April 17, 2017

"It’s true that the same vanlife pictures get taken over and over: the van’s back doors opening onto an ocean vista..."

"... a long-exposure nighttime shot of the van, cozy and lit from within, against a backdrop of stars; a woman on the van’s roof, in the middle of a sun salutation. (There are so many images of vans parked in improbably beautiful places—the middle of a lake, the edge of a cliff—that there’s an Instagram account called You Did Not Sleep There, devoted to collecting the least believable ones.)... The ideal vanlife image has something of the hazy impersonality of a photograph in an upscale catalogue, depicting a scene that’s both attractive and unspecific enough that viewers can imagine themselves into it. There is an undeniable aesthetic and demographic conformity in the vanlife world. Nearly all of the most popular accounts belong to young, attractive, white, heterosexual couples. 'There’s the pretty van girl and the woodsy van guy,' Smith said. 'That’s what people want to see.' At times, the vanlife community seems full of millennials living out a leftover baby-boomer fantasy: the Volkswagens, the neo-hippie fashions, the retro gender dynamics. But, for all its twee escapism, vanlife is a trend born out of the recent recession. 'We heard all these promises about what will happen after you go to college and get a degree,' Smith said. 'We graduated at a time when all that turned out to be a bunch of bullshit.'..."

From "#VANLIFE, THE BOHEMIAN SOCIAL-MEDIA MOVEMENT/What began as an attempt at a simpler life quickly became a life-style brand," by Rachel Monroe in The New Yorker.

I liked the description of the vanlife Instagram photographs, and I found the photograph at The New Yorker hilarious.

I'm interested in the comparison to the hippies of half a century ago. Hippies thought what the establishment had been selling them was a "bunch of bullshit" too. The alternative to establishment bullshit is also bullshit in its own way, so you've got to move on to comparative bullshit. I think the counterculture of today has a better shot at getting it right because they're hooked into social media and subject to instant mockery/criticism. Or is it the other way around? Social media tempts you to do things for the wrong reason. The man quoted in the excerpt above knows he gets the most clicks on his Instagram pictures that show his girlfriend posing in a bikini. How does he know when he's feeling what his heart desires and when he's projecting into the mind of the consumers of his media, wherever they are, getting their vicarious sustenance? How does he know he loves the woman or even her body or whether he's thinking of what other people love? Ironically, the other people are thinking about him living their dream.

69 comments:

Bob Boyd said...

The dog was hot and couldn't get out of the sun.
The girlfriend was hot too.

Rick Turley said...

Let's get it over with:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RiEIToOWr64

Ignorance is Bliss said...

'We heard all these promises about what will happen after you go to college and get a degree,' Smith said. 'We graduated at a time when all that turned out to be a bunch of bullshit.'

Any promises about what will happen after you get a degree are definitely a bunch of bullshit. It matters a great deal what you get a degree in, where you get that degree from, and what classes you took and grades you got while getting that degree.

There was a time when a degree would open many doors. That was back when degrees were relatively uncommon, and only granted for rigorous study of serious subjects.

That time has passed.

The Cracker Emcee said...

The hippies were put off because they thought the materialistic offerings of society were spiritually hollow. The millennials are put off because the materialistic offerings aren't material enough.

tim in vermont said...

I hope anybody majoring in a field related to sociology has either rich parents, no, not rich, wealthy parents, or has a minor in ways to be a good employee in retail.

madAsHell said...

Slackers!
When I was first married, we had a Volkswagen Westphalia. Pop up top, and everything. We sold it when hygiene became an issue.

Michael K said...

In 1972 I sold my 1965 VW van to a hippie girl who, with two hippie boys, was planning to live in it at Big Sur. They paid cash, no doubt from her father. The boys were very impressed when I gave them the various warrantees for the battery and tires, etc. They didn't know that those things existed. Off they went and I never heard how it turned out.

Clark said...

Van life pictures are so amusing to me. As idyllic as they attempt to portray their environment, I can't move beyond one thought: "God, that van must stink." Like Woody Allen, I am two with nature.

Henry said...

From the article: "King, a telegenic former business student, had quit her job at a Sotheby’s branch when she realized that she was unhappy."

That's certainly one definition of bullshit.

I don't mean this as a dig at King. If you can live a life of freedom and exploration, why not? But there's much in the article at odds with its "bullshit" thesis.

These people sound like reality-show contestants, which is probably not very fair to them.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Real van life should also include a panoramic vista of a WalMart parking lot. The back of a Target store with dumpsters and early morning dumpster divers. Angry land owners yelling get off my acreage!!!

Actually, the idea of chucking it all and taking a few months to travel around the country in our trailer sounds appealing.
1. IF we could afford to chuck it all...we can't. We have a business.

2. who is going to take care of the cats, cuz they aren't coming with us!

3. and most of all...having been there and done that. The logistics of just getting daily things done, like eating, bathing and pooping, can become monumentally annoying.

buwaya said...

Youtube is full of a genre you could, I suppose, call "shed life", or what fellows get around to in their man caves. Its all hobby machining (very common), tinkering, experimentation.
Not New York media friendly stuff, but much more interesting, and full of odd characters. NOT for women, which is the point I suppose, as it cannot draw advertisers.

Mike said...

1. That's a loooooooong article for a Monday morning.
2. The time lapse photos made me feel sorry for their canine companion.
3. Maybe tiny dogs are more appropriate for tiny living?
4. They look exactly like a #vanlife couple is expected to look.

Fernandinande said...

The first picture has been "tone-mapped", a nifty, fake HDR effect.

AReasonableMan said...

Social media funds many of these trips. The same thing with boat live-aboards, people keep a detailed photo log of their trips and boat maintenance in exotic places and advertising on social media significantly defrays the cost of the trip.

Rusty said...

That would be cool if the hot chick went with the van.
But I'd have to ask my wife.
She never says yes.
Anybody price a vintage Westphalia lately?
It would be cheaper to fly.

buwaya said...

Well, yes, it seems that the hot chick is the entire point of the thing isnt it?
I had a look. Chick is hot.
Imagine the same with no hot chick. Who would care?

David Baker said...

I believe we have a resident VanLife expert; Mockturttle

AReasonableMan said...

buwaya said...
Imagine the same with no hot chick. Who would care?


People who like vans.

David Baker said...

...Oops; make that "Mockturtle"...

mockturtle said...

DBQ alleges: Real van life should also include a panoramic vista of a WalMart parking lot. The back of a Target store with dumpsters and early morning dumpster divers. Angry land owners yelling get off my acreage!!!

I my 'van life' experience, I would say this was more accurate. I'm not sure why. These are not places I choose to camp. Being thoroughly self-contained and solar-powered, I can truly enjoy solitude and scenic vistas out in the 'toolies'. My theory about why some park in urban areas is that:

1. They feel safer in a populated area [Lord knows why! I certainly don't!]
2. They need to use facilities.
3. They have jobs [quite a few van-livers in the Seattle-Tacoma area have jobs but simply can't afford the astronomical rent.
4. Access to drugs [a few].

mockturtle said...

I should also add:
5. Wifi access.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Rusty said...

That would be cool if the hot chick went with the van.

Make Laslo an offer...

Left Bank of the Charles said...

This strikes me as the landlubbers version of the dream of living on a sailboat.

Michael K said...

They have jobs [quite a few van-livers in the Seattle-Tacoma area have jobs but simply can't afford the astronomical rent.

My middle daughter has been negotiating a job in Cupertino for months and has not yet come to a decision but is concerned about living conditions. If she gets the job and accepts it, she is thinking of buying a small motorhome and living in it. The next problem is where to park up there.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

To be serious about the rise of van living and trailering as a permanent lifestyle. Not talking about people who are recreating or traveling for fun and adventure.

My husband and I have noticed a significant rise in people living rough, in vans, trailers, older motor homes. We feel it is because of the tanked economy and is the new version of the hobo life. Like the Great Depression but with a mobile home instead of a cardboard box or train boxcar. Transients. No job.

Mockturtle says, there also exists a subculture of working people who can't afford to rent elsewhere. So a nice motor home, trailer, even van is a good alternative....for a while.

The RV parks, here in our rural areas, are full up with permanent residents. Those people are doing well, because they have an inexpensive location with sewer, electricity, water. $300 a month or less for the space with utilities included! Some do surcharge if you have an A/C unit. Some places have free wi-fi and coin operated laundromats to use. It could be worse.

Others are roaming around trying to find a place to camp for the night or for several nights where they won't be rousted, robbed or worse. Always on the move.

In our rural area, we often see such older vehicles UN-officially camping or residing on acreage (trespassing), in the woods, at various wide spots in the road. Some of our local property owners have opened up a bit of land for a person or someone that they know to allow them to more permanently park until things get better for them.

The downside to the land owners is the pollution from the UN-authorized transient campers who ditch their sewage, garbage, oil, etc. Many of those people have alternative lifestyles, drugs and crime and are major problems.

Another thing that facilitates the ability to live this lifestyle of a poor transient is the proliferation of something that did NOT exist in the Great Depression. Free money! Welfare. SSI. Food Stamps. Etc.

I always say.....everyone has to live somewhere. I don't judge as long as you are living clean, not polluting or committing crimes. Living rough in a van is better than living under a bridge.

Ann Althouse said...

"Van life pictures are so amusing to me. As idyllic as they attempt to portray their environment, I can't move beyond one thought: "God, that van must stink." Like Woody Allen, I am two with nature."

I have anosmia, so that part would be no problem.

David Baker said...

Yes, try living under Buddha’s Bridge…

Ann Althouse said...

You can add WiFi to the vehicle. I've checked. You can get satellite WiFi.

My main problems with living in a van are:

1. Lack of privacy and a feeling of security. Can you really get enough sleep?

2. Lack of running water (and unwillingness to sleep in such an enclosed space with any kind of bathroom that could be installed).

3. Concern about the emotional effect of committing all that money and effort to the enterprise. You have to like it. How do you know then if you really do like it? You lose the freedom to like and not like as it really happens. But I guess a lot of the best things in life are like that: going on any trip (possibly keep it short), getting married (maybe just have relationships, so they can end when one of you decides it's not good anymore), having children (do not have children if you want to be free day to day to decide what you really want to do).

Rusty said...

Michael K said...
"They have jobs [quite a few van-livers in the Seattle-Tacoma area have jobs but simply can't afford the astronomical rent.

My middle daughter has been negotiating a job in Cupertino for months and has not yet come to a decision but is concerned about living conditions. If she gets the job and accepts it, she is thinking of buying a small motorhome and living in it. The next problem is where to park up there."

Cool fact for RVers. The Fraternal Order of Moose will let you park your RV for a couple of weeks in their parking lot if you nare a member and membership is something like 65 bucks a year.

David Baker said...

@Mockturtle;

A reply…

Lewis Wetzel said...

Do people still live in houseboats? The kind where you pay for a slip and never move the boat? There were a few of these places in Hastings (MN). The locals hate them because you use the town infrastructure but don't pay property taxes.

FullMoon said...

Michael K said... [hush]​[hide comment]

...

My middle daughter has been negotiating a job in Cupertino for months and has not yet come to a decision but is concerned about living conditions. If she gets the job and accepts it, she is thinking of buying a small motorhome and living in it. The next problem is where to park up there.


She can rent a decent apartment for around two thousand a month, and spend twenty or thirty minutes commuting. The novelty of a motorhome gonna wear off real quick.

Ann Althouse said...

"The locals hate them because you use the town infrastructure but don't pay property taxes."

Why don't the locals amend the laws and collect taxes (or fees to compensate for taxes not paid)?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

She can rent a decent apartment for around two thousand a month, and spend twenty or thirty minutes commuting. The novelty of a motor home gonna wear off real quick.

Or...she can buy a decent motor home for 24K or less depending on how old/small she can go and bank the money. $2000 a month rental versus owning an asset that she can sell later or use for recreation. Financially, this is a more sensible plan.

Many of the guys, we know, in long term construction will do this (Bakkin oil fields, big jobs in Texas etc) When they are done with their job, which may last a year or more. They have money in the bank AND a nice fully contained, debt free, motor home/RV to use again.

The problem with Michael K's daughter in Cupertino, is that there is probably a distinct lack of good spaces to park a long term motor home or trailer.

AReasonableMan said...

Lewis Wetzel said...
The locals hate them because you use the town infrastructure but don't pay property taxes.


But the marina does. Not much different to a trailer park or rental apartments.

mockturtle said...

David Baker: Thanks! ;-) You are right.

Sebastian said...

"Social media tempts you to do things for the wrong reason. The man quoted in the excerpt above knows he gets the most clicks on his Instagram pictures that show his girlfriend posing in a bikini." Not seeing any "wrong reason" here.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

My vehicle/camper is actually not a 'van' but a small motorhome. I have a toilet, shower, stove, refrigerator, everything I need. I prefer to park in National Forest or BLM [not Black Lives Matter!] campgrounds and occasionally dispersed camping on public lands. I have never trespassed nor have ever 'camped' at Walmart, not that there is anything wrong with that as long as Walmart doesn't mind. When I was in Alaska in 2015, I found terrific places to park with kick-ass views. Hope to go again.

If you are interested, you can see my rig here: Tiger Adventure Vehicles

mockturtle said...

PS: Mine is the 'Bengal' model.

Michael K said...

She can rent a decent apartment for around two thousand a month, and spend twenty or thirty minutes commuting

Not from what I've heard. I sent her a Guardian article about engineers paying $1000 a month for a bunk bed in a four bed room. One guy got the closet but paid $1500 for a "private room."

This is the article.

Breitbart had a followup.

Doesn't sound that easy. I don't know if it will happen. She is in New York City today for a week.

Saint Croix said...

As long as a pretty girl is with you, it all looks pretty damn cool.

Saint Croix said...

If she was living with Fred G. Sanford, I'd be all, "dude, the trashman life, what a life!"

Saint Croix said...

I'm okay with dog in the room while I'm having sex with somebody. But dog right there next to me is not going to work at all. This is why there are no dogs in porno. (Please do not prove me wrong on this point!) I need space, dude. Dog needs to be tied to the bumper for a while. That's not even a sexy line. "Hey, let's tie Fido to the bumper for a while." You know what it means but it's still not going to work.

This may be why Mitt Romney had a dog carrier on top of the car. Just in case he ever had to go Van Life, Mitt Romney was prepared.

AReasonableMan said...

mockturtle said...
If you are interested, you can see my rig here: Tiger Adventure Vehicles


Looks good. I have a small cabin cruiser that has similarly small living quarters. For short periods (2 weeks) it is enjoyable to be outdoors and also self sufficient. Backpacking and camping is too primitive for me. With a boat you can stay in marinas, which tend to be more interesting and pleasant than camp grounds, but you can also stay out in anchorages, more or less alone. Have thought about buying a camper but I don't enjoy driving that much.

Saint Croix said...

Right-wing version of Van Life.

mockturtle said...

ARM, we used to have a cabin cruiser, too. A Carver. I think two weeks was about our limit, as we were both working then, but you are right. Very similar situation. We liked to cruise the San Juans and they have some great marinas up there and fine restaurants, etc. Then we would anchor in a quiet bay somewhere. Expensive, though. Moorage in the Seattle area was pricey even then [1980's], as was marine fuel. I can only imagine what it's like today!

mockturtle said...

This is why there are no dogs in porno. (Please do not prove me wrong on this point!)

Yikes! Don't alert Laslo about this!

Bill Peschel said...

The funniest moment is at the end of the article, which triggered the New Yorker's ad offering to "fight fake news with real news."

With an article about pseudo-celebs selling a spurious lifestyle with bikini pictures.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't think people follow them because of the van life. I think if you took the same girl and put her in a bikini next to a winsome dog and took aesthetically pleasing pictures from #suburblife or #apartmentlife or #retaillife or #9to5life, you'd end up with just as many followers.

The lifestyle sounds like hell on wheels. If you have a job, you do it, then you're off. If your job is to make a showcase of your life, then you're never really off.

AReasonableMan said...

mockturtle said...
We liked to cruise the San Juans


Am envious of this. I have thought about chartering a boat over there to do this, but expensive. That area and further north look like some of the best close to shore cruising areas in the mainland US. I am going to try Maine next year, which seems similar.

Freeman Hunt said...

Actually if you showed someone doing #9to5life in a bikini, that would probably be odd and appealing enough to get a massive number of followers.

tcrosse said...

It reminds me of specifications of a boat: It sleeps six, fucks four, and fights two.

Birches said...

I don't think people follow them because of the van life. I think if you took the same girl and put her in a bikini next to a winsome dog and took aesthetically pleasing pictures from #suburblife or #apartmentlife or #retaillife or #9to5life, you'd end up with just as many followers.

This is what I was thinking. It's that whole instagram thing that people just love. I find it a little vulgar; it's too produced. But I'm probably a minority viewpoint. I don't even have an instagram account.

Freeman Hunt said...

But I'm probably a minority viewpoint.

I dunno. How many people, as a percentage of the general population, participate in Instagram-as-fantasy-building? It gets a lot of press, but how many people really do that, that is, browse and follow people on Instagram to look at photos and fantasize about living differently? I think it's probably a very small minority of people.

AReasonableMan said...

Freeman Hunt said...
The lifestyle sounds like hell on wheels. If you have a job, you do it, then you're off. If your job is to make a showcase of your life, then you're never really off.


I have had much the same thought about this, but there are limited options for work when you are constantly traveling. This is probably one of the better ones. Freelance work has always been unappealing to me for this same reason, you have to always be on the look out for the next job.

Saint Croix said...

It gets a lot of press, but how many people really do that, that is, browse and follow people on Instagram to look at photos and fantasize about living differently? I think it's probably a very small minority of people.

They talk about that in the article.

Advertisers work with people like Smith and King precisely because they’re not famous in the traditional sense. They’re appealing to brands because they have such a strong emotional connection with their followers. Krishna Subramanian, the co-founder of captiv8, a company that has helped Where’s My Office Now connect with advertisers, said, “Their followers know what they’re doing day in and day out.” Accounts with between fifty thousand and two hundred thousand followers are considered “microinfluencers,” and tend to have higher engagement rates—that is, a larger share of their followers like, favorite, or comment on their posts—than those with millions of followers. “It’s very niche-focussed,” Subramanian said. “That’s really interesting to an advertiser who wants to promote something very specific to that audience.”

They've commercialized their vacation, which is a little depressing. You want to relax on vacation!

On the other hand they're costs are low and they might be able to bank close to $60,000 this year. Do that a few years and maybe they can open up a surf B-and-B or something, and raise kids.

Van Life is not for babies, I would think. Young people and retirees.

J. Farmer said...

@Freeman Hunt:

I dunno. How many people, as a percentage of the general population, participate in Instagram-as-fantasy-building? It gets a lot of press, but how many people really do that, that is, browse and follow people on Instagram to look at photos and fantasize about living differently? I think it's probably a very small minority of people.

Well, Instagram has about 400,000,000 daily active users. But I am not sure how many of those are consciously doing it for the sole purpose of fantasizing about a better life. If you ask them, they'd probably just say they like looking at interesting and/or beautiful photographs. But sure it's aspirational. Same reason people watched Dallas. Yeah, sure, the storylines, but it was also to watch rich people doing rich people things and being envious about it. Hell, if everybody followed the 10th commandment, there pretty much wouldn't be capitalism.

Freeman Hunt said...

Instagram has about 400,000,000 daily active users.

But I'd imagine the vast majority are people following their friends not lifestyle Instagram marketers.

Saint Croix said...

One interesting thing about this dynamic is that she makes the money.

He runs the house.

J. Farmer said...

Freeman Hunt:

But I'd imagine the vast majority are people following their friends not lifestyle Instagram marketers.

I am not sure I'd say "the vast majority," but I agree about marketers. But then again, you can only become a marketer if you have a large enough following. How'd they get that following in the first place?

Lewis Wetzel said...

Lewis Wetzel said...
The locals hate them because you use the town infrastructure but don't pay property taxes.
But the marina does. Not much different to a trailer park or rental apartments.


But unlike trailer parks or apartments there is no real estate to tax. In this case the land was in a flood zone, so taxes were low because you weren't allowed to build a residence on the land. Trailer park is probably an analogy, but you can zone against those.
There is always a legal solution, the question is can the law keep up with the gypsies?

Birches said...

But I'd imagine the vast majority are people following their friends not lifestyle Instagram marketers.

But our friends are imitating this faux-lifestyle, especially our younger friends. Before I cordoned off fb to only family a few months ago, I would see my friends reposting of their instagram shots. They all followed that stylized format. Check out this girl. A family member knows her in real life. She is nothing like her instagram account apparently, but there are a lot of women who know her and know it's not real and yet try their hardest to make their life appear the same way. I kind of agree with J Farmer, I think it really is aspirational for a lot of users.

FullMoon said...

Michael K said...

She can rent a decent apartment for around two thousand a month, and spend twenty or thirty minutes commuting

Not from what I've heard. I sent her a Guardian article about engineers paying $1000 a month for a bunk bed in a four bed room. One guy got the closet but paid $1500 for a "private room."

This is the article.

Breitbart had a followup.

Doesn't sound that easy. I don't know if it will happen. She is in New York City today for a week.


Five minutes on Craigslist will bring up a dozen or so one bedrooms, and a couple of two bedrooms, for around 2k.
I actually know real live people who are living in decent places for that kind of money. Sometimes you have to be put on a waiting list

Michael K said...

Five minutes on Craigslist will bring up a dozen or so one bedrooms, and a couple of two bedrooms, for around 2k.
I actually know real live people who are living in decent places for that kind of money. Sometimes you have to be put on a waiting list


OK Thanks. I will e-mail her the comment.

Freeman Hunt said...

"try their hardest to make their life appear the same way"

I don't get it. It looks like a catalog shoot. I would assume that the husband was a photographer showing his skills or that the family had absorbed a catalog aesthetic. (Like in "Girls" when one of the girls compliments a guy by telling him that his apartment looks like a Target ad.) Do the other people want their photos to look like catalog photos too? Is this really limited to aspiring to a certain photo aesthetic without feeling aspirational about the person's actual life? That's what I think might be going on here. People want to take what they believe to be pretty photos. I don't see the connection to life though.

(But then, I keep seeing links about how social media makes people feel jealous and sad because they compare their lives to others, and I don't get it. These sites are like people's photo albums, one should expect the photos to look pretty good. But no one can see someone else's real life through a screen. What are they jealous about?)

jaed said...

Michael K, be sure you're not confusing San Francisco with the peninsula. SF is very pricey. The peninsula towns vary. (Palo Alto is very expensive, but Sunnyvale less so, for example.) If she will be working at Apple Central in Cupertino, the southern peninsula towns are much closer than SF.

Rachel said...

I look at vanlife youtubes. Believe me, it is not glamourous. One woman was living in her car because she could not find a place to live. I agree with Dust Bunny Queen - a lot of people are living in RVs because they have no choice. Even I am looking at those if the future becomes as bleak as we Gen Xers predict.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0EoyTzcFOI

There was also a 1970s B-movie comedy where the audiences home were cars. I forgot the title but I never forgot that scene as a little girl. Even back then we as a people were concerned about being priced out the market.

Michael K said...

jaed, thanks. I don't know if the Apple thing will happen. That is an odd company as they contacted her and now has taken four months of interviews with no decision yet. She thought the first contact was spam. They e-mailed her.

She is into the art world pretty heavily now.

This was a while ago. Now she is back working for Baldissari.

He's got her doing some of her own paintings. He has a couple hanging in his studio.

She also spent a year in Spain and some time in Morocco working on her Arabic.