Does anyone else remember watching SNL during the 1980s and 1990s? Those were the good old days; I can still remember the first time I got a glimpse of Chris Farley’s Matt Foley character, probably the worst motivational speaker ever, screaming at David Spade and threatening him to be his companion inside his van down by the river.
The episode I am referring to was aired back in ’93 and sees parents (Phil Hartman, Julia Sweeney) hire the aforementioned motivational speaker to talk to their teens (David Spade, Christina Applegate) after some pot turns up inside the house. Feel free to check it out on Youtube, you’ll quickly understand what I am talking about.
Sad as Matt’s story may be, some may consider it a cool way of spending their free time. For instance, NYC tourists have the chance to sleep in a van by the river for just $22. Does that sound cool to you?
There are plenty of different vans to choose from, including a converted NYC taxi – I remember reading about a converted school bus that ended up being a home on wheels, and a cool one at that. I guess I’ll try anything, at least once.
But I was always a big fan of that customized A-team van; you remember it, don’t you? The black and metallic grey GMC Vandura van used by the humorous and skillful team of ex-military men featured a red stripe, black and red turbine mag wheels, and a rooftop spoiler. That iconic van still haunts my dreams.
With that particularly cool van in mind, I’d go anywhere.
It seems, however, that more and more people are into this alternative lifestyle; a different view whenever you desire, visiting various locations around the country – if you’re driving your own vehicle, that is. There are special places, however, where hosts provide you with a van of your choice, all prepared to accommodate you. Not bad, right?
It seems that “Vandwelling” – a term that applies to those of us living in vans, as well as other movable homes – is what Chris Farley’s madness started up, encouraging people to spend their time in a van down by the river. However, the negative image and discouraging vibe implied by the character have been left behind. Who says you can’t travel or live in a van and enjoy life to the fullest while accompanied by what some of us call “creature comforts”?
You might think that financial issues may force some into this kind of lifestyle, and it is true; it is also worth mentioning that this kind of minimalist living might find some part of an environmentally-friendly movement without even being aware of it. Sure, there are some questions worth asking – like, where are you going to shower? But, at the end of the day, it’s all about preferences and choices, as it is with anything else in life.
So, let’s get real for a few moments and consider this: you have no shower, toilet to use during the night and no power source for your various gadgets or appliances you use daily in a home. Visiting friends to enjoy a hot shower doesn’t sound cool, so you’ll have to find a solution to that problem. What about food? You can’t eat hotdogs, bagels, or waffles for the rest of your life – although, a daily pizza menu doesn’t look al; that bad to me.
Vandweller for Life?
The key here is mobility and independence, and it seems that people who experience this very different way of life usually don’t plan on going back to the urban environment we are all so familiar with. Seems easy enough, doesn’t it? But how do you do it?
- First off: get rid of almost everything, you don’t need most of your possessions anyway. It may be a consumer’s market, but it’s your choice how and where to live your life.
- Next, decide upon what’s essential to you and if you can fit it all inside a vehicle.
- Third step: decide upon a vehicle – you already know my choice, but feel free to go in a different direction. Are there any electrical variations? Surely, environmentalists would go crazy over something like that.
- Final, and most importantly – be prepared to live off the grid. Forget all about fast Internet connections, Smart TVs, media streaming services, and such – although, you can still make use of a smartphone, order up a hot pizza and listen to your favorite tracks on Spotify.
The best of news? No rent.
As I’ve already said, there are quite a lot of people living this way, resulting in unique communities of Vandwellers that stand by each other and support each other in these odd times.
This means that you won’t meet a lot of people living the same way you do, but once that happens, this lifestyle will bring you together much more than you would usually end up in the concrete jungle.
If you’re the nature-loving type, into camping and fun trips, you won’t have to decide and settle for one place anymore. But that doesn’t mean you have to be alone, either; vandwellers keep in touch, via forums, reddit or any other platform, and get together at least once a year for events or special road trips.
Are people who live in their vans crazy? They could be, but what’s so different from any other people? Living in an expensive apartment doesn’t make you necessarily sane either.
Besides, some might also remember the housing crisis and recession, making this concept a feasible solution from a financial point of view. It seems that more and more advantages go with this lifestyle than any of us could have anticipated. Preconceived notions be damned!
Do you realize just how much of your income is spent on your home? Feel free to do the math and don’t tell me about it; I am almost sure, however, that quickly after your calculations are complete you will be looking to shop for a van.
Jokes aside, before making the choice you should also consider the social aspect of the matter, such as the fact that most people will look with a lack of understanding and potential criticism towards your change.
Adventure, travel, the joys of life?
Look no further, as leaving behind the excitement and stress of day-to-day urban living will come with an incredible sense of liberation. Who knew you could do well without worrying about money, simply and passionately about much more than making money from one day to the next?
So, what are the reasons to choose a van down by the river?
- Flowing Rivers – planning your trips around the seasons might be a good idea, as weather conditions might ruin your experience. But finding a river will not be difficult and a good swim and an intense session of paddling will do the body good.
- No Rent or Mortgage – we’ve mentioned this already. Why waste precious financial resources on renting and owning a home? Go for a home on wheels, travel the country, experience new locations. Live a little, why don’t you?
- Commuting – seems like a good reason to go for a van. Why travel back and forth between your workplace and your home when you can avoid the hassle? Less gas money spent, not to mention less vehicle maintenance; oh, and let’s not forget you get to leave as late as possible for your job. Those 5 extra minutes always make a difference!
- Simplicity – less is more, at least that’s what I’ve heard. It may sound tiresome to some, to be always on the road; but, I love driving for no good reason and no destination in mind. So, why not? Besides, with fewer bills and less stuff to worry about, life quickly becomes enjoyable. There are more valuable things in life than money or possessions.
- Kayaking – if you’re a fan, that is. Your gear will always be close by and ready to go, right there; in the van.
Once you find that perfect spot, by the river – where else? – you’re in for a real treat. It’s a great workout, by the way; all that paddling works the back muscles and arms. Some might say it’s even a survival game, but let’s not dramatize.
As we see, you and me as well, there are plenty of benefits to having your van parked by the water – river, or not. Some features and advantages will be lost forever, but isn’t that valid with any choice we make in life? Ups and downs, good or bad. Still, the value of a hot shower after a long day cannot be measured in cash.
The future is now
I think it’s safe to assume, with all this craziness around us, the younger generation will embrace vandwelling as a statement of independence and freedom. And, since Mother Nature is slowly dying – by our own doing – it might be a good idea to visit her beauties while they are still there to be enjoyed.
An increasingly mobile society may consider a change in ‘venue’, living the concrete environment and the constraints of owning a home for the craziness and liberty that comes with driving a van all around the country.
With the workforce slowly moving towards digital and online businesses, you might as well pack a laptop and stroke them keyboards from across the country, while enjoying incredible sights from aside your van. Who knows where I’m typing from, right now?