Back in November and December our team spent many hours discussing successes and areas of improvement throughout 2021. If you were following our journey on social media, you saw us regularly encourage everyone to #buildyourdream. Our 2021 goal was to inspire customers to create the van of their dreams, from a fully loaded rig like Armadillo, to a low-profile set up like Photowanderer II. It’s 2022 and you’ve built your dream van. Now what? Now it’s time to #livebeyond. Live beyond fears, convention, expectations, and mundane. Or maybe you haven’t quite figured out van life. That’s okay too! The point is, get out there and fully enjoy the dream you’ve turned into a reality.
We decided to set quarterly media goals to capture those living life to the fullest, with the help of an Outside Van. We discussed various outdoor pastimes, hobbies, and out of the box ways people make the most of our wide world. Kiteboarding, wild foraging, cyclocross, screen printing, triathlons, freediving, splunking, producing music, hunting, ice climbing, and so much more… It was hard not to feel inspired and excited to capture these stories!
Our first project was a great and simultaneously daunting undertaking. Where do you start when you’ve never done something before? We had grand ideas with the beginner’s naïve energy to take them all head on, but we also needed to set ourselves up for a successful launch. You can’t burn out before the van even gets rolling! Relief came when our photographer, Jon, told us about his close friend and expert fly fisherman, Lauren Street. Street lives close enough for us to make a long weekend trip together and as Jon likes to say, “Street will fish in any body of water.” Street has been fishing for as long as she can remember, and we were lucky to spend the weekend with her.
We can yada yada over internal meetings discussing logistics, back and forth texts about menus, and time loving lost while browsing the Orvis website and skip to good part: a long weekend spent on the river, capturing content, and casting lines, all thanks to van life.
Cruising down to the Smith Rock State Park area of central Oregon (exact locations and fishing holes undisclosed), was one of our newest builds first opportunity to let loose on the open road. Stingray is a 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 170. This rig was built to provide the most amount of space, storage, and comfort for one person while still being more than enough for two adventurous travelers, with sleeping accommodations for a young family. A mobile utility knife, van of all trades.
It was a bright and brisk Friday afternoon when we arrived at our campsite. The team spent a few moments oohing and awing over the beautiful landscape before us. Everyone grabbed their gear and systematically went to work capturing stills and video, all that would eventually become the media for this blog post, website gallery, Van Spotlight, and social media fodder. In this new era of Zoom meetings and remote work, it’s rare to find time to spend with coworkers in person and outside a work setting. It’s even more rare to truly enjoy that vital time fostering camaraderie. This was the first outing the relatively new marketing team had together. With many more upcoming hours spent on the road, working events, and capturing media all throughout, it’s important the team likes one another. Check! As dusk approached leaving us in the literal dark, Street arrived as cans of Migration Brewing were passed around and preparations commenced for making steak burritos. Exhausted and full, everyone was eager for the next day.
A chilly 18* morning brought everyone into the heated van for copious amounts of coffee. Stingray features our four-panel bed system. The forward most panel is set on a hinge, allowing it to fold down as a comfy backrest or raise up into an extended sleeping space. Two rear benches allow for additional sleeping, seating, and storage. Rotating Captain’s Chairs ensure everyone has space to gather without feeling completely on top of one another. Fueled up (for the time being), the team got to work capturing our familiar Van Spotlight lifestyle content. Justin worked his cinematic magic capturing those quintessential panning time lapses and reveals while Jon and Street worked on detailed close ups.
By the afternoon it had warmed enough for our brave travelers to don their waders and slowly work their way out into the Crooked River. Street’s deep love for fishing is evident when she’s on dry land. To watch her in her element wading out into the water is something special. Having grown up in northwestern North Carolina, Street has been fishing for as long as she can remember. Her father held her strapped to his chest in a baby carrier while he stood in a river throwing his casts. By eight years old, Street was tying her own flies. Later in life, her father opened several fly-fishing shops. The connection they share for this sport extends to global tributaries. Street has fished across the United States, within Mexico, and British Columbia is a top spot on her bucket list. There was plenty of laughing, snagging lines, cursing, losing flies, and eventually catching a delicate 8” trout. An avid believer in “catch and release”, Street gently placed the fish back into the water, knowingly allowing it a chance to acclimate before removing her hands, and the team headed back to camp.
After a full day of work, moving around, and more direct sunlight than anyone had felt in a while, the team settled into Stingray’s cabin once again for hot coffee, plenty of snacks, and a debrief quickly devolving into best part of van life, deeper conversations bringing greater understanding of ourselves and those we share this world with. We had spent so much time planning this weekend, thinking through practical logistics and must-have deliverables, it was a pleasant surprise when a collective exhale found everyone. With only a bit of work left in the morning, we saw a light at the end of our tunnel. We had proven to ourselves we could pull something of this scale off, work incredibly hard together, and wake up the next day ready for more.