THERE are currently 98,433 #vanlife photos on Instagram. (At the time of writing.) If you take a quick cruise through the feed you’ll see a lot of open-mouthed, smiling twenty-somethings chugging beers and giving thumbs up. You might also find the van passenger wearing his #coffeehat for a #tourselfie or the three bros cruising around in their van drinking canned beer while they #partyhardy. And you will definitely see quite a few old Volkwagen buses souped up with laundry lines, potted plants, and Mexican blankets. Ah, van life.
When the hell did #vanlife become so trendy?
I wasn’t really sure, so I did a little research outside of the hashtag. I quickly found Foster Huntington–who I’m deeming #vanking–a guy who quit his job in New York City in 2011 and moved into a 1987 VW Vanagon. On his website he explains that this gave birth to the #vanlife hashtag. Huntington began a kickstarter fund to raise money to publish a book with a series of photos from his travels that took him 100,000 miles around “the west”. The title of the book is Home is Where You Park It. I’ll admit that it sounds pretty neat. Throwing caution to the wind, capturing photos of the wild west, and living life on the road a la Jack Kerouac.
And others seems to agree. This whole “Home is Where You Park It” and #vanlife movement is catching on. Maybe you’ve noticed more cutely decorated vans with beds and kitchenettes inside driving or parked around you, too. If you pay attention to the drivers, they’re not hippies or your adventurous grandparents. They’re trendy young people. They’re living the van life. (There’s a tshirt if you want one. Or two.)
But here’s how I picture van life: no laundry, no shower, and presumably no bathroom. For days or weeks or even months at a time. These vans are usually quite old, so, in my imaginary setup of this living situation, there is no air conditioning or it’s long-since been broken. Next I picture a road trip through California in one of these things and I start sweating at the thought of it. Then I think about this being my home, this tin can with windows and wheels, and I don’t care how trendy it is or how cool its army green exterior is: I’m not into it.
Yes, I get that the rent is cheap and the travel is easy. I also understand that you can fix it up so that you can make a single drip coffee over your thrifted camper stove with your succulents nearby all while beautifully capturing your #vanlife for Instagram. And I can maybe see how that looks cool and seems like a great way to see the country, but mostly I start to sweat. And wonder why good, old-fashioned camping and #campvibes isn’t enough.
It feels like another trend that will soon fade and I can’t help but wonder where all the ancient vans will go then. Kudos to anyone actually living out of a van this summer, but I’ll pass.