This is an excerpt from our soon to be released ‘Out There’ book, which follows a group of individuals who have eschewed the tried and true for something different.
For years Mike Jonesy dreamed of traveling the open the road. However, his dream van -the Toyota Hiace- was admittedly out of his price range. But rather than settle for a cheaper, ubiquitius alternative like an E-series or used sprinter, Jonesy gritted his teeth and spent nearly four months working all the overtime they’d allow at the local coffee shop where he worked as a barista. He told us, “I wanted to stand out, and had I pulled the plug on one of the ‘normal’ vans, I’d likely have spent the rest of my time spent travelling regretting the purchase.”
During those months Jonesy also worked on cultivating his aesthetic, which he stresses is the key to standing out in the increasingly saturated van-life blogging scene. Soon he had a well-manicured beard, was a pro at using retro filters on his iphone, and had discovered a network of like-minded van-dwellers to collaborate with. As a result, he was able to build up a thriving Instagram account (as of today he’s up to 6000 followers).
The Hiace wasn’t cheap- Jonesy said he spent far more than he had originally budgeted for in making it roadworthy- but 15 grand later he was finally able to hit the road, and 9 months on he has no thoughts of going back to his old life, although he cautions us that not everything is as glamorous as Instagram might portray it. “For example,” he told us, “You see these wonderful pictures of vandwellers lying in bed, looking up at the stars through the open back tailgate of the van. Well, here’s the real version of that: the swarms of mosquitoes are likely so bad you’re forced to sleep with all the windows closed. Imagine waking up at 2am to a noise in your van –remember, it’s a metal box, and despite the insulation, it’s likely 90 degrees in there, so you’re coated with sweat. The noise? Earlier in the night it was homeless people fighting in the nearby parking lot. Now it’s your girlfriend’s upset stomach –she’s a blogger as well, but also works as a camgirl to help pay for travel expenses– and at this moment she’s defecating in a sawdust-filled bucket, just inches from your sweat-soaked futon. It’s so muggy in the van you can taste it. No amount of air freshener or cross-breeze is going to fully eradicate that smell–or that visceral image.”
Currently, Mike is in Iowa, where he said the unique-looking Japanese van is getting loads of attention. You can find Mike on Facebook and Instagram @gingervandweller.