Yesterday while on break at work I jumped onto Youtube and ran a quick search for van life. Lately I’ve had some problems with the YouTube algorithm in that it keeps recommending the same videos over and over again, as if I’ve already gone through all videos in that category.

To my surprise, though, this time around I was recommended a new video from a creator I’d never seen before, someone who was apparently living in her van full time, but rather than traveling around the country like most of them do, she was living in the same town and had a regular job and was more homeless than a “professional” van-lifer.

I watched her handful of videos, but then noticed that her postings had abruptly stopped two months ago. I watched the last video and there was no warning, no mention that she would be away from her channel or that she wouldn’t be posting anymore. This is not the first time someone has disappeared on Youtube. In fact, most creators I think end up burning out on the video platform after some time, buckling under the pressure of relentless filming and editing, but I think more just run out of things to say, things to film.

I immediately started to wonder, though, what happened to Toy Owl? Where is she? Is she okay? Did something terrible happen (my mind instinctively goes to catastrophe). So, I thought maybe I would talk about these kinds of abrupt disappearances that I increasingly find are just a part of life if you’re going to watch amateur creators online.

I just can’t shake the question, though, what happened to Toy Owl….

Why So Many on Youtube Disappear

Toy Owl stated in one of her videos, I think actually the first one of only a handful, that she had been living in her van out of necessity for about 3 1/2 years. She differentiated herself form those typically on Youtube who claim Vanlife as their hashtag because she was not, like so many other youtubers, driving around the country, stopping in here and there, cooking out of the back of her vehicle in national parks, or enjoying endless summers in tropical or sub-tropical locales. She was, as she put it, essentially homeless and living this way because of illness. It basically had something to do with not being able to maintain a long-term lease, though she claimed to have more savings than most people. She claimed to have a steady job, and her van at least appeared to be not a junker.

I know my short stint at vanlife (long before it was actually the thing to do) came at the beginning of the end of my marriage. I had failed to convince my wife that our relationship was worth even working on, and was sent packing with a $1000 to my name, and a broken down van I purchased off of craigslist (Yeah, I know. I was luckier than most). I lasted a few months on the west coast before having transmission problems. Then I got an apartment for a few months while I was looking for work. It then accompanied me up the coast for the promise of a dream job that within a few months turned into a literal nightmare, and ended back in my van (the job that I quit provided my housing) while starting a new job that was even worse than the one I quit.

I eventually ended up at my parents’ where I spent some time in graduate school (before dropping out), has some close calls with jobs that were advertised as good, quality jobs but were actually bait and switches. In the end I finally took over a family business when I found out that my father’s health was deteriorating and he could no longer maintain the job.

That was the end of van life for me. While running the business I had time to reflect on my life, on my goals, was able to slowly put my life back together from the dumpster fire that was my marriage, was able to file for divorce, and then put some money away, which was later used as a down payment on a house (the house I live in today), as well as put money down on the property that would become Eden (which I hope to move to this summer permanently).

But, what about Toy Owl? What about the other Youtubers, like Pure Living for Life which still no one seems to know where they went or what happened to them, or Kev Jumba who sas hit by a car, or Nick Senderegger who literally disappeared is his whereabouts are still unknown, or even worse, the van lifer Gabby Petito who went missing only to later discover that her fiancé had murdered her.

Many of the channels I’ve subscribed to in the past have gone silent or seemingly so. Or at least they post so rarely or post these new (and annoying) “shorts” videos that are so cryptic and unsatisfying that they might as well have disappeared altogether.

Kara and Nate went from posting every other day to now barely posting once a week, if not every other week. Granted, they are just now getting back into international travel and also have a few businesses that they started during the pandemic that probably take a whole lot more time than they expected (and probably pay much better than Youtube).

After binge watching Linnea and Akela, I’m now stuck with her only posting shorts videos over the last few weeks. It has been two weeks since she’s posted.

Mariah Alice is also someone who has abruptly stopped posting, having no new videos in over 12 days.

It seems to be a pattern, where content providers start channels, post every day for several months, only to then abruptly stop with no warning, and either disappear entirely or slow way down on their production.

Personally, I think this has a lot to do with burn out as well as either not having the stamina to keep up production while they’re waiting to go viral and for their ad revenue to kick in, or they discover, after a year or two of posting daily or semi daily that its just not feasible long-term for the little amount of money they are getting. Not to mention, most you tubers cannot rely on ad money alone, not to mention that some content creators are discovering the complete and utter uncertainty that comes with putting all their financial eggs in the Youtube basket, only to have Youtube abruptly deem your content “unworthy” (such as fishing or hunting videos) and de-rank them, demonetize them, or just outright delete their channels with no recourse and no alternatives.

Back to Toy Owl. She really never got her channel off the ground before she stopped. This could have been for several possible reasons. She could have found a way to rent an apartment. She could have met someone (happens all the time). She might have been arrested. She certainly could have been killed – it happened to at least one person on our list, maybe more (since there are people listed above who are technically still missing). She might have been put on a mental health hold. Her van could have broke down. Her camera or laptop could have been stolen.

To be honest, though, I imagine she just got tired of making time for filming, editing, endless uploading, while also working a full time job, and then sitting around waiting for videos to be viewed, liked, and for people to subscribe. It happens every day. I have to admit, it looks ridiculously easy, but everyone who has a channel constantly reminds us that it’s not, that so much effort and work goes into content creation on the back end that we simply never see.

It’s a recipe for burnout and we see it all the time.

My Own Taste

While I’ve never tried (yet) to start a Youtube channel (though I have a channel with a few videos splattered on it), I have tried a few unsuccessful attempts at podcasting. For me it just never worked. I actually hated it. The first few times I never really even got off the runway. I hated the sound of my own voice.

The last time around I managed to actually publish 10 episodes that were torture and had 30 scripts written for future episodes when I took a much needed break. Once I set a date to start recording again, when I actually got to the day and pulled up the recorder and script – I knew immediately I no longer wanted to do this. It was just not something I was interested in doing.

So, I put the podcast on indefinite hiatus and was thrilled to do so. The chances that it would have taken off was slim to none at best. Though I did get one person who reached out to me that wanted to be on an episode (I had even less interest in interviewing people than I did just talking myself). It was a great learning experience. I learned it was something I most certainly did not want to do in the future.

I personally prefer writing as a medium of expression and this blog works quite well as an outlet. Though I’m not really certain anyone actually reads the posts I write, it’s cathartic if nothing else.

The Future of Youtube Content

I really don’t know what will happen to YouTube in the future. It’s either going to remain a revolving door for people who think they can strike it rich in social media only to be flushed out on the other end, burnt out, disillusioned by the ridiculous amount of work involved and inconsistency of a parent company that does not truly support the creators in the end. Or, a happy medium will be found for future creators and burnout will decrease. Or a third option will be the less content that is posted, the fewer people that are willing to risk burnout will be translated into fewer people choosing to spend time on the platform and it will go the way of most Google projects – it will disappear.

The direction they are taking with shorts videos is the wrong idea. I recognize it was probably something that creators like, since it takes much, much less time to record and upload a 30 second clip in an attempt to keep viewers engaged, but it really is only going to backfire for them. I personally take the time and mark all shorts as “not interested” whenever one pops up. I assume they will eventually get the message.

I can only speak for myself, but I want genuine (or presumably genuine) content, and a lot of it. I’m basically filling the gap left by the traditional entertainment industry that has really dropped the ball the last few years in producing quality content to put on the screen. Cutting a standard 22 episode season in half and then making watchers wait 1-2 sometimes 3 or more years before a new season is released is not going to work. I’m going to lose interest. I’m already attempting to replace television shows with books, since there are a whole lot more books available to me in the world than there are tv shows (that are even half way decent). Watch out, because now I have an e-ink reader and I’m not afraid to use it!

The real problem I can see at this point with Youtube is either there is simply not enough content in my given interests to keep me entertained, the recommendation algorithm is either broke or does exist, or Youtube really has no interest in providing content that I want but rather just wants to provide content they think I should be watching. There are a lot of homesteading and vanlife content creators out there, but much of it I’m really just not interested in. To be honest, much of it is just copycat content from 10 creators who are jumping on the bandwagon, going to the same places, doing the same things as the original creator already did.

One creator I watched a few years ago (the silent jungle guy who build primitive structures) was interviewed awhile back and he stated that he basically stopped uploading content because copycat channels became such a problem that it saturated the market and he started to lose money. And I don’t blame him for giving up. At some point, you reach a limit. The same happened to me with the family business. At one point there were so many roadblocks in my way that it was too difficult to keep the operation going. I had reached a plateau to where I was stuck working 7 days a week for a certain amount of money. I had already maximized my pricing strategy so I could not extract any additional money from the current product. I was unable to expand due to restrictions on the location. I could not relocate given county and city restrictions on my current zoning. I remember sitting down at the end of the year, going through my books, and coming to the realization that if I continued in the business, this was it – I had peaked and could go no further. I either had to accept it or I would have to scuttle the business and move on.

I ended up handing the business off to another family member and I found a job on the coast (where I had purchased my house a few years before) and never looked back (which was providential in its own right, since a few years later COVID lockdowns decimated the family business and the family member lost the entire business – even if I had stayed and been able to expand, I still would have lost everything).

Censorship on YouTube is a Real Problem

One big issue with Youtube is censorship. Of course, if you can thread the needle and you’re lucky, you can avoid this by avoiding hot topics like politics or social issues. But, at what point will they come for your interest, too? A few years ago, fishing videos and hunting videos were all the rage on YouTube. But now the recent trend from the platform is to demonetize anything that shows the death of an animal on screen. If I were to ever do a Youtube channel, it would be very focused on religious content because that is a very large part of my life. How long before Christian ideas are a non-starter? When will it no longer be okay to talk about growing your own food or living in the country or becoming what the Great Reset refers to as becoming a discontent (when will creators be automatically demonetized for just mentioning the phrase, “great reset)? With no straightforward appeals process, and no real direction for what content is currently off limits or might be off limits in the future, it is very difficult to have any confidence in investing in such an enterprise.

I have to ask myself the question, “Do I really need to have a YouTube channel in the first place?” Why? What is my end goal and how much have I romanticized the YouTube experience itself? How much interaction is really required behind the scenes? Is it possible to “make it” (which is translated = make money) on YouTube without sponsorships and being a salesman? Personally, I would only need about $300 / month to pay for my monthly expenses. But is it realistic to expect ad revenue to pay that consistently by uploading one 15 minute video each week?

There seem to be a lot of questions there and not a whole lot of answers.


In the end, I think it’s when the rubber actually meets the road, and content creators look back and recognize that, like most employment opportunities these days, you end up making about $7 an hour while working 50-60 hours a week with no support, no benefits, and no stability. With my business, I realized I was averaging about $10 / hour working 7 days a week, and had the privilege of paying double in taxes just because I was self-employed. Granted, I was in control of most of my day and I had a lot of down time during that day, but I worked 7 days a week, couldn’t get sick, and couldn’t take time off. I was better off getting a minimum wage job, where I would at least get that amount (or even more + my employer would pay half of my tax bill), plus I would get at least 2 days off each week. Flash forward a few years, and I managed to whittle down my workweek to 2 days a week, and I’m now making more than double what I was making at the business, have 5 days off each week, have virtually no job-related stress, have 2+ years of expenses saved, and have a house that is paid off, and I’m working toward living full time on the property of my dreams (that I also own outright).

I just wonder if a Youtube channel might not be the same as running that business.

Regardless, I hope that Toy Owl has found a better situation in life than living in her van our of necessity. It sounds like from her video that the location she was parking in was not really all that safe, so I hope nothing terrible has happened. My prayers go out to her, and if any one knows where she is or how she’s doing, please let me know in the comments below. I would be very interested.

Until my next post…..

Update: ToyOwl actually posted a few days ago –

Excerpt from The Light Aurora:

The door’s lock released and Dr. Lewis looked around at each of them.

“Stay close, and be ready for anything. I’m not sure if they’re all in the Command Center or if they are trying to secure Level 4. Hell, they could all be evacuating.”

He stared at Scott as he came up onto the landing.

“Let’s go,” Scott said.

Dr. Lewis pushed the door open and walked out into the hall, followed by the others – in ones and twos. Level 2 was similar to the other level, with a long corridor, doors on either side, all with security displays recessed into the wall next to them.

But, as they entered the corridor, Scott’s breath caught in his throat. As he stood there with the others, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. In front of them, probably no more than a few yards away, were three bodies lying on the floor. One was sitting up against the wall, the side of his face melted, exposing his right eyeball and a good portion of his right skull. Another one was laying face down, his entire back opened up at the spine, as if his spinal cord had been ripped out of him from behind. The last one was a few more feet away from the others, on his back, his eyes seared from his head, black, burnt flesh where his eyes used to be.

The intercom came back to crackling life.

“Professor?” Derrick said over the intercom.

“Don’t worry. You can answer,” he said. “I can hear you.”

Scott looked up, then fixed his gaze on the security camera at the end of the corridor.

“Yes?” Scott finally asked.

There was a pause, static.

“What are you doing, Derrick?” he asked. “Did you do this?”

“Indeed,” Derrick said, coming back on.


“They refused to help me.”

“What are you trying to do, Derrick?” Scott asked.

There was another pause.

“I want to go home, Professor,” the boy said.


“Yes,” Derrick said, his tone soaked with some other-worldly confidence that did not belong in an innocent, ten year old boy.

“I want to go home, Professor,” he said again. “Would you be interested in coming home with me?”

Buy the entire story The Light Aurora today and get ready for the thrill ride of a lifetime! What is this foreign and hostile place these strangers find themselves in? What does it all mean? Will all of them survive?

Click here and grab your copy today! All three books in one!

But, trust me when I say, reading this book will change your life forever.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Interesting post. Thanks for providing the link to Toy Owl”s channel. I watched it and subscribed


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