“In 1998, I was working as an editor at Surfer magazine. One of the writers for our sister publication, Powder magazine, owned a 1982 VW Westfalia Camper,” Outdoorsy owner Chris Dixon tells us, recounting how he got his first ever RV. “I bought it from him. I thought it was about the coolest little rig I’d ever seen. I took it all over America.”
That rig certainly wasn’t his last.
“I’ve since owned seven Westfalia campers and now own a Eurovan,” Chris says. “I like the fact that both [types of rigs] are so fully equipped for living, but also so easy to drive. In addition to camping with the family, I’ve always used them as mobile offices on assignment. I dig working on them too, and you pretty much have to have some mechanical chops if you’re going to keep an older VW on the road.”
“Before we had kids, my wife and I trekked all over the U.S. during the summer of 2004 in our four-wheel-drive VW Syncro Westfalia camper,” Chris continues. “We went up the Pacific Coast, across the northern tier of states, stopped in Salt Lake City, and did stories in Savannah, Georgia and Wilmington, North Carolina. In Long Island, I went surfing with Jimmy Buffett. I’d worked for him a few years prior, writing and photographing for a sort of online travel diary. He dug our VW so much, he hired me to build a Syncro surf rig out for him. That was a pretty great summer.”
That first build for Jimmy Buffett wound up launching a small business for Chris.
He shares a bit about the amazing builds he’s done through his upfit business, East Coast Westys.
“Since the Syncro, I’ve also built out two vegetable oil-powered diesel Sportsmobile campers for Jimmy Buffett, and I’m currently in the midst of upfitting a really cool Westfalia camper for a buddy of mine, with solar and all kinds of off-roading and backcountry mods. If civilization falls into chaos, he’ll be able to live off-grid with his family in it for a substantial amount of time—’til he runs out of gas. I also just helped another guy get his first pop-top camper, a four-wheel-drive Sprinter from a place called Exclusive Motors.”
Of course, the next logical step for someone who loves campervans this much is to start renting them out, but Chris wasn’t so sure about that.
“I had no idea I would eventually rent my vans,” Chris says. “At first, I thought it was actually probably a stupid idea. The thought of someone else driving around my camper made me pretty uneasy. But we have an Airbnb apartment in our downstairs and have had good experiences with that.”
“I figured, if I could make a little money and share the stoke that a VW camper provides, then it was worth at least giving it a try. So far it’s been a great experience. I’m very explicit about the vans’ care and feeding, and people seem to respect and appreciate that.”
Today, Chris’ business is thriving and he’s having a great time building a side business out of what he loves.
“I’ve met several families with young kids like mine; a pair of Dutch hikers who wanted to take the van up to Asheville; mountain bike racers; surfers; and a guy who wanted to visit all the former Civil Rights Movement hotspots in the south and sort of pay homage to that dark part of our history. I also rented to a guy who was basically using my van as a professional research project on #vanlife. Had some interesting conversations with him, because I’ve been doing this since way before #vanlife became a thing.”
When asked why he chose Outdoorsy, Chris says it’s because the insurance and roadside assistance are unmatched and easy to use. “The driver’s record screening is also key,” Chris explains. “Without that, there’s no way I’d do this. This screening process has, for me, worked well.”
“I’m also pretty explicit: ‘Return it clean and in shape, or you’re going to have to pay a lot for me to clean it up.’ I don’t have time for that kind of stuff. Outdoorsy is easy to use and seems to be well-trafficked. I’ve gotten a lot of rentals—more than I expected. I think I got my first rental within a week of listing the Eurovan.”
All About Chris
Favorite morning beverage:
“Trader Joe’s French Roast”
Favorite campsite meal:
“Sourdough french toast”
Music you like to play on the radio:
“Led Zeppelin, The Police, Daisy Chainsaw, Queens of the Stone Age, The Cramps, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pixies, Bad Brains, Bob Marley, and of course, Jimmy Buffett.”
Best game to play on the road or at your campsite:
“Spring in Charleston is pretty nice.”
What’s your Outdoorsy spirit animal:
If you could travel anywhere in an RV, where would you go?
“From Charleston to Nova Scotia then across the northern tier of states to Fairbanks, Alaska.”
Renting your RV
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