I’m on Instagram. Is that how you say it still? Who knows? Like all social media platforms, it’s a love-hate thing. But what I find most interesting is how many permutations there are of an Instagram feed. Indeed, no two single users follow the same exact accounts, unless they follow no one of course. It comes down to picking and choosing what you’d like to see and ignoring what you don’t.
In my case, a handful of people I’ve elected to follow over the years have chosen to take up a life of living in their car or van as a way to free themselves from the throes of 9-5 work life. It’s an attractive lifestyle – or at least it seems as much, especially when you’re taking a dump to waste time at your menial job you feel pretty trapped in.
Can’t say I’ve ever felt like the exactly, but close. For years I romanticized the idea behind van life. The liberation one must feel – wind in your sails, er, tires, with no place to be, your chick and a dog riding shotgun.
Recently, though, I stumbled upon an old piece written by our own Alex Haro about his personal experience living in a van. The hook is gold. “Few moments in life leave you feeling more exposed than having a stranger look you in the face while you puke out the door of a rusty camper van in a residential neighborhood,” writes Alex. But the kicker was even better. “I think that many of the people who surf are attracted to a certain type of lifestyle. I’m a sucker for those gossamer-tipped dreams that the surf industry pukes out. I want them so much that I convince myself that they’re realistic. And when I try and recreate them, I find that beneath those gossamer tips lies a layer of dirt. It’s like a fresh dusting of snow on a layer of shit. It looks beautiful from afar, and then you take a step and realize that you’ve just stepped in shit, because you’re homeless and you live in a van.”
That piece alone led me to think critically about living in a van and all it entails – and to see behind the veil that Instagram creates. Sure there’s liberty, sure there’s freedom. But there are shitty parts too. Like deciding where you’re going to pee next. Loneliness if you’re traveling alone or fights with your travel partner if you’re not.
In the magazine’s most recent issue, the New Yorker takes on van life, both as a trend and a hashtag. Specifically, the piece profiles Emily King and Corey Smith, the couple behind the Where’s My Office Now Instagram account and four-year van lifers.
Smith and King have developed partnerships with different brands, and leverage their 184k-person following to charge for sponsored posts. That’s not to say Smith and King aren’t living an authentic van life experience or feeling liberated by their lifestyle. The bottom line is it’s complex behind the scenes, and that followers should keep in mind that all may not be as carefree as it seems when they write comments like, ““God I wish my life was that free and easy and amazing.”
On a personal level, the piece was enlightening, and a worthwhile read for anyone who’s considered making a go out of living in their car or van. Alternatively, it serves as a how-to guide for budding entrepreneurs and would-be vanlifers hoping to monetize their experience. Either way, it’s a long piece worthy of your time. Read the full piece here.