Van life (or #vanlife, as the kids on social media say) is attracting a type of workforce known as digital nomads. Millennials and Gen Xers able to work from anywhere and seemingly unattached to the idea of homeownership. The following articles feature some of the Millennials Rejecting Rent In Favour Of #Vanlife And Minimalism.
A mobile way of life has always captured the American imagination, with the first RVs appearing on the road more than a century ago. And after more than eight months of restricted travel due to the pandemic, the call of the open road feels stronger than ever. Some people are heeding it and making it a full-time lifestyle, for both work and play. More evidence of millennials rejecting rent in favour of #vanlife and minimalism.
Van life is the Tiny House movement on wheels
Van lifers manage to pack their entire lives into 60 square feet or less, always prepared to move at a moment’s notice. Devotees claim the lifestyle provides the ultimate form of freedom, unshackled by the twin commitments of a brick-and-mortar job and a mortgage. It attracts people from all walks of life, even young families who raise their kids with an eye for adventure.
While the van life movement is several years old, having been propelled to niche appeal by Instagram and YouTube, it’s now attracting more people. Who see the pandemic and various natural disasters limiting their choice of domicile. Plus, most office jobs can now be done remotely. So why not use Anytown USA (and seemingly endless BLM lands and national parks) as a home and an office?
Before you dive into this lifestyle, here’s a primer in what it takes to live it.
Is van life for you?
There are two types of van lifers: full-time and part-time. Full-time means your van is your only place of residence, with everything you own inside. You park in any city or out in nature. Full-time van lifers also work in their vans. Drawing electricity from solar panels installed on the roof, and installing a signal booster means there’s always Wi-Fi and power. Part-time van lifers, meanwhile, use their van for weekend trips and boondocking (going off the grid).
The majority of van lifers are outdoor enthusiasts who embrace camping, climbing, hiking, surfing and traveling. Some even drive as far south as they can in the Americas. Van life is also very popular in Europe, where open borders allow for endless travel options.
While nature plays a major part in van life’s appeal, many van lifers prefer urban stealth camping, choosing to park in cities rather than in the great outdoors. They try to blend their vans in with city streets, making them look like ordinary cargo vans. No windows, blackout shades in front, high roofs to obscure solar panels up top. (Cargo vans are classified as regular vehicles, similar to an SUV, and require no special parking permits). Urban stealth van lifers who opt not to install showers or toilets in their van might make use of gym facilities in each city.
Where to start
The three most popular cargo vans used in conversions are the Mercedes Sprinter, the Ram ProMaster and the Ford Transit Connect. You see them everywhere: Amazon Prime and FedEx use them, as do utility companies. These vans are ideal for conversion, because they’re essentially empty boxes in which you can construct any floor plan.
Seasoned van lifers advise buying a used van for your first build because the learning curve can be steep, especially for those going the DIY conversion route. Mercedes Sprinters hold their value well in the used market, but the maintenance is typically more expensive than for the American-made Ram ProMaster or Ford Transit. They all come in different lengths and roof heights, so be sure to pick one that suits your specific needs.
The main components of a converted van are electricity, plumbing (including a shower, toilet and water supply), a kitchen setup, a sleeping area and cabinetry for storage.
The electrical system is probably the most daunting for DIYers to tackle, but YouTube is filled with step-by-step tutorials. RV dwellers get their electricity via shore power, either at campgrounds and RV parks or through generators. Van lifers do something similar, drawing solar panel-generated juice and running it through an inverter and batteries. Allowing them to run small appliances, a heater and AC, and to charge laptops 24 hours a day.
A basic kitchen setup includes a stovetop run either by electricity or propane; a small, energy-efficient fridge; and a sink. Water supply is a key consideration for van lifers, since they can only carry so much water at a time. The sleeping area is often a convertible space, doubling as a dining area, office or lounge. A high-roof vehicle allows for cabinetry to be built for storage.
To DIY or not
Once you’ve chosen a van, there’s a critical choice to be made: DIY build or hire a conversion company, which can charge from $30,000 to upward of six figures (not including the cost of the van). That’s great, of course, if money is no object: You get top-notch craftsmanship built to your specifications.
For those who choose the DIY route, there’s a passionate community on YouTube sharing how-to conversion videos, so you need not feel intimidated even if you don’t have construction experience. DIY conversions can cost as little as a couple thousand dollars . Options include buying premade conversion kits for cabinets or kitchen galleys, or outsourcing part of the build—such as the electrical or plumbing—and doing the rest yourself.
Originally published by Las Vegas Weekly: Home is where you park it: #Vanlife attracts modern-day nomads
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How the campervan became this summer’s coolest travel accessory
Freedom, romance and one hell of a ride — millennials have fallen hard for the #vanlife. Katie Stick meets the new nomads
Max Levine and Thom O’Dell are recalling their most memorable moments in Vivian, their mustard yellow courier vehicle they converted into a camper van using YouTube tutorials just before Christmas. Among the highlights are drinking gin and playing cards in the rain. Cruising down the motorway with the windows down, belting out pop classics; and lying in bed gazing out over the cliffs and rolling seas of St Ives.
Romantic, eh? But the reality has been a rather bumpier ride, insists Levine, a radio presenter and comedian
The windows-down motorway Motown session was the only solution they could find. For the heating dials getting stuck on a long hot drive out of London last month.
Still, Vivian’s flaws have only added to her charm. “Being able to plan breaks with her has kept us both sane during lockdown,” says Levine, who spent quarantine at his flat in Brixton. He and partner O’Dell, a doctor who has been working flat-out during the pandemic, have been #vanlife disciples ever since they cast eyes on Vivian last year, and just in time.
Since the Government gave the green light for campsites to reopen in May, millennial camper van rentals have rocketed to a record high. According to rental platform Fat Llama, bookings are up 346 per cent from this time last year. A-listers from Helen Mirren to Gwyneth Paltrow have endorsed it and Fat Llama says the average age of camper-van renters is now between 28 and 33. No wonder we’re seeing so many millennials rejecting rent in favour of #vanlife and minimalism.
Among Fat Llama’s most popular vans is the classic VW camper van, which naturally does best on Instagram. It’s the hashtag for those in the know is #vanlife, which pulls up more than 7m posts of silhouetted baby blue VWs in picturesque spots from Cornwall to California. Fat Llama lets you hire one from £65 a day (customers have been known to hire them just for photo shoots). But the sexiest can go for much more. “Airbnb of Caravans” Camplify says camper-van owners can make up to £20,000 a year hiring theirs out.
The main appeal of a camper van escape pod?
It’s freedom, says Clapton-based project manager Samantha Kennedy, who’s just returned from a support bubble staycation on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Abha Shah and Russell Cope, friends who are also her flatmates. The group had been due to spend the weekend at Noisily Festival in Leicester, but went camping when it was cancelled due to Covid.
For Kennedy and her glamping gang, a camper van struck the perfect balance: cosier (and more rainproof) than a tent, yet more rustic than a hotel. Days were spent exploring beautiful beaches and evenings were spent round the firepit drinking cider from the on-site cider farm. They were even treated to a celestial display from a comet on the final night. “A world away from the city” in less than a four-hour drive, she insists. Who needs Australia’s Great Ocean Road or Portugal’s beautiful beaches when you’ve got Cornwall’s dusty coastline and Dorset’s chalky clifftops straight outside your camper van door?
But there’s more to a UK camper van trip than heading south-west on the M4. To avoid getaway gridlock, indiecampers.co.uk, Europe’s largest fleet of camper vans, has a section of its site dedicated to lesser-known road trips. Its London to Manchester “English Heritage” tour is among the most popular. While Camplify’s Instagram is a dazzling mosaic of off-the-beaten track staycation destinations. “Venice of the Cotswolds” Bourton-on-the-Water for a romantic minibreak. Pontsticill Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons for wild swimming. A Lancashire-based Land Rover Defender with a roof tent for going off-road. Overland Campers in Halifax is even offering converted Land Rover battlefield ambulances for wild campers who fancy hitting the Lakes or Yorkshire Dales nearby.
Freelance photographer Sam Brown insists heading off the beaten track is the most magical part of camper vanning. She’s been exploring the UK in her 1998 Peugeot Boxer Auto Sleeper, Juno, ever since lockdown restrictions were eased. Her highlights include the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Assynt in Scotland, and Northumberland’s Pennines.
A recent trip, looking for a remote campsite late at night on the North York Moors, will stay with her in particular. “I lost my GPS and phone signal, so decided to park up in a village instead,” she recalls. “Just as I was hopping into bed, there was a knock on my door. It was the local policeman, who had heard reports of a camper van going round in circles. He kindly let me stay there for the night.”
The best Instagram accounts to follow for #vangoals
Europe’s largest fleet of camper vans has a dazzling Instagram: a mosaic of its customers’ travels from Tuscany to Croatia. Tag them and use #GoIndie for a chance to have your snaps featured.
Follow the freelance photographer and digital nomad documenting her forties as she makes her way around the UK, and soon to be Europe, in her converted campervan Juno.
Interiors inspiration. Check the account’s Stories for a catalogue of the camper van company’s handmade fleet, and online workshops on how to convert your own.
Follow the bikini-clad travels of surf-loving couple Emily and Corey (and their dogs) on their van adventure since 2012.
This popular account regrams the best shots from van life lovers from around the world.
In the morning, there was another knock at the door
“It was the neighbour, apologising profusely for involving the authorities. He then offered me some eggs from his chickens And asked if I wanted to park up in his field full of Icelandic sheep.” You don’t get stories like that on a package holiday in Spain.
Over the last couple of months, Brown has grown so attached to Juno she’s decided to embrace the nomad life full-time. Next month, she plans to drive the van down through France. And is using her GenerationXit.com blog, Instagram and YouTube channels to encourage others to do the same.
Levine agrees a camper van opens up opportunities beyond a week-long staycation while you’re working from home. “There’s no reason why you can’t set up camp somewhere with wi-fi, do your emails and calls during the day. Then jump in the sea and light a BBQ in the evening”, he says. Now that’s remote working.
Originally published on Evening Standard: How the campervan became this summer’s coolest travel accessory