as good a time as any to show our van interior to a few people and see what the interest was. We always built the van just for us, but I tried diligently to make sure everything could be "plug and play" and allow for easy installation/removal from any van if needed. I also kind of assumed that there would be a niche between the zero dollar DIY build and the 100k+ "pay someone else" build... so we thought this would be a great place to test that theory and the market to see if we should be making more "kits".
Oddly...(or maybe just surprising to me) it doesn't seem like that niche exists. Almost nobody seemed interested in buying a couple components to use in their van build; but many, many people wanted us to build their van out from start to finish. It was a flattering amount of attention for certain, but Jen and I have always said that we aren't in this to build vans (which certainly means months on end in a shop and focused on meeting deadlines rather than being out using our van and being the free spirited travelers we seem to have become.
That said... when someone looks you in the eye and offers to write you a check for 100k to build their van from start to finish- you pay attention. That's no small amount of change, and we're aware that kind of money would keep us on the road a very, very long time. It's fair to say we've had more than one deep happy hour conversation about whether to go down that path and build out a few vans... so we'll see where it all goes from here.
There was also a HUGE interest in our motorized camper awning and it became almost the talk of the show despite our location being well removed from the vendor area and crowds. The first day in Flagstaff was calm and sunny, but the remainder of our weekend had strong wind gusts between 25-45mph which caused just about every attendee and vendor there to close their awnings for safety.
Lucky for us, being able to use our awning in high winds was exactly why we researched, found and brought this awning over from the marine environment to land.
While others were burning in the sun and high winds, we simply left our awning deployed for all three days and enjoyed the shade and good conversation with other travelers. By the end of the show several people were not only coming over to check out the awning and enjoy our shade, but were also brining some of the van builder with them to ask why this awning wasn't on their rig!
It's created a fun series of conversations and we're enjoying the fact that everyone else sees the same value that we saw in the awning from the first time we saw it.
The questions now become ones of balance. Im been tentatively going after these ideas and testing the waters to gauge interest because (obviously) we still need to figure out our futures and additional small income streams would be awesome... but thats only true (or at least only worth it to us) if they don't impact the lifestyle that we've worked so hard to create.
More happy hour conversations required...