(Vanlife): Dirtbagging in Joshua Tree National Park

A short documentary about modern day vanlife: the good, the bad, and everything in between. Filmed out in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, I lived out of a van myself and befriended a group of solo vanlife travelers to capture the essence of this dirtbag, rock climbing, live-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle. Through my interviews with multiple solo travelers, this story aims to break common stereotypes about van life, revealing very real challenges and also discovering the true rewards of living on the road.

  • Meghan Hill
  • Meghan Hill
  • Meghan Hill
  • Dillon Patterson
    Key Cast
  • Genevieve Jahn
    Key Cast
  • Nate Vince
    Key Cast
  • Hope Chipman
    Key Cast
  • Alexi Beaudet-Roy
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    20 minutes 9 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 6, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    600 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital HD, Nikon DLSR
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Ithaca College Thesis Cinema Production Screening
    United States
    May 7, 2017
Director Biography - Meghan Hill

I am a senior Cinema & Photography major (graduating from Ithaca College in May 2017) with an avid passion for Outdoor Adventure. Hailing from Dover, New Hampshire, I enjoy traveling to new places, camping, rock climbing, and meeting new people.

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Director Statement

As an emerging filmmaker and outdoor education advocate, I often gravitate towards making films with a sense of adventure, towards people who stray away from the norms of modern society, and towards telling stories that encapsulate my own personal experiences and outdoor expeditions. It can often be a challenge to find the ideal balance between documenting my outdoor adventure experiences and actually living those experiences in the moment without distracting equipment. To find that balance, I enjoy using minimal equipment, natural lighting, and run & gun documentary style to allow the viewer to stand as if right next to me, immersed in the same adventure as I.
Film is one of the most powerful visual mediums, able to change minds, influence ideas, and explore multiple views within our world. Focusing on cinematography and compelling personal stories as motivation for others to get outside, my goal in filmmaking is to inspire my generation to adventure, explore, and protect the natural world we live in.
My films are used to expose countercultures in our society as well as to break stereotypes often associated with them. In my senior thesis short documentary film, “(Van)life: Dirtbagging in Joshua Tree National Park”, I befriended a group of solo vanlife travelers who were each living on the road out of their vehicles and I set out to capture the essence of this dirtbag, rock climbing, by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle. Through each of their different perspectives, my story aimed to break common stereotypes about vanlife, revealing very real challenges, and also discovering the true rewards of living on the road. My goal was not necessarily to change people’s minds on vanlife entirely, but rather to expose them to an alternative way of living. Perhaps, even, my film could persuade someone to live a similar lifestyle, or at least give life on the road a solid try. If I can enlighten someone and show them that vanlife is more than just smelly dirtbags and beautiful instagrams, that it is a genuine way of life to be respected as any other, and they begin to understand and accept this perspective, then I will have achieved my goal.
As my passion for filmmaking merges with my outdoor adventure pursuits, I am constantly thinking of new ways to spread my message about exploring and protecting our natural world. In the future, I aim to branch out and tell stories other than my own; I want to travel as widely as possible, find people who wish to share their own adventure, and help them make it a reality. Engaging in an individual’s personal adventure story opens your own mind to the opportunities of what you can achieve for yourself and stimulates that adventure bug inside us all. From vanlife to rock climbing, from desert to rainforest, and from voice to voice, my filmmaking is a journey from one outdoor adventure to the next. Each new adventure is a step into the unknown…and the possibilities are endless.