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News & Blogs #VANLIFE, THE BOHEMIAN SOCIAL-MEDIA MOVEMENT

Discussion in 'Van Dwelling / Rubber Tramping' started by Brother X, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. Brother X

    Brother X caput gerat lupinum
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    You are now a lifestyle hashtag vertical marketing niche. #buzzwordcomplaint (Now, don't you feel special?)

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    What began as an attempt at a simpler life quickly became a life-style brand.
    By Rachel Monroe

    170424_r29811.

    Emily King and Corey Smith had been dating for five months when they took a trip to Central America, in February, 2012. At a surf resort in Nicaragua, Smith helped a lanky American named Foster Huntington repair the dings in his board. When the waves were choppy, the three congregated in the resort’s hammock zone, where the Wi-Fi signal was strongest. One afternoon, Huntington listened to the couple have a small argument. Something about their fond irritation made him think that they’d be suited to spending long periods of time together in a confined space. “You guys would be great in a van,” he told them.

    The year before, Huntington had given up his apartment in New York and his job as a designer at Ralph Lauren, and moved into a 1987 Volkswagen Syncro. He spent his days surfing, exploring, and taking pictures of his van parked in picturesque locations along the California coast. It was the early days of Instagram, and, over time, Huntington accumulated more than a million followers. He represented a new kind of social-media celebrity, someone famous not for starring in movies or recording hit songs but for documenting an enviable life. “My inspiration,” went a typical comment on one of his posts. “God I wish my life was that free and easy and amazing.” Huntington tagged his posts with phrases like #homeiswhereyouparkit and #livesimply, but the tag he used most often was #vanlife.

    King and Smith left Nicaragua for Costa Rica, but the idea of the van stuck with them. King, a telegenic former business student, had quit her job at a Sotheby’s branch when she realized that she was unhappy. Smith, a competitive mountain biker and the manager of a kayak store, had never had a traditional office job. They figured they could live cheaply in a van while placing what they loved—travelling, surfing, mountain biking—at the center of their lives. When King found out that she’d been hired for a Web-development job that didn’t require her presence in an office, it suddenly seemed feasible.

    King and Smith, who are thirty-two and thirty-one, respectively, had grown up watching “Saturday Night Live” sketches in which a sweaty, frantic Chris Farley character ranted, “I am thirty-five years old, I am divorced, and I live in a van down by the river!” But, the way Huntington described it, living in a vehicle sounded not pathetic but romantic. “I remember coming home and telling my mom, ‘I have something to tell you,’ ” King said. “She thought I was going to say we were getting married or having a baby. But I said, ‘We’re going to live in a van.’ ”

    Huntington’s vanlife hashtag was a joking reference to Tupac’s “thug life” tattoo. “You know, it’s not thug life—it’s van life!” he told me. Six years later, more than 1.2 million Instagram posts have been tagged #vanlife. In 2013, Huntington used Kickstarter to fund “Home Is Where You Park It,” a sixty-five-dollar book of his vanlife photographs, which is now in its fourth printing. In October, Black Dog & Leventhal will publish his second book on the topic, “Van Life.”

    Scroll through the images tagged #vanlife on Instagram and you’ll see plenty of photos that don’t have much to do with vehicles: starry skies, campfires, women in leggings doing yoga by the ocean. Like the best marketing terms, “vanlife” is both highly specific and expansive. It’s a one-word life-style signifier that has come to evoke a number of contemporary trends: a renewed interest in the American road trip, a culture of hippie-inflected outdoorsiness, and a life free from the tyranny of a nine-to-five office job.

    Vanlife is an aesthetic and a mentality and, people kept telling me, a “movement.” S. Lucas Valdes, the owner of the California-based company GoWesty, a prominent seller of Volkswagen-van parts, compared vanlife today to surfing a couple of decades ago. “So many people identify with the culture, the attire, the mind-set of surfers, but probably only about ten per cent of them surf,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to tap into.”

    “You could buy these vans ten years ago for pennies on the dollar,” Harley Sitner, the owner of Peace Vans, a Volkswagen-van repair and rental shop in Seattle, told me. Sitner, who is forty-nine, said that his generation’s adventurous rite of passage was more along the lines of “backpacking through Southeast Asia, eating mushrooms on a beach in Thailand.” Around five years ago, he began to notice that young people were increasingly interested in old VW vans. “It’s men in their thirties with huge beards, and they’re pretty much all stay-at-home dads,” he said. “Their wives work office jobs and they work on the vans so the family can go out and vanlife on the weekend.”


    After the engine conked out in Arizona, a tow truck delivered them to an R.V. park in Sedona. They stayed there for a month while Smith replaced every ground wire in the van. One afternoon, he called GoWesty to talk through a puzzling repair situation. On a whim, he asked a GoWesty manager named Jad Josey if the company did sponsorships. By the end of the day, Josey had e-mailed Smith a one-page contract, asking for periodic social-media mentions in exchange for discounts and subsidized repairs.

    GoWesty’s sales have increased fifty-five per cent in the past five years, thanks in part to the vanlife trend. The company now sponsors fifteen vanlife projects, including one run by a couple selling crêpes and one by a touring folk musician. Smith, who had seen similar deals between cycling companies and mountain-bike racers, was familiar with this kind of arrangement. “I don’t think of myself as an employee of GoWesty but more like an ambassador for their vibe,” Smith told me. He began to see that the time King was spending on social media might have a point after all.

    Smith and King slowly grew accustomed to their itinerant life style. They hiked the Grand Canyon and visited hot springs in Oregon. King’s stress abated. With every mechanical breakdown, Smith became more confident handling repairs. He also developed a repertoire of meals suited to the van’s two-burner kitchen. His specialty was a dish he called huevos vancheros: eggs fried in coconut oil, seasoned with turmeric, served over buckwheat with salsa and sauerkraut. The couple bought things to make the van homier and more comfortable: a fruit basket, a travel bidet.

    Working on the road proved harder than expected. Smith took occasional part-time jobs—as a mountain-bike guide; as a P.A. for a television show about aliens—but King was the primary breadwinner. “I was working anywhere from fifteen to forty hours a week, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re driving around and having all that motion, and what I guess you could call the stress of vanlife—not knowing where you’re going to sleep that night—the anxiety was still there,” she said. “We could never really go deep into national parks or national forests, because I had to always be on call.”


    Later that afternoon, a rust-brown 1984 Vanagon Westfalia with a vanlife decal on its rear window pulled in to the parking lot. The driver introduced himself as Mike Hagy, a forty-two-year-old ad-agency art director from Santa Monica, and a fan of Where’s My Office Now. He had seen on Instagram that Smith and King were in Ventura and decided to come say hello. “In a vanlife-geek kind of way, they are kind of celebrities,” he said. “I live in L.A., so seeing celebrities is no big thing—I almost hit Leonardo DiCaprio surfing once. But I was all excited to come down here. My friend was, like, ‘You’re such a dork.’ ”

     

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  2. Hillbilly Castro

    Hillbilly Castro Sir Posts a Lot

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    Gentrification is a hungry beast, let me tell you that. I was explaining gentrification to a friend recently who's very into medieval history and I said "yeah, it's kind of like the enclosure of farmlands in the 13th century - gentrification is a process by which those who farm 'coolness' and 'culture' are forced into being a commodity. The difference is, when you've enclosed the lands of a wheat farmer, wheat is still produced, but within the confines of the market, coolness can no longer be produced because the market destroys anything that may be genuine. And so the market must go On to the Next Thing. Endlessly."

    The kiddies are bored of Brooklyn, because it looks too much like the suburbs they grew up in (and reminds them of their parents - god forbid, since the bourgeois youth's entire existence is intricately laced with Oedipal Rebellion). So now they take to living in vans. It's cool, it's "boho", it's really not risky at all in any material sense (just feels socially risque), and it makes a perfect sanitized version of the Kerouac life - without cutting the precious tether of health insurance, and nigh a gap on the 'ol CV. And once the Real creeps in - the years roll on and the social stigma of still living in a van sets in, the van breaks, a car accident, loneliness, 'seen too much' of this land of strip malls and junkies and spectacle, whatever - they've got a tether straight back to the old land of Careerville, where the Xanies flow freely and for their next thirty years, they can wax nostalgic about the life they only Instragrammed.

    I'd kind of like to say it's a fad that will pass, but the reason it might not be is because the 'ol system is laughably broken, and a lot of these kids are sublimating their disappointment that they can't get jobs with their expensive degrees into temporary "coolness" while they wait for the system to reboot. When it doesn't reboot, what will they do? Well, at least the let down was cushioned by those good old years of Instagram etc... The homeless population of NYC is as high as it was in the Great Depression, and so we're in for another round of wandering poor folk, but this time, a lot of those will be newly poor people who are fucking miffed and confused about it. And they'll probably retain their moustachioed micro-brew Martha Stewart sensibilities until the bitter end. So maybe not a fad, but a very, very weird welcome. I'll rip on these people to no end, but I suspect they may be here to stay. I don't know what that means necessarily, but it's my suspicion..
     
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  3. DrewSTNY

    DrewSTNY Sir Posts a Lot
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    Foster Huntington has been bringing the hipsters into his vanlife brand for a while. He started with the BurningHouse h/t before that. Sounds like another crappy Vice article, tbh. It was also about that time that the 'Art of Manliness" and "Huckberry" blogs took off with the metrosexual crowd.

    Pretty much goes with the old Barnum and Bailey or whoever said it, you can fool some of the people all the time (and take their cash).

    I think the "You'll Never be a Gypsy" post points out this as well, but in a different way.
     
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  4. marmar

    marmar Celebrated Poster

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    Thanks for this! It's just what I've being thinking a lot recently, cuz I do live in a van, and I do have an Instagram. So when I post a pic with a vanlife tag all these lifestyleres rush to 'like' and I'm like omg who the fuck are all these yuppies with their yoga girlfriend \bearded boyfriend grand canyon camping pics and 100k followers and why do they like my shit???aaa!!! I moved into a van as an alternative to living in a bench, ya know, having a roof over my head, and wheels that actually work is a fuckin luxury, man sometimes I feel like a pimp comparing to all the people sleeping on benches beside my van. Yeah. First time car owner too, had to get driving classes and license n all that just so I could live somewhere. first time homeowner hah! And al these people on Instagram annoy the living fuck out of me. Makes me think I should quit Instagram really. But on the other hand, when people come by my van and say wow this is so cool rather then calling the cops on me, i prefer the first, for sure. thanx to the people who made homeless look cool, I guess. But regardless, there are still people that call cops haha. I'm lost in this world man.
     
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  5. Beegod Santana

    Beegod Santana STP Homebum

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    This type of shit always makes me wanna throw up in my mouth a little but at the same time, I don't think young yuppies buying old westy's and living the gentrified version of on the road is really anything new. The fact that it's on instagram is a new development but that whole quote about being able to buy vw's for "pennies on the dollar" 5 yrs ago is bull. People in silicone valley have been buying them up since the 80's. I can remember hitchhiking around cali 10 yrs ago and getting passed by tons of yuppies in nice vw buses. To this day the only vw bus that's ever picked me up was being driven by someone I knew. Living in a van is becoming more and more of a bitch these days unless you've got money for the rv park. If you've got money for the rv park, you might as well just buy an rv cause you can shit and shower in that bitch.
     
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    #5 Beegod Santana, Apr 23, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017