Girl Bus Vibes

Annie Woods

You don’t grow out of every thing. Annie is proof of that – she grew up taking van trips with her parents, inspiring her to buy a VW Vanagon of her own as an adult. A 1985 Westfalia, Annie named her “Lady Liberty” and it’s her partner in crime – both for meandering the coast of California and her upcoming documentary interview web series, currently in development.

Learn more in Annie’s interview below, and through her Instagram.


Get To Know Annie

How did you and “Lady Liberty”, your 1985 VW Vanagon Bus, become a pair?

Annie's parents in a VW bus (pre Vanagon). Photo by Neal Woods.
Annie’s parents in a VW bus (pre Vanagon). Photo by Neal Woods.

“Vanlife” started very early for me, my parents always had buses. My mom and dad bought a 1990 Vanagon off the showroom floor. Some of my earliest memories were in that van, camping in the sierras. We used to go every year to fallen leaf lake. Eventually they got more reliable cars and moved on from vanlife. But those memories stuck for me and I knew I wanted a bus when I was older. So when I was 20, I bought Lady Liberty for $3,500 on Craigslist. The engine blew up 20 minutes later on the drive home. It would be the first of many break downs, but the journey has never ended.

Interesting fact: In 2009, the NY State DMV made an internal error while registering the vehicle. To this day, anytime her plates are run in the system, she comes up as a red convertible.

Lady Liberty & Annie glamour shot; Photo by Kyle Buthman
Lady Liberty & Annie glamour shot; Photo by Kyle Buthman

Lady Liberty is your part-time home while your home base is Santa Cruz, California. Where have you taken your VW in the past?

I have crossed the United States twice in Lady Liberty. The first time was a grassroots political campaign during Obama’s 2008 election. The bus visited every battleground state and witnessed dozens of historic speeches by President Obama. Me and a friend hand painted the bus with this giant picture of Barack Obama… it was a really exciting time and I feel proud to have been part of something so historic. That project allowed us to work with Shepard Fairey and be involved in the Manifest Hope Gallery.

You left NYC for a simpler life reminiscent of your childhood. Do you have any tips for simplifying? Why do you think it’s so hard for us to do sometimes?

I visited New York City once in high school and knew I was going to live there one day. So when I was 19, I left home and ended up staying for 8 years. I love New York, in my mind the city is a person, a person who can seduce you and suck you in. Cities are hard to leave, you think “can I really live somewhere I can’t order food 24/7 or stay out till sunrise?!” But you totally can! You just have to realign your focus.

Now my focus is being healthy and doing the things I know inherently make me happy. Come to find out, these are the things that made me happy when I was 12. Surfing, building fires, hiking in the redwoods. I now work on a 70ft sailboat and camp almost every weekend outside. Simple feels good.

Photo by Luis Solano
Photo by Luis Solano

Come to find out [what makes me happy now] made me happy when I was 12.

Simple feels good.

 

Slow living, above & below. Photo by Annie Woods.
Slow living, above & below. Photo by Annie Woods.

You’re developing a web series in which you interview people from the back of your van. Who are the types of people you plan to interview?

SLOW TALKS is a video series introducing the makers and doers through fast-talking interviews filmed in the back of my 1985 VW bus. You’ll have the opportunity to meet dreamers who started out on the fringes and created something that the rest of the world couldn’t get enough of  —artists, filmmakers, designers, architects, creators, changemakers, activists, inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators; all soon-to-be cultural icons who just a short time ago were some of the weirdest kids on the block.

Each episode surfaces an influencer who has found success in that explosive moment when counterculture becomes culture. I am talking to brands currently and working to get the first episode off the ground, it has been a really rad experience and I feel so stoked to have support from companies I really look up to. The people over at Poler Stuff and Yeti have been very supportive. And I have to give a huge shoutout to GoWesty! The dreamiest team of VW gurus, GoWesty has been very supportive, and for that I love them!

Photo by Runa Anderson
Photo by Runa Anderson

Why did you choose Lady Liberty for the “set” of the web series? Do you plan to travel to meet people? Or will you take them to new places in your VW?

I choose Lady Liberty for the set of my web series because I just love her so much!

Lady Liberty  feels very intimate and unique. I have worked on so many sets that feel cheesy, full of Ikea furniture and cold props. The bus is real and I hope that authenticity will transfer to video and the overall concept of what I am trying to create.

Your background is in documentary film making. Have you always been interested in people? How does that medium speak to you?

From a very young age I would steal the family video camera: we would get back from a trip somewhere and sit down to watch what my parents recorded and the tape would be completely recorded over with interviews I did with strangers. I was around 11 years old when my parents got tired of this and decided to buy me my first camera. It continued to stick, as a misfit in high school I got really into films like “Gimme Shelter” and “Grey Gardens.” I had the cliche social outcast taste, I watched Bernardo Bertolucci and Jean-Luc Godard films. I was like, “God, nobody understands me!” Teenage angst! And then you grow up and find your wolfpack and realize there were lots of misfits watching these kinds of films as a teenager.

Do you think social media has impacted the shape of documentaries?

Photo by Luis Solano
Photo by Luis Solano

Social media is a constant flood of information. Before you might have a social issue or human interest story no one had heard of. For example, we now acknowledge the connection of race and mass incarnation in our criminal justice system, President Obama is the first president to visit a federal prison and admit that our prison system remains particularly skewed by race and by wealth. The Farm: Angola, USA a documentary from 1998 also discusses this, pre social media. So I guess in a way documentaries early on were a type of social media. A way to say, hey look this is going on over here!, what should we do about it? And now we do that every minute, but it’s more saturated and less important.

Will you use your Instagram, @girlbusvibes, to help tell your stories?

I most certainly will. Instagram is a very interesting currency. Although with recent decisions to make it a more ad based platform and not have the photos chronological, I see Instagram becoming a ghost town in the next 12-18 months. The youth is smarter than a tech company’s algorithm. We do not want more content we don’t wish to see. Advertisers are just going to have to be more natural. This happens all the time in technology and it will just push people to be creative and develop the next big thing…because something new always comes along.

Take a photo of your five must have items for travel in Lady Liberty.

A good broken in pair of 501’s, my camera, opinel knife, cassette recorder/player, toothpicks! I ALWAYS have tee tree minty toothpicks on me…

Annie's 5 Must Have Items; by Annie Woods
Annie’s 5 Must Have Items; by Annie Woods

Any road trips coming up?

Yes! I am planning a very exciting road trip with my best friends to Tofino, Canada. We will leave from Santa Cruz, California and drive the coast the entire way to Tofino. Our goal is to arrive in time for the Rip Curl Pro, I think I talked my friend into surfing in a heat or two. I’m really excited about this trip and can not wait to put my bus on a ferry!

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Heading North towards Bixby Bridge @ Big Sur, California; Photo by Becca Raettig

Photos Courtesty of Annie Woods