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Why the VW Van is an Icon that Shaped the Baby Boomer Generation

By Margaret Manning April 22, 2014 Mindset

Women over 60 have lived through six amazing decades. Throughout our lives, with a curious and adventurous nature, we have challenged the status quo and celebrated our independence and freedom. Many of us have had to build enormous emotional reserves to manage and survive difficult times.

As I have seen time and time again in the Sixty and Me community, we are resourceful, resilient and tough minded, but also questioning, sensitive and often insecure. If you try to find a common denominator, you might identify a quality that can be best described as bohemian. For our 30-year old sons and daughters, it might be hard to see us as eclectic, bold and adventurous, but, trust me, we are!

To understand our adventurous, bohemian nature, it is useful to reflect on the icons that shaped our generation. One icon in particular embodies our passion and verve — the VW Bus!

Like the VW Bus, we are Enjoying Retirement but Still Full of Life

Like many women in their 60s, the VW Bus is enjoying “retirement.” Despite, or perhaps because of, this fact, the VW Bus brings back vivid memories of how our lives were shaped in the 1960s. Understanding why the VW Bus is so significant sheds light on the story of the men and women of the Boomer Generation. It underscores their values of independence and freedom. It also represents my generation’s insatiable desire to live life fully and with passion.

We want everything to be controllable, substantive, individual, colorful and fun. The VW Bus represents possibility in its most physical form — the lure of the “open road” and the potential for self-discovery. It offers the possibility to take your home with you. It provides the ability to find and demonstrate who you are through the vehicle you drive.

To Boomers and VW Buses, Life is One Big Road Trip

The rear engine Volkswagen bus dates back 63 years to 1950, when the company pioneered the “minivan” category. You can even thank the VW Bus for the iPhone and iPad you have in your pocket. Legend has it, in 1975, Steve Jobs sold the one he owned to raise the $1,300 he and Steve Woziak needed to set up Apple Computer’s first production line.

The friendly VW Bus has been featured in countless cameo appearances in films and TV shows and is the stuff of legend, fantasy, sexuality, drugs, drink and rock and roll. The VW van is so deeply embedded in popular culture, that it will likely live on forever in the imagination of the Boomer generation.

It’s the Journey that Counts, and we have the Memories to Prove it!

The VW Bus is magical; it has a charm that no other vehicle has ever achieved. Every memory of the VW Bus is also unique. Perhaps you remember being a child, scrunched in the back with your brother and sister, bouncing along on a cross country adventure. Or, you may remember your life as a hippie, riding in a paisley painted van, crammed with friends and hitch hikers on a cross country mecca to San Francisco.

When you see a picture of a VW Bus, you can’t help but want to share your story and your experiences. You want to recall the color and year of your vehicle, its name, where you went, where you stopped and what happened next. The VW Bus is a story and smile generating machine!

Everyone’s VW Bus Story is Unique. What’s Yours?

Last summer, I rented a converted VW Bus called “Ermintrude” for a weekend on the Isle of Wight. It looked fabulous with its lime green paint and red and white striped pop-up roof. It was so much fun! So, I asked members of Sixty and Me if I was the only one who fantasized about buying a second hand VW Bus and driving across Europe. Their replies were so fun and represented everything that I love about my generation!

Veronica R: I want one! I would be in my element. I would be so happy living off grid. Nothing could make me happier.

Randi C: I bought a Minnie Winnie and drove it all around the country putting 11,000 miles on it — by myself. Got a little lonely at times but had some great adventures.

Judy H: My dream is to join up with other women and just spend my days driving as far as I want, stopping as long as I want, and painting all of it!

Sue B: The gypsy in me loves to pack up every 4-6 months and find somewhere new. The parent/gramma in me says stay put.

Toby S. For me, it’s buying a small refurbished AirStream and exploring everything within driving distance (I mean everything!)

Glenys D: Nothing would make me happier.

Nancy H: On the top of my Bucket List.

Eileen D: I went trekking across the U.S. in my hippie van. It was a tremendous experience. After that, I felt as if I could do anything!

Ximena X: I did have adventures with my “beauty”, a round trip from Argentina, down to Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia!

Jacqueline G: Love love love road trips!

Connie C: Did Route 66 from Chicago to its end in Santa Monica. The most fabulous road ever!

Lin M: Drove the Rockies with my best friend (both in our 60’s). Brilliant and would do it again.

Mary B: Yes I’ve done trips across deserts on silk routes in Western China and Uzbekistan, plus in Western Territory, Australia

Diane M: It’s my dream!!

Millions of women (and men) younger than 60 crave the gypsy lifestyle. Unfortunately, most have other priorities and only a few have realized that life is short and the road waits for no one. If you are one of the lucky few young people who still find the time to hit the road, keep your eyes peeled for a lime-green VW Bus — it may just be your grandmother.

Did you ever own or ride in a VW Bus? What was its name? What color was it? Where did you travel? What is your most powerful memory? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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