Where have I been?
Even writing these words is overwhelming. I realized the other day that I had not written a blog post in a very long time, hell I haven’t posted anything on social media for months as well. It’s funny how you can feel this sense of pressure to ‘keep up’ on things like this.
So lets go back…
In December of 2016, about 10 months after being on the road alone, I met Charlie. I suppose this has been the biggest change.,
I had known Charlie from back in Washington, and he was on a road trip with another mutual friend in Utah. We connected, as so many classic love stories do- through instagram. I had just come down into the lower 48 from Canada and Alaska, and after recharging for a week at home I was back on the road. Some of you may remember that this was when I was the Debby Downer of van life. I had hit a few walls traveling solo- loneliness, uncertainty, doubt, fear, loss- all seemed to nag at me day in and day out. I felt so lost during this time. I remember calling my Dad crying one day, and he said over the phone, “I don’t know why you’re killing yourself doing this, why don’t you just come home?” The offer was so tempting, I did just want to go home. To just have someone else be in charge and direct my life for a few days seemed like salvation. But I knew, that all of the hardship would add up, the universe doesn’t give you pain just because - it’s preparing you for something else. I truly believe this- that it all adds up- somewhere. So I stuck it out.
Meeting Charlie and traveling with him and our mutual friend Jeff were some of the best times of my life. The laughter, joy, shenanigans, and all around ridiculousness of the three of us were some of the best and hardiest laughs of my life. We meandered around Moab and Indian Creek together, climbing and drinking Tecate’s like it was our job. I then met up with them a week or so later in Joshua Tree, where the festivities only continued in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We woke up every day dusty and tired from climbing, make the most epic breakfast scramble and then walked our way over to a Craig and spent all day laughing. Nights were taken up with campfires, margaritas, and meeting the best people in the world. Like I said- it all adds up- and meeting Jeff and Charlie was just that.
Charlie and I began dating that December, he was working seasonally for the Forest Service, which worked well with my f-UN-employment. We decided to pack up my Dads truck that winter and spend a month skiing around the West. We roamed from Whistler to Aspen, skiing on the Mountain Collective pass, waking up every night to snow plows basically boxing the truck in. We brought instant coffee and oatmeal into the lodges and just begged people for hot water as we were to cold to boil any in the parking lot. I rigged a heated blanket up in the back of the car for they nights, and we slept with two sleeping bags and a huge duvet.
During this trip we both quickly realized that this was something we wanted to hold onto, that this was something different.
I knew by the Spring of 2017 that I would need to get a job for the summer and fall. I had saved up for two years to not work for 1 and that time was approaching quickly. Many people fund their van dreams in different ways - some work on the road, some freelance, I choose to work for 6-8 months at a time and then take off again. You won’t have much a savings account, but you’ll have enough to get by if you’re smart.
Charlie was also ready to leave his seasonal job and try something new. We decided to throw our hats in the ring together, we moved to Alaska and began work at Alaska Mountain Guides- Charlie as a raft and mountaineer guide, I as a kayak guide and office manager. We drove Penny up to Alaska in March of 2017, God, there was so much snow on the road. Even thinking back to that time I remember freezing every night in the van, drinking whiskey in gloved hands, and breathing in the cold Yukon air while watching the northern lights. It was amazing, but Penny is not a 4x4 vehicle and we got into some hairy situations. We slowly rolled to our new home in Haines, Alaska, which turned out was a parking spot behind the warehouse of the company. It was a rough spring that year, as it never truly warmed up, piles of snow, and rain every day made living in the van with two people difficult. After being in the van for two months we realized we needed to get a warm and dry roof over our heads (also the pop top was starting to mold, which made my OCD cleanliness go into overdrive). We found a dry cabin for rent 7 miles outside of town. The most beautiful cabin in the whole world, which had electric but no running water, overlooking the Chilkoot river and the Takshanuk mountains. That cabin was heaven on earth. It was also the first time that both Charlie and I truly lived with a partner. It honestly felt like we were playing house at times, but our version of house was filling up our 5 gallon water jugs at a water fall on the side of the road, devising a hot shower, and a building a pallet bed frame. We drove to work every day in the van, and when we had to much to drink in town we would pull out the bed and sleep in the back. Looking back at summer in Alaska it was a magical time, and Haines might be the most beautiful place on earth.
Once September rolled around though, we began to think of our winter plans. Our job was up at the end of the month and after having no summer to speak of we wanted to go somewhere warm. I had been to SE Asia twice before and I knew that we could go for a few months cheaply if we stuck to a strict budget.
So without thinking it through to much (because sometimes that really is the best way to live) we bought tickets to Bangkok for $800 round trip, We would be leaving November 4 and returning March 14.
So this last winter Charlie and I were meandering in SE Asia, exploring temples, taking every cooking class we could find, and motorbiking our way around countrysides. It was a whole different kind of ‘simple living’ which I think the van prepared me for in a very unique way. In the van I could have brought a lot of stuff, but I knew I would be overwhelmed and annoyed by it all so I kept it simple and light. The same two principles applied to SE Asia, I had one 45 liter backpack, which wasn’t ever full, and a lot of neutral colored clothing. I could write for days about the wonders of this part of the world but I’ll keep it short- it was amazing, everyone should go.
Arriving in SEATAC on March 14, after 30 hours of travel, and broke as jokes we stumbled our way back to Leavenworth, Washington. A small town in central Washington where I had grown up, and where Charlie had recently gotten a job as a climbing ranger. As Charlie’s start date got pushed back and back we realized we had a whole month to play with before either of our jobs started. Somehow, and I’m not even sure how we pulled this one off, we got back into the van and road tripped to Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, and Moab for the month of April.
The van is truly where Charlie and I feel the most comfortable, we are excellent van partners. We excel in such different ways in the car. Charlie is master of driving long stints without complaining, I have a natural knack for finding campsites that are epic, and we both love living with less on the road. The ability to wake up and truly enjoy a good cup of coffee, while the dog is running around sniffing everything, and the day is just getting started is one of my favorite things. Things take time when you’re on the road. You can’t just toast some bread, slap jelly on it and run out the door. You have to clear off the counter, find the pan, open the stove and lite it, wait for the butter to heat up, toast the bread, maybe boil water for another cup of coffee, and then you have to clean up and put it all away, because otherwise you would have everything banging around as you drive. There are a lot of steps to living on the road, and for better or worse, life moves at a different pace.
After being on the road for a month we moved back to Leavenworth to start work and start summer. We’ve been here every since (a whole 4 months which somehow feels so much longer), our plan is to work through December and then go on another adventure.
We don’t have much in the way of savings, but we have the van, and now we have each other. And for now that seems like enough.
So if you don’t see me posting or updating this website, it’s because I’m working and trying to live in the moment- staying in one place, putting down some temporary roots and appreciating an oven for the first time in years.