Thursday, April 20, 2017

#VanLife? What a bunch of Hooey!

April 20, 2017-A thousand Unedited Words A Day in April

(Remember: this is written stream of conscious and relatively unedited-Good luck!)

I’m reading this article and I’m getting pissed off. It’s an article from the New Yorker called “#VanLife, The Bohemian Social-Media Movement.” This angst has been brewing within for a couple of years now, and it gets more irritated every time it's poked. Like an untreated injury, just getting worse and worse the more I bump it against something. Two years ago in Taekwondo, I was sparring with a titanium-constructed black belt (a lowly camo belt myself at the time) and we were sparring for points. I was winning. Me. A little hundred pound girl. He was freaking that I was winning so he did something he shouldn’t have done as a blackbelt: He lost control and came at me with a side kick. I raised my right leg to block and he planted his heel into the top of my foot, snapping my toe like a dry tree branch. You should see the pictures. It’s disgusting.

Anyway, I’m not good at resting and I was so into the sport at the time that I just kept right on going to classes. I did try to protect my toe by wearing a boot and not using that foot except to stand, but the toe kept getting knocked, bumped and jammed all the time, so it wasn’t healing. That’s kind of how I’m starting to feel every time I run across another “wanderer” or “adventurer” website, who’s posting their “adventures” as the way to earn their income. Something inside of me just rankles. Here’s the thing: as I scan their “stuff” it feels manufactured, manipulated, inauthentic. It’s not quite a lie, but there’s something about it...something about the fact that they are taking something I consider to be a long-time noble, even spiritual undertaking, and they’re commercializing it. They’re neutralizing the most powerful aspects, the most powerful, intangible rewards, of adventuring and I feel sorry for them. I also find it repugnant.

Take one of the things Foster Huntington (somewhat of a founder of the #vanlife movement) said in the New Yorker magazine. “You know, it’s not thug life—it’s van life!” What’s repugnant about that is that it’s a joking reference to Tupac Shakur’s movement, Thug Life. If you know anything about that, making any kind of comparison between Thug Life and a lifestyle CHOICE of some upper middle class white boy who quit his design job at Ralph Lauren (Huntington’s background) to travel around surf havens, doubtlessly calling Mom and Dad periodically when cash got low and things were probably just starting to really get interesting for him…it rankles. Want to hear another one of Tupac’s quotes, “Don’t support the phonies, support the real.” That’s something else that bothers me about all of this. It’s not that they’re having adventures, sharing them, and people are excited and eager to support them as adventurers (at least I don’t think that’s it, but that old subconscious, sometimes you just don’t know), it’s that I feel like they’re perverting both the noble pursuit and the idea of it. They’re turning it into a marketing scheme.

I know it’s not the first time that’s happened. I think we’re all familiar with Columbus and his theatrics to Queen Isabella to gain her financial support of his adventures, but, well, I think we can all agree that Columbus was a big jerk, too. But it’s not just Columbus. Adventurers have to have funding from somewhere, and wouldn’t it be even worse if the only folks allowed to get out there and explore were people who didn’t need to pander to outside sources for funds to fuel their adventurous drives, aka wealthy trustfunders?

So what else is it that bothers me? Okay. The staging of adventures and photos primarily for the sake of Instagram and Facebook posts. That bothers me because it makes everything about what they say or what they post feel inauthentic, like we’re being tricked. If you’re moving through your adventure with a lot of your attention focused on how you can best frame it for your fans, how can you share authentic experience. But why does that bother me so much? Since I’m writing these thousand words a day, stream of conscious style, that question really is posed to me and not you. What do I care? Shouldn’t I just be saying, “Kudos to them for being able to make enough money to let that be what they do!” But instead, I roll my eyes, and judge, judge, judge.

Here’s another thing: Since I published my book, Yoga Mama's Buddha Sandals, I’ve been researching how to get it out there, how to spread the word (I feel like I have an important message to share), and, also yes, truth be told, make some money from my own adventure story. So how am I different? Well, my story is from an authentic experience. Nothing about it was staged or manipulated or orchestrated for facebook or anywhere else. It was an adventure with real risks and rewards. That’s it. It’s all flipping real. Not staged for my “public.” Back to the point, as I’m trying to learn about how to market my book, so much of the techniques encourage, nay, advise to the point they say there’s no other way to do it, other than through a certain amount of inauthenticity. Like posting to Instagram six or more times a day (an actual technique) making your post look authentic, but they’re really not, because, if you’re really into living in the moment and exploring, why the hell would you pause six times a day to tweet, facebook or Instagram about your experience? Can’t you do anything without being connected to the shallowness that is social media? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really happen. If you experience something incredible but don’t rush to tweet about it…

Don’t get me wrong. I post about my adventures. But actually pretty rarely. What? Do you really think the only adventures I have are the few you read about on my blog or Facebook? Come on. I'm an adrenaline junkie. Most of the time I'm either too busy or want to keep it precious and personal. Or feel too cheesy about posting it or embarrassed. Did you read about my bike ride adventure which became a huge adventure only because of mistakes I made? Still, I love them even it they're the result of my own goofiness.

I do love a lot of what social media does for us. I love connecting and meeting cool new friends. But I don’t like this daily documentation of EVERYTHING. I don’t like the idea of “orchestrating” adventures.
And here’s another thing: For a lot of people in this economy: Vanlife isn’t a choice. It’s the only option. Maybe that’s something good about this whole #vanlife movement: it makes living out of your car seem glamorous, even for those that don’t have another choice. There’s more I could say about this and will say later, but I’ve hit my thousand for the day and I’ve got way more to do. So, for the moment, I put  a pin in it

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