Photo by lucas Favre
Connecting to nature has never been so easy in a time where people can live in their vehicle. Living in a van, or as it is more colloquially referred to, vanlife, is a trend that reflects many of the values people have developed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. It may not seem like it, but living in a van can be a fairly luxurious lifestyle, with many of the most popular live-in vans including a bed, closet, sink, stove, toilet, and even shower. Vanlife allows for a life under the stars, roughing it in the wilderness, combined with the luxury of hot running water and a comfortable bed at the end of the night. But it is important to keep in mind whether vanlife is a passing fad made popular in part by how cooped up people feel during a pandemic, or whether the popularity of vanlife is meant to stick around.
History of VanLife
The origin of the vanlife trend is attributed to Foster Huntington, a man who rose to Instagram fame in 2011 for his choice to embrace a simpler kind of living: living out of his car. In the past, living out of your car only had a negative connotation, equated with a temporary bout of homelessness or displacement from the home. But Huntington’s intentional van dwelling was seen as inspirational, representing the simple side of life, throwing away responsibilities and being free. Huntington’s growing Instagram following saw a romanticized version of vanlife and began to idolize his lifestyle. Hence, social media turned living in a van from an embarrassing setback in life to an enviable example of freedom, relaxation and connection to nature.
Resurgence in Popularity
The trend of vanlife faded into the background throughout the 2010s, as only a certain demographic of people were interested in actually stepping away from their life path to live in a van. But with Covid-19 and the importance of social distancing, many people began to feel trapped in their apartments and homes. The vanlife trend has had a resurgence, mainly because more than ever, people want to see the world in a time where they are unable to travel. Vanlife sounds like the solution to safe travel— if you live in your van, you don’t have to stay in a hotel or come in contact with other individuals to travel. Regardless of this boost in popularity, with more people than ever interested in vanlife, it has become harder to take part in the trend because of how much of the country has shut down during the pandemic.
Will the Trend Last?
As trendy as vanlife is, especially with TikToks showing off tours of picturesque vans consistently going viral, it is harder than ever to hop on the vanlife bandwagon in a time where safe spaces for van dwellers have been shut down. Finding a safe place to park your van while you sleep is difficult when most areas that host vans have shut down due to Covid-19. Because of this, it seems unlikely that there will be a surge of people actually buying a van, but the idolization of the lifestyle on social media is far from over. Even if people don’t intend to join in on the trend personally, there is something wistful about the way vanlife has been branded on social media—a simple, natural, enviable lifestyle.
Try it Yourself!
Regardless of the rising and falling popularity of vanlife, it remains an appealing option to many people. If you’re interested in taking part in vanlife, there is a lasting community able to welcome you to the van dwelling experience. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Buying the van itself can cost anywhere from the price of a few month’s rent to tens of thousands of dollars. It depends on how luxurious a van you want to buy. Parking is another expense to keep in mind, but if you’re smart about where you park to sleep, you can usually park for free. Although the van life has a reputation of being cheap, it can cost up to 100,000 dollars for your first year in a van, meaning you’ll probably need a remote job if you don’t already have the funding you need.
The fun side of vanlife is the many locations you can travel without needing to purchase a plane ticket. If you don’t have any ideas for where to go or how to manage your time, there are plenty of travel apps you can use to make the most out of van life. There are online communities of people fully invested in vanlife to answer any questions you may have.
#VanLife: A Lasting Niche
Even if vanlife is mainly a trend and it seems unlikely that its popularity will storm the nation, it also seems unlikely that it will die out completely. Vanlife has remained a force on social media for ten years, so it is likely to remain as a niche alternative to normalcy for people who love nature and getting away from society. Even if the majority of the vanlife craze is the enjoyment of watching van dwellers on social media, there is no reason to anticipate the act of living in a van to die out completely.