Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


American Studies

Reader 1

Lily Geismer

Rights Information

© 2015 Joseph W Dorn


This thesis analyzes the countercultural community known as VanLife. Foster Huntington coined the term VanLife in 2011, when he decided to leave his comfortable job at Ralph Lauren and detach from society. Foster and many other individuals have moved into their vans to gain more freedom and live simply. For this thesis I studied the stories about life on the road, written by VanLife participants. I examined their blogs, photographs, and Instagram accounts. I did a literary analysis of Kerouac’s famous Beat novel, On The Road, as well as Steinbeck’s travel memoir, Travels with Charley.

I wanted to understand the common threads between the people who engage in this unique way of life known as VanLife. Also, I wanted find the motivation and inspiration for the community as a whole. Finally, I was fascinated in the role of social media, and how it could be problematic for a group that was determined to detach from mainstream society. I learned that the desire to connect with nature, explore unseen places, detach from societal pressures, and tell stories, are all important values to people in the VanLife community. Story telling is at the heart of their experiences, and it appears in many forms: photography, blogs, and websites. Social media can present problems for the group, but overall it is a tool that is positively utilized to connect with other like-minded individuals. The growth of VanLife illustrates the increasing desire for individuals to detach from the pressures of society and regain connection to simpler times and activities.