It seems the vanlife way of living, travelling and working has become the ideological dream, an aspiration for a new way of life!
Thousands of filtered images, portraying life from a van as an idyllic world, filled with beautiful people, posing with their perfectly decorated vans, surrounded by the most incredible scenery in exotic parking locations!
It’s enough to tempt even the most unlikely candidates of vanlife to start searching for that dream van!
Well, the real vanlife although often idyllic, isn’t always without its problems and I’m beginning to wonder, if some of the posts, blogs, fabulous pics and declarations of expert guidance, are actually all a bit of an exaggeration of the reality!
The simplicity of parking up and happily sleeping soundly under the stars is made to sound blissful, but for both those old time experts or new folk, it does still come with moments that are slightly annoying, awkward or just irritating!
Sometimes it can involve actually hooking up to electric occasionally or taking a good powerful long shower at a campsite and definitely stopping to empty the contents of the waste tanks on a regular basis! Then there’s the toilet emptying, the odd long search for fresh water or problems with control panels, heating or just glitches that no one can prepare you for.
It’s easy to read about the ease of living from a van, lapping up those good vibes, the thought of just parking up where you like, without a care in the world, whilst freshly ground coffee brews in the coffee mug!
What isn’t always mentioned are the times of driving for hours and failing to find a place where you can park for the night, or simply getting cold feet about a place you’ve thought was fine, when suddenly in the depths of night, it doesn’t seem so inviting!
No wonder there’s such a growing world of “wannabes”, to add to the “newbies” and us “oldies”, after all, why wouldn’t you want to see the world from behind the wheel of a van?
Well, this got me thinking back to a time on one of our own road trips, (the location shall remain anonymous to avoid the guess who!!).
We, by chance met a high profile Instagram vanlifer, whose beautiful van complete with photographs of its even more perfect owners, were just stunningly enticing to the admiring followers. Always parked in isolated and fascinatingly idyllic settings, in the most perfect vanlife arrangements.
But on our encounter, the owners and the van weren’t parked up where you’d expect at all. No, there was no exotic location or romantic setting, whilst watching the sun rise from the rear doors of their van!
Far from it, in fact, this Instagram sensation with enough followers to fill a small town back where we come from, were actually parked up on a campsite…..yes, shock horror, I can hear you now spitting out your cornflakes!
Whilst Nigel jumped at the chance to engage in conversation, or really, hoped to get a bit of insight into how they had amassed such a colossal following, along came a tow truck to whisk the star of the show (that’s the van!) off to the nearest garage!
All was not well, with the not so shiny looking star, which we hadn’t even really given a second glance to in the non-filtered real world!
With not one useful tip, from the unwilling to divulge, tight-lipped owners, on how we too, could become an Instagram sensation, the conversation was instead, one of declaration of all the things that had gone wrong with the van and how much the wretched thing had cost to repair!!
So, as Nigel retreated back to our van, tail between his legs, the only good piece of advice taken from the encounter, was to never buy anything older than us!
Dare I say it, but even the owners of the van looked a little more worse for wear in real life! Sharing the campsite washroom over the course of a few days, I couldn’t help but notice wrinkles and grey hair!! Crikey, I know, can you imagine, if you didn’t spit out the cornflakes earlier, you certainly will be now!
Of course, we know all too well, that the behind the scenes reality of those amazing pics, lies an often endless line of snaps that are not good enough to use and well rehearsed settings that come with a line of props to rival an A-list movie set!
That’s not to mention the equipment, drones, cameras, editing, catching the right lighting, that fab sunset and dressing the van, the people and the contents! Wow, it seems a little bit too much like hard work!
It’s no surprise that #vanlife can become a bit of a shock to those unprepared for life on the road and living out of a van.
Ok, so yes, of course, there are some incredible places to park up, but it’s not all fabulous scenery, birds serenading you in the mornings and waves lashing against the crisp white sands.
In this world of mobile Apps, the chances are, that those secret spots of a few years ago are now out there on a minute by minute basis for everyone to know about and share. With the crazy vanlife trend growing bigger every year, those glossy pics and glowing blog posts will just have to keep getting more and more appealing to keep the image alive and the reality a little further afield.
In the meantime, I guess we all need a bit of theatre and if that’s what it takes to get us interested in another world outside of the 9 to 5, then maybe it’s not a bad thing. For all those incredibly successful promoters of #vanlife, we salute you, you’ve done incredible and illusion or not, it’s our own imagination that decides how we see things, it’s a work of art and the gallery will be open for a long time yet!