November 1, 2011

Van Life

Not until experiencing something for myself can I really appreciate it.  Call me thick headed, but it’s been true about autumn in New England,  sex, and most recently, camper vehicles, or as I call it, van life.  I purchased my Syncro with no prior knowledge of van life.  Operating on the assumption that I liked the freedom and exploration offered by living out of a van, I committed to trying it out.  A handful of interesting people’s stories of the road reassured me that it was the right thing to do.  Ships of the open road are hard to understand when you’re not sailing them.  Now that I am sailing my own,  I have grown to appreciate the breed of adventurers they attract and the vehicles they drive.

The older and more weathered, the better.   Dents, rust and scrapes equate to good stories.  Each time I see a van, I imagine all of the adventures they facilitate.  Trips to Big Sur, Cross-country road trips,  Baja and back.  Dream it up, and it’s been done.  At least twice.

For generations, vans have been a vehicle for people to explore the conquered frontier on their own terms.  There is no need for hotels, restaurants or mass transportation. Leave when you want and head where you please.

Van life runs on a simple premise: fill up with gas, stock up with groceries and head towards a place rumored cool.  Hippes did it in the ’60’s and there are plenty of people doing it today.

This Syncro Westfalia has been there and back.

Like the best restaurants, reservations are not accepted.

The trailer is for firewood.  The owner uses this ’78 when he’s not captaining a salvage tugboat in the Channel Islands.  He bought his for $3000 on eBay.

These guys started in Montreal and are heading to Patagonia.  Livin’ the dream.

The driver and year unknown, but presumed awesome.

Once the bug bites, it’s hard to shake.  I spotted these all of these VW Vans in the last week on the Northern California Coast.  I look forward to seeing more and guessing their journeys.

Here are some more links,

Van Life (Picasa),

Saddle Tramps,



  • November 1 , 2011

    What a great post. Most of my “van life” has been the result of rock tours and long drives to play shows, so I have seen my share. My wife and I are currently thinking about our next vehicle, something we are one major repair away from needing, and lust over every van like those you have pictured that we see. So, thanks!

    Best post I’ll see all week. . . .

  • November 1 , 2011

    you cant go wrong with a van. In going to own one for the rest of my life. the freedom is contagious. I just photographed vw’s for this post but am going to continue photographing other vans and their owners.

  • November 1 , 2011

    If you make it through Austin, Texas, please look me up. I’m fixing up an ’84 Ivory westy. Ready for the road.

  • November 1 , 2011

    What are you doing to it? Westy’s are the best. I’m heading to Austin in the spring and will drop you a line.


  • Don
    November 1 , 2011

    I’ve always loved airstreams. Airstreams and vans must be related.

  • November 1 , 2011

    What I thought was an electrical gremlin in the Fuel Pump system is all pointing to me replacing the Fuel Pump outright. Learned a bunch. I have the new parts, but have not made it out to the street to work on it yet. Van is running now, but I have been reluctant to go on a long trip. In time.

    Here is a map of the bike ride I went on to pick this one up:

    And a pic of the van:

    Safe travels!

  • November 1 , 2011

    looks like a good van. get it up and running and go exploring. its cool your doing the work yourself. id like to do that on a simple vehicle. the syncro is a clusterfuck to work on.

    same idea. airstreams are killer. i want to live in an airstream parked in a warehouse when i settle down,


  • Scott B
    November 2 , 2011

    Nice – makes me miss my old ’74 Westy.

  • claire
    November 2 , 2011

    nice post as always. have you seen bass ackwards? protagonist travels with his vw van, nice scenery of the pacific northwest (seattle!). just a condensed description of the film, obviously.

  • November 2 , 2011

    I love Airstreams. I lived a couple years near Jackson Center, OH, where they are manufactured. Used to love driving by there just to look at them.

  • November 3 , 2011

    Again a post I can completely relate to, even if I did most of my trips with my Passat and tent instead of the Vanagon, I spent a lot of time in my van driving crisscross Belgium and even once to Italy through Switzerland (with a 57hp diesel …). The smaller works on the mechanics are relatively simple and easy to do but the access is a pain in the butt, I did leave many curses in the air because of all the scratches and even burnt fingers this van left me … Again, a vehicle I never want to sell, it’s screaming freedom even when just sitting behind the giant unpowered steering wheel :)

  • November 7 , 2011

    Rolling bedrooms and base camps. Dig it.

    Can a van be livable, long-term? Anyone know any stories/people who spent years/decades/lifetime on the road?

  • November 7 , 2011

    I havent seen ass backwards. i will try to look it up,

    Airstreams are bad ass, a little big for my needs but still very bad ass. i have a few friends that swear by them.

    i wish mine was diesel. sounds like you had a blast.

    The outage,
    i have met people who have lived for 10 years in their vans. its all about your priorities and the compromises youre willing to make.


  • November 12 , 2011

    My parents bought a new Vanagon in 1984 (when I was 5) and our family of seven took it all over the country, including driving to Alaska and back. I have a lot of fond memories of that vehicle and get a twinge of nostalgia whenever I see one.