Have you ever heard the phrase “van life”?
This is a movement of people – mostly your young, American, hipster types – who have given up their worldly possessions and high-paying jobs to travel the world in a van.
I guess you could equate the van life movement with the counter culture of the 60s. Only this time, instead of Timothy Leary telling people to “turn on, tune in and drop out”, you have the social media hashtag, #vanlife.
That may sound flippant, but what most people probably don’t realise is that this hashtag has a huge following of people from all around the world.
#vanlife has become so popular that major manufacturers are creating vans with the movement in mind.
From Fast Company:
At this year’s Madrid Auto Show, Nissan unveiled two new campers–the NV300 and e-NV200–that it says were specifically designed for van life. Their cute and happy exterior design does look particularly Instagrammy, with splashes of pop color that remind me of the classic 1960s surfer vans.
I suppose it helps that the majority of people who subscribe to this movement are “digital nomads” who work in journalism and social media.
They are the type of people who create and curate social media trends.
So, perhaps, the movement isn’t quite as big as it seems. But it certainly has a draw for people feeling like there must be a better life out there.
All they need to do is type “van life” into Google or follow the #vanlife hashtag, and they’ll see millions of posts from people showing exactly what they’re missing out on.
And by millions, I do mean millions. There are over 4 million Instagram posts with the #vanlife hashtag, and millions more on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube et al.
Still, the van life movement would never catch on in the UK, right? Wrong. Even here, in the rainy UK, van life has become a major trend.
Only in the UK, it’s less a way of life and more of a holiday idea.
From The Times:
Across the UK, a growing number of people are ditching thoughts of buying a second home abroad, or converting the loft, and instead are buying and repurposing them to create flexible, compact houses on wheels.
Travelling in a camper is nothing new — plenty of people have loved the freedom and flexibility of motor homes for decades. But in the age of Pinterest and YouTube and a nationwide appetite for, er, wood, converting a bog-standard utility van has become one of the hottest home trends.
Like all trends, this one has a name. #vanlife is one of the most popular wanderlust-inspiring hashtags on Instagram, with 3.5m posts, and counting. Once the domain of hunky surfers and their svelte yogi girlfriends, posting stylised pictures of their van-cum-home in the Californian sunset, #vanlife has made its way to British shores, with couples, families and their dogs piling into their converted campers to enjoy a home away from home. Cornwall, here we come.
Why am I talking about a lifestyle trend in a tech investment newsletter?
Because, as driverless cars become commonplace van life is going to become much, much more popular.
I wrote about a similar idea in March, but back then I was only writing about cars.
The main downsides of #vanlife as it currently stands are (if I’m inclined to believe the social media posts):
- The need to find a parking space before it gets dark
- A lack of space
- The stress of route planning and navigation
- Many, many hours driving
- The expense of campsites and the difficulty in finding free parking
- Storage of clothes, food, water – everything
- The lack of a good internet connection.
Driverless camper vans will solve, or at least massively reduce, all these problems.
They will have a lot of extra space, because there won’t need to be space taken up by a driving seat and steering wheel.
They will navigate and drive themselves. No need to spend hours at the wheel. You can either sleep, do some work or chill out as the van drives you to your next location.
And there will be no need to fear not finding a parking space. The van will simply continue driving around until it finds somewhere well-suited and park up itself.
As for the internet, well, that problem may soon be solved by Starlink – which I wrote about on Monday.
I know people will say that regulation will prevent a vision like this from becoming a reality. But, as it turns out, driverless cars are coming fast. Much faster than most people think.
As I have written before, Addison Lee is launching a fleet of driverless taxis in London next year. And in October, California announced it had approved permits for Google’s self-driving car company Waymo to launch in cities around California.
#selfdrivingvanlife really isn’t so far away at all.
Even if it doesn’t change most people’s way of life. It could definitely change the way they take their holidays and use their leisure time.
As The Times says, “a growing number of people are ditching thoughts of buying a second home abroad, or converting the loft, and instead are buying and repurposing them to create flexible, compact houses on wheels.”
Imagine how many more will do it when that van can chauffer them around and take them to beautiful destinations while they sleep.
But then again, I imagine the fear of your van driving you off a cliff while you sleep will take some time to subside.
Until next time,
Editor, Exponential Investor