It’s been a while since I did a Guilty Pleasures article because a lot of the cool stuff I’ve found lately hasn’t given me that mix of pleasure and shame from watching it. Lately, however, I’ve found a group of individuals that appeals to my respect of survivalists, practical engineers, and independent spirit, yet also shames me because most time it is found in some of the hippiest folks you will find in this great country of ours. (Yeah, the fake hippie dudes of the 70’s that just wanted to grift and get laid ruined the image of the hippie for me.) What is this Guilty Pleasure, you ask? it is the the lifestyle known as Van Life.
Van Life is a phenomenon that is sweeping the country due to the high cost of living and a reaction to the other complications of capitalism gone rampant in this country. People seeking a more minimalist and less alienated lifestyle are modifying vans, buses, trucks, and RVs to make them true mobile homes. Many of these vehicles are equipped with fully functional kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces with Wi-Fi, computers, and televisions.
If I had to guess, I would say that Van Life is the hybrid love child of tiny house enthusiasm and nomadic/hobo lifestyle, which are also two crazes that hit YouTube and television a few years ago. Marrying the need to live off grid, and free of bills, with the ingenuity and desire to maximise living and quality of life with meager living space, Van Life is attractive in the promise of both freedom and the challenge of survival.
One thing that I did find surprising about Van Life was that it is a booming lifestyle amongst women of all ages. While some publications will tell you that it is a phenomenon with Millenials, I see no evidence that it is limited to generation.
There are many YouTube channels out there, but my gateway channel was that of Steve Wallis. I don’t know too much about the man. I know from his videos that he was married at one point, and actually traveled with his wife in many of his videos. I think that he chose Van Life for a time to cut costs from his life. Oh, he loves his beer and whiskey. In fact, he uses beer as the unit of currency that you can support him, and he uses whiskey as a personal reward when he completes tasks on his videos. I find Steve Wallis very typical in his love of Van Life, but not so in his set ups.
The Set Up
As mentioned before, a big part of Van Life is the modification of regular vehicles into functional RVs and modification of RVs into true mobile homes with all of the amenities of the modern home. However, this also includes the upgrading of tents, sheds, and shacks that Van Lifers camp out in, sometimes. This includes portable wood-burning stoves, propane stoves, cots, and computers and video game systems with
(When I referred to Steve Wallis and his set ups, what I meant was that he tends to have very simple vehicle setups with little or no hard modifications done to his vehicles. He does go all out in pimping his tent and shack setups.)
It should come as no surprise that many Van Lifers enjoy nature, and living within a stone’s throw from it. However, it is what some of them consider more “adventurous” that might surprise you.
Boondocking is camping out in modified vehicles, not in the wild, but in private properties like department store or hotel parking lots. Many Van Lifers consider boondocking a big thrill to see how long they can camp out in a private parking lot before they get “the knock” telling them to leave.
Stealth Parking is basically boondocking, but not limited to private parking lots. Stealth Parking can be done in neighbourhoods, side streets, and abandoned properties. I guess the added danger in stealth parking over boondocking is that it is more likely that police will give “the knock” rather than an employee of the private property.
Yeah, I know. This doesn’t sound like a cool enough thrill for me to try, either, but at least nobody gets hurt, and it doesn’t cost anything except maybe a parking ticket? I think that we all have that part of us that wants to go out and see the country while leaving our ties to civilisation to the wind, and this lifestyle is the embodiment of that. Perhaps this is the way that many people will be able to taste this lifestyle. How bad can it be if you have Wi-Fi, a stove, and a flat screen?