Vanlife Gathering #11 – Red Devils Camping Ground, Byron Bay

Even with a last minute shuffle to Byron Bay in NSW, from Crescent Head in Victoria, the 15–17 December Vanlife Gathering was in full and vibrant swing before sunset.

When people arrive at a Vanlife Gathering, many tell us they feel very quickly at home. 

You want to embrace those you've met before or connected with on the road, and crack out a Stone and Wood to cheers those you've just met. Others who've never met sometimes find they've been following each other's adventures online through blogs and social media. 

As sundown came around on night one, more vans and tiny homes rolled in. 

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This gathering, we were also fortunate enough to have a huge tent, which drew many in for shelter, shade and tunes throughout the weekend. Vanlifers got onto setting up music swiftly, crafting a gracefully haphazard stage for musicians and jammers alike. John from @thecabincamper and Hayden from @haydenseyes were some of the first to get up and jam, kicking off what would be a chill trip of tunes. Music seems to find its way to the centre of all of our Vanlife Gatherings, impressing on the hearts of many – a vibe we couldn't be more stoked about. 

Among the other talented souls who took to the stage was Tom Robb from @lifeis_theway , who gave us some laughs as he chronicled his vanlife journey through song and harmonica, musing on the simple joys we can find in life. Karrie Hayward shared some new songs, followed by Jimmy Davis and Josh Lovegrove , who lulled listeners into a hush and soothing contemplation. Karin Page, Adam Harpaz and Rhys Lewis (who nailed it with some slide guitar) had us all pretty captivated on Saturday night. 

What felt like a stand out moment wrapping up Saturday night was the loose and lavish jam that followed on. There was a beautiful energy, like everyone was truly present – you could see it in the expressions on people's faces as they watched on or closed their eyes to sink into the sound. 

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This particular December weekend was balmy (unsurprising, given it's Aussie summer) and made for collective beach swims and surfing adventures, while others did yoga under the tent. A breeze whistled through all weekend though, which kept things cool as activities tapered into afternoon naps or pondering marshmallow-hued skies.

As people tucked away into vans and tents, what a blessing it was to be far away from any city lights, under the stars and in the elements. 

Sunday  morning meant more surf for some, while others joined Tom Robb for some Mindfulness Coffee followed by a yoga class. What a session this was! A unique blend of yoga and dance, with a healthy dose of mindfulness. 

Tom talked about the connection between the human heart and nature and how to him, it was such a clear partnership. He gave us this fitting, zesty morsel:

"Close your eyes. Imagine you're bringing a big lemon wedge to your lips. You take a bite out of it, and its juice starts to run down your mouth and neck. What does it taste like? How does it feel?"

"Open your eyes."

Many participating raised their hands when he asked if their taste buds had gone wild. 

"If our minds can cause such a strong physical reaction so instantly, imagine what else we can do with our thoughts," he said.

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Elyce Norton from @elycesunshine then took some vanlifers through a gorgeous guided meditation and breathing exercise, which was focused on balancing the masculine and feminine sides and grounding oneself. By the end of this beautifully vulnerable experience, it seemed like everyone who took part was glowing. 

But this feeling comes in many ways on the road. Catching that early morning sunrise by yourself, awakening by the ocean's salty touch, sharing coffee with a new friend that parks up beside you.

We've realised it often stays with you after a Vanlife Gathering too. 

In the last week, the aftermath of gratitude posts and photos documenting gathering-goer's newfound friendships, sunny summer adventures, spiritual growth, vulnerability and challenges – and throughout it all, a connectedness with like-minded solo-vanlifers, families, couples and dogs (and van-cats, we spied one!) – has been a heart-warming reminder for us of the power of the vanlife community. 

To show our gratitude, we thought we'd end by sharing a few comments that we've seen and heard since, to sum up such a blissful, mindful, nature-filled weekend.

"What an amazing weekend at the Vanlife Gathering in Byron, made so many awesome friends, checking out everyone's vans and had the pleasure of listening to and jamming with a very talented bunch of musos. The conversations were always deep and thought-invoking, which has left me feeling refreshed, inspired and ready to tackle the new year. To all those I met at the gathering and everyone who I've convoyed with chasing waterfalls, campsites and lookouts afterwards, I thank you for sharing one of the most memorable weeks I've had in quite a while. Looking forward to crossing paths with you all again on the road or at the next gathering." @davew_86

"@vanlifediaries gatherings are life. A community of beautiful, supportive, kind, fun, open-minded folk, living a simple life. Home." @theadventuresofgypsy

"Grateful for another weekend of community, spirituality, conversation and stepping out of my comfort zone. Checked the ego at the door and connected with so many awesome humans. Safe travels everyone." John from @thecabincamper

"Do you ever have something so wonderful happen, something so mind bogglingly beautiful that it overwhelms you and so you can't write about it? Is it that you can't bring yourself to document it because you're kind of paralyzed by the thought that nothing you say or write or show could possibly begin to capture how remarkable it is? Or maybe it's that you want to hold onto it for a little while, you want to savour and process it before you're able to share it." @b.bythesea

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Images by Hayden Warner.

Vanlife Diary written, edited & published by Jai Morton, who's packing up her little life in 2018 for some big adventures in Australia and abroad. A marketer and content writer by day, she finds joy in travel writing and telling the stories – great and small – of others, and is a freelance writer in her spare time. Otherwise, you'll find her rock climbing, or somewhere in nature. You can check out her work on her website or blog, or connect with her at @sundayskin on Instagram.

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