The Times journalist Caity Weaver was tasked by her editor to go on an adventure: With an old college friend she would spend a week in California, living out of a converted camper van, in pursuit of the aesthetic fantasy known as #VanLife.
Given the discomfort that can arise even in the plushiest of vehicles, it’s a surprising trend that shows no sign of letting up. As Weaver explains, even the idea of living full time out of a vehicle has “become aspirational for a subset of millennials and Zoomers, despite the fact that, traditionally, residing in a car or van is usually an action taken as a last resort, from want of other options to protect oneself from the elements.”
Unpacking the craze by testing it herself, Weaver offers a humorous account of the trials of not being adequately prepared, claustrophobia, long restaurant lines, the increase in traffic within the national parks, and the disappointment that occurs when an Instagram aesthetic bumps up against reality. Sometimes fantasies are too good to be true.
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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Pérez, Marion Lozano, Naomi Noury, Krish Seenivasan, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.