Columbia River Gorge, US
In the Summer of 2011 Foster Huntington left his job in New York and moved into a camper where he spent 3 year driving around the west. It was here that he started the #vanlife movement, which is all about both the good and bad of life on the road. 10,000 miles and a few surfing trips later, Foster decided to set up a home base in a series of tree houses in the Columbia River Gorge. These days you’ll find him in his studio creating stop motion animation, surfing, skating, and exploring his passion for storytelling.
Can you tell us a bit about who Foster Huntington is?
I’m a filmmaker and photographer that lives in the Columbia River Gorge, in Washington State. Right now (2019) I am spending most of my time working on making films. In the past, I’ve built tree houses and lived in my van for 3 years.
Can you talk us through an average day in your life?
Our puppy usually wakes me up around 7 am, and my day goes from there. Depending on what we have been going in the studio, I’ll go down there and check out what happened the day before. From there I’ll catch up on emails and phone calls. My daily schedule is far less interesting than one would think…
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to woodwork. I’m working on an off-the-grid cabin on a piece of land an hour and a half from my house at the moment. I also like archery and shooting. On top of that, I have goats and chickens that need tending so there’s always stuff to do.
Have you always had a passion for storytelling – whether that’s in a photo, video, or written format? How did you discover this passion?
I really got into photography and writing in 2008. On a whim, I bought a camera and started taking photos of my life around me in Maine. I started a blog and began posting these photos and writings. This opened up doors and changed my life.
Can you tell us about the #vanlife movement, including how it came to be and what it represents?
In the fall of 2011 I started using the ‘vanlife’ tag on Instagram as a joke. It was a reference to Tupac’s ‘thug life’ tattoo. It made me laugh and I felt it suited the good and the bad of living in a van. To me, vanlife represents life on the road, traveling on the cheap, relying on yourself and seeing new things.
You lived in a van for a considerable amount of time – can you tell us a bit about that experience?
I lived in a van from 2011 to mid-2014. It was one of the happiest and most exciting times of my life. I did 150k miles in that time and saw so much stuff that informed and inspired me as an artist, and most importantly, as a person.
“I’m more excited about the UBCO 2×2 than I have been about any vehicle in a while. The ability to cruise around both off road and on road in silence and refuel it by charging it via a 110 outlet is amazing.”
What are the three essentials that you take on every adventure?
These days I don’t have a van, but I always have stuff in my car to go camping. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sleeping in a sleeping bag and waking up with the sunrise. I like to keep it simple, with a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water, food and a change of socks. Luckily all this can fit on an UBCO 2×2.
You must have experienced some amazing things while living the vanlife, what’s one of your favorite memories from that time?
My favorite experiences from my times in van were probably the months I spent south of the border in Mexico, surfing and camping in one of the most remote places in North America.
What was one of your favorite things about living in a van, and what did you dislike the most?
My favorite part about living in the van was the freedom of waking up in one place, picking a spot on a map and being able to move your home there. It’s something you have to experience to believe.
Do you miss it?
Certainly. There are times where I miss the simplicity and ease of living like that. Sometimes I daydream about the next camper set up I’ll put together and where we’ll go with it.
You live in an amazing structure now – can you tell us about it, and the journey you took to build it?
I live in a series of tree houses on a small mountain top overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. My best friend from college, Tucker Gorman, and I started the build process 5 years ago. The whole process took a year. It was amazing. I made a short film about it called The Cinder Cone.
What inspires and motivates you?
I love turning ideas into reality. The process of dreaming up a concept, refining it, and then figuring out how to make it a reality keeps me going. I love the challenge.
What haven’t you accomplished that you aspire to do in your lifetime?
I want to make movies!
What is your favorite place in the world?
I really like Baja Mexico. The rawness and the lack of development and civilization make it feel like a land before time.
Where is the one place in the world where you can’t wait to visit?
There are so many places I’d love to visit. New Zealand is high on the list! I’d love to visit Nepal, Tibet, South America. The list goes on, and on.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out their van life journey?
You don’t need a lot of gear or a fancy set up to have a blast. Just go out there and explore.