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Smith, a competitive mountain biker and the manager of a kayak store, had never had a traditional office job.They figured they could live cheaply in a van while placing what they loved—travelling, surfing, mountain biking—at the center of their lives.

King, a telegenic former business student, had quit her job at a Sotheby’s branch when she realized that she was unhappy.

“That’s what we’re trying to tap into.”“You could buy these vans ten years ago for pennies on the dollar,” Harley Sitner, the owner of Peace Vans, a Volkswagen-van repair and rental shop in Seattle, told me.

Sitner, who is forty-nine, said that his generation’s adventurous rite of passage was more along the lines of “backpacking through Southeast Asia, eating mushrooms on a beach in Thailand.” Around five years ago, he began to notice that young people were increasingly interested in old VW vans.

Lucas Valdes, the owner of the California-based company Go Westy, a prominent seller of Volkswagen-van parts, compared vanlife today to surfing a couple of decades ago.

“So many people identify with the culture, the attire, the mind-set of surfers, but probably only about ten per cent of them surf,” he said.

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