Among all the young people living on the road, there’s a segment who are able to sustain their lifestyle because they work remotely. That means a lot of waking up early to find coffee shops with wifi and arranging travel calendars to accommodate meetings and deadlines. It’s a hustle that isn’t often visible in the colorful travel photos that fill Instagram accounts. Then there are vanlifers who eschew tech-world ties, finding work as they travel from place to place. Though this is a more traditional approach to life on the road, we just don’t often get to hear about it.
Kit Whistler and JR Switchgrass have been crisscrossing the nation for over a decade in their van Sunshine, and they finance their adventures as they go. Believe us, these people know their way around a farm. But it all works as part of a larger philosophy they have deemed Idle Theory. Their approach has garnered them 154K Instagram followers and, among insiders, they are often looked at as thought leaders of the modern travel movement.
We spoke to the duo to learn more about this idea and how they practice it daily, as well as their top travel destination and how people have responded to their lifestyle. As you read, it’s interesting to consider the role that work and idleness play in your own life, whether you live in a van or not.
Why don’t you tell me about what made you decide to live and work on the road full time?
Kit: The first year that we hit the road was 2010. We’d been college students and were sick of using only our minds, sitting at a desk. Actually, our first impulse to hit the road was to go do farm work as we traveled. That was our goal of our first year on the road. We traveled up and down the west coast doing different group harvests.
JR: Basically, we wanted to get out and use our bodies and be in the natural world. We wanted to be in the world in a physical way. Getting into a van pushes you to do that because you have nowhere to go but outside. You’re outside all the time, and you can use your physical body.
Were you in the orange bus at that time?
Kit: Yes, we were. We’ve had our bus Sunshine for 11 years now. We got it as a daily driver back in college, and we already had the bus. We just drove it around, and sometimes we camped in it on weekends. Since we knew we wanted to go, we just wanted to get out. It was more running away from something we didn’t want in the beginning, and we didn’t want a sedentary lifestyle. We didn’t want to sit down all the time. We didn’t really know what we did want, we just knew what we didn’t want. We got into the bus we already had, and we didn’t really do anything to build it out or anything. We just went for it. We didn’t really know what we’re doing.
JR: Let’s say that’s something we did a little bit in reverse. A lot of people dream and plan out their van and make it all pretty. And then the day they decide to go out on their trip, they find out they don’t even like being out there. We did the complete opposite where we had a bus, so we got in and we drove away. We figured out the rest from there.