“I lived the VanLife, and it was not pretty at all”: seduced by the Insta-friendly photos, she is quickly disillusioned
Go on an adventure without ties or constraints, these are the promises of VanLife. But behind the beautiful showcase shared on the networks, on the ground, the reality is sometimes more disappointing… In any case, this is the story written by Caity Weaver for the New York Times.
“I lived the VanLife, and it was not pretty at all. »
This is published by author Caity Weaver in the columns of New York Timeson April 20, 2022. She wanted to try her hand at VanLife – “trying herself” in her own way, as we will see – and was not convinced, to say the least!
Hoisting the sails, hitting the road, without pressure and purpose… Today, the VanLife is attracting more and more budding adventurers.
At the start of 2020, the earthquake caused by the Covid-19 pandemic turned millions of French men and women upside down, prompting them to question their true motivations, their very conception of existence. The VanLife offers an adventure closer to nature by freeing itself from rigid infrastructures — the only constraint? Find the “ideal spot”, which will be perfect to share on social networks.
In France, according to the latest Ipsos study for UniVDL relayed by Automotive-Magazine, the van market has decreased by almost 50% from 2020 to 2021and half of this increase is made up of first-time buyers. 95% of these new enthusiasts plan to go on an adventure for an indefinite period. These adventurers are defined in particular by the ecological promise of the concept: 75% of them declare that a van makes it possible to respect the environment more.
The embellished stories of vanlifers on social networks
The VanLife appears to be the new fashionable epic of our time. Last February, the American author Caity Weaver therefore wanted to understand this craze for “homeless” life chosen by many millennials.… The time of one week only. Immersion level, we did better, note.
“Living full-time out of a vehicle has become an aspiration for Millennials and Boomers — despite the fact that traditionally residing in a car or van is an action taken as a last resort, for lack of other options for protect themselves from the elements. »
Before embarking on her seven-day road trip to California, Caity Weaver launched surveys on TikTok and Instagram, relying on the expertise of famous “vanlifers”.
“The stories of popular ‘vanlifers’, as they are called, are an endless reservoir of beautiful, deserted landscapes previously only seen in the background: canyons at dawn, oceans at sunset, noon highways that stretch, car-free, forever. »
The VanLife, how much does it cost?
In the eyes of Caity Weaver, reality seems very divergent from the fantasized stories shared on the web. First disappointment: the VanLife is not a cheap hobbysince investing in a van requires a certain budget.
If you can find used models from 4000 euros, faced with the public’s enthusiasm for vans, luxury options are flourishing — and so are vehicle prices. From personalized motorhomes to heated floors and a thousand and one technological revolutions, it’s possible!
Caity Weaver resolved to renting a van for a week, a flourishing business in recent years, and accessible. “With 1000 dollars, anyone can have the life of a fanciful traveler if they are ready to rent”notes the writer.
After prospecting online, Caity Weaver chose to trust the rental company Escape Campervansand reserve a 2013 Ford Econoline E-150 with bodywork adorned with a painting depicting a psychedelic jungle.
“I chose this rental company because their website seemed geared towards dummies with no experience driving RVs – offering ‘extras’ like a kitchen kit for rent ($40) and an ice scraper ($5) – and because the site described the vans as “premium,” which I thought seemed high end. I was surprised and concerned when an employee filling out our paperwork at the Los Angeles rental depot casually described the company as ‘a budget RV service’”
With almost 400,000 kilometers on the odometer of the rented van, Caity Weaver is taken from fears on the road. Brake and accelerator pedals malfunction : “Sometimes I try to brake and nothing happens, other times the car moves uncontrollably,” she observes with concern.
The VanLife for a single woman
Caity Weaver quickly faces a second disappointment: the risks for a single woman to embark on VanLife. While her husband declines his invitation for this atypical experience, she inquires about the advice of VanLifeuses alone.
“We recommended leaving men’s shoes outside the van at night and traveling with a gun, or a dog, or both. It didn’t look like an aesthetic fantasy. I needed to find another human. »
Caity records his decision: she will leave with her friend Michael for this crazy adventure in a van on the Californian roads. And on the horizon are many complications…
A daily less glamorous than on Instagram
The effervescence around the VanLife, would it not lead to its loss? While the couple of friends are on their way to the famous Yosemite National Park, they find themselves stuck in monstrous traffic — an endless bumper to bumper.
Failing to undertake a hike in the nature reserve, the two novice adventurers spend hours in the van, trying to find a parking space. In vain.
“We were millennials pursuing the manifest destiny of our generation — a chic, rootless wanderlust — who ended up mired in boomer rush hour. We need to leave…”
In addition to the unpleasant surprises concerning the health of the van, and its occasional malfunctions (pedals, GPS, etc.) the lack of practicality of the vehicle is decried by the two friends — a stove that is difficult to install, a fridge that has frozen all their provisions or the impossibility of making a comfortable and warm bed…
“At no time was our van configured to accommodate the stunning ‘open door’ vistas that characterize the VanLife. It was, at all times, doors boarded up with luggage, groceries, bedding, cooking utensils and the heavy metal ladder to access the rooftop tent, which we tended to throw haphazardly at the whole bunch. »
When VanLife does not spare your health
A narrow, inconvenient and vector of anguish… what a dream !
One night, the two backpackers debate how to close the miniature curtains hanging around the windows of the van, guaranteeing a semblance of privacy and warmth, but which could also give a claustrophobic dimension to the sleeping area. They try to close them.
Two hours later, Caity is suffocating from an anxiety attack. She must rush outside, into the freezing air, to finally breathe. And that’s not the only bad surprise facing the writer…
On the last day of their roadtrip, the author feels unbearable back pain ; unable to walk, she finds herself confined to a wheelchair on the tarmac of the Los Angeles airport. Doctors are unanimous: being assisted several times a day in a vehicle is daunting for the back.
And yet, despite all the adventures during his “deflowering” of VanLife, Caity Weaver is almost ready to hit the road again.
“Looking at the photos on Instagram, I found myself wanting to get myself a nice van and replicate those trips — those trips just like the one I had just taken. […] I had forgotten how much I had not appreciated. »
The VanLife, to think about
Of course, the photos of the VanLifers flooding the Web do not react to the reality on the ground… But in a week of experience, without really much preparation beforehand, Is the judgment of the American author really impartial and meaningful? Not sure.
After all, as they say, it is in adventure, however moving it may be, that we sometimes manage to get to know each other — to find ourselves, even. Each his way, each his way. And another cliché. You get the idea.
So if you too are tempted by this outdoor adventure, you can find the advice of a Madmoizelle reader who went around Europe in a vanalthough she does not consider herself to be an adventurer… Nothing is impossible: it is above all a question of being well informed, instead of believing everything you see on Instagram!
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Featured Image: Kevin Schmid – Unsplash