Andie Walla and Scotty Hall have taken their love of camping and transformed it into a 1999 Volkswagen Winnebago Eurovan Camper so others can experience the great outdoors with ease.
Walla and Hall are the owners of Wallahalla Vans, a Volkswagen camper van rental company in Athens. The pair rents out their camper van to people looking to explore Southeast Ohio. Being avid backpackers themselves, Walla and Hall were looking for a simpler and more comfortable way to travel not only for themselves but others, too.
“I think a lot of people that are interested … aren't necessarily campers that aren't going to backpack into the woods or set up a tent. They want a bed to sleep in,” Walla, who is also a School of Media Arts and Studies lecturer, said. “This is perfect for you because you don't have the responsibility of the ownership and upkeeping the vehicle — you just get to enjoy it.”
But Walla and Hall are no strangers to the hosting business. Before Wallahalla had wheels, it was a home one could rent on Airbnb. For over five years, Walla and Hall ran a successful Airbnb until they sold the house in 2019, opening up the opportunity to purchase their VW camper van.
“I think a lot of our experience as Airbnb hosts kind of carried over to this van because we know what it means to be a good host, communicator,” Walla said. “It's a cultural icon to have a Volkswagen camper van. So, I think we're really looking for a niche market of people that are looking to do smaller trips here in the Southeast Ohio tri-state area that really appreciate what a 1999-year-old van is.”
The 17-foot pop-up camper comes with a sink, a refrigerator, a two-burner propane gas stove and a backseat that folds out into a full-size bed, with room to sleep up top in the pop-up as well. Walla and Hall make sure the camper is filled with everything someone might need for camping, from kitchen utensils and fire starters to a first aid kit and drink Koozies. It also includes exterior amenities, such as an awning, outdoor chairs and a table.
“We really take pride in how well it's stocked and the fact that you just basically need to show up with your clothes and your food and pretty much everything else is in there that you could think of,” Walla said.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wallahalla Vans didn’t rent out its VW camper van as much as it would’ve liked, having only a few rentals in 2020. But with it being the only experience of its kind in the Southeast Ohio area, Walla foresees a more popular season this summer.
“We're hoping to rent it out a lot more this summer and are definitely gonna try to do some more promoting of it,” Walla said. “It was kind of one of those things where with COVID, it was kind of hard to judge like, ‘OK, how do you deal with this?’ and I think the more we know as we go. And especially now that the weather's nice, we are in full swing and ready to rent it out.”
Even with a full schedule of bookings, Walla and Hall make sure their family is able to enjoy the camper, too.
“We do like to go to Hocking Hills and Lake Hope and places like that, too,” Walla said. “And sometimes … we'll drive it Uptown. I couldn’t tell you how many times we just parked in front of O’Betty's hot dogs and ordered our food and just sat in our van and ate and enjoyed. We used to go backpacking a lot when we were younger, and I think when you get a little older, you like to be a little bit more comfortable when you're traveling, so this was a great way for us to have a little bit more luxury when we're enjoying the outdoors.”
When Sherri Oliver found out her good friends were starting up a camper van business, she knew she and her husband, Brian Koscho, had to experience it for themselves. The two of them used the camper van to travel to Lake Hope State Park and Forked Run State Park for their 10-year anniversary.
“When it became clear that we wouldn't be able to travel outside of the local area due to COVID during summer 2020, renting a campervan and checking out some beautiful state parks in Southeast Ohio seemed like a fun way to spend our 10th wedding anniversary,” Oliver said in an email. “The first night at Lake Hope we had terrible thunderstorms and downpours. Like, the kind of rain that would completely ruin a tent camping trip. And we did not care at all because we were safe and dry inside the EuroVan. That alone made it totally worth it!”
To Koscho, this new form of traveling was a worthwhile experience that made his and Oliver’s anniversary memorable.
“We love camping, and traveling in the outdoors, and we try to take road trips with camping around the country as much as we can,” Koscho said in an email. “This was a new way to experience that kind of trip and was really fun! It made the anniversary special even during a pandemic, and we really enjoyed spending time in these beautiful parks in southeast Ohio in this really cool van.”
Whether it’s someone’s first camping trip or their 50th, Walla encourages anyone and everyone to experience the camper life.
“I feel like once you stay in a camper van, you get hooked,” Walla said. “And I think that it's something that everyone should try. Even if you're a little hesitant to the outdoor world, I think van life is definitely a little bit more accommodating and comfortable for you, and you don't know until you try.”