I do not own a car or a house or even a bicycle. Nor am I prone to following Instagram trends. Yet for weeks I have had an obsession: getting rid of all my possessions, breaking the apartment lease, and moving with my dog and my girlfriend into a tricked-out van.
The things I would do in a van! Coronavirus would be just a faint memory in a van on the open road.
As with most strange impulses that feel unique, this quirky-seeming urge is anything but. The #vanlife business is booming.
Dozens of new companies are popping up to rent or sell retrofitted sleeper vans, some now with yearlong wait-lists. Apps are surfacing to help these van dwellers find legal parking. Big R.V. park conglomerates, whose stocks have soared, are starting to eye the new interest and figure out ways to capitalize. And advocates for the rights of the homeless, who often end up living in cars out of need, are seeing potential new allies among the new professional class of car campers.
The last few months have felt chaotic, and the van living sell is that there can be stability in constant motion. “What we say is: We build your escape,” said Leland Gilmore, the founder of Benchmark Vehicles, which makes custom vans. “These are little escape vessels, escape pods.”