You won’t find these realities on Instagram, of course. In the past few years “vanlife” has become a bona fide social media phenomenon, a way for beautiful, mostly white, mostly heterosexual couples in Sprinters and Volkswagens to #partner with #brands to make a living selling a pristine, minimalist, aspirational lifestyle of sunrise beach yoga, morning acai bowls and romantic nights with two pairs of feet on the mattress facing towards some beautiful sunset mountain view or a lightly photoshopped sky full of stars. (Vanlife is now so popular that whole accounts exist to re-post vanlife photos from other vanlife accounts, usually hashtagged with robotic enthusiasms like “#couplegoals” and “Looks so cozy!”)
...This is, of course, leaving aside that the beautiful heterosexual whites in their expensively-converted Sprinters did not invent “vanlife” or, more broadly, life in a van. Traveling by RV or van is a fact of life for a lot of people who earn their living through seasonal, migrant labor, as Jess Bruder’s exquisite book Nomadland chronicles. Living in a car is a reality for many, many homeless adults and children throughout the U.S., a reality often complicated by laws that deliberately make it hard for them to park anywhere for too long. And even that leaves aside that self-expressed Vanlifers who aren’t white face a particular host of challenges, hostility and harassment on the road.I nodded in recognition as I read. It’s very accurate. You can learn a lot from only two weeks on the road—if you’re looking for the truth rather than trying to live the myth.