We at Camperguru believe in the community where 1+1 is 3 or more. Recently we have met with Pau Ballart, the designer and developer of the Campernight mobile app. Where vanlifers and campers are collecting spots together and the app helps you with route planning. And from now, you can find Camperguru collection in Campernight app as well as in Camperguru app.
Pau is from Spanish town Figueres, the hometown of Salvador Dalí. A software engineer, entrepreneur and travel addict as we are. He mixed his two passions and created his pretty recent project: Campernight. Pau's story is really inspiring for all of you thinking of joining van life and camping.
How it did all started?
Pau: I used to travel when I was a kid with my parents but I think my passion really started when I was at the university. With friends we started organising the so-called “Random Trips” which basically meant travelling un planned for 2-3 weeks in the summer. Since we were studying and didn't have much money, we travelled a lot around eastern Europe. We would find the cheapest flight from Barcelona to somewhere and the same for the way back. As an example, a trip we did was Barcelona → Dubrovnik and 3 weeks later we had the flight back Budapest → Barcelona and everything in between was “random”, we would figure it out. It ended up being an amazing trip around Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Hungary.
Your home on wheels? Did you find the perfect camper?
I think I still haven't found the perfect camper for me. It all started in a solo trip to Canary Island where I rented my first camper van. I loved the freedom I got there being able to visit Tenerife as I pleased, sleep where I pleased and being so much in contact with the nature.
I currently have a minivan, a Peugeot Rifter. I found it a good way to start, since I also needed a day to day car that I could easily park in the streets of Barcelona. It's a great option to start with with but as you can imagine the space is pretty limited. Having said that, I built myself the interior in wood and managed to fit almost every camping gear there: battery, fridge, kitchen, portable shower and even a portable toilet.
The app is well made, what is your vision?
I enjoy travelling with the van and also crafting apps with good design and user experience. When I started travelling, I was quickly pointed to Park4night to find spots where to spend the night. I was terrified by the user experience and the design of the app, although I though the idea was really good and based on something I believe in: sharing is caring. Then the pandemic had hit us and with some more free time than expected I started building Campernight.
The vision is to bring joy and usability to all campers, making it easy to plan and share road trips around the world. I want to create a tool that helps all campers out there and solves real life problems. I'm always listening to feedback, learning from it and improving the app based on it.
Your favorite spots in Europe?
I really loved Canary islands because everything was so easy and uncrowded. I also liked Algarve in Portugal a lot. I went a couple of times there and sadly the second one it was overcrowded and they started forbidding sleeping in the van so maybe I wouldn't recommend it now. Lastly, I haven't been there yet but I think it would be Norway. I planned a trip there but I had to cancel it because of the pandemic. I hope I can go there soon.
How you look for spots, what do you like?
Usually I use a mix of apps like Campernight and Camperguru but also a bit of instinct and random exploring. On one hand, the feeling of discovering a great spot is amazing and it feels more like an adventure. On The other hand, when you are tired or want to play it safe all the apps became your best friend.
As a water-lover I like places close to the sea. The beaches that still allow to park there overnight are the best: you arrive in the evening when everybody is leaving the beach so you can park easily and then the next day you can have a morning bath before the crowd arrives. Also since I enjoy surfing those kind of spots are perfect.
As a seasoned traveller, how do you see the future of camping in Europe?
I am sure camping will not go away. This lifestyle is on the rise. People want to be more and more in touch with the nature and have the freedom that you get with a home on wheels. So I'm excited about it.
I see some challenges though. First one is education about what's permitted or not and how to behave. A lot of people hit the road with undesired behaviour. So many places are already closed because of people misbehaving and camping where it's not allowed. The other challenge is about overcrowded places. And that is something affecting me directly since I created an app to share spots. I have some ideas but not a solution yet to the problem of overcrowded places that used to be super calm and now it's impossible to park there. That is causing a side effect, where people do not want to share their favorite spots sometimes, to not loose them in the future.
Having said that, challenges are clear and I see them as opportunities so I'm really looking forward to the future of camping in Europe.
Vita: Thank you Pau, for the insights and for joining forces. We see many things the same way. Mainly that we, creators of guides and collectors of spots are responsible to educate new campers so that we together make camping sustainable and a joy for our older selves and for our kids. One of the things we brought to the table is the map of Freecamping in Europe, and we try to empower the respect to local communities and private land. It is a requirement for all happy campers in the future.
Thank you for taking the time. And see you on the beach!