I miss it. I miss it every day.

I miss pulling over whenever it felt right. I miss having no deadlines or time constraints. We were never held back, because there was nothing to be held back from.

I miss the open air and driving down winding roads surrounded by wispy grasslands. Cracking our windows to listen to the ocean, while also listening for any cops who might tell us to move along in the night. I miss cranking a CD created by a fellow Vanlifer that we met in a strip mall parking lot in Morro Bay, California.

And even though I am still free, I feel less free than I did before.


Moments, memories, and bravery. It takes a lot to commit to an adventure of such magnitude. You have an outside life. How on Earth are you expected to give it all up for six months? And what happens after?

Take these lessons from me. At the age of 23 I was offered a full-time position straight out of college. It was a promise of working at a comfortable job for a company I loved. I declined. I had a car and belongings. I gave my car to my brother and sold anything I determined to be a waste of space.

I traded my possessions for an old rusty 2001 GMC Savana. My boyfriend and I left Michigan behind, our engine puttering along the double yellow lines surrounded by farmland in my hometown of Remus, Michigan.

I’ve backpacked Europe and experienced Vanlife across the United States. I’ll always choose the van first.



It taught me life is too short to just get by. That we must enjoy beauty every day. That we are happiest when we have the least.

I’ve been that girl unshowered on the streets of LA walking by models in designer heels. I’ll be that unshowered girl any day.

I miss the days it wouldn’t stop raining, so we’d sit for hours in public libraries waiting for it to end. The mornings we’d wake up and hike miles into vast landscapes, screaming from mountain tops and climbing waterfalls. I miss spending evenings cooking macaroni and cheese in park parking lots. I miss running down the snow covered streets of a small town of Utah, dancing and spinning to make silly footprints in the snow. I miss learning exactly the kind of person I wanted to be, even though I’m still working on that part.

I miss losing myself so much that I questioned everything in my life. But without getting so incredibly lost in the adventure, I wouldn’t be who I am today.



I cried when four days in we were stuck in Southern Illinois with electrical problems and our only key lost. I cried in San Antonio when our van was broken into and I lost nearly all my most important personal belongings. I cried in California when the sunset was beautiful but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in life. I cried again when I realized that was okay. I cried a lot, but so many tears I was crying was for the reasons I was too scared to cry for before.

There is a reason that nearly everyone who has lived on the road recommends it. We’re not just telling you to go because it’s a fad. And we’re all not Instagram models living in luxury 1960s vans. In one way or another it changed our lives for the better. Whether we did it for a summer or for five years, there’s a reason we talk so fondly of it. It’s not about the status quo or the social media followers. It’s definitely not about the money. We give up all we have to understand what the hell we want.

We’re all surrounded by people who settled. They work jobs they hate for a pay they don’t love, living in a town they kind of like. Fuck that.



And with a big sigh, the list goes on. If there is anything, any adventure, you should take in your lifetime, go on the road with your car, RV, or van. Make the decision and don’t for a second question if it’s right or wrong. It’s right, because you made that decision, which means you need this. Whether to give confirmation that you are exactly where you belong, or to open up a thousand new doors to where you might go next, you’re ready for it.



Outdoor travel blog

Soulful adventurer. Probably lost. Definitely eating ice cream.

In her late-teens, Shalee drove out of her small hometown watching the sunset behind her along the two-lane highway. Her ventures began in Michigan, where she taught herself to travel on a budget. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure, budget, and outdoor travel. Learn more about her here.

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  1. Candy Whitmore on May 3, 2018 at 4:15 PM

    Love this article. I am so proud of what you have done and the many adventures ahead. Do be careful in Columbia.

  2. Glory E. Wiltjer on May 3, 2018 at 5:28 PM

    From Skegemog ( supposedly translated in native American meaning mosquito) to the wonders, individual peace, and the joys of nature. The independence of “paid for” comforts, and the satisfaction of using your very own unique survival techniques. Bless you and your wonderful blog.

  3. Bruce Gezon on May 6, 2018 at 1:09 AM

    No one says it better from the heart than you, Shalee. You are so right. I believe life should be filled with living it and not working all the time to pay bills. Experience all you can, while you can. Find a balance or change what you are doing. Life is too short. Don’t leave this life with too many regrets of not doing what you wanted to do. I have found I regret very little of the things I have done in life. However, I do regret NOT doing some of the things sooner.

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