Caravan Chronicles: Living the Van Life in India

Find out how vagabond travellers Rohith Subramanian and Ankita Kumar lead a life of unconstrained freedom in their spruced-up minivan as they embark on a journey to discover the real India.

Few joys are as real as those that discover the country through a no-holds-barred adventure road trip across your country with friends. When it comes to searching for the authentic Indian experience in a country as large as India, a recouped minivan can serve just as sturdily as a bike on two wheels.

This testimony is easily provided by professional traveller Rohit Subramanian who has adopted the vagabond life and has traversed through over 36+ countries on multiple solo bikes ride in the last few years. Rohit who was first introduced in TheVibe Originals Cruising Legends, as the lone wanderer tells us about his project Caravan Chronicles, which saw him partner up with fellow traveller Ankita Kumar to trail through over 12 Indian states in their minivan-turned-home.

Revealing how it all started, Rohit says, “During my travels through Europe, I realised that people were very spontaneous, and many had traded in their Bohemian creature comforts to live the life on the road. Not only were there multiple camping sites and infrastructure that would allow people to just come and park their trailers, but the idea of living a life in a van, discovering new people, places and cultures, even if you could afford to do better with a fixed roof, was very prevalent,” says Rohit.

He adds, “This was true for countries as diverse as the US and Australia as well. Nobody really turns to check out your van there, since this is an accepted way of life, but in India this was practically unknown, and we were always welcomed by curious onlookers.”

If you look up #VanLife on Instagram, you will notice that although the van life culture can find its roots back in the early 60s (during the heights of Flower Power generation). Yet the alt-culture lifestyle is making a resurgence with followers from all around the world documenting their lives on the go.

For those seeking the minimalist lifestyle, the van life is a perfect manifestation of their sensibilities and some travellers claim, the highest form. “You learn to be the one with nature, to live in the flow, and to most importantly unlearn all those preconceived notions on life that are drilled into you as society,” concurs the thoughtful traveller.

The duo had picked up a second-hand matador van a few years ago in Bangalore, and then decided to rejig and spruce it up. For the next three-four weeks, the van was made custom ready with vinyl flooring and cosy interiors, with a mission to hit the road in the following days.

“There were the two of us, and we soon had another friend William from Ireland join us on the trip. Our worlds had been our backpacks, and we were excited about embarking on this journey, this time on four-wheels.” Along the way, the trio made many new friends, who would drop by for a game of cards, or stop by to discuss ideas and join in on conversations. “We had saved up all our monies and traded it in for the van. With a bit of brand support, we were able to chug along on our dreams,” he says.

It’s not all hunky-dory however, life on the road can be unpredictable, yet remains interesting nonetheless. “There were times when our minivan broke down. There were other times when our orange van brought on interested onlookers. While travelling through HP and Uttarakhand, for example, we were often stopped from travelling, so that people could inquire into what our bright orange van was all about. Friendly photography sessions soon followed.”

Food was cooked on the go for the most part, but the people and their stories were what made this exciting. For Rohit and Ankita, the van offered a chance to see and experience new sights and people as they caught the sunrise from different places.

Living out of a van symbolises the need to live life on one’s terms. It’s a choice we make to experience starry nights in the comfort of the open, campfires, and a movement away from owning things. What you need – a roof, a few clothes, some money, and food – can all be accessed without turning down the opportunity to expand your horizons.

Are there any words of wisdom for those wanting to follow in their footsteps? “Just do it! You can only plan so much. The big part about being on the road is that you unlearn a lot of things that you assume of. Drive responsibly and always carry back your trash. I’d avoid going on a wild trip. As long as you follow the basic rules, you should be fine,” says Rohit as he signs off.

Images Attribution: Caravan Chronicles, Rohit Subramanian.

©️ 2020. Gut and Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.

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