New movie with Oscar buzz puts spotlight on modern day nomads

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — After moving into four new facilities in each of the last four years, it’s safe to say the men and women at Vandoit in Blue Springs have been very busy recently.

“RV-ing is, as you’ve read, it’s the biggest it’s ever been and it keeps going up,” said Jared McCauslin, the company’s cofounder. “And the piece of it that we are is the van life piece.”

Vandoit takes Ford Transit vans from the nearby Claycomo plant and custom retrofits the vans to cater to the rapidly growing adventure van industry.

The notion of selling your house and hitting the open road has been steadily growing since the recession of 2008. The COVID-19 pandemic has only hastened it, and there’s one more cultural phenomenon that’s fueling the so-called #vanlife, modern-day nomad lifestyle:

The movie “Nomadland.”

In addition to winning the Golden Globe for Best Drama, and being considered an Oscar favorite, the film is putting the spotlight on a growing subculture.

“The whole ‘Nomadland’, the movement, that movie, that’s something that everyone in this industry said, ‘OK, now people are trying to put attention towards what we’ve been doing really for a very long time.’”

Jody Strauch planned for years to live on the open road. After a retiring from her position as a professor at Northwest Missouri State University, Strauch now criss-crosses America, making her home wherever she stops her RV.

From her parked vehicle in Yuma, Ariz., Strauch says the feelings of freedom and control are some of the biggest attractions.

“So people who have lost their jobs or can’t afford to live where they live, being on the road gives you a little more control over your life then when you’re in the rat race and that kind of thing,” Strauch said.

Strauch cautions that some may romanticize the modern day nomad lifestyle without doing the proper amount of research before jumping into it.

“I think people have to understand that everybody out here has a completely different story.”

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