I haven’t written a blog in a little while because we’ve had a really busy, hectic and brilliant summer. I intend to catch up and fill you in on all the travelling, festivals and gigs we’ve done soon.
First though, true to my Monday Morning ranty nature, I really want to discuss
WHAT IS #VANLIFE… ?
Grab yourself a cup of Tea because this is massive!
So, I've been tagged a lot in that #vanlife video online which basically takes the piss out of naive millenials and portraying #vanlife as the new trendy but misguided hippy movement. Now, coincidentally I'm also seeing posts and threads from Crusties having a go at young people or "non-Crusty" people for "Jumping in on the movement just to be trendy and make money on the internet" I've noticed people are angry at "#vanlife instagrammers" for essentially stealing and fake glamourising a lifestyle that isn't necessarily an exotic exciting choice for some, because for some it has been an act of survival...
Just for conversations sake here, what do you lot think of all this? I find it interesting.
For the first time in my life, I commented on a thread feeling like I was having to defend what I do and why I do it, to other people who live in a van - which to me is madness - I'm usually only defending the way I live to people who live in houses.
Here's what I wrote:
"I have no idea where me and Doozer stand for people who have been living in their vans for 20 or 30 years which is longer than I've been alive. But I know that me and Doozer didn't do it to be "cool" and "hipster" or to make dosh off of a blog and get loads of attention. We did it because we couldn't afford a flat and working dead end temp jobs/ being on JSA, also being on and off homeless was killing our souls, and probably would have eventually killed us. When we got our van we literally thought we'd last a month before we come crawling back with our tails between our legs, ashamed at having made such a silly decision. Next summer will be our 5th year on the road and I couldn't be happier with this life, to be honest, I don't pay too much attention to "how" or "why" other people are doing it because most people who are doing something just to be cool or make dosh, usually get sick of it after a little while and move onto the next thing. They'll probably want their big screen tv's and comforts of being rooted soon enough anyway."
The comment was well received and the status I put up about this opened up the door for discussion amongst a diverse range of people.
Since writing the status people have approached us to talk about #vanlife more and it's been really interesting, Doozer has been told that we’ve reclaimed the phrase #vanlife for a lot of people and made it into something positive again rather than just the latest trendy fad.
Let's be clear, I'm not talking about people who specifically have a campervan or van to go away on their holidays and use #vanlife on social media. That's a different thing entirely.
Me and Doozer are in a very interesting position with this because as full-timers we’re somewhere in between the Crusties and the “#vanlife instagrammers” …. We’re not old school travellers, we’re not free party Crusties and we’re not trendy young models and bloggers/instagrammers who make a living taking photos of ourselves which makes other people feel bad about their own lives and then using that to bait people into subscribing to a course on “How to live your dreams”.
However, we do live in a van full time and we do have connections to all these different types of people. Due to our lifestyle we tend to move in a lot of different circles, never quite fitting in anywhere but always welcomed everywhere, if that makes sense?
What I’m finding interesting about this is that I’ve noticed I’m starting to kind of understand where the frustration comes from. Me and Doozer have been living in our van for FOUR years solid now, and we STILL get people at gigs asking us where we’re based or where we live, as if we’re just faking this #vanlife thing and doing it for show. WHY would we do that?
What’s even more frustrating is that people DO just fake this #vanlife thing and do it for show, so it’s considered normal behaviour to be constantly hashtagging #vanlife and talking about being on the road but not really doing it?
I can see why people think that, because there are plenty of people out there willing to hashtag everything they do with #vanlife and post photos of themselves sitting in front of a sunset laying in their van, people comment to them online telling them how inspirational they are and how they aspire to be like that person, without realising that the person in fact has a flat in the city and a part time job and just does this on the weekends, because they choose to leave that part of the story out. I see it all the time. Is social media now becoming an advertising ground for selling fake happiness? Or is the internet to blame for this bizarre feeding of egos off the back of whatever is the latest lifestyle trend?
I'm not sure what bothers me more, people "faking it" or the internet telling everyone that "my life is better than yours" under the #vanlife ... it's not going to be like this photo for everybody:
What we’re talking about here, is different things to different types of people. For some people this is serious, it’s a lifestyle, it is living, breathing, 24/7 on the road. For some people this is a hobby, it’s just a part time thing, something exciting to do on the weekends and holidays, they’ll hashtag it #vanlife because it’s cool and trending at the moment, so it attracts a lot of attention and that’s all there is to it. For others, it’s a way of making lots of money on the internet.
You could say I’m starting to be judgemental now, and I’ve wondered that myself, to what extent is this a judgement that I am or am not entitled to make?
Well, it becomes a fair point when you say that there are people “cashing in” on what you do for a living, there are people glamourizing it and calling themselves #vanlife when they have 20 grand sitting in the bank or their parents pay for everything and they have a flat to go home to during the week. It feels similar to when the highstreet shops manufacture “Ripped worn Jeans” and “Homeless Jumpers” that only certain people can afford. It's like some kind of an absurd parody of someone else's life isn't it? Maybe all of this is part of a spoiled brat culture that trends and appeals to people who want to claim to be edgy and different, that they’re living their life by doing something courageous, without having the inconvenience of actually experiencing it wholly for what it really is?
So in that respect, I can see why some full timers would be upset at this. I’ve found myself getting wound up by it too now that I’m noticing it more, because me and Doozer work really hard, we’re always on the road, and as much as we have fun, it is exhausting and challenging in so many ways that people don’t talk about, most likely because they’re not experiencing those difficult bits. I also feel like we're in a conflicting position sometimes because we're not Crusties or travellers, I saw a lot of Crusties online boasting about how anyone who thinks they live #vanlife and washes more than once a fortnight is an amateur and a fake. I may live in a van but that doesn't mean I don't want to look nice, do my hair, put some make up on, paint my nails and smell good. Maybe we make it look too easy? Is that because we don’t talk too much about the times when we’re exhausted after a gig and we have to drive over night to the next gig, during that drive we spend hours looking for a quiet place to park up and sleep? When we wake up with migraines because we've slept on a bad layby next to the motorway and the fumes have done our heads in? Is it because we don’t talk too much about the times when we’ve had to wake up, jump in the front and drive around looking for a supermarket to go to the toilet first thing in the morning before we start our day? Or the times when we’ve both been to a town either to visit friends or do a gig and we have had to unexpectedly move on because people are shouting at us for daring to park near their home? We’ve hardly spent any time at all sitting on the beach soaking up the sun or casually going on hikes in the mountains and getting paid for it.
Some people could argue that we “cashed in” on our #vanlife t-shirts earlier this year which helped us buy and convert our new van. This is our entire LIFE though, and to see others getting praised for their bravery in “giving up everything to hit the road” and cashing in on it when we know some people are just doing it for the holidays, which is fine, but for me it can feel really disheartening because #vanlife has become such a huge part of what we do for a living that it is directly associated to our identities now. I don’t want to be asked where my house is or to be told our life is basically just a cheap holiday, or that we don't need to be paid for what we do because we have it easy... Just simply because that’s what #vanlife is to other people now, Thanks to the internet..
I understand that other people’s choices are not my business, as my choices are not other people’s business though, that being said, I feel like our lives are somewhat on a small scale, public, so what we do with our lives and how it’s portrayed by others on the internet are directly connected to us now.
#VANLIFE as far as I’m concerned, is a really difficult choice, it’s a challenging lifestyle and it’s rewards are difficult to reap, but it’s well worth it for us, we wouldn’t change it for the world.
On a whole, moaning aside, I also personally think this "movement" for a lot of people is born more out of our economic situation. The fact that people my age and younger are realising that the internet can be monetised really does go hand in hand with less need to stay in one place too. The world is changing and at some point in our lifetimes, the idea of sitting at a desk in an office for 8 hours for work will probably appear somewhat primitive. So not everyone is faking it. Maybe this is just what happens when something becomes a “movement” like when a band becomes really famous and people suddenly get pissed off because “they heard it first”...
Maybe I’m that person.
I don’t know. What I do know though, is that when this #vanlife trend blows over, we’ll still be at it, hopefully for many years to come, even when we’re old, senile and we stink.
PS. Does anyone know how to make money off #vanlife blogs?
All suggestions welcome.
I'm starting to look like Louis Theroux...
***Disclaimer: #vanlife photos taken from a simple google search, none of the people in these photos are in any way related to this blog except for the fact that I typed in #vanlife on google and found their images to be fitting***