We’ve been official vanlife nomads for over two weeks now. I’m looking out over the caldera of Crater Lake National Park. A cup of coffee in my hand and the incredible sight of the deepest, clearest lake in North America below me. Wrapped up in a blanket, still with my pajamas on – the rim of the volcanic crater is awe inspiring. When we arrived at the park yesterday evening we hiked down to the water and jumped off a twenty foot rock into the blue abyss. As I looked out on the untouched expanse I whispered to Andrew: “You know what is beautiful?” “Hmm”, he responded, his blue eyes trained on the sacred scenery. “There isn’t anything else in the world that I want in this moment.” So far, that is the overwhelming theme of our newfound nomadic lifestyle.
I left my non-profit job of four years in June and that same week, we found and purchased Rudy – a RAM Promaster, 159 wheelbase with a high roof that had been used for a plumbing and landscaping company. Over the next eight weeks we transformed the empty, dirty cargo van into a cozy, beautiful mini-home on wheels. We had a design in our hearts before even purchasing the van and after stalking other vanlife couples, knew exactly what we wanted. But building it out on our own, having never done anything like this, would prove to be one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavors. When you build something, only you know the labor and love that is required. Others can appreciate it but only those who have also done so can relate. Nothing can replace the pride and accomplishment from dreaming, building and completing something beautiful with your own two hands. After two weeks of full-time living, there have been countless moments of appreciating the home we built, the memories we made together doing it, and astonishment that we actually did it (and it hasn’t fallen apart…yet!)
It’s been a wild life transition in an even wilder world. To sell all my belongings, to leave my job, to move in with my partner, to say goodbye to San Diego – my home and community for the last six years and decide to do this, amidst the backdrop of COVID, a time of unrest, upheaval and unknowns felt strangely necessary. The significant amount of overwhelm and anxiety that my job, aspects of society and social media were causing me left me burned out, borderline depressed and resigned. I believe that we need each other, now more than ever, to be the best versions of who we can be, to serve the world with our own unique gifts and give from a place of grace, kindness, generosity and compassion. I also believe to live from that space requires the same treatment towards ourselves. My lifestyle was unsustainable. I was giving from a place I could never quite fill, working three to four jobs, always saying yes – unconsciously seeking approval and validation in a world that values what you do, earn and achieve. The necessity to simplify, to say no, to let go, to practice being instead of doing, became as crystal clear as the lake that sits below me now. To take a leap always requires courage; yet on the other side I keep discovering new beginnings and adventures beyond my wildest dreams and limiting expectations. When we seek an inspired life it asks something of us in return, the full extent of our willingness to risk, to release and to re-imagine.
We’ve made our way up through the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Hiking past streams and wildflowers to alpine lakes nestled beneath granite monoliths still capped in snow. We jumped in lakes and let the freezing water wash away layers of dust. We watched the stars come out, the moon rise, and every once in a while – a wish would shoot its way across the sky. We sat still on sacred mountains with nothing but the sound of our breath and whisper of wind to match our beating hearts. We camped next to creeks and fell asleep as thunder rolled in and rain showered down on dry land that would soon see wildfire. From the Sierra’s to the Cascade Mountain Range – ancient volcanos rose up to greet us. We hiked to their peaks and drank straight from mountain springs bubbling up from the earth. We slowed down and let the way of the open road work its magic.
I’ve decided to finally change out of my pajamas after my third cup of coffee. I shed my blanket as the sun begins to warm the van. We’ve been writing all morning and multiple friendly strangers have stopped by to ask about our mini-home on wheels. We share about our build, our adventures and writing aspirations. Andrew is working on finding a publisher for his first book, a heart-warming and inspiring novel, while I am just embarking on my own book writing journey. This precious time and this beautiful experience are a gift and I intend to use it to create much needed space to find the words I’ve longed to write for years now. I’ve realized that deciding to leave my sweet, wonderful, comfortable world in San Diego was perhaps the necessary and expanding leap I needed to become still and slow enough to tell the story I need to tell.
I often pray in the places we stay. I thank them for their safety, for their beauty and I ask permission to be on the land. I often give something in return. So in kind, I thank you and I offer a blessing:
May you experience an avalanche of grace, kindness, generosity and compassion towards yourself. May you know the full extent of your value and deservingness from the inside out. May you find healing, joy and blessing with every encounter, risk and reward. And may you live an inspired life, sustainably sourced, sacred and complete.