Six months in a van

Six months in a van

More or less. That’s the plan. Or, that’s the plan right now. Not a design job, not a steady income or a well decorated apartment (all things I admire and appreciate). I am going to sell my things, fix up my van, and live on the road while travelling around the country, following freelance work and other odd jobs. The goal? Well the goal is not as neat as I’d like it to sound. Or rather, it’s not as neat as everyone else would like it be. I have encountered a few different responses on this journey so far. Why are you going? How are you going? What’s the point of going? I also get a lot of silence and head nodding, paired with wide-eyes and a look that says “Yeah right.”. On the other side, I get ‘that’s awesome!’ ‘so cool!’, ‘where are you going!?’ ‘you should x y and z’. There is certainly a wide array of responses, and above all, questions. Questions I don’t have all of the answers to yet— and that seems to shock people. Scare people. It scares me! But I am working every.single.day. to answer these questions. I am going to use this space over the next few months to share my journey, answering and asking questions. Starting with: Why? I am not sharing my ‘why’ in hopes to quiet judgments or validate my decisions. I am sharing my ‘why’ because I have read and heard so many stories of others whose ‘why’ inspired me to make the decisions I am currently making. Stories about travelling or getting a new job or following a love. I believe in the power of telling stories. So here goes.

 First road trip in 2014, when we took pictures jumping  everywhere

First road trip in 2014, when we took pictures jumping everywhere

I went on my first road trip with my best friend our Sophomore summer of college after finding a website, Roadtrippers.com, that helped answers all of the questions we had: where?, how far?, how much gas?, where can we sleep? (If you’ve followed my blog, this is old news. Bare with me while I catch everyone up.) I planned the entire thing with the help from this amazing website—along with creating spreadsheets, maps and timelines— and it gave me confidence to really go for it. The trip was a success. Then we went on a roadtrip the next summer, and the next, and the next. Those first few trips nurtured so much growth and strength I didn’t know I had. It put me in a position that taught me about resilience and courage, not stopping to feel anxious or afraid or sad. I made the plans myself. And if something went wrong, I had no choice but to recenter and fix the problem. I had to find a new campsite if the original plan fell through or we would have nowhere to sleep. I researched permits and fees before we made it to our destinations. I navigated maps if our GPS led us astray or we found ourselves in a place with no service. I had to help make the call if we felt unsafe. I had to plan trips and make rules that would keep us both safe. I tried things out of my comfort zone. I even had to talk to strangers for help or- get this- friendship. There was no manual to follow, but let’s be honest, I have always learned the hard way. I’m stubborn and often undeservedly confident about things I have no idea about but want to very much know everything about. I prefer the jumping-off-the-cliff method. Wherein I see a thing that I want to try and I before thinking about it long enough to make myself anxious— I jump right in. And I get messy and make mistakes and learn from them. This has served me well in the past and hindered me as well— but when it came to roadtripping— I had to do it before the noise of everyone’s fears around me drowned my own desires out.

 Second road trip 2015, when we tried Kayaking for the first time

Second road trip 2015, when we tried Kayaking for the first time

So its 2018. I have five road trips under my belt as well as countless other trips to Colorado, California, Florida, New Zealand, New Orleans, New York, Arizona that have each taught me so much about myself. In this time I have also began hiking and backpacking, with dreams of thru-hiking and climbing mountains. I graduated from UMKC in May of 2017 and spent a year continuing my day-job, living in my two bedroom apartment. I have room to ‘entertain’ (oh please) and room for my cats to run. I have a degree in arts and could find a job in an office somewhere to pay for all of the things. But even a year ago when I signed the lease to this apartment, I could feel the itch that I wasn’t scratching. I knew it was there, but I didn’t know how to scratch it.

Summer rolled around in my new apartment. I had just quit my job and headed to Arizona to take off on another roadtrip. It was number 5, a good satisfying whole number. We spent a lot of the trip reminiscing about how far we had come, how much pride we had in the things we had accomplished. We feel like travellers, like people seeking adventure. On budgets, mind you, but that is the part I was most proud of. Not waiting for ‘wealth’, but always finding ways to make it work despite being college kids with no idea what we were doing. Sometimes that meant a couple of months of ramen noodles or giant pots of soup to eat on for days. Most times a frugal couple of months preceded and followed the trips. Sometimes those frugal months brought loneliness or stress. But there has never been a second I have regretted it.

 Third road trip, 2016, when we visited Manzanar

Third road trip, 2016, when we visited Manzanar

Our fifth road trip was a success with many firsts: First backpacking trip, first time meeting up with friends we met on previous trips, first time seeing the ocean from behind our windshield. One of the last nights I remember sitting on a giant boulder with the pacific ocean in front of us, a range of mountains dividing us from the rest of the country. I remember thinking about the numerous people who looked at me sideways when I went on that first road trip. The friends and family who looked at me with worry and questions. Sitting next to the ocean so far away, I was so grateful we took that first leap and kept going.

But it wasn’t until we arrived back at Celeste’s for a few days that I saw myself exploring the country in my own van or car or rv. Coming down from the challenge and joy of the road, I finally thought, ‘Why can’t I do that?’. I was holding on to so many reasons why I couldn’t: my cats, my friends, my family, my apartment I worked so hard to find filled with all of the furniture I worked so hard to buy. I started building a home after graduating high school, buying lots of furniture, cats, art, computers, tablets, and staying in a steady relationship. Building a permanent home. Nesting. I always liked making a space my own, always liked collecting items and things that brought me joy. By the time I graduated college I thought I would look for a design job and live in a new, bigger, better apartment, filled with things and cats in Kansas City. But as I poured through job listings daily, cleaned my apartment constantly, paid bills continuously, and spent the rest of my money to get away from all of this— I started to reevaluate.

 Forth road trip, 2017, Finally made it to Yellowstone!

Forth road trip, 2017, Finally made it to Yellowstone!

Every option that included me staying put felt uninspiring and directly against what I wanted so badly. I was stuck in the trap of doing what I thought I was supposed to do. And as I was trying new things, like hiking, backpacking, and travelling in general, I latched on to the idea of less. Needing less, using less, owning less. I got a thrill from cutting weight from my pack and literally needing less things to survive. I remember getting home after every trip, ‘less’ still heavy on my mind. What I had was not less. It was always more. More clothes, more decorations for random holidays, more knick knacks and rugs, more clothes. These things weren’t exciting me in anymore. What if I lived more less? What if I moved into a van and sold most of my things and learned about living less for longer than a couple of weeks?

After I was able to begin to work through the fear- of leaving friends and family and the comfort of leaving all of the ‘things’ and the ‘security of a steady job’- I started to feel capable of chasing a dream. And it starts on the road, behind the wheel of an old van, exploring and growing and investing in a life that I want to live. It was hard to see through the clouds of my own self-doubt, the doubt of others, and the pressure of doing what is expected. It is still hard to see, everyday I get closer to deadlines and timelines and the looming presence of the possibility of failing. One week I’m quitting my job, the next I’m making plans to sell all of my things and leave my apartment. It’s a constant battle fighting through my fears trying to get to where I want to be. And I mean constant. It’s a lot of work, physically and mentally. But even when (especially when) things are difficult, scary and overwhelming, I have the support of my friends and my family reminding me that I can do this. It’s the same love and support that gave me the courage to hop in a car and travel in the first place. I can do this, or that, or something else entirely if I change my mind. Yes I am scared— of regret, mistakes, biting off more than I can chew. But I have found that I am much more scared of never trying anything new, never veering from the path. So this is my first venture. Please stay tuned.

 Fifth road trip 2019, First backpacking trip together

Fifth road trip 2019, First backpacking trip together

p.s. I am selling furniture, knick knacks, a few appliances and electronics, and clothes- winter coats, summer dresses, some loved vintage pieces I have held onto for years. When I get a page ready to take sales, I will share the link here!

















Photographer on the road