By now, Brent Rose is a recognized face of the #vanlife movement, and the story of a break-up that turned into residing in a vehicle for the last three years is part of his mythos. We learned all about it when we interviewed him in February. At that time, he was six months past the finish line he established when he started living on the road. Now, he’s over a year past that point, and there’s no sign that he’ll stop any time soon. Commitment remains a scary undertaking. Join the club, Brent. One of us. One of us.
We sat down with him to talk about his myriad talents and how they help with life in a van, the projects he has taken on during his time in the van, whether or not it’s really affordable (especially in the case of his van, which is like the Bat Cave), and what he has planned for the future (spoiler: it’s not a lease). There’s also a fair amount of talk about parking, but it’s really interesting and involves a story about a dive bar in Nashville that made us really think van living is the most sensible way to live.
So, you pretty much do everything. You act, you write, you’re outdoorsy, you’re sporty. Even your writing covers like 57 different topics.
Give me sort of a short bio of Brent Rose, a modern Jack of all trades.
It’s been a long history of falling ass backwards into different adventures. I was an actor from the age of like 15 or so. That’s what I was going to do, and I was on that mission. I went to grad school for acting, I moved to New York for it, and it was going alright. It was a little slow, but not too bad. I did a few films, some soap operas, a lot of web stuff, and a lot of plays, of course. Then, I was just looking for something better to do for money in-between shows than temping. Somebody posted a Facebook article or ad thing saying, “Hey, does anybody know someone that uses Android phones and can write? PC World is looking for somebody who can do app reviews for them.”
This was the early days of Androids, for example I think I had the Motorola Droid. It was the third Android phone or something. I was like, “Oh, yeah, I could probably bullshit my way through app reviews. A three-paragraph app review? No problem.” Everybody in my family is essentially either an engineer or a doctor, so I have science in my blood. It’s genetically hardwired in there. I was like, “Yeah, between like the creative writing and that, I’m sure I can figure it out.” That snowballed into this crazy journalism career that led me to being full-time at Gizmodo, which was kind of a big fork in the road for me because if I was taking a full-time job, then my agent was going to drop me. I decided to go for it and it paid off.
Gizmodo was great, and my editor at the time, Joe Brown, really encouraged people to write about the things they are most interested in, write about things they care about. I had a wide range of interests, and I got to take over part of the outdoor coverage and adventure coverage. I got to start a booze column for them and did all their action stuff. Anything that took me out of the office and got me outside, I took that beat. I started health and fitness columns.
Then when I finally did go freelance, I had this body of work that I could show different outlets. I could take it to a health and fitness magazine and show them my health and fitness stuff or take it to a lifestyle thing and show my booze stuff or any of the technology places. Then finally, I met somebody who was making videos for Wired, and I had worked for Wired already. We had coffee teamed up on a show together. Now, I am combining the two career paths that I’ve had, where I’m still doing on camera/comedy/hosting stuff and I’m also doing the geeky, gadgety, techie things.
It sounds like it also naturally sets you up for living in a van because you’re drawing from all the tech knowledge to keep the van going and you were already looking for assignments that took you out of the office.
Exactly. Very much so. I’d been freelance for a few years before the van thing happened. I was already working from wherever. I was going through a big life transition and wasn’t really anchored to any one spot. I asked myself, “What’s the logical extreme? If I can work from anywhere, how far can I push that?” I came up with this whole van idea as a way to be the ultimate in noncommittal. The idea to pick up and go somewhere else on a whim and work from wherever and park it and fly somewhere and come back to it and drive somewhere else? It was kind of exactly what I wanted at the time.