Instagram's Most Romanticized Lifestyle: What #Vanagonlife Is Really About
#Vanagonlife can be seen throughout Instagram in reference to a particular model of Volkswagen that was popular in the early 1980s and 1990s. But the hashtag represents much more than just these vehicles and their owners. It represents the laid back, humble lifestyle they embody and the strong community they’ve created.
“Your vanagon becomes your reality,” says vanagon life-er, Ryan. Also known as @poseidonsbeard on Instagram, he’s become well-known for his stunningly curated feed of images that feature his van, his family, and the incredible locations they travel to together, “These old vans get in your blood. Ours is our adventuremobile and our daily family driver, child hauler, and grocery getter.”
Ryan told us about his life with his vanagon, what his Instagram bio, “humans being” means, and how Hobnob helped him to plan his recent event, Slowride.
The hashtag, #Vanagonlife, stemmed from another hashtag, #vanlife. Created by a man named Foster Huntington, the tag was used to document his travels across the country in his van. Working at a corporate job, Huntington realized that he wasn’t getting what he wanted out of his twenties and that he had to make a change. So, he quit, packed up his van, and set out on an unplanned adventure, letting his life happen as it would. He explains that the hashtag represents a life filled with unplanned experiences, whether that be jumping into the nearest ocean for an impromptu surf session or finding whatever Wal-Mart or gas station is closest for a much needed bathroom break.
It’s this patient, insouciant approach to day-to-day life that Ryan, his wife Christina, and their two children love about their unique lifestyle.
“When you rely on a thirty-year-old van for everything, you learn to take things as they come,” Ryan explains, “they’ll slow you down in more ways than just your speed on the highway. They make you check your pace and your pulse. When people fly past you on the I-5 and look over at you, enraged that you’re driving on the same road as them and going ten miles per hour slower than they’d wished… you just learn to smile and be grateful that you aren’t that guy.”
Living in your vanagon (whether that be full-time or part-time) gives you a means to escape the constant need to do; it allows you to just be. Humans being, @poseidonsbeard states, and that’s exactly what Ryan and his family do. They’re never concerned about when they’ll get somewhere or what’s going to happen when they do. They enjoy the process of driving, being together, and accept whatever happens when they arrive at the campground or surf spot.
A stay-at-home dad, Ryan’s vanagon also serves as his escape from the dreaded doldrums of being cooped up inside a house with his energetic little ones. Instead, he can pack up his faithful vehicle, load in the kids, and drive somewhere to do anything from see how high they can stack a pile of rocks to playing in the waves at a dark sand beach. Some of his family’s favorite locations are “The Last Best Place” Montana and the Baja Peninsula.
Unlike some other vanagon life-ers, Ryan and his family don’t live in their van full-time. They have the realities of paying back student loans and raising a family to deal with. But they do consider their vanagon a home away from home. Recently, they hosted an event named Slowride—and used Hobnob to send the invites. Slowride was a kind of dual purpose adventure. It served as a soft “housewarming” one night and a campout/surf session the rest of the weekend.
On the Hobnob app, Ryan and Christina wrote a simple, one-line description, “BBQ and van camp with peninsula romping to ensue.”
Friends and fellow van owners could text a quick “yes” or “no” with the app’s text-to-reply feature and then put away their phones to enjoy life in the moment.
On the day of the event, attendees could easily send updates to the event’s message section. Whether they were a bit delayed due to car sick kiddies or taking bagel orders from van-lifers who’d already made it to the camp, this chat section allowed for convenient communication for everyone.
Upon arrival, attendees enjoyed surf sessions, great food, and laughter-filled conversation filled with their latest adventures. The kids chased each other down the beach and more than one dog curled up for a nap by the tires of their owner’s van.
Of course, at least one vehicle got stuck in the deep sands of the campground and had to be towed out by another. But this was to be expected at a van camp and was taken in stride. Technical difficulties are a common occurrence when you spend this much time in a vanagon, and they become something you not only accept, but almost enjoy.
“A hundred miles down a road your fuel pump might go out,” Ryan says, describing a typical situation that occurs when you own a vanagon, “so you put a movie on for the kids, grab your spare, and smile as you swap it out, thinking of the man you'd encountered earlier [the one who sped past you on the I-5] knowing full well this little setback would have just been too much for him. He would have simply died over the inconvenience of something that you've learned to love, though you’ll never fully be able to explain why.”
Perhaps there is no way to explain the appeal of spending hours in a van that breaks down every other trip, of frequenting gas station bathrooms, and resting in a sleeping bag curled up in whatever location you can get to, but there’s something peaceful and satisfactory about this lifestyle. When you know you can’t force anything and that rushing won’t improve your experience, you really learn to appreciate what’s in front of you.
Whether you’re interested in the #vanlife for yourself or just want to follow along on other’s adventures, follow @poseidonsbeard on Instagram.