Life-long mates and enthusiastic vanlifers Jonny Dustow and Jared Melrose launched Vanlife Dairies over a coffee one day in Collingwood. Both had been living on the road since 2012. Touring with music project Dusty Boots (Jonny), and taking extended roadtrips to explore Australia (Jared and his partner Ash), convinced the guys to shed their stifling mortgages and pursue a more nomadic path.
A way to share stories, van-conversion tips and travel advice, as well as simply help likeminded people connect in an authentic way, their digital community really took off.
Today, the popular virtual platform has expanded into meet-ups and campouts in support of aligned charities, with Colorado-based journalist/photographer Kathleen Morton jumping on board to take these Vanlife Gatherings global. Their inspiring new Vanlife Dairies book and an award-winning documentary are further testaments to a growing movement.
‘Humans are always evolving and needing to connect with themselves, each other, and their environment. Vanlife offers all three of those opportunities. While society remains fragmented, people will continue to keep looking outside of broken institutions for support, acceptance, and respect,’ tells Jared. ‘There is also a housing affordability crisis in Australia and unemployment issues, where people now look at the vanlife lifestyle and say, “Hey! Maybe I’ll downsize from my apartment to a home on wheels”.’
As a ‘bohemian social-media movement’, vanlife has spawned a new kind of celebrity, and been enthusiastically adopted by many (there are more than 5.2 million #vanlife posts on Instagram, from holiday snaps to marketing campaigns). At its heart, the lifestyle taps into some incredibly timely trends, ‘a renewed interest in the road trip, a culture of hippie-inflected outdoorsiness, and a life free from the tyranny of a nine-to-five office job’ as The New Yorker puts it.
Whether you’re dreaming, pinning and planning like crazy, or find yourself in the need-my-comforts skeptic’s camp, these first-hand accounts from local vanlifers sure make life on the road seem very appealing (picture-perfect or otherwise!).
There are several Vanlife Gatherings planned for spring along Australia’s east coast; find out more at Vanlife.com.au. You can follow the movement on Instagram @vanlifediaries, watch ‘The Meaning of Vanlife’ documentary here, or pick up hardcover Vanlife Diaries by Kathleen Morton, Jonny Dustow and Jared Melrose, published by Hardie Grant Books AU$39.99 NZ$45.00, where all good books are sold.