Jake Grove | Courtesy

What began as a community page for outdoor lovers and adventure seekers has now become an official club at Cal Poly.

Business entrepreneurship senior and club president Jake Grove decided to take his organization to the next level by founding Cal Poly Van Life on Jan. 3.

Cal Poly Van Life strives to unite individuals with interest to any degree in van life and tiny living, whether members are actively participating in van life or if they have a simple interest in it. 

The club describes van life as “the conversion of a vehicle into a living-space on wheels but also includes travel, DIY craftsmanship and accessibility to the outdoors.” 

Cal Poly Van Life holds significance to Grove because he found his love for camping growing up in San Diego. An area with a large van life presence, Grove was able to go on a lot of trips with people involved in van life culture.

“We have big van life meetups [in San Diego] and I have also worked with a photographer with some different companies that convert vans, so I am really enthusiastic about that and I would like to bring the same community together at Cal Poly,” Grove said. “Van life is already out there, and the most enthusiastic part of it is that we can help expand and bring recognition to van life.” 

In terms of COVID-19, Grove said a lot of the events and activities the club has planned will be held outdoors and will not be largely congested, giving students a lot of safe ways to meet in-person. 

Mechanical engineering sophomore, co-president and co-founder of Cal Poly Van Life Nikolas Tanski said they have some events in mind, such as a BBQ event or a community drive-in movie night at Sunset Drive-In. 

“As the community builds and relationships strengthen [within the club], we would love to do things such as camping trips,” Tanski said. “It can be nice to step away from school and go camping, so we are hoping to build up to that and start small for now.” 

Grove gave some words of advice to those who may be hesitant to join the club: 

“You are not coming into something that is already existing and set up where everyone is in their little clique,” Grove said. “You don’t have to have a van or any vehicle, just an interest in our club and we are happy to have everyone.”

Grove said some challenges he foresees with the club would be what aspects of the club members want to focus on. 

The club has a couple of ideas of where it would like to take the club, such as including unhoused individuals and providing on-campus resources for them.

As Cal Poly Van Life’s faculty advisor, assistant geography professor G. Andrew Fricker said he hopes to set up a safe parking program at Cal Poly, where students who do not have housing have a safe place to park and sleep on-campus. He said he would like to see that happen through Cal Poly Van Life because Cal Poly has a major housing shortage and high tuition cost problem. 

“Just from an advisor role, there are a lot of equity and inclusion issues that the university and I care about and I think that should be a priority of this [club],” Fricker said. “It can be just a fun hobbyist club where people are working on their vehicles and going camping, but I think there is something broader and more important than that, and that is that some of our fellow students here are in need of a little help.” 

Tanski said he hopes future members find a community and a platform to get connected and involved within Cal Poly Van Life. 

“I spent a lot of time trying to find that place for me on-campus and I tried other clubs, but they were more engineering related and felt like going from school to more school,” Tanski said. “What I like about [Cal Poly Van Life] is that it is not stressful and it is just for fun, and I hope everyone else gets that out of it as well.”

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