At the beginning of October we celebrated our first year of marriage together, and took some time to reflect on what an insane year we’ve had. So much has happened! We moved, we shared a loss, we switched up our entire lifestyle, and we’ve traveled the country.
We got married on October 5th, 2018 and moved into a new house shortly after.
After the holidays, we found out that our new lease would end in May and we needed to make a decision on what would come next. We looked into buying a house as well as renting somewhere else in Baltimore, but we also had an itch to travel which would get pushed to the side if we committed to becoming homeowners. We also had barely considered any other options together.
We took a snowboarding trip in March to Vermont, followed by a mini-roadtrip up through Canada and back down into New York. This trip was the catalyst for where we are now because it was when we decided we needed to travel before we could settle down (check out our post on choosing vanlife). For me personally, I worried that I would look back with regret if we stayed exactly where we were and didn’t do something adventurous.
It didn’t take long for this plan to come to fruition – like I said, we made the decision in March, and we needed to be out of our house mid-May, so this had to happen quickly. But, we had made up our minds! The longest part of the preparation was finding the right van; we ended up with a 1999 Ford E-350 with a high top roof, that only had 49,000 original miles. We got lucky with the van, totally gutted it, and started to rebuild.
Since our work schedules were so different, we mostly only had Sunday’s to work on the van together, so we made the most of the time we had and began to build the basics: a bed and a sink. We would end up making a ton of upgrades as we traveled, but for now we were ready to go.
On May 16, 2019, we left our previous lives behind and drove away in our new van. Our journey began with traveling the North East part of the US, and we ended up back home a few months later for a planned stay. During this stay at home, we had no idea that our lives would change forever. On July 19th, we lost our best friend in a car accident.
Our world was flipped upside-down, and now we had to figure out how to grieve individually, but also to support each other during this time. It was almost a blessing that we were home when all of this went down, because we were close to friends and family that we could lean on.
We left home again shortly after, and now headed West to spend time where Robbie was living before he passed. We were welcomed with open arms by everyone he was living with, and spent about a month in California trying to make sense of what life would be like now.
While this has made us rely heavily on each other, it’s also been a strenuous test of our relationship. If you’ve ever lost someone important in your life, you know that grief can present itself not only as sadness, but also as anger and frustration, and depression and heightened anxiety.
In a very small space, these emotions seem to be amplified and we need to constantly find extra patience and compassion for one another, sometimes when we feel we have none to give.
We left California about a week before our first wedding anniversary, and headed North into Oregon. We reflected on this year we’ve had – so full of extreme highs and lows.
Sharing a van as a home with another human is tough – mess happens the second you clean, everything needs a specific place or else it’s lost, and you need to learn to share in a way that you probably never have before. Alone time is scarce, and you need to be very intentional about creating it for yourself and allowing your partner to ask for it. This has been huge for us – we learned very early on how to ask for and give each other space when we need it. There’s been a big learning curve, and indeed, we’ve learned a lot in a short amount of time.
As we sat on the beach in Oregon celebrating our first year of being married, we felt strong together as a team. A lot of pages make vanlife seem glamorous and easy, and that isn’t always the case; it’s sometimes messy and a little crazy. It’s an amazing adventure, that certainly comes with big challenges as well. Not only is this a great adventure, it’s also been a chance for us to get to know each other on a whole new level (did you know that reading minds is actually a thing if you spend enough time with someone?).
What we’ve also found, is that we have learned a new level of problem solving together, and have gained a stronger feeling of being a team than ever before. While we’re enjoying this trip and this freedom, we’re also learning a lot about what it means to choose someone as your partner, and how important it is to make that choice every single day. I would call it a huge win that we still like each other after spending several months in a van!
A few things we’ve learned about life on the road together:
1. Just like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it. If we don’t work on ourselves and our relationship, we don’t grow. We started meditating together every morning, and have noticed a huge difference in how we approach each day.
2. Asking for alone time doesn’t mean you’re upset or angry; in fact, it’s super healthy (and necessary) to do so.
3. Being able to laugh when things go wrong is crucial. Things WILL go wrong, and you can either be upset, or laugh it off and find a solution.
4. Forgive. Often there’s a reason behind our actions. Hanger is too real, especially on big driving days when we don’t find a good spot to stop and cook. Being understanding is key, and asking for forgiveness after you’ve eaten is okay sometimes.
5. Stay present and enjoy the adventure! It’s easy to get caught up in where you want to travel next, but remember to enjoy where you are together before moving on.
As always, thanks for reading!