Occasionally my partner heads out of town for a conference and, while I look forward to seeing him himself, I really like the habit he’s developed of giving me a New Yorker on his return. We don’t usually buy magazines, so it feels like a real treat to receive one, especially when it is chased with a plan for him to have the kids and me head out for some much needed “introversion time”. Which is what I had last Monday.
This was the article I read. For the last year or so, about once a week I think to myself I would really like to up sticks and go and live in a van and get things even more simple and elemental than they already are for us. This article kind of put me off–perhaps because I wonder if it is sneaky marketing through memes and social media (which, although I largely avoid by virtue of not being on any social media, I still see when I go online) that has made me want to do it. Anyway, this paragraph really jumped out at me:
But, for all its twee escapism, vanlife is a trend born out of the recent recession. “We heard all these promises about what will happen after you go to college and get a degree,” Smith said. “We graduated at a time when all that turned out to be a bunch of bullshit.” The generation that’s fuelling the trend has significantly more student debt and lower rates of homeownership than previous cohorts. The rise of contract and temporary labor has further eroded young people’s financial stability. “I think there’s a sense of hopelessness in my generation, in terms of jobs,” Foster Huntington said. “And it’s cheap to live in a van.” And so, like staycations and minimalism, vanlife is an attempt to aestheticize and romanticize the precariousness of contemporary life. “It looks like they’re having fun,” Huntington said, of King and Smith. “But they’re working a lot.”
These days, I don’t know many who live in a van, but I do recognise the aestheticization of the simple life. In many ways, this blog is based on that. As well as this kind of creative response to the practical problems of living as a precariat, do you think that centering practices like mindfulness and gratitude are also more prevalent, as a coming to terms with or a making sense of this way of life?