It’s hard not to admire people who take a shot at living the vanlife. It’s also natural to be hyped on extreme athletes finding creative ways to make use of our natural wonders. And who wouldn’t swoon over photographers capturing cultures and lifestyles we all want to know more about? So you can imagine why we were fired up to interview Michael Madsen — a photographer/ videographer/ action sports enthusiast who does all of these things while living the vanlife. The man is a goddamned unicorn.
Madsen and girlfriend Liz Thomas are currently making their way around North America in a 1985 Ford van, known as the Blue Buddha. It’s a part of what they call Project Flowmance, a travel vlog of their “grand adventures, performances, and aerial stunts.” They’re combining their shared loves of highlines and aerial silks with visual storytelling to defy gravity and record some of the most breathtaking images we’ve seen in a long while.
We sat down with Madsen to ask all about the project and what it’s like to be a multi-hyphenate living the vanlife. He told us about the origins of Flowmance, how he came to live in a van, and some of the coolest things he and Liz have experienced so far. We were inspired to find new ways to interact with the world around us. We hope you will be too.
How did you and your girlfriend Liz create Project Flowmance?
Liz and I met three years ago at the GGBY Highline Gathering in Moab, Utah. Liz is always dressed really well and looks really amazing, and she’s such a talented aerialist and highliner. I’ve always gravitated towards capturing images of her while we’re out in the desert. Last year, we met up in Joshua Tree and then I left for the Philippines for about five months this year. When I came back, Liz and I had kind of been talking and wanted to start dating. When I came back into the country, we put up this project together. It naturally evolved ’cause we’re talking about all of the locations we’re gonna hit and what we’re gonna do for just capturing photography.
It evolved into us shooting a video series about it. The series just goes behind the scenes and captures some of these really unique and creative and wild images that we do in these beautiful places. It’s just turned into a fun project for us. It’s already gotten pretty big for us. Our third episode is about us going to Canada for the Squamish Highline gathering. That was a major destination in our trip. We went from Salt Lake City (Liz flew into Salt Lake City, and I picked her up at the Salt Lake City airport) then we headed to the Wanderlust in Squaw Valley. We taught for the YogaSlackers, then we directed up towards Canada for the Squamish Highline gathering.
The idea was to then go all the way to the border of Mexico and get a margarita and reminisce about the whole trip. We’re in California and we started doing some construction for a ropes course building company. We’ve been climbing redwood trees and building ziplines in Santa Cruz for the last month.