What’s vanlife like with a dog?

If you follow us on Instagram, or if you know Dan and I in real life, chances are that you know Nala, the real queen of our van (and hearts). Before we left, we got a lot of questions like, “but what will you do with your dog?”, which reminded me why I like my dog better than a lot of people. In all seriousness though, there was no way we could ever hit the road without her (look at that face!).

Nala is an amazing travel dog; she loves adventure, the outdoors, and car rides, which makes her the perfect companion for our journey.

Having a dog on the road comes with a huge list of both pros and cons, but for us we wouldn’t have it any other way! I’d like to share a few of our favorite things about traveling with a dog, and some of the challenges that comes with it as well.

Favorites

Companionship! One of my favorite things about traveling with our pup is that she’s a great snuggler. She is always ready to curl up with me for a nap on a rainy day, or to keep us warm at night when it’s cold out. She is also perfectly content to sleep in in the mornings, which is great for me since I’m not usually an early riser.

Safety! Having a dog is like having a built-in security system while we travel. When we’re in the woods, she keeps most wild animals away, and also can alert us if something isn’t quite right (check out this post about us listening to Nala’s intuition). While in towns or stealth camping, most people tend to be cautious around large dogs, and are less likely to attempt a break in if there is a dog barking. I’d also like to file this under challenges too! For some reason, Nala hates bikes. She goes nuts and freaks out like her tail is on fire if someone rides by on a bicycle, or God forbid, a motorcycle 😳. She’s definitely blown our cover a few times when we would rather not be noticed.

Motivation! We love our girl, and want to make sure she gets enough exercise and doesn’t spend too much time cooped up in the van. This means we need to get outside too! When we visit a new place, we typically like to check out new restaurants and bars when we can afford it, but having a dog means that we’ve needed to adjust our priorities – more time outside being active and less money spent is best for all of us.

When we do go out to eat or go somewhere that dogs aren’t allowed, we never leave her for a long period of time and always make sure that she’s safe and comfortable no matter what. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s too hot or cold in your vehicle for you, it’s that way for your pet too. Whenever she stays behind, even if only for 5 minutes, we make sure to put up the window insulation to regulate the temperature inside, and also to keep her calm if people (or bikers!) go by. If you’re going to a longer event like a concert, it’s a good idea to look into dog-sitting services like Wag or Rover so you know your pet is safe.

Challenges:

Space. Sharing a tiny space with another human can be a huge challenge, but add in another 70 pound body, and you’re sometimes super crammed. Combined with the fact that Nala often confuses herself with a lap-dog, we are often literally all on top of each other. Most dogs I know don’t know a thing about personal space, and ours is no exception. Not a day goes by that I don’t get stepped on or get a tail-wag to the face, or have to dodge a slobbery tongue. But, oh so worth it. No sooner do I push her drooly face away from mine than she puts her head on my shoulder giving me an actual hug and I melt.

Stealth. As I mentioned, bikes, motorcycles and sometimes other dogs are a big “no” for Nala. When she loses her cool because of someone on a bike, she draws attention to us, which we try to avoid as much as possible. Most of the time we keep our window insulation up if we’re getting ready to sleep, but we’re definitely cautious and try to distract her if anything on two wheels goes by. Another aspect of staying stealthy is letting her out before bed. It’s kind of obvious that we’re sleeping in the van if we get out to walk the dog and then all or both pile back in. Most of the time we don’t sleep in neighborhoods, but this is something to consider if we do any stealth camping and we’ll often try to walk her before we park for the night.

Safety (for pup)! Most National Parks have restrictions on where you can bring your dog, and pets always need to be on a leash. This is for good reason – as one park ranger told us, “No matter how big she is, she’s prey”(…yikes.). Specifically in western states, bears, coyotes and mountain lions can see your pup as a meal, which definitely kept us on high alert. Nala is almost always on a leash anyways, but especially after hearing that we made sure to be extra careful.

Just like everything else, everyone’s experience is different, and each pet is different! Some things that work for us might not work for other travelers, and vice versa. Either way, we wanted to share our experience so you can decide for yourself! In our humble opinion, traveling with a dog is the best way to do it! Nala makes our days brighter, not to mention much more entertaining.

We would love to hear about your experiences traveling with pets! As always, thanks so much for reading. 😊

Year 1: marriage, vanlife, sharing a small space

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!

From beach to snow

We’ve come a long way since LA! After our trip to visit family in Southern California, we got ready to say some difficult goodbyes to our friends who became our family [in a van, down] by the [Trinity] river. We felt ready to move on, but had a really tough time letting go of the people and the place that had become like home in a short time. But that’s what makes this experience so special – we get the opportunity to create community and a home wherever we go.

From California, we headed up through the Redwoods and into Oregon up the 101 along the Pacific coast. On the East coast, we have a Coastal Highway where we go to the beach, but it’s nothing like this. The highway traces the coast for miles and miles, so that the ocean is always on your left as you drive North. Oregon’s State Parks are scattered every few miles so that you always have a spot to pull over and walk down to the beach.

After spending a few days driving up the coast and hanging out by the ocean, we decided to head inland to see what else we could discover.

I had been wanting to check out Crater Lake, so we got a National Parks pass and drove around the lake. It was a complete 180 from where we had just been on the coast. As we entered the park (in October), there was already 3 inches of snow on the ground, and it was COLD. It’s amazing how much of a difference a hundred miles can make!

Crater Lake was one of the most astounding places I have ever seen. The water is crystal clear and surrounded by snowy mountains, and there are places to park every half mile or so to take in the view. We spent all day driving the loop around the lake, getting out of the van to see each viewpoint until we were too cold and had to jump back into the heat.

That night we set up camp in the nearby National Forest and blasted our new heater to stay warm in the freezing temperatures. We came down in elevation so that there was no longer snow on the ground, but as soon as the sun dropped the temperature went with it and we spent a very cold night in the woods.

Before heading to Crater Lake, we got a recommendation from a friend to look for a place called Toketee Falls, which she told us was about an hour or so from where we camped for the night. She also told us that there were hot springs nearby, which was something we hadn’t yet experienced on our trip.

I couldn’t be happier that we decided to search for these springs. The almost vertical hike up the hill was totally worth it – we arrived to find several pools of hot water filled with people from all over the country. There were naked people, fully clothed people, young people and old people all hanging out together and sharing stories with one another. To me, it was amazing to be in a space with a group of people who weren’t judging each other and were allowing each person to be themselves. I wish I had pictures of the hot springs, but also wouldn’t want to post any nudies of strangers 🙂

Although we talked about staying another day at this weird-but-so-cool place, we moved on the next morning and headed back towards the coast to get ready to celebrate our first lap around the sun together as a married couple.

That’s right! One whole year of marriage under our belts as of October 5th. We spent the day on the beach in Lincoln City, splurged on dinner out, drank champagne on the beach, and saw a band play at a bar up the street. A perfect celebration of a year that truly has flown by. They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s absolutely the case! We’ve been on the road for 5 months, and I sometimes feel like we left yesterday. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait to see where else this leads us. For now, we’ll spend a little more time in Oregon before beginning to head towards home for the Holidays. Stay tuned! Thanks so much for reading!

Vannin’ on a budget… How we’ve made vanlife work without solar power

One of the decisions that we had to make early on in our build was whether or not we wanted to invest in solar power for our van. Before we left, our focus was more geared towards saving up as much gas money as possible, and doing our best to take care of as many credit card payments as we could. At the end of the day, we needed to compromise on certain things such as our power system in order to make sure we could travel where (and as much as) we wanted to.

I’ve compiled a list and a few options if you’re in the same boat (or van!) and want some alternatives to paying for an entire solar power system. Here are a few of the biggest obstacles we’ve had to work around:

1. Keeping food without a fridge

This is probably the most important piece of the puzzle – if your goal is to save money, you have to have food on hand to cook rather than eating out for every meal (check out this post on cooking in a van) – you’ll also be way more healthy! The simple answer here is: use a cooler. There are a ton of options when it comes to which to choose so I’ll break it down by cost.

Our first cooler was a Coleman that we purchased for about $30. You really do get what you pay for, and we ended up needing to purchase ice almost every day. We have since upgraded, and now the cooler we have is a 52-quart Ozark Trail cooler; we spent about $120 purchasing it, and I would say it’s done us well so far. Driving across the country in the blazing sun in 100 degree heat, without AC, our ice melted FAST. Now that we’re in cooler weather though (40’s-50’s at night, 70-80 during the day), we can keep ice for 4-7 days without needing more.

**Helpful hint: we have found that it makes a HUGE difference to place your ice into ziploc bags rather than letting it melt inside the cooler – this makes the cooler so much easier to empty and organize, and greatly reduces soggy food situations. You can also reuse the ziplocs so you don’t waste 🙂

Ozark Pros: relatively cheap, keeps ice for several days, sturdy but easy to maneuver inside the van

Cons: how long ice is kept is easily impacted by the outside temperature, frequent-ish purchase of ice depending on your location

From our research, the best (but more expensive) option is a Yeti cooler. These run from $300-500 depending on what size you get, but will keep ice for more than a week, which is a huge deal if you’re taking long camping trips and won’t have access to somewhere you can purchase more.

Yeti pros: keeps ice longest out of most cooler options, sturdy material

Cons: highest price point as far as coolers go

Finally, our favorite pick is an Acopower battery-powered cooler, which costs between $450 and $600, again depending on size. This is on our wish list big time for a few reasons. First of all, you don’t have to worry about buying ice frequently (or at all), which also means you can avoid emptying water from your cooler, as well as dealing with soggy food if you don’t seal something correctly. The cooler battery can be charged via a wall outlet, a solar panel, or the cigarette lighter in your van. Charging via dashboard outlet takes approximately 4-5 hours, and the battery will last 10-12 hours. This cooler also has a freezer as well, which allows for ice cream, so definitely a win 🙂 The downside, however, is that if you choose to charge the battery with a solar panel, that’s an additional purchase.

Acopower pros: no need to purchase ice, freezer included, rechargeable battery

Cons: higher price point, plus the additional need to purchase a solar panel if you don’t have access to an outlet or are not driving and can’t charge using your car battery

2. Lights at nighttime

If you don’t know too much about electricity (like us), chances are you’re not interested in figuring out how to wire your van for lighting. Thankfully there are several ways around this. In our setup, we have a combination of a few different battery powered options, which have worked great for us so far, and were super easy to install. First, we purchased battery powered puck lights that turn on when you press them and are powered by AAA’s. They come with adhesive pads, so you can stick them anywhere – we have six; one above the sink, one on the ceiling of the cab, two across from one another as you enter the van, one under the bed in our storage space, and one under the shelf above our bed as a reading light. Several of the reviews on Amazon state that the batteries die quickly in these particular lights, but we haven’t found this to be the case – in six months on the road, we’ve changed the batteries once.

Another recent addition for us was these Milwaukee Flood Lights, which I highly recommend! They have a magnet on one end, as well as along the back of the light so you can attach them either parallel or perpendicular to the side of your van. Between our van and the high top inside, we have a portion of exposed metal, so this is absolutely perfect for our set up! These lights are amazing outdoor lights as well because they can attach directly to the side of the van while you’re parked. The only downside of these particular lights is that if you use rechargeable batteries, they don’t last very long, so you’ll likely need to recharge the batteries daily (you can also use regular AA’s and they work fine).

Another simple solution I’ve seen in several builds is string lights, which not only illuminate the space, but also create a fun atmosphere. You can purchase these battery powered as well, and easily attach them to the ceiling of your van.

3. Charging our devices

This was something that was a pretty big consideration for us, specifically thinking about how we would charge our laptop. For our phones, it was pretty simple – we purchased a USB port that could plug into the cigarette lighter in our dashboard, but a laptop requires more power, and a 12v outlet to plug into. We ended up choosing a 400w Ever Start Plus, which is a power inverter that also plugs into the dashboard, and has two 12v outlets and two USB ports. Larger options are available, but you need to wire them directly to the battery for them to operate and we felt that 400w was enough for our needs. Plus, it cost about $30 so it made sense to do it this way with our budget.

The biggest obstacle with this option is that the engine needs to be running in order for it to work at full capacity. The Ever Start can operate while the van is off, but not indefinitely because it will drain the battery and you might need a jump-start in the middle of the woods (guess how we know?)!

Ever Start pros: inexpensive, can fully charge phones and laptop while driving, phones can be charged while engine is off

Cons: pulls power from car battery when engine is off, larger wattage options need to be wired directly to car battery

If you need power while your engine is off, I recommend thinking about getting a power bank such as a Goal Zero, which can be charged via solar panel or while you drive. This 400w option runs about $400, so the price point is significantly higher. There are larger options available, but if cost is a factor for you it’s best to have a power bank you can charge while you drive rather than purchasing the additional solar panel, and the 400w makes the most sense without a panel in our opinion. The great thing about this brand is that it’s as simple as it gets as far as solar power – if you do choose to upgrade to solar, you can simply plug a solar panel into the power bank to charge it, no electrical knowledge required.

Goal Zero pros: power while your engine is off, can charge via cigarette lighter

Cons: more expensive than an inverter, vehicle must be on to charge unless you want to purchase a solar panel

Deciding whether or not to invest in solar power is an on-going discussion for us, but so far we’ve found that it’s not necessary in order to hit the road, and there are a ton of options aside from attaching solar panels to the roof of the van. By choosing other cost-effective options, we’ve been able to travel a lot more with the money we’ve saved, so for us the compromise has been totally worth it! As always, everything we’ve mentioned here is a product of our own research and experience, and won’t necessarily be the best options for everyone, so please ask questions and explore your options, because there are plenty! Thank you for reading! 🙂

*This post includes affiliate links – as an Affiliate site we earn on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

West Coastin’

We have been doing some pretty extreme relaxing since we arrived on the west coast, along with taking on some pretty cool adventures. Before we left home, one of our good friends invited us to his farm in California, and as we passed through Colorado he encouraged us to head straight here. And here we are! We drove directly to his house from Colorado and have been making ourselves at home.

We arrived a few weeks ago, and everyone who lives here made us feel like family the second we hopped out of the van.

We’re in Northern California, about an hour and a half from the coast. Where we’re staying honestly feels like a fairytale, in combination with some kind of time warp where it’s hard to know what day it is. We work in the mornings, and in the afternoons walk down to the river to cool down. Along the way, we pick wild blackberries and grapes to snack on, and have several dogs trotting by our sides (I mean, come on, dream come true). The water is blue and crystal clear, cold and crisp. There’s no cell phone service, so friends simply stop by to see what we’re up to that day.

Close by, there’s another river spot that people fittingly call “paradise”. We finally got Nala to swim for the first time (if you kept up with us when we were in Michigan, we thought this was a lost cause for sure, so we were super excited). There are huge rocks to jump from, and deep pools where no one can touch the bottom. We come here to fill our water tanks at the fresh spring that comes from the side of a mountain.

A few of our new friends here work as river guides, so we’ve gone rafting a few times; Labor Day weekend the dam was released above our section of river, and we got a true white water rafting experience. I had done this in West Virginia with my dad once or twice, so I felt pretty confident going into it – I quickly got flipped and dumped from my kayak, and simultaneously was knocked down a few pegs.

Since we’re so close to the coast, Dan and I have also taken a few day trips to the beach. We splurged and ate at a small seafood restaurant right on the water, where we tried a little bit of everything caught close by.

About 30 miles north is Redwood National Park; the park is huge and we’ve only driven through a small section so far, but I was completely blown away. I’ve heard people talk about how big the trees are, but standing next to them and touching the bark that might be more than a thousand years old gave me chills and made me cry all at the same time. We found a dirt road that wound through the trees and followed it all the way to the end, where we stared up at the treetops thinking of how long it must have taken the branches to reach so high.

We heard a guide say that part of Jurassic Park was filmed in the Redwoods, and it felt like that – totally prehistoric and magical and larger than life. Stopping at the visitor center we learned that there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails and a ton of camping, so we are already planning our next trip up the highway to spend a few weeks in this other world.

Originally, our plan was to drive down the coast to visit Dan’s sister, her husband and our brand new niece(!!), but gas in California is almost double the price of anywhere else we’ve been so far so we’re limited on how much driving we can do here unfortunately. We decided to fly instead, and have just landed in LA for a few days! It’s going to be a huge change of pace spending some time in a city again, and we’re looking forward to a change of scenery, and spending some much needed time with family. Back to the woods again in a few days! Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

Van upgrades

Before we hit the road this time we had big plans for making our space a little more live-able and homey, and we thought we would share some of the upgrades we made!

First of all, one of the most simple but most impactful changes for us was adjusting our ceiling. If you read our post, Overcoming our Ceiling Challenge, you already know that we were waking up staring up at blank silver insulation every day, which felt very unfinished, and a little creepy. After much trial and error, we found the miracle that is Peel and stick wallpaper. This was a game-changer, and now our ceiling is finished, and gives us something interesting to look at.

The next thing we did was add an additional cabinet on the side of the van opposite the sliding door. We already had one that we picked up on the road, and we decided to add another and also create some counter space. The cabinet we found in my parent’s basement (thanks mom and dad!), and we purchased a piece of plywood to use as the countertop. I spray painted the new cabinet, and when we took a look at the plywood, it seemed unfinished so we decided to add some final touches.

At first I was planning to use the remaining wallpaper from the ceiling to cover the countertop, but we wanted something waterproof; our cheapest and best option turned out to be vinyl floor tile (the one we got came from Home Depot, but we found this one on Amazon that is very similar if you’re looking for an affordable option). The one we chose gives our countertop a granite-esque feel, and makes a lot of sense for our space. The two cabinets didn’t line up perfectly, so we made a diagonal cut and then cut each individual tile to fit against the edge of the plywood counter.

Underneath the counter, we installed our Banana hammock, aka hanging fruit basket. If you have a van, or even if you don’t, I highly recommend one of these! It keeps our fruit from getting smashed against the side of the van while we drive, and makes it easily accessible all the time. We knew we would place it in between the two cabinets, so when we installed the second one, we measured them so that the hammock would fit against each one. We then put in a small screw on either side through each cabinet so that it would stay put.

Speaking of cabinets, our friend Pat hooked us up with an amazing cabinet/extra storage space above the cab of the van. With a few 2×4’s and some plywood, Pat created a ton of extra storage for us in a few hours, which would have taken us a few days to figure out. He even included a small switch in the middle of the two doors to keep them closed while we drive. We now use the cabinet for extra blankets and cold weather clothes.

We also updated our sink drainage system by eliminating our waste water tank. While on this trip, we’ve tried to make a lot of changes as far as using products that are environmentally friendly, and want to be sure that we leave as small a footprint as possible. By switching to soap and even toothpaste that is biodegradable, we were able to safely eliminate our waste water tank and let our sink drain outside the van. Even so, we try to do dishes in a parking lot rather than while we’re camping.

It was a little tricky to configure this system because we purchased our sink on Craigslist and didn’t have specific parts for the drain, but we found creative solution by using a Rinse-roo hose, which is actually a hose made for washing your dog. The end is flexible, so we could simply wrap it around the drainage piece under the sink and allow the hose to run out the sliding door. Eventually, we’ll drill a hole in the floor where the hose can sit permanently, but for now it drains out the door when the door is open.

It’s not perfect, but now we can carry an extra 7 gallons of water along with us everywhere we go!

Finally, another one of the most crucial updates we made was a new stereo system (if you know us, this is a big deal)! When we purchased our van, the speakers were blown and we were using a Bose speaker as our sound system, but Dan found a cheap-but-nice Bluetooth system on Amazon, which has completely changed our music situation. The unit comes with a backup camera, which is huge for us in such a large vehicle. This was a great option for us, because it was affordable and not a name brand, and it does everything we need. We also got some new Speakers, which were easy to install and replaced the blown ones we had.

There will be more coming in the future, but for now, these updates have made our home on wheels so much more comfortable! If you want to start a conversation about vanlife, or have any questions about anything we’ve done, please reach out! Also please note that we’re newbies not experts, so everything we share with you is what has worked for us, not necessarily what is the best for everyone 🙂 Thanks for reading!

*This post includes affiliate links – as an Amazon Affiliate site we earn on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

Westward Bound

It’s official – we’re back on the road! After a busy and emotional time at home, we’ve set our destination as “west”, and we’re making more progress every day. We left Sunday evening and couldn’t help but reminisce on how far we’ve come since the last time we left home.

The first time we drove away from Maryland, we were full of stress, busyness, uncertainty (etc., etc.). This time, it felt like a breath of fresh air. If you’ve been following our journey, you already know that we lost a best friend not very long ago. Being home, we felt reminded of him every day – we grew up here, our family (related and not) is here, and he is everywhere.

As we drove away, both of us cried. In remembrance, and also because now our trip will be void of our visit to him in California. We’re still going there, but now it will be to spend time where Robbie spent his last months, and hopefully to find some closure and peace.

Driving away this time, while we already miss family and friends, I think will help us to heal and to take time to pull ourselves back together.

For now, we just finished driving straight to Denver from Howard County. We hopped on Route 70 West, and drove until we hit the mountains. The first night, we stopped at a Flying J truck stop in Pennsylvania after driving for a few hours. Like I said, this time was SO much more relaxed than the first time we hit the road. Last time, I was falling asleep as we pulled into a rest area, and this time I figured covering a few hours was enough and it was time to sleep.

Monday and Tuesday were both days packed with miles; we headed all the way to Kansas on Monday, and picked up again the next day. The Midwest region of the US is HOT in August, and if you don’t already know, our AC situation is a big struggle.

We woke up in Kansas on Tuesday, and still had about 10 hours left in our journey to Denver (did you know that Kansas is enormous?!). We arrived in Denver late Tuesday evening and parked at a Walmart where we spent the night.

Waking up here on Wednesday has been absolutely wonderful, and that true breath of fresh air we were hoping for. I got up early and went to a yoga class, we went to brunch, we took a short hike with the pup, we met up with friends, and our hearts are full.

From here, we are headed to California. Our original plan was to spend a few weeks in Colorado, but we feel called to Cali at the moment. We have plenty of people to see here, so we’ll head back this way in a few weeks!

In the meantime, we’ve made a ton of upgrades to our van – stay tuned, I’ll post them all soon! Thanks for reading 🙂

Overcoming our ceiling challenge

Since we started this journey, we’ve been battling with the ceiling of our van. It’s very important for this part (and all of) the van to be insulated so that we can stay warm in cold weather, and at least semi-cool in hot weather. Insulating the floor was easy, since we could simply glue down the insulation and cover it with plywood to create our floor.

The walls of our van are curved, so we chose to use reflectix there – it isn’t quite as effective as far as regulating the temperature, but we saved a ton of space by doing it this way. This we were also able to attach with a heavy-duty glue, such as loc-tite.

The ceiling was another beast though, because, gravity. We used R-max insulation, purchased at Home Depot, which comes in large sheets and is relatively heavy, meaning we couldn’t glue it to the ceiling since it would fall down right away. We tried using 2X4s to hold it in place while the glue dried, but even still it fell as soon as we removed them.

Our only other option was to drill through the roof of the van to attach the insulation sheets, which we were very hesitant to do because the roof is fiberglass. We had heard horror stories of fiberglass cracking and needing to be replaced altogether, but it didn’t seem like we had much choice.

VERY carefully, Dan drilled holes from the outside of the van in each of the four corners, and two at about the halfway point on the longer sides of the roof.

Our plan was to use 4-inch bolts, and we quickly realized that wasn’t enough because the nuts would simply pull straight through the insulation. Our solution was to cut small squares of sheet metal to support the corners which we drilled through for the bolts to fit. Finally, we were insulated!

Our next issue was that the silvery side of the insulation made us feel like we were staring up at the inside of a spaceship/1950’s hospital.

We also tried a few different solutions here before we found the right one – if you haven’t noticed, most of this whole process for us has been trial and error.

First we tried a tapestry, but again, gravity. We tried nails, tacks, even duct tape (Dan’s favorite solution to everything, *eye roll*) and nothing worked. We threw around the ideas of putting up posters, and even painting over the insulation, but nothing seemed quite right. We probably said to each other every day for a month, “we really need to do something about this ceiling”, and were on the verge of painting when I came across a game changer: PEEL AND STICK WALLPAPER!! Such a simple idea, but it took us months to think of it.

I ordered it right away, and it couldn’t have been any easier to install; I mean, peel + stick pretty much sums it up. We’re psyched about our new ceiling – we have a tile-esque vibe which makes it feel like we’re on vacation instead of on our way to the moon, and this simple touch makes our van seem so much more like home.

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Our time at home

Our time back in Maryland is coming to a close in less than two weeks, and we are gearing up to hit the road again. I’ve put a pause on writing for the blog while we’ve been here, first of all because there hasn’t been much to write about, but most importantly because we lost someone very close to us in the middle of July. It barely feels right to continue on writing or posting anything now, but I know that heading west, along with time, will help us to heal. Both of us are craving nature and peace and quiet.

While we’re itching to leave, I’m beyond grateful that we were home when we were, so that we could spend much needed time with our friends, and we could all grieve together. I’m not sure how we would have made it if we didn’t have such an amazing group of people pull together to support one another. I’m also grateful for my parents, who have let us stay with them much longer than we all originally anticipated.

We now have a friend to guide us as we travel, who we carry in our hearts wherever we go.

We’re taking this extra time at home to rebuild; picking up the pieces, as well as making some adjustments to the van and working to rebuild our bank accounts after the first part of our trip.

If you’ve been keeping up with us, thank you, thank you. That’s all I’ve got for now, but please stay tuned, we’ll be back at it as soon as we can ❤️

Loving our planet while on the road

The most important thing to remember when camping is to pack it out if you pack it in. Even though we haven’t been on the road for very long, we unfortunately have come across several campsites already with trash left behind from previous campers. Even though it is sad to see, it serves as a great reminder that we are responsible for our actions, and that it is our job to do what we can to care for the planet.

Something that was really important to me as we decided to live on the road was caring for the environment. I want to be sure that we use products that are sustainable and that we leave the smallest footprint that we can. Because we sometimes run into situations where we need to empty our gray water tank while camping, it’s super important that we use biodegradable soap that isn’t harmful to the environment. We use Dr. Bronner’s soap, which is great because you can use it for anything, from washing dishes to washing vegetables, and washing your hands to washing your laundry.

Something else campers don’t often consider is things like toothpaste! Many people I know casually spit toothpaste on the ground without considering the impact it can have on the environment. For this, we’ve begun to use Young Living products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash that are made from essential oils and are sustainable! It feels great to know that these things don’t leave a big footprint.

I’m working towards making as many as I can of the products I use myself, and am going to start with lotion since it’s something I’ve done before. The wise words of one of my yoga teachers has stuck with me – “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin!”. Makes you think, right? Along those same lines you could also say, “if you wouldn’t put it on your skin, don’t place it on the earth!”. Food for thought, and reminders to care for the planet and ourselves ❤️ thanks for reading!

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