The $$$$ of travel is a question I get more often than not. And of course, everyone who asks that questions knows the answer: it varies.
But yet, it’s still asked, and that’s okay. I get it. How does a 24 year old travel the world?
I’ve stood on a lot of cliffs with my boyfriend, Josh. Together, we’ve traveled to twenty-some countries and over thirty states. To be honest, I’m surprised he hasn’t thrown me off a mountain yet because let’s face it; I can be a lot to handle.
I get hangry often (FEED ME AND TELL ME I’M PRETTY), it’s not unusual for me to smell worse than a men’s locker room, and my sass can often exceed even my expectations *flips hair and middle finger simultaneously*.
Josh absolutely hates spending money, can hike 25 miles of mountainous terrain without breaking a sweat, and has somehow got me addicted to Pokemon Go.
Whether taking a short weekend trip to Northern Michigan or a trip across the United States, there are a few things I’ve learned about making life on the road easier, more enjoyable, and more convenient (especially when working on the go).
Desperate times call for desperate measures. No matter how much you’d like to pretend everything on the road will go according to plan, it won’t. And instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a last-minute hotel when that time comes, you can either pitch a tent or sleep in your car. Instead of getting frustrated, take it as an opportunity to sleep under the stars along a beach on Lake Michigan.
Especially as a writer and photographer, XFINITY WiFi Hotspots are heaven sent. Meeting deadlines and staying connected on the road is a tough job. Libraries are fine, but they aren’t always easily accessible and every time I use one I feel the need to change my passwords to all my accounts because of lack of security on public networks. XFINITY Hotspots are free to XFINITY Mobile customers or Internet customers with speeds of 25mbps or higher (if you aren’t a customer you can buy usage passes). It’s also secure and has millions of locations (literally, millions) all over the United States.
Now please picture me frantically yelling in gibberish at my computer on a bench in downtown Holland after my site crashed. Thankfully with technology like this I was able to access my information and get it back up and running in ten minutes. My breathing slowed and I was able to speak English again thirty seconds later. Win.
The vast, wild, and untouched landscapes of the United States draw millions of adventurers to head out on a road trip every year. From the Rocky Mountains of the west, rugged coasts of Maine, and bayous of Louisiana, there is frankly too much to see in America, and not nearly enough time.
So when planning a road trip in the United States—whether for two weeks or two years—there are a few important things you need to know.
Most places you see in famous posts are major tourist attractions. If you want to experience a breathtaking place (like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or Golden Gate Bridge) with the best chance of solidarity, you’ll want to be there at sunrise. By midday, the magic of some of the nations most beautiful spots are dimmed by thousands of visitors cramming to get a glimpse on a narrow viewing platform.
I get it, when your alarm goes off at 5:00am your first instinct is to punch your phone and then yourself for wondering why you thought getting up at the buttcrack of dawn was a good plan. But trust me, there are many times I chose extra sleep over the sunrise, and each time I was disappointed by giving up a chance to see something spectacular in solitude.
I dreamt for years about traveling long term. Waking up every day in a completely new environment, without the slightest clue to where I was going next or how I was going to get there.
In many ways, long term travel is a dream. But there are a lot of people (including myself) who begin this life only thinking of the magical sunrises, picturesque hikes, and nomadic lifestyle.
Long term travel is not a vacation. I don’t spend every morning sipping a cup of coffee in a quaint café overlooking a set of cliffs pictured on last months cover of Nat Geo. If you’re thinking of this lifestyle (don’t get me wrong, you totally should) there are a few things you need to know about how hard this life can be and the fact that it might not be for everyone.
Living in a van isn’t the most usual lifestyle. And with an unusual life comes many questions.
Few people will ever understand what living in a van for months on end entails. The good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. It’s not the easiest or most comfortable way to live, but it is one hell of an adventure.
With that, I’ve decided to create a post answering some of the most common questions I get asked about life on the road:
Where do we shower?
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t shower nearly as much as I want to. I’m (kinda) gross sometimes, and taking a shower/bath whenever I want is one of the main things I am looking forward to after this adventure. Going 4, 5, or 6 days without a proper shower is all too common in this lifestyle.
My hair gets greasy after two days, so yeah, I’m sure I look disgusting 99% of my road life.
What we did is get a fitness membership at a national gym chain. So whenever we pass a decent-sized town or city, there’s a good chance we are getting a shower. What’s the bad part? Whenever you want to shower you have to work out. And when you’re in the shower you have to leave and go back outside to your 40 degree van.
I take travel photos. I’ve never put on make-up for a photo. Usually I’m hiking, sweating, probably unshowered and may or may not have shaved my armpits in the last three days. I have a decent camera, but about 50% of my Instagram photos are shot with my iPhone 5s because I’m too lazy to carry all my camera equipment up a mountain.
My travel snapshots include being in a beautiful place, taking some photos, and hoping one turns out decent enough to make it to my Instagram page.
So are photos on Instagram fake? Depends on who you ask. But not mine.
The world of photo-sharing is an interesting one. There are those who share solely for the ‘likes’, there are those who tell stories, those who share memories, those who share pets, landscapes, selfies, and inspiration cartoon quotes.
In the world of Instagram, it is arguable that pictures are fake. “Travel” Instagrams are nothing more than a posed, glamorized, over-edited photo that completely diminishes that reality of a destination.
True? Eh, for some people.
However, sharing travel photos that aren’t posed, glamorized, or over-edited but that are still breathtakingly beautiful is still completely do-able. Take photos, as you are, with who you’re with, without wearing designer clothes or doing your makeup.
So how do you take simple travel photos and turn them into travel photography?
Operation #vanlife is proving difficult. Much more difficult than living out of a backpack for three months in Europe. Who would have thought?
Here’s a recap of the first three weeks on the road:
Day one: Discover our daytime lights continuously flash, so everyone on the road thinks we are constantly flashing them.
Day two: Get the van stuck in sand on the shores of Lake Michigan. Had to get towed out by someone with a 4×4.
Day three: Lose our only set of car keys somewhere on the campus of University of Illinois. Sleep in the commuter parking lot of campus.
Day four: Cannot get a key made. The vehicle key-code had been deleted because the van was maybe reported stolen at some point. Must tow the van to a locksmith and have them tear apart the ignition to make key. Get key and then pay $260 to have lights fixed. Lights don’t get fixed.
Day five: Spend $67 on lights. Still don’t get fixed. Discover we can just unplug the daytime headlights to solve problem….for free.
And here comes the fun part…
Week 2: Van gets broken into by downtown San Antonio. Come back to a trashed van and discover my Canon 70D camera, wallet, passport, $129 Birksun backpack, $249 ONA camera bag, and credit cards have been stolen.