NEW YORK, April 30, 2021 (Newswire.com) - As many predicted, Nomadland won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Chloé Zhao became the second woman and first woman of color to win Best Director, while Frances McDormand picked up her third Best Actress win.
Based on a true story, the film follows Fern, a widow in her 60s who loses everything in the Great Recession and becomes a modern-day nomad, living and traveling in her van—aptly named Vanguard (fans of The Vow cringe).
The COVID-19 pandemic led to an economic crisis that for many Americans was worse than the 2008 recession, so Nomadland is likely relatable for many.
Homelessness amid COVID-19
According to the 2020 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, homelessness was on the rise in the U.S. before the pandemic, with a 2.2% increase from 2019 to 2020. The recession stemming from coronavirus is expected to lead to roughly twice as much homelessness as the Great Recession, according to a report from the Economic Roundtable.
But as Fern says early on in Nomadland, "I'm not homeless. I'm just house-less. Not the same thing, right?"
During the pandemic, some people who lost their jobs or saw a decrease in their income also lost their homes and are living in their vehicles as a last resort. But there are others who have done so as a lifestyle choice. With many continuing to work remotely even a year later, #VanLife offers a relatively affordable way to stay socially distanced while enjoying the outdoors.
The growth of the #VanLife phenomenon
It's tough to get an accurate picture of how many people live in vans across the U.S., but the #VanLife hashtag on Instagram has nearly 10 million results.
Throughout the film, several people, including Fern's sister, offer her a place to stay but she refuses each time. During a small gathering at her sister's house, Fern gets into an argument with a realtor: "It's strange that you encourage people to invest their whole life savings, go into debt, just to buy a house they can't afford."
Van life is a bit of an extreme way to potentially achieve a debt-free lifestyle. With no mortgage or rent to pay and limited bills, the cost of living is relatively low.
According to an Outbound Living survey of 725 van lifers across the globe, about one-third of people convert their vans into dwellings for less than $5,000, and most people said they spend less than $100/person per week while traveling.
Working while on-the-go
Fern—who finishes up a seasonal job at Amazon in the beginning of the film—and her community spend most of their time searching for seasonal work.
In the Outbound Living survey, nearly half of respondents said their job doesn't fit a specific category and about 10% said they worked seasonal jobs.
Van life isn't for the faint of heart—get used to defecating in a bucket—but if you're willing to work odd jobs or have remote work that allows you to stay on the move, you could find more joy with this lifestyle than a traditional, buttoned-up, working-for-the-man way of life.
-2020 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress (Department of Housing and Urban Development)