This is the story of Benoit Lafond, Paul Aubert and Antoine Alberteau, founders of Bemyvan, and originally three French buddies who dreamt of traveling differently. With the will and determination to make the adventure of a lifetime, their wild journey began.
January 12th, Natasha is born. A beautiful yet big baby of 39 feet and over 12.5 tons! After two months of hard labor in Phoenix and San Diego, and with the help of their carpenter friends, the gang created what became their first prototype of the bus hotel and dedicated travel companion for the next nine months on the road.
Natasha is a school bus converted into a rolling hotel, which can host up to 6 people, outfitted with a real bathroom, including a shower and toilets, along with a large, fully-equipped kitchen and a living/dining area to accommodate everyone in a modern and comfortable setting.
“Our build-out began, and along with that, the idea to create a traveling hotel to share our passion for road-trip adventures with others”, explained Benoit. And that is how Paul, Benoit, and Antoine kicked off their travel company La Brigade du Voyage, AKA the Travel Squad.
Bus hotels or rolling hotels are custom-built buses initially used for tour operating, in which travelers are passengers by day and hotel guests by night. This concept originally developed in Germany back in 1945, was revamped by La Brigade du Voyage with their modern & chic converted school bus Natasha.
The Travel Squad / La Brigade du Voyage
Ready to hit the road! Starting from San Diego, La Brigade du Voyage undertook an international roadtrip of more than 29,000 miles aboard Natasha, throughout 15 countries of Latin and South America, and along the way, hosted over 100 travelers willing to join this unique and exciting rolling adventure!
This road trip was nourished by incredible encounters with local people, new stunning landscapes to discover everyday, and exceptional moments shared with friends. On their checklist, some of the beautiful countries they visited: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Equator, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
For more pictures, visit their Facebook page: @Labrigadeduvoyage
Along this one-of-a-kind nomadic journey, Paul, Benoit, and Antoine were able to fully explore and understand their clients’ needs on the road:
- How to live comfortably in a rolling hotel that should feel and function like a home
- How to fulfill a journey with fun activities every day, regardless of the location or the weather
Equipment storage for outdoor activities
“Each traveler was only with us for a short amount of time, therefore we had to optimize every moment to create a unique and thrilling experience for all,” Paul explained.
They engineered beforehand ingenious ways to store all the recreational materials on board of the bus (rooftop rack, rear hitch and racks, indoor storage). Wherever Natasha is rolling, there is always an activity that La Brigade du Voyage can offer, at anytime:
…hiking in a tropical forest or on the top of a volcano, kayaking or paddling on a river or a lake, surfing on the waves on the Pacific Coast, bicycling on the dirt roads of the back countryside, enjoying an outdoor home cinema night, fishing with the locals and eating some fresh catches,…
“I literally don’t have any other words to describe how unique this adventure was with La Brigade.”
Josh, an American tourist (and amateur surfer since then!)
Another essential aspect of living on the road is self-sufficiency. While you wander out into the wilderness, away from all the cities, you still need to have access to electricity, water, heat, and internet at all times, in order to cook, shower, sleep, and work in the best conditions.
With her 120-gallon fresh water tank, a pack of 6 lithium batteries of 100Ah each, a propane heater system, and a wifi booster, Natasha provided the necessary support for tourists to enjoy their trip without worrying about any discomfort or lack of amenities.
In addition to that, as Benoit worked part-time remotely for his other digital job, he gained knowledge in what type of equipment and space is best for digital nomads.
The American Outdoor Experience:
This successful roving journey led Paul, Benoit, and Antoine to pursue their hotel-on-wheels tour guiding company. Back in the US, and following a real enthusiasm for their concept, the crew expanded the family and brought to life a little sister: Barbara!
Barbara, a flat nose school bus, was designed to accommodate 8 people, 6 in bunk beds, and 2 in a double bed, located in the master room at the back of the bus.
The Brigade elaborated a dedicated program to discover and explore the beauty of the West National Parks, open to tourists from all around the world. “We wanted to help international tourists live an original and unique American adventure aboard an authentic, yellow school bus,” Paul stated.
The yellow school buses are known worldwide as one of the most iconic symbols of North America. They are seen everywhere on the media and reflect part of the inherent American culture. Surprisingly though, other parts of the world use yellow buses as well, mainly because of their high visibility and safety for students.
The tours allowed the hundreds of tourists to visit the most beautiful places in USA, such as the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Yellowstone National Parks.