Most of the world has decided what is right and what is wrong. They tell you how you should fit in and where. They put you in a box of being a success or failure. They give you a picture of what the “perfect life” is and if you are not living your life that way, then you do not have the ultimate happiness. Social media does not help this cause any. We have become tougher critics on ourselves more than ever before because we are now comparing our lives to the people we follow on Instagram.
For instance, Instagram taught me that if I am not traveling the United States in a retro ‘68 VW Van, then I am not cool. These classic vans are always being featured in business look books and in daily posts convincing its audience that they are the quintessential travel machine, but in actuality you can get out on the open road in any type of vehicle. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE those vintage vans, but owning one of those classic cars does not guarantee that you will have the most magical van life experience.
Before I had met my partner he had purchased a 2002 Dodge Ram Van. He bought his big green machine for only $3,000. Yes, he has had to do some repair work on her, but not having a monthly car payment has really opened up our ability to travel. The Road Barge (as he calls it) has taken us on countless adventures covering tens of thousands of miles. We have made it a ritual that on each adventure we must buy a bumper sticker to put on her caboose to proudly show where this girl has taken us. Slowly her exterior is being covered with all of our fun memories together out on the road.
A simple weekend getaway in our van has really pushed me outside of my comfort zone and the payoff has been amazing! Going off grid for weekends at a time, has helped me grow as a person and make me feel wild and free again. For so long I felt like a failure and loser for becoming sick because I was not following the path that society says I have to follow to become “successful”. Living the van life has opened up my mind to the idea that I can forgo the standards society placed on me and I can create the life I wanted to live, the kind of life that brings me purpose and happiness.
I feel guilty because when I first saw the Road Barge I judged it based on its appearance and what society taught me to think of vans like Seth’s…a “creeper” van. But once we took her out on the open road on our first adventure together, I fell in love. She gives me the comfort I need when traveling with chronic illnesses because we are able to fit our queen size mattress in the back. Having the ability to lie down at any moment, anywhere is PERFECT for this lady who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).
Being in a van gives me a sense that I am being a part of something that is bigger than me. It reminds me how much there is to see, feel, and experience. Simply driving 300 miles away from our home is a scenic adventure and it only peaks my curiosity at the true magnitude of this world. When you are covering miles at a time on the open road, it gives you plenty of time to think deeply. This time of soul searching always helps ground me, reminding me of my dreams, aspirations and hopes. One thing the road always gives me is the reminder of time and how precious it is. It is up to me to use my time wisely with the people and things that I love.
By me realizing that the virtual life is not the same as real life has helped me tremendously to be able to create my own song and dance. It has freed me of society’s pressures and to simply not give a damn what is cool on social media. Before, I thought the only van I would ever be seen riding in was a Volkswagen, but now I realize that those are not the only types of vehicles that allow you to see the world like I dream of doing. To really embrace the “vanlife movement”, like the social media hashtag, all you need is a machine that fills you with pure joy that allows you to wander.
I feel grateful to have the big green girl in my life. She has opened up my eyes and heart to a world full of possibilities.