Dream of summertime, be an Airman in a van

Drew Schlieder and Michaela Klein, 341st Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation Center staff, relax at Pow Wow Park April 4, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Malmstrom’s Outdoor Recreation Center staff take active duty and civilian personnel out to see and explore Montana on adventure trips. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kiersten McCutchan)

Drew Schlieder and Michaela Klein, 341st Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation Center staff, relax at Pow Wow Park April 4, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Malmstrom’s Outdoor Recreation Center staff take active duty and civilian personnel out to see and explore Montana on adventure trips. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kiersten McCutchan)

180404-F-UQ541-0819 Drew Schlieder and Michaela Klein, 341st Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation Center staff, pose with an adventure Air Force van at Pow Wow Park April 4, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Malmstrom’s Outdoor Recreation Center rents seasonal sports gear and transportation equipment for people to get out and experience the Mountain States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kiersten McCutchan)

Drew Schlieder and Michaela Klein, 341st Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation Center staff, pose with an adventure Air Force van at Pow Wow Park April 4, 2018, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Malmstrom’s Outdoor Recreation Center rents seasonal sports gear and transportation equipment for people to get out and experience the Mountain States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kiersten McCutchan)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --

Social media is saturated with glamourous, fit, adventurous people traveling to the world’s most beautiful places, snapping the nature or wildlife shot of a lifetime, all the while making a living – and a home – out of a van.

 

Lounge chairs, bikes, skis or stand-up paddleboards lean against a classic, bohemian Volkswagen or off-road Chevrolet Astro van. Look for a couple of cute dogs and a crystal lake in the background. Someone is reading while the sun shines down on people and sports gear paused for an overnighter in front of heartbreakingly beautiful mountains or waves in an exotic locale.

 

Photos of peak bags, natural hot springs, soft fog on the hillside, fresh caught fish on the hibachi – these images evoke thoughts of peace, time to oneself and solitude away from the masses. People who capture and publish this life on social media have earned some serious bragging rights and often thousands of followers.

 

This simpler life is seemingly opulent, enviable and affordable. It is an enticing invitation to buck convention and leave stuff, traffic, big houses with big mortgages and the 9-to-5 job. Most of all, it represents leaving the huge stressors of life behind.

 

Many people working in technology now don’t need a physical office space, so making money working from a computer anywhere – well, anywhere Wi-Fi is – has given people choices.

 

Trading in belongings for adventure, people are choosing to live in a 200-square-foot house or upgraded van, or a tiny, mobile house on wheels as their home.

 

“The freedom of not punching a clock and having more money from less bills has heralded a new way of living,” said Drew Schlieder, 341st Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation Center supervisory recreation specialist and outdoor adventure programmer.

 

“It’s definitely a free way of living,” he said. “You can be like, ‘Oh hey, there’s a cool rock climbing event in Arizona this weekend,’ or, ‘Hey, we can go to Alaska for the summer.’ And you just go. But, van life doesn’t have to be taken to the extreme.”

 

In the April 24, 2017, issue of the New Yorker magazine, author Rachel Monroe wrote about what began as an attempt at a simpler life living in vans evolved into a brand. Her article is titled “#Vanlife, the Bohemian Social-Media Movement.”

 

“The movement is now a lifestyle, especially among outdoor people, around the world,” Schlieder said.

 

Have wanderlust, but also a job

“Montana is a haven for the van life,” Schlieder said. “But the average Malmstrom Airman has to be a weekend warrior because of work and school schedules.”

 

For people who can’t truly live the van life, it’s about finding the right activity to do to feel free and be connected to nature.

 

“Maybe van life can’t be lived where you have a job to show up to every day, but the van life is symbolic and should inspire folks to get out and not sit in their dorm rooms or on their couch,” Schlieder said.

 

Montana can be explored in basic to extreme adventures. A day trip can mean a scenic drive, or step it up and run the north or south shore trails in Giant Springs State Park.

 

Need more suggestions or hands-on help? Schlieder said visit the Outdoor Recreation Center at Malmstrom for gear, then head out for a wilder backcountry adventure and more striking wildlife.

 

“Locally, the more adventurous people can camp out in the Little Belt Mountains,” Schlieder said. “There are no facilities, no fee, no permit. Just sign the book at the trailhead and take off.”

 

To become a pro at exploring Montana, the Outdoor Recreation Center recommends finding an atlas that features topographic maps of the entire state with roads, trails and recreational opportunities.

 

Don’t be scared to get started

For some it’s easy to just to head out on the road and into the woods and camp out under the stars.

 

City slickers should take more care, though. Weather, roads, wildlife, private property and knowing what resources are needed are vital, Schlieder said. For those with little outdoor experience he suggests to first take a guided trip with Malmstrom Outdoor Recreation Center.

 

“Malmstrom outdoor rec trips are intros into activities that people will go on to build their skills in,” Schlieder said. These are outdoor sports like kayaking, caving or hiking.

 

Once a few bug bites are suffered, a rattler scurries off the trail and there’s a moose sighting, people are often ready for more advanced adventure.

 

Some activity ideas this summer include renting an inflatable SUP or inflatable double or single kayak. There are inflatable rafts – a six-man up to a 15-man – to take on the Missouri River.

 

“A really cool trip to do is through the White Cliffs on the Missouri,” Schlieder said. “It’s protected river, totally wild, about 50 miles of river that you can cover in three days. There are not usually dangerous rapids, but check the Bureau of Land Management website.

 

“Sluice Boxes State Park is close by and a great place to hang out for the day,” he said.

 

Want to sleep in a truck or van? Outdoor rec rents mattresses and sleeping bags, mattress pads with foam and sleeping bags. It’s just as easy to rent a tent and headlamp.

 

“Go listen to coyotes and owls at night when the sun goes down,” Schlieder said.

 

“Or check our trip schedules and hop on a van with us. Then start taking your own exciting pictures to post,” Schlieder said. “There’s always something to do around Great Falls.”
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.