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Celebrate 3 Decades of Road-Tripping with VW’s California 30 Years Van

We’re living in a “golden age” for anyone who’s dreamt of hitting the open road to criss-cross the country for months (even years) at a time. Living the van life is now easier and often cheaper than ever before. In the spirit of the first van lifers, Volkswagen is rekindling its original California Van with a special edition model that has us shouting, “Road trip!”

Volkswagen California 30 Years van

Like Volkswagen’s iconic California Van, the exclusive California 30 Years van will feature all the same amenities that made it an instant classic three decades ago. It boasts the same pop-top aluminum roof with a sleeper deck, a well-outfitted camp kitchen, and plenty of storage space. But, unlike its predecessor, this limited-edition version is a thoroughly modern affair. After a long day of hiking, surfing, and shenanigans, an external shower lets you hose off before tucking in for the night. An auxiliary heater and double-glazed windows ensure it’s always warm and cozy inside, and an oversized sleeping pad means you’ll snooze just like at home.

A bevy of security technology — side-assist blind spot and lane-change monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, rain-activated windshield wipers, and high-intensity headlamps — helps keep you safe. Plus, in a nod to Instagram-driven van life “van-ity,” Volkswagen pretties things up with 17-inch alloy wheels, contrasting roof paint, body color door handles, and special anniversary badging.

For anyone so interested, there are hundreds of ways to experience the van life these days. Rental companies like Honest Camper let would-be travelers dip their toe into roughing it the old fashion way in a retro VW Westfalia. If traveling with most of the modern conveniences of home is essential, they also offer a tricked out Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van with Bluetooth and a backup camera. If you’re ready to go all-in without dropping a year’s salary on a purpose-built camper van, clever brands like Egoé and PlugVan have you covered. The former offers Nestbox, a compact, self-contained insert to convert almost any SUV or hatchback into a workable off-grid camper. The latter boasts one-of-a-kind drop-in units that can upgrade practically any van into a full-fledged camper in under 10 minutes starting at just $7,000.

Now the bad news. Sadly, none of the 999 European-built California 30 Years vans will make it to the United States as Volkswagen stopped exporting them stateside near the turn of the century. However, if you’re still itching to embark on that epic “round-Europe” road trip, now might be the time to head across the pond, pick up your own, and realize your dream.

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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