Everybody chooses a different road in life. Some take the risk, while others would not dare.
What is it, you ask?
Leaving behind your traditional lifestyle, and living the vanlife.
In 2012, Corey Smith and his girlfriend, Emily King, had been together for five months. They made that decision, to do just that. Sell everything they owned, and take to the road. Inspired by an acquaintance, who already lived the life. His enthusiasm motivated them to and go see the amazing places he had photographed.
Emily had already given up her life as business student, and her job at Sotheby’s. The daily grind of a job she did not enjoy, was making her too miserable. Life had to be better than this? Corey worked as a manager of a Kayak store, and was already a lover of the outdoor life. He was a regular participant in mountain biking competitions.
Then, Emily was successful with an application for a new job as a Web Developer. A job that did not need her to attend an office. It was the perfect opportunity for them to live the dream. Informing family and friends of their intentions, they bought a 1987 Vanagon Camper. It cost around three thousand dollars but was full of character. Cream in color and a bit of a rust bucket, but, hey, it had a PA system that broadcast animal sounds. Like any van with character, it had to have a name, and they came up with Boscha.
Leaving New Hampshire behind, they set off in a snowstorm. It was a perfect picturesque beginning. Emily posted a picture on social media, of the van driving by snowy woodlands. It received 97 “likes”. In the years that followed, “likes” on their social media posts would increase to the thousands. Though, their new life did not get off to the best of starts, and was anything but smooth. Hitting strong winds, so bad they thought Boscha would fall apart. Boscha got her first tow, up a steep icy road. To top it all off, in Arizona, Boscha’s engine died a death. Tow number two, was to an RV Park. There, Corey worked tirelessly to get Boscha back up and running.
Things were about to change. One day, while on a phone, getting advice from a VW parts specialist, Corey dared to ask a very important question. It was a conversation that would change the game. Contract were signed, and promises made. They had agreed to post regular social media mentions, in exchange for discounts and cheap parts.
Back on the road, Corey took any employment he could find, to help fund their adventure. Emily was still the main money maker. Twelve months down the line, they met up with a couple of guys who were driving across country in a van, to promote a book. They were funding their travels, by product placements. Finding sponsorship for their social media posts. This turned the cogs in Emily’s head. She had Instagram account receiving over ten thousand followers. Could she make money from it? Seeing an opportunity, Emily quit her Web Developing job. Now she would concentrate on her own website, “Where’s my Office Now.” Within months, they had their first paid advert. A product placement of a water flask. From now onwards, their social media posts would include product placements, and endorsements. They had become professional vanlifers. The sponsorships were now paying for their life on the road.
They even had a new resident on their travels, in the form of man’s best friend, Penny, the dog. On sunny days, with the doors open to take in the ocean views, or other amazing scenery, vanlife can give a sense of freedom, and a glamor. When the rain hammers on the metallic roof, pungent dog aroma emanating around the van, is not so pleasant. It is times like these, they realize their limited space is quite confining. Such a small space magnifies any personal faults, and conflicts can arise. Still, it was those wonderful vista’s they shared on social media, that was now making them a living. Instagram never gets to see the dull side of vanlife. Sponsors want to see their products with a positive and glamorous image. Emily, modeled in many of the pictures, because the posts that received the most likes, were of her, the van and Penny.
The couple, being millennials, graduated at a time of mass unemployment. Vanlife gave them an escape from the rat race, and an affordable way of living. They are a couple with energy and drive, to turn their skills into funding life on the road. It can be fun and carefree, but to pay for that fun, they must work very hard. Four years, and over thirteen hundred images down the line. They continue to show social media posts that reflect the life their followers want to believe in. That may not be how it is all the time, but then, we are all slaves to our workload, even when living the dream. One thing this kind of life has afforded our two protagonists, is fame. They are now celebrities. Not because they are movie stars, or pop singers, but because of their social media posts. Their followers want to feel they are also a part of their travels. Every single day. It can be a bind, updating social media daily, but it pays the rent, or in this case the gas. Destinations must be to the more glamorous spots. This enables them to take the best shots. Exactly what their sponsors want for their products. It is an effective means of promoting, and it pleases their fans.
Emily views her work as the telling of stories. Tales about their life on the road, and the amazing places they go to. Life may not always be as glamorous as they portray in these journals. Yet, it is still a life to be envious of. They have enough money to enjoy life, thanks to their sponsorships. Yes, they still work for a living. In exchange, they have the freedom to choose their neighbors. Choose their working location.
They have much in the way of wealth. Not monetary wealth. The kind of wealth that comes with contentment, wellbeing and freedom. Having escaped the money driven, stress related materialistic world. Corey and Emily are a personification of freedom. While the rest of us remain victims of that materialistic world.