During my freshman and junior years of college, I spent many a nights in the back of my Toyota Matrix . Feeling restless? Feeling stressed? Feeling over the Ugg and mini-skirt crowd from SoCal? I got in the car and drove, windows down, Ani DiFranco blasting, helping to sooth my angst-full young soul. I’d pull over into the woods somewhere, or along the coastline, put the seats down in the back, slide the moon roof open, and breath. Sleeping in the car not only represented freedom, it was. So, when my friend Ryan June described his dream of someday living in a moving house, equipped with all the necessities, I made fun of him outwardly – because the folks I saw pile out of those RVs were overweight, overly privileged white families, who represented everything I didn’t want to be when I grew up. At least that was my immature limited thinking at the age of 20. But the Winnebago dream grew steadily in the back of my brain, brewing into something different by the time I was newly single following a divorce at the age of 23.
I remember getting into my Matrix and driving to Santa Cruz to clear my mind one summer day. I was walking along the coastline and there it was – a VW Van, in all its quirky glory. I peered through the windows. The back seat was made into a bed, somebody’s things all strewn about. It was a mess, the seats were worn and torn in places, the curtains on the windows faded and hideously orange. But it had curtains! And a guitar. I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. People do this? They live in their vans! Then I drove back to San Francisco and got back to working, dating, and being a mid-twenties millennial in the city. It’s possible that I mentioned the van idea to a friend or two, but I felt mostly embarrassed about my vagabond dreams as it was so far from my reality, I wouldn’t know where to start. I did do some reading about the VWs and learned that they apparently break down fairly often, can be expensive to fix, and only hippies who surf and smoke weed and play guitar live in their vans. The Internet provides limited information if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but I didn’t know any better at the time.
In 2011 I met Eric, and all of a sudden, my crazy ideas weren’t so crazy. The man was preparing for a 5 month through-hike of the PCT, so that seems way more out there that half the shit I’d come up with. “Hey babe, what do you think about us climbing Denali?” I asked him one day on the PCT. He thought about it. And maybe about 2 days later, after I had given up the idea, he said: “I think we should try it, climbing Denali.” I remember this like it was yesterday. I was hiking ahead of Eric, so he definitely couldn’t see my face. I felt my mouth spread into a huge grin and tears started streaming down my cheeks. In that moment, I realized that I have about a million other dreams that always felt out of reach. “It’s dangerous to travel abroad alone, especially as a woman!” or “Boxing is not for women, it’s too violent” and of course, “If you don’t go to college, you’ll end up living in a van, DOWN BY THE RIVER!” In all seriousness, as contrarian, feminist, and outspoken as I may have been in my twenties, cultural norms crept into my perception of the world pretty heavily. But when I said to Eric one night “I have a dream of living in a van someday,” as a hypothetical abstract idea, really testing the waters, more than actually gauging feasibility, his reaction was more along the lines of “let’s do some research” than the expected: “you’re absolutely insane.” So we did research, and the Sprinter plan was born. We bought our van in the summer of 2016, and had been working on building it out while working fulltime/working on a PhD in South Lake Tahoe, CA. The brutally snowy Tahoe winter of 2016-2017, kept us away from the build-out, but we were able to finish it and got on the road on January 5th, 2018. Eric is mostly done with his PhD, I said goodbye to my job, and we have saved up to be on the road without needing to work for a year. We drive north with our pups to chase powder and ice, and freedom and dreams. And I realize that there will be as many challenges as blissful moments. And I realize the incredible privilege that has allowed me to not only make this dream a reality but to dream it in the first place. And I hope I can remain grounded in the struggle of the folks who don’t have these opportunities, but to also enjoy every beautiful and every dark moment of our journey.