Janet Birch was inspired to become an Outdoorsy owner by a friend. “My neighbor had just finished her custom build on a short Mercedes,” she recalls. “She is a makeup artist and designed the van to accommodate her profession, and it was beautiful. I took one look at it and said, ‘I’m all in—I want a van.’”
“My neighbor already had a fabulous following and was making a lot of money renting out her van on Outdoorsy,” Janet continues. “My sister and I had been in the rock-and-roll touring industry for over 40 years, and then the pandemic hit and it all stopped. We lost our income entirely, so this was my plan to save us. I searched for three months and really educated myself.
“I was right—I picked this van that was way over the top, but as I look back, I realize it was perfect. Every self-built or manufactured van was boasting about how fabulous their van was, and this Winnebago Era70a van blew them all away.”
So what was so great about the van? Janet was happy to share all the details about her tiny home-on-wheels. “We basically chose the Era70a because it had a second sleep area,” she tells us. “It’s a small single bed behind the driver seat. If you are about 5’1” you can sleep there. The van has solar, a generator, air conditioning, and a private wet bath which was really important.
“This van is big and more roomy and comfortable than a shorter van. It allows you the privacy of a closing door on the bathroom, along with a very usable and efficient kitchen with a fridge and freezer that never goes off. Our renters have all been very pleased with how easy it is to drive and maneuver.”
Of course, Janet also had to decide where to list the van. Outdoorsy was the obvious choice. “We chose Outdoorsy because of my friend being so successful,” Birch explains. “We purchased the van in July of 2020 and listed on Outdoorsy in September of that year. First rental was in October. The earnings in 2020 covered our payments and insurance, along with a few trips we personally took.”
Although Janet did a lot of research, she did still have some nervousness going in. “The first few rentals were scary and we learned as we went along,” she says. “But the Outdoorsy customer service was always there, and I would call and ask about everything. The Facebook page for Outdoorsy owners was also a lifesaver in so many instances. I learned so much!”
All of that learning has paid off. “I am now very very familiar with the van,” Birch tells us. “All you need to do is go out on that maiden voyage and you’ll discover you know nothing! I now fix most everything in the van except mechanical. The hardest thing we learned along the way was about vetting people, but now I am confident about the rentals we accept.”
Yes, Janet has gotten quite good at vetting renters and has ended up with some pretty wonderful ones. “My favorite renters were both single dads who took their teenage kids on a road trip,” she shares. “They both said it changed their lives and their kids were so happy, dad was a hero.
“Another time, my little van was dwarfed by Neil Young’s bus. Neil Young’s driver used our van for a week and would write to us saying ‘Oh yeah, Neil and Daryl were sitting around having a beer or having coffee.’ They loved it!”
Despite having so many awesome renters, Janet does still find time to use the van herself. “My personal favorite trip was when I went camping on BLM [land] at Mount Whitney,” she reminisces. “I spent four days off-grid in the freezing cold weather, but it was glorious. Out of every window in the van was this picture-perfect view.”
As you can tell, Janet is passionate about her van and her renters. “We truly strive to give renters the perfect vehicle,” she says. “We fix even the smallest thing, always. Everything you would need is included and sparkling clean. If you do that, there is a good chance people will respect that and won’t bring it back trashed. That has never happened to us, I am happy to say.”
All About Janet
Favorite morning beverage: “My favorite morning beverage is coffee with my French press.”
Favorite campsite meal: “Pasta always works with everything. Any leftovers get thrown in with that and vegetables.”
Best game to play on the road or at your campsite: “Games of solitaire on my phone.”
What’s your Outdoorsy spirit animal? “My spirit animal would be a dolphin because when you see them in the ocean, everyone stops to watch.”
If you could travel anywhere in an RV, where would you go? “Alaska if I had about two months. My van would be totally up for it.”