A caravan of micro-offices is roaming the Netherlands, offering sleepaway ‘workations’ for plugged-in city dwellers.

By Spencer Peterson
July 09, 2015
Courtesy of Kantoor Karavaan

With the rise of the co-working space and the stranger-filled home office, the modern freelancer has a growing number of non-traditional workspaces from which to look busy answering emails. No longer must you settle for a Starbucks, even if you need to be  somewhere objectively miserable to get anything done. A much more bucolic kind of co-working environment is taking shape in the Netherlands. The kind where you Skype in from a yurt.

Courtesy of Kantoor Karavaan

This summer, KantoorKaravaan is traveling through National Parks in the Netherlands, stopping for a few weeks at a time to open its trailers and dome-tents up to nearby city-dwellers. They have Wi-Fi, and they have solar-powered coffee machines, which are essentially all that today’s plaid-collar worker needs, aside from a place to stash his longboard.

Courtesy of Kantoor Karavaan

The idea grew out of SustainsVille, a treehouse community for eco-conscious creatives that remains conceptual, despite the activity of its social media accounts, though founder Tom van de Beek says he has secured a business partner with a large wooded plot in east Holland. Bureaucratic hurdles drove them to create KantoorKaravaan in the meantime, with funding from a few partnerships, and a pay-what-you-will model for users. “This way we don't need the permits and we're lean and mean,” writes van de Beek over email. 

Courtesy of Kantoor Karavaan

His small fleet is currently camped outside Amsterdam. Next up is Groenekan, a little village not too far from Utrecht. If all goes according to plan, the tour will go international by summer’s end, preferably to Spain or Portugal, guided by the interest from potential “workationers.” Eventually van de Beek wants to expand the operation, with multiple roving Karavaans throughout the continent.

Right now, the convoy can support about 35, though they can always set up more tents if overnight reservations exceed that. Visitors are advised to stay for a few days to get the most out of the experience, which is less office-culture protest and more therapeutic, burnout-salving sleepaway camp. “We are not pushing people out of their office buildings per se,” says van der Beek. “We would like to offer them an alternative they can use every once and a while to blow off steam and to reconnect with nature, and through that with themselves.”

The project has a strong vein of idealism, as one might expect, a faith that wireless technology can allow people to head back to nature and remain digitally productive. In that sense, van der Beek does believe that his experiment is “a blueprint or model of what tomorrow’s world has to offer,” when technology combines with “ancient wisdom about land and water use to make it possible to work (and live) basically anywhere.”

Van der Beek seems surprised at the projects appeal for the kind of people who wouldn’t already look forward to a soy latte brewed with solar energy: “The funny thing is that this attracts all kinds of people,” he says. “Not only cultural creatives, writers, social entrepreneurs, and sustainably minded people, but also men in suits from the business district.”

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