Expedition Happiness? {movie review}

When the movie Expedition Happiness showed up on my Netflix menu, I of course watched it immediately, being obsessed with every possible expression of full-time or longterm vehicle living. It’s a “documentary” about a couple from Europe that comes to the U.S., converts a school bus, and has adventures. I put “documentary” in quotes because it’s really more like a longform YouTube video. That’s fine, I like YouTube videos, but I don’t usually watch 95 minutes’ worth of one person’s.

The couple lost me quickly with “it was illegal to fly a drone over Niagara Falls but we did it anyway…totally worth it.” Well, I’m glad it was worth it to you. I hope you enjoy your canyons and rivers and oceans and deserts and forests full of drones and ATVs and wildfires because that’s what happens when everyone has this attitude toward the rules and laws about what you can and can’t do in and around the natural wonders of the world. Sigh.

Of course, I kept watching, and watched the whole thing, because as I said: obsessed. This couple didn’t talk about how much stuff cost, but I found a profile of them elsewhere and learned that the conversion cost close to 70 grand. I don’t know. I guess if you have it, good for you? But I think money should have been discussed in the movie–how they made it, how they paid for their trip, how much they were living on per month, how much it cost every time to fill the tank of a beast that probably gets 10 mpgs, where and how they lived while they were doing the conversion, etc. Money is a big reason people get into vanlife stuff, after all. The desire to save it, make it last, opt out of having to make a bunch just to maintain your stuff… It seemed like a huge question hanging over the movie that was never satisfactorily addressed.

just a simple bus conversion NBD – via Huffington Post

Another way they lost me was their freewheeling “we don’t like to plan things” approach to their trip and how it led to them seeming surprised when they ran into problems for example trying to extend their visas. Not to mention the drama throughout with their dog, who struggles on the trip and appears to nearly die a couple of times because, for example, they didn’t know or expect it to be so hot in places like, oh, Death Valley. Ultimately the dog was the only person I cared about.

And then, after spending all that money on the bus, at the end they just [redacted for spoilers]! It was nice but left me with a lot of questions. In summary, the movie mostly seemed to highlight everything that can be wrong with the whole #vanlife thing as a Lifestyle Brand, and kind of reeked of a particular sort of privilege despite the breezy “live simply” artwork and such that hung around the bus.

Did you see it? What did you think? Am I being too harsh? Am I just bitter about not having $100k of my very own? Possibly.


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