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Lifestyle

Is the van life for me?

For a long time, there has been a social blueprint ingrained in us that dictates how we should function as a member of society. The idea of getting a corporate 9-5 office job, somehow working your way up the property ladder and eventually going on holiday once a year seems an almost inescapable inevitability for many. But what if we could paint a new picture of the future that involved freedom to roam, reduced financial pressures and limitless spontaneity? This is the vision sold to us by influencers who advocate ‘the van life’. Whilst this vision seems an almost utopian dream to lots of people, to what extent should we believe the rosy tinted glow that surrounds van life culture? 

The ‘van life’ lifestyle contains many benefits that appeal to a large cross section of society for different reasons; for some, the ability to live a minimalist, sustainable lifestyle is a major factor in choosing a more nomadic way of life. Others seek respite from the pressure and pace of modern life, choosing a more simplistic, relaxing way of life to better their mental health. I myself, judge the van life on its potential to enable adventures, see new places, try new activities and meet new people.

Whether it be for any of the above reasons, the van life offers a more economically viable and spontaneous way of life for many people seeking to explore the world on a budget. This way of life has appealed to young people for decades as hippies pioneered the movement back in the 1970s; it is, however, especially appealing in the current climate of exploitative housing prices and the rising cost of living.

Van life undoubtedly presents people with a unique opportunity to travel and live inexpensively, freeing them from the pressures of everyday life. However, it is important to approach the lifestyle with realistic expectations. Watching an influencer talk about their lifestyle from the inside of their shabby-chic van, sun blazing through the windows whilst sipping fresh coffee seems attractive to anyone. In reality, the van life tests resilience and capability of an individual.

Living in the UK temperamental weather will shape your experience when the sunshine is undoubtedly accompanied by lashing rain, mud, and cold temperatures. Furthermore, whilst minimalism is a popular aesthetic, van life requires individuals to turn their back on materialism and live extremely functionally. In our capitalist society, turning away from material possession is a challenge in itself. Finally, and crucially, vans are expensive commodities to buy and run (especially since prices have surged in the last year following lockdown). Buying and maintaining vans is a major factor in the van life lifestyle which is often neglected by influencers when describing their idealistic lives. 

The ability to problem solve effectively, sacrifice modern day luxuries such as hot showers and keep a cool head in a crisis are essential attributes to those embarking on the van life adventure. For many, these factors are outweighed by the liberating lifestyle which has truly changed the mindset and practices of many people. 

Whether this way of life will become increasingly popular or it be a passing fad that presents photogenic material for social media, the van life has already changed many people for the better and, in my opinion will continue to do so for many years.

Image: Alex Azabache via Unsplash