Why Vanlife Instagrams are fake

If you’ve read my previous posts or have been following my Instagram, you may have noticed a deficit of posts for a couple of months now. There are a lot of things I could blame that on (going back to work, school, etc.), but those would all just be excuses. The reality is that I’ve become disenchanted with social media and blogging as a whole, and I’ve been conflicted about what version of the story I should be presenting.

The title of this project has been The True Cost of Vanlife, and yet I haven’t really been presenting that. Sure, I’ve talked about money and vented a little about the struggles of trying to build something I really didn’t have the skills to build. But even that has been filtered and edited and hashtagged into an unrealistic portrayal.

It’s hard to talk about, and this post is hard to write. As a journalism student, I was taught to appeal to the wants of readers. I was taught the importance of hashtags, filters and giving an audience what they want. As an individual, social media has groomed me to do the same. There’s this unspoken pressure to always be the “best version of yourself” online. Nobody wants to read about how you over drafted your account three times in one month or about what you’ve cried about lately. Nobody wants to see your bad hair day or your messy room or the thirty bad selfies you had to take before you found one you were willing to post.

At least, that’s what we’re conditioned to think. The same thought process has plagued me throughout this project. No one wants to hear about the all nighter I pulled looking for vans online or to see an unflattering picture of me working on the van in 90 degree weather. No one wants to see pictures of the thousands of ants that were crawling under the floor mat when it got delivered to my house. No one wants to see the ugly or stressful parts of anything, vanlife included. And no one wants to talk about them either. If they do, its usually in a watered-down way that gets glanced over in the caption of an otherwise pleasant picture of the view of the ocean from the back windows of a van.

Vanlife Instagrams don’t do justice to the reality of vanlife, mine included. At least, that’s been my experience so far. I knew logically that this project wouldn’t be as carefree and easy as other people make it seem, but I’ve found myself discouraged on multiple occasions in feeling like I was alone in my less than pleasant experiences. I think a lot of us feel that way in our daily lives in general.

No ones life is as perfect as it seems online. No project is as easy as it looks and not everyone is having fun all the time. That’s okay. It’s okay if your life isn’t as picture perfect as other people’s may seem, and comparing your reality to their edited version of things is only going to make you feel worse. You’d think it would’ve taken less for me to realize that.

From here on, I aspire to be more authentic in my approach to this project and how I post about it. I’m sure that will also be more challenging that expected.

In writing this, I don’t want to discredit the positive aspects of this project, which I’m incredibly grateful to be able to do. My ability to do this is a privilege, and I’ve been blessed to have help from numerous people. My dad has put countless hours into this project, which was something I had never intended to ask of him. Steve Johnson, the founder of LightWave Solar, did thousands of dollars worth of work installing the the solar components for free because he supported this project. I can never thank them enough for that, and I really wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own. This hasn’t been easy. Not all of this has been fun. None of it has been glamorous, but it has been a life-changing experience.

If anyone has any questions about the project, they can contact me via email at truecostofvanlife@gmail.com, and if you’re interested in seeing the build progress, there are updated photos on my Instagram. (The solar is in, the lights work, the walls are painted and we’re working on getting the kitchen built before I move in on the 31st!)



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