What is #vanlife? For some, it’s just a hashtag on Instagram, but for others, it’s a philosophy, a way of life that says, “Home is where you park it.” For members of the #vanlife community, there is no greater pleasure than driving down empty roads in their home-on-wheels, sleeping under the stars, and sitting around a campfire while exchanging food, laughter, and stories with fellow wanderers. Gathered in the shade of a dozen vans and campers, many of these people have never met before, but strangers quickly become friends over a shared love of freedom, adventure, and the great outdoors.”It’s people who just value quality time spent, who are humans being,” says Ryan Sellmeyer, one of the #vanlife enthusiasts featured in a recent short documentary by The Atlantic. “It’s the home we wish we could call home for eternity.”
The #vanlife community and way of living began taking off on social media thanks to Foster Huntington, who created the Instagram hashtag after he quit his corporate Manhattan job in 2011 so that he could buy a van, make it his home, and begin anew as a nomad. For three years, Huntington documented his life on the road, inspiring others with his snapshots of beautiful landscapes, homey van interiors, and rich experiences with the people he crossed paths with.
Now, he’s planted his roots in western Washington near the Oregon border, where he built a magnificent tree house with the help of his friends. Although he no longer lives exclusively in his van, Huntington still travels and goes camping. He encourages others to do the same through his blog, A Restless Transplant, as well as his van-focused website called Van Life. “Ultimately,” says Huntington, “I want–and I hope–that people get out and do stuff for the sake of doing it.”