To be or not to be vanlife…..
Go back in time by just a few years and the phrase ‘vanlife’ would conjure up images of a clapped out old Ford Transit laden up with builders rubble and stuck wheel arch deep in a bog of mud at the local building site. Fear not, coming from a family of builders’ I’m neither anti-transit van or anti-building site but the reality is that a van used to be a dirty, unloved essential workhorse of manual labour and definitely not something you’d want to spend more than a couple of hours in.
Certainly, when we started our campervan/motorhome ventures back in the early 2000’s you either had just that, a motorhome or a campervan, no in-between varieties, although I guess they’ve always been around in one form or another. The fact is that no-one ever really paid any attention to these slightly different modes of transport becoming available for sleeping, eating, travelling and often living in.
Role back the clock to the mid 1970’s and I vividly remember a rather eccentric Aunt and Uncle visiting us at home in their own van, a homemade conversion of some kind and bearing a striking resemblance in shape to that of an ambulance of the day. It came freshly painted in a striking powder blue finish with an interior delightfully kitted out in solid dark wood panelled units and windows adorned with neatly home sewn floral curtains complete with matching upholstery covering the foam filled seat pads.
I was mesmerised and despite my own parents dismay of our relatives travelling the length and breadth of the country living out of a van, as a child of around 5 years old, for me it seemed rather appealing, like playing house on a large scale or venturing inside a ‘Wendy House’ for grown ups, how exciting and adventurous it seemed.
Perhaps I have a little bit of their gene in me, I recall always pestering my own parents to buy a campervan, nagging them endlessly, how I would have loved the yellow or orange VW camper that would so often be a feature of the window in our local Volkswagen garage.
Back to the point in question for now, when does a campervan become a van or a motorhome a campervan or a van a vanlife van and where does vanlife fit in to all this, the very current modern day movement, a growing expanse of a global community joined together by the common phenomenon known as vanlifer’s, more to the point on a personnel level, in what category or definition does our own van fit in to?
It’s a question I’ve mulled over, quizzed myself on, searched comparison’s of and not fully come to a conclusion on at all, to a certain extent it’s almost as if our own van is stuck between the realm of options and not really quite one thing or the other. I would say, probably, it’s an overland purpose built 4×4 panel van conversion but try describing that continuously to inquisitive like minded individuals or worse still through posts to social media involving titles and descriptives.
To simplify things, I tend to say it’s a camper or just plain old van, I don’t class it as a motorhome and really it’s a bit too big to be a campervan. So does the modern wave of vanlifer’s think it to be an imposter against the connundrum of ingeniously home crafted, individulistic often hippy inspired designs out there changing the faces of Ford Transit vans and every other base vehicle around the world, or are these inspiring, nomadic free spirited folk happy to embrace my slightly out of sync vehicle of choice?
In truth, I don’t think anyone really cares, in the end, everyone has the same goal and wants to travel that same journey, it’s making the most of life in a simpler format, living the way you want to live in a different place, a new beginning, a fresh outlook each day. It’s the opportunity that’s important, the chance to share in the nature that surrounds all of us, the rich deep landscapes, special cultures, the freedom that the outdoor lifestyle affords and the challenges faced from living a life out on the road for long periods of time.
The liberating feeling of rejecting the materialistic consumer driven forces that overwhelm society in this modern world bring a bond that is shared between all of us regardless of what van we choose. It’s almost a rebellion or a form of therapy from conformity, whichever the perspective or the opinion, it’s a revolution and a thriving, growing trend amongst so many disillusioned, often over-worked members of the population crossing all walks of life but choosing a vanlife.