Seattle Vanlife Experts Harness Tech and AI as Copilots to Enhance Human Connections During Road Trips

By Aayush G March 17, 2024

In a narrative reminiscent of a classic buddy road trip tale, two longtime friends and tech enthusiasts from Seattle have joined forces to revitalize a beloved travel app within the framework of a flourishing business centered around the ethos of “vanlife.”

GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser

Jordan Schwartz, a seasoned software entrepreneur renowned for his founding role at Seattle startup Pathable, has assumed the position of Chief Product Officer at Sēkr, an application designed to facilitate trip planning and campsite discovery for travelers.

Established in 2018 and initially headquartered in San Diego, Sēkr was recently acquired by Peace Vans, led by owner Harley Sitner, a prominent figure in classic Volkswagen van restoration, rentals, and electric conversions. Sitner, whose business is just south of downtown Seattle, had long aspirations of integrating a digital strategy to enhance Peace Vans’ services and cater to its extensive community of travel enthusiasts. However, the daunting prospect of launching such an endeavor independently led Sitner to explore alternative avenues, ultimately culminating in the acquisition of Sēkr.

S?kr Images

The collaborative efforts of Peace Vans and Sēkr, embodied by the partnership between Sitner and Schwartz, aspire to redefine the role of technology in fostering community engagement within the realm of travel, particularly within the vanlife community. Embarking on this journey, they intend to leverage the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) to augment the travel experience.

Sitner envisions Sēkr as more than a mere tool for streamlining road trips; it represents an opportunity to integrate sophisticated planning tools that facilitate meaningful connections and serendipitous encounters for travelers. Embracing an AI-driven approach, Sēkr aims to personalize recommendations and enhance user experiences, transcending conventional travel apps’ limitations.

GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser

Despite their laid-back demeanor, Sitner and Schwartz boast extensive technological expertise honed over years of experience in the industry. Sitner’s tenure at Microsoft as a senior product manager, coupled with his stewardship of Peace Vans for over a decade, positions him as a seasoned veteran in vanlife. Schwartz, having steered Pathable through various iterations and acquisitions, brings a wealth of experience in software development and product management to the table.

Their collaboration signifies a convergence of innovation and tradition, blending the spirit of adventure inherent in vanlife with cutting-edge technology, by harnessing AI algorithms to curate personalized travel experiences, Sēkr endeavors to transcend the boundaries of conventional trip planning, ushering in a new era of exploration and discovery for travelers worldwide.

GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser

As Sēkr prepares for its relaunch under the stewardship of Sitner and Schwartz, the stage is set for a transformative journey that combines the best of both worlds: the freedom of the open road and the boundless possibilities of technology. In doing so, they seek to reaffirm the enduring allure of vanlife while embracing the potential of AI to enrich the travel experience.