Go back a few years and the phrase ‘vanlife’ conjured up images of a clapped out old Ford Transit van! Dreaming of a campervan wasn’t exactly appealing, opening the back doors to piles of builders rubble! After all a van was usually seen with tyres deep in mud at the local building site.
Fear not. Coming from a family of builder’s, I’m neither anti-transit van or anti-building site! Back then, a van used to be a dirty, unloved essential workhorse.
The epitome of manual labour, not something you’d want to spend more than a couple of hours in – let alone sleep in!
When we started our motorhome adventures back in the early 2000’s, you either had a motorhome or a campervan. There were no in-between varieties, although I guess they must have been around.
Slightly different modes of transport for sleeping, eating, travelling and often living in were slowly appearing. Although, these went largely unnoticed and weren’t particularly admired.
Those dreaming of a campervan instead of the package holiday to the sun were still few and far between.
Role back the clock to the mid 1970′ brought my first encounter with a van conversion.
I vividly remember a rather eccentric Aunt and Uncle visiting us at our home in this intriguing campervan. This homemade conversion, bearing a striking resemblance to that of an ambulance looked super cosy.
Freshly painted in a striking powder blue finish, delightfully fitted out with solid, dark wood panelled units. The windows were decorated with homemade floral curtains.Matching upholstery covering the foam filled seat pads just finished it off nicely.
I was only about 5 years old but completely mesmerised!
Despite my parents dismay of our relatives travelling the length and breadth of the country, living out of a van, I found it rather appealing. To me, it was like playing house on a large scale, venturing inside a ‘Wendy House’ for grown up’s. How exciting and adventurous it seemed.
Perhaps, I have a little bit of their campervan gene in me. Recalling endless pestering to my parents for a campervan of our own.
Whilst most other little girls my age asked for a new Cyndi House, I craved the yellow or orange VW camper, featured in the local Volkswagen garage showroom!
The strange thing is, that when I could buy my own campervan, the VW no longer appealed! After all those childhood years craving one, the practicalities of no shower room and very limited space got the better of me.
So when does a campervan become a vanlife van? In the last few years, the vanlife explosion has moved to a whole new level.
Starting out in America and quickly spreading to Australia. The appeal here seemed endless, thanks to wide open highways and some pretty decent weather. It wasn’t long before those talented and creative individuals began churning out some pretty impressive designs.
Coinciding with the rise of Instagram, there was suddenly the perfect platform to showcase their layouts and designs to the world. The vanlife appeal, suddenly reached smart phones across the world. In doing so, introducing an otherwise oblivious audience to life on the road.
Most importantly, the big new difference to conventional ‘shop bought’ campervans and motorhomes was sex appeal. These vanlife creations looked amazing and the incredible marketing of the image through beautiful people in exotic locations sold the lifestyle.
I tend to call our own campervan a camper. Although it’s not a conventional campervan or a motorhome, there’s no other term for it. Unless, possibly an adventure van or just a panel van.
There’s such a connundrum of ingeniously home crafted, hippy inspired designs out there. The changing faces of Ford Transit vans and every other base vehicle around the world. Many inspiring, nomadic and free spirited folk happy to embrace life on the road.
In truth, everyone has the same goal and wants to travel that same journey no matter what van they choose.
Making the most of life in a simpler format, living the way you want to live is so appealing. To be in a different place, a new beginning, a fresh outlook each day.
It’s the opportunity for change that’s just as important. The chance to share in the nature that surrounds all of us. Rich, deep landscapes, special cultures, the freedom that the outdoor lifestyle affords and challenges faced from living life 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. Bringing a bond 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. Vanlife has been a revolution that is still thriving. A growing trend amongst so many disillusioned, often over-worked members of the population.
Choosing to see the world by campervan still seems as idyllic today as it did as a 5 year old mini me. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to marry a man that also had the same dream. Buying our first caravan at just 18 years old, we’ve had over 30 years of amazing road trips!
Here’s to another 30 years!