Out Of The Woods

So, I’m not dead! That seems like solid ground to start on.

In retrospect, I realize that making an announcement about traveling America alone in a minivan and then going radio silent for six months might have been slightly ominous. My bad, guys. My bad. Needless to say, a lot has happened since the last time I updated. Thousands of miles flickered past on my odometer; I got an eyeful of nature’s splendor from coast to coast, border to border. Multiple disasters were averted, and a few simply endured. All in all, it’s been a wild ride.

Part of what made this trip possible was the work I put in beforehand, tricking out my minivan to transform a “15 minutes to soccer-practice” set-up into a long-term livable space. I didn’t go nearly as far as some full-time roadsters; there was no electrical, no running water, no room to move around except with something resembling a doubled-over Gollum shuffle. But I built myself a bookshelf/folding writing desk combo, and that’s basically all I need.

I was really big on hinges in the planning process. I guess I figured that making everything fold up would save a lot of space in the long run. I even ended up adding some hinges to my bed, so I could raise part of it up into a sort of recliner—a feature I used approximately twice before realizing I could just prop my back up on a pillow. But I got to feel really smart before reaching that obvious conclusion.

Honestly guys, accurately photographing the inside of the van is an impossible task. I couldn’t find a single good angle to give an accurate idea of what the inside layout actually looks like. So, in short: in my living area I had my two foot wide bed, two clothing drawers, my bookshelf, and about three-by-four feet of floor space. The trunk area was my designated kitchen space; the passenger seat was my designated “dump all the shit I can’t fit anywhere else” space. I had a couple folding tables and a camping chair I’d set up outside. And that was home.

There were points on the road—most often when I was standing mostly-naked under a tree trying to bathe in tepid water from my camp shower without catching hypothermia—when I desperately longed to run screaming back to stationary life. A life which didn’t require assembling a stove and waiting fifteen minutes to make a cup of tea; a life involving 24/7 access to sweet, sweet hot water and climate control. Seriously, spending all of June/July in Arizona and New Mexico? Without AC? Or showers? Not my brightest idea.

But no matter how physically uncomfortable or mentally exhausting things got, all I had to do to make myself feel better was just sit up and look out the window. I could have the benefit of a beautiful natural vista to admire every single day—and I could park myself in front of an entirely new one whenever the fancy struck.

It just about evened things out on the “no showers” scale. Might as well conform to the “dirty hippie” stereotype, right?

I feel like each time I hit the road, I learn a little more. It doesn’t necessarily get easier; because for all the benefits of #vanlife, doing it long term alone and without the benefit of a fancier rig can be frankly exhausting. But god, is it worth it. And I’m already planning the changes I’m going to make to the van next spring, when I plan to head out again. Also, after all my tires getting ripped open at least once throughout the entire trip, I’ve gotten a hell of a lot better at changing a flat.

So, in the meantime, I’ll see you guys around the real world. Here’s hoping I can remember how living in civilization works.

Never quite was my forte.

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