365 Days Of VanLife

Day 1

There is a lot to take away from day one of driving, as we snuggle up for our first night of wild camping. Everywhere we drove today was covered with varying amounts of snow, which for me is one of the most beautiful sceneries to witness. But I am sure that many did not see the same wonder in the white roads and fields as I did. We saw over 10 cars that had recently been in an accident, with over 80% of the cars smashed directly into a wall of snow that bordered most roads we drove on. To save money, we drive not on major highways but the smaller country roads with high speed but without the same amount of plowing. What we learnt today is the importance of taking our time and driving to the conditions. Although we passed 6 states in our pursuit for sun, we do not take our safety and the beautiful danger of the snow lightly. This is our first lesson of our trip so far.

Day 2

One of the joys of living in a van, is the almost constant searching for a public bathroom. Sometimes, on a detour in pursuit of the coveted white porcelain, you stumble upon some of the most quirky and interesting places. Like this second hand store we found in Virginia, filled to the brim with broken treasures and a wonderful old man who admired my jacket. Nothing was purchased at this time.

Day 3

Sometimes days can be strange. Sometimes you can drive for a few hours just to see a crater left by an atomic bomb. Sometimes that atomic bomb is accidentally dropped by the US airforce on March 11, 1958. Sometimes that atomic bomb lands in someones backyard, leaving a 50ft wide, 35ft deep crater. Sometimes it is going to be the weirdest and most interesting thing you are going to see all day. Sometimes it is all you want to see that day. Sometimes days can be strange.

Day 4

Our van conversion is not completed yet, so for now this is our dining area. Our beautifully vinyled floor has become more than just a walk way but also a dining area, art bench, and resting nook. We are still finding our way around the van so hopefully we will be able to find a perfect place to eat inside of her. One day at a time.

Day 5

Today we were blessed to have woken up and even brushed our teeth on the footsteps of a beach. Everyday we get to choose our backyard and in this case our bathroom. I wonder where we will wake up tomorrow?

Day 6

One of the tricks we use to save money is to only park in free parking zones. Sometimes this necessitates that we park a few kilometres out of town and walk in. Today we parked on the Charleston foreshore and walked into the town centre and visited the historical Post Office, Market, and Slave Auction House. Milly asked me today if we could ever imagine what it would have been like back in the day… I hope we never know.

Day 7

Today marks a week of living in the van. It feels as though we left yesterday and that we have been living in our van for a life time. We are slowly making it a home, with our prayer flags, polaroids and postcards. Today we woke up in Savannah, Georgia and found a cafe to spend half our daily budget on coffee. As we sipped our barista made cup of pure heaven, we glanced at each other in undeniable gratitude for a safe and happy week. We wrote in our journals and mapped our next week ahead, setting a soundtrack to every step. Thank you to everyone following along so far. We hope you are as entertained every day, and continue to drive with us across this crazy country.

Day 8

Today was a rain day! When we are trying to see the towns by foot, we are at the mercy of the weather. Rain, hail or snow won’t stop us having fun every day though. Even if that means Milly having to listen to Hakuna Matata over and over. Fingers crossed the clouds part tomorrow, or I might start my harmonica lessons.

Day 9

The day we had today was well worth the rainy day we had before. We started our day with a trip to a 25c book fair where I was able to snatch up some classics, which was followed by a wonder through Savannah. As the locals stroked my faux fur jacket, we explored the antique stores and flea markets. Oh, and we found these not-so-junk cars (this one is a bel air). We finished the day with a short drive to Macon, where I hope to wander through the cemetery that houses 2 of the Allman Brothers. Yes, please!

Day 10

Today was a smashing success! One of the great challenges of van life are showers and where to get them. A trick we learnt while vanning around Europe was to stop in at a campsite and say that we were passing through and were looking for a quick shower, thus eliminating the need to stay the night to use the facilities. We decided we would try the same here and eureka - it worked! Although at first the owner wanted to charge us $10 to use the shower, he quickly bargained down. He was willing to exchange us using the bathhouse for as long as we needed if we were willing to put up a great review with accompanying photos of the caravan park. We happily sealed the deal with a handshake and had a glorious shower for free. It will be interesting to see what else we can bargain for our next shower - maybe I can play them some ukulele solos?

Day 11

Today is one of those days you will remember for a lifetime. It was Martin Luther King Jr that once said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. And with this sentiment in heart, Milly and took to the streets of Atlanta today and marched in honour of MLK day. The feelings at the march today were one of anger, anguish and frustration at the current state of Civil Rights in America today. There were cries for the end to Trump’s hate speech, for the impeachment of the man who continues to conjure great divide and misery. There was the pleading for human and civil rights to be in the forefront of everyone’s minds, and the attitudes of peaceful civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr to be the inspiration for the current movement. One man from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) proposed that we turn this march in to peaceful protest, a protest for the rights of every man and woman. We joined a few incredible women in there 70’s that have been protesting and marching their whole life and we felt the passion in every word they spoke. We are inspired, we are blessed, we are forever changed for marching along side everyone today finally coming to an end at the final resting place of Martin Luther King Jr. 
Darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Day 12

The dreaded snack aisle... you are both my best friend and my worst enemy. As the budget is tightening, so is my waste band as I avoid this aisle all together. Sometimes it is nice and even necessary to indulge in our favourite foods but not every day. As I turn my back of my deliciously salty treats, I say hello to a little extra coin in my pocket to spend on other things. I miss them already (haha).

Day 13

Today is a prime example of the goodness in the world. A few days ago, we met some wonderful ladies, who out of the kindness in their hearts offered us to use their shower and park in their drive way. As the snow came down last night, we thought we might take our new friend up on her offer and go visit her. What was originally an honest act of kindness turned into a complete miracle, as we were showered with kindness from not only her but also her whole street. We not only have a warm place to sleep tonight as it plummets below zero, but we have been given food to take on the road from almost every person we have met. This has been an incredible day.

Day 14

Another day brought another surprise to these two nomads. We found the largest Hindu temple outside of India in Georgia. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. The most interesting places are the ones you find on the road.

Day 15

We spend our days either driving the roads or walking the streets. We are able to meet some inspirational people or spend the whole day without speaking to a soul. Both types of days are just as important to us. Today was a very quiet day, exploring Atlanta.

Day 16

Today was spent vehemently on the road on this continual quest for the beautiful rays of sunshine that seem to be alluding us. Many hours dripped away, as the music blasted from our broken speakers. The scenery was not as eclectic as my music taste was, but it was worth it when we saw the “Welcome to Florida” sign just before the sun set. Although, we feel like Shrek and Donkey on a crazy mission to find Fiona, or in our case; the sun, it is definitely worth the trip as we see our own share of dragons (deer) and castles (antique stores). I will go to sleep tonight with dreams of the sunshine and the waves that I know is in our future.

Day 17

Due to the generosity of another angel, we have spent the day right here; on the sands of Florida. We rode bikes around town and watched the sun set over the water. I cannot describe how I feel to be back by the beach, the water and the waves. Back to where the air smells crisp with salt, like my favourite snack - chips.

Day 18

Wild camping is not always lonely. Today when we pulled up for the night, we were joined by a few other campers. We are not at a campsite, we are not a beach, we are free camping in a parking lot. These are the best to sleep in as they are usually close to town, well lit and have video surveillance. It may not be pretty, but we are close to free toilets and food. We certainly can’t complain, and sometimes we get cool neighbours.

Day 19

St. Augustine, the town we explored today is said to be the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the United States. It was founded in 1565 by the Spanish, and you can certainly see their influence in the buildings that litter the town. Although the constant threat of rain cut our day short, we certainly did enjoy wandering through this quaint little tourist town.

Day 20

I finally found somewhere to hang Russell today. Russell is a stuffed mong-possum that has travelled all over the world, and not just with me. He has been passed down from Ferlazzo to Ferlazzo and finally landed with me before I moved to Italy. He has now been with me for over 30 countries, over many seas and even more land. He has forever reminded me of home and all those who love and support me on this crazy life we lead. He is the reminder that we always have somewhere to call home, wherever that may be.

Day 21

Frustrated. That is how I felt today. Frustrated that we are limited on what we can experience due to the admission fees of nearly every museum and gallery that we encounter. To try and find free things to do in the places we visit is like trying to decipher a code. We are happy exploring the streets, the parks and the beaches but sometimes we wish we could visit art galleries, museums and exhibitions. Without proper access to internet, we are restricted in our ability to research thoroughly, further limiting our access to the free activities within the cities we visit. Most galleries have free days, but when we are there for the day, it is a miracle when it falls on the same day. We are frustrated but optimistic that this will change from state to state, and that we can make the most of our budget and experience. We are optimistic!

Day 22

One of the joys of van life is having time for the important things… like long walks on the beach with the girl you love. Even if we were searching for shark teeth, we can pretend it was as romantic as it sounds. We met a man that told us to stand close to the waters edge and wait for the shark teeth to come to us, the sea will bring them to you. And would you believe it, he was right! 2 shark teeth and very wet jeans later, we were walking back to the van feeling very accomplished with the experience.

Day 23

Not only have we been blessed with another hot shower or two from another Aussie who now resides in the US, and more food than we have had in weeks, but I have had the privilege of having one on one ukulele lessons from this beautiful young man. I have now achieved a life long dream of learning the Harry Potter theme music on a second instrument (first being the recorder - duh), and I will now make it my goal to busk in Harry Potter World in Florida and share my own magic with the world.

Day 24

Finally, after spending a few days with our beautiful friends, soaking in the showers, eating chocolate and basking in the joy of others, we are back on the road of Florida. But not without fuel for the drive, which came in today at a whopping $2.49/gallon. It is customary for us to fill Maggie with $60, so we are more easily able to follow our spending. We have spent approximately 80% of our monthly budget on fuel. how can this be? Driving the whole length of the country may have done it.

Day 25

This is how I imagined America to look like… Daytona Beach. Or to be more specific - the Daytona Inn sign. The slightly broken down, 1950’s style of diners and hotels. The seedier, the better. These are what I am quickly falling in love with. Romanticism is caught in the creeks and cracks in these seemingly normal objects. These are what I love.

Day 26

18 months ago, a man entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people and injured 58 more. It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, and the largest on the LGBTQI community. Today, we visited the now-closed night club and paid our respects to those who lost there lives that horrific night. The emotions hit Amelia and I more than we expected, leaving us silent as we saw the tributes covering the shrine that still lays at the fenced off property. We had seen it plaster our TV’s and social media, and I remember seeing the list of people who had be slain by a monster, but we weren’t prepared for what we would feel today. Our hearts were heavy, and our mind’s confused. We stood hand in hand, and wondered how a tragedy such as this could happen. I am glad that we were able to come here, to be here, to be queer, to be alive.

Day 27

HARRY POTTER WORLD! HARRY POTTER WORLD! Do I have to say anything else but Harry Fudging Potter World! It will be hard to beat this day. It was beyond magical. We were one of the first people in Diagon Alley (surprise, surprise) and it was serene and perfect. We spent the day exploring Diagon, Nocturnal Alley and Hogsmeade, casting spells and competing with children as who could learn the spells the quickest. I was the best - obviously. Milly had fun too.

Day 28

Did you know there was such things as Drive-In Diners? You drive up into a parking place, a waitress comes to your window and you order your food, at which point she brings it back out and places it on a specially made fast food hanger for your window sill. You then are able to eat in the comfort of your car! What is this place? We decided not to do that, instead going indoors to find this hidden gem in the town of Titusville (home to the Kennedy Space Centre). We paid 79c for our cup of coffee; I was not complaining.

Day 29

Today was one of those strange days where time seemed to trickle in big blobs; an hour here, two hours there. All of a sudden the sun is setting and you are left wondering where the day went. But we visited a library in search of 50c books, we saw a manatee, we drove to Fort Lauderdale, and 5 raccoons circled our van after the sun set. It was a strange day; not unlike this picture of me pretending to be a manatee after we saw a manatee, while simultaneously pretending to be surprised by seeing a manatee. I repeat, today was strange.

Day 30

Ok, so sometimes plans don’t always work out how you want them to. Today, we hoped to have a shower. We drove from campsite to campsite, in search of kindness for two smelly hippies but instead we found that we would have to pay $65 for a campsite to use the facilities. This is what we get for trying to shower on Super Bowl weekend. We then decided we would try the second best thing; the beach. Although we weren’t game enough to have a cold shower out in public, we did wet our toes in the beautiful, yet nippy waters of Miami. Tomorrow, we will try again. Or we might just have to settle for public displays of bathing. PDB for short haha.

Day 31

As our first month of van life in USA comes to an end, this duo becomes a trio once again. The three amigos reunite as we pick up our dear Gloria from the airport. To all those that are wondering - we managed to have a shower today, at a local gym for free. People simultaneously cannot understand and love our accent, which I strongly believe why we are so blessed on this crazy road trip. We also got approval to wild camp from a Police Officer, and free laundry detergent off a kind stranger. Good on ya, mate!

Day 32

After a beautiful walk along Miami Beach, and an insane day driving the streets of Miami city, we finished the day watching Miami Heat verse the Orlando Magic. I feel as though we experienced as much Miami as Miamily possible. Tomorrow I am hoping for a little less Miami and a little more sand, sun and tunes on our road trip to Key West.

Day 33

On the road, we get to see some really cool sights. We google, we hypothesise and we like to think we have some idea of what our day is going to look like. But every day brings about its very own surprises and mysteries solved. Today, we drove along the first half of the Keys; all the while searching for dolphins (Milly and Gloria like to think they saw one but I believe it was a bird). I also got to tick off one of my food bucket list items. as we tried the famous Key Lime Pie at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Not usually one for sweets, I devoured it in minutes and was left wanting more. Best not try and tick off too many bucket list foods all at once, or I will start to look more like my spirit animal; the manatee.

Day 34

“The van won’t start!”
This is not what you want to hear when you get back to your van, after exploring a state park. Alas, this is what happened to us today. After multiple attempts at jump starting it from fellow park dwellers, we soon realised that we were in need of road side assistance. A tow truck, some good juju and a few card games later and the van was up and running. The tow truck driver lifted the van ever so slightly and tried the ignition and bam! She started right up. How? He explained that due to the angle of the van, there was compression on the starter and it just had to be relieved. Ok, that makes no sense. But here we are back on the road, van humming like she just woke from a long sleep. What on earth happened today?

Day 35

The smell of freshly made popped corn. The twang of fingernails on ukulele strings. The cry of random street roosters. These are things that will come to mind when I look back on our time in Key West. As we park up for the night, our last night in the Keys, I cannot help but chuckle about our last few days. We have broken down, had coffee with a couple of strangers (now new friends), pat a deer, spotted an alligator, played ukulele in a bar, explored a cemetery, laughed at a rooster crossing the road, visited mile 0, played cards until the car battery died, showered on the beach, watched the sun set over the ocean and traveled over land and sea just because we could. What an adventure!

Day 36

It was time to tick of another bucket list item - take an air boat through the Everglades! Not only did we zip across the waters like futuristic aliens, we saw a dinosaur - the American Alligator. This was so much fun and we only paid $17! Bargain! What should we do tomorrow? Suggestions welcome!

Day 37

With my first cold of the year taking over, I wish my mum was here to put a towel on my head and my dad to make me a hot cup of tea. Luckily, I have a beautiful fiancé who let me sleep and fed me oranges to get the vitamin C I need. So not to gross you out with a photo of the sweaty, snotty mess of a day we had today, here is one from a few weeks ago in Jax Beach. As I wait for this cold to pass, I will dream of days like this.

Day 38

Do you know in the Disney movies where the good guy is being held over a pit of alligators that are climbing all over each other? For the 26 years I have been on this earth I thought this was a gross over-exaggeration - until today! We saw over a hundred alligators in the space of 20 minutes, and although they weren’t crawling all over each other, it felt as though there was potential underneath the surface of the water. The Everglades has been a surprisingly interesting visit, and one I won’t forget. Alligators are very interesting animals and incredibly lazy and I love that!

Day 39

Today was a long driving day. It was long and filled with epic road tunes. But we did allow ourselves a little time for some manatee spotting - my favourite thing to do in Florida. We went to a place where we were assured to see hundreds of them. We stood in the sun for what felt like hours and didn’t see one! Not one! To cheer me up, Milly pointed out the machine that prints on quarters. This is the only manatee I got to see today but I am not disappointed. It just makes me want them more.

Day 40

Alright people, it’s time for some input! There is a whole world of weird and wonderful food that is begging to be tried and I need help on finding some American must-eats. We have tried a few things; from Milk Duds to fried chicken and I don’t want to miss a thing. Challenge me! I am willing to try anything...

Day 41

On the road from Crystal River to Jacksonville today we passed not one but THREE Correctional Facilities. Did you know that there is nearly 6000 correctional facilities within the United States including; state and federal prisons, local jails and juvenile facilities. Within these thousands of prisons are 2.3 million prisoners. It is said that around 187,000 people are convicted of a crime every day. Can you imagine that? There is so much we are learning on our trip around America, and not all of it is about the sunshine and adventure that we are posting. Sometimes we learn the hard truths, and see the raw America that was only once conceivable in movies and TV shows. This is such a complex issue and one we will be sure to encounter along the way.

Day 42

I don’t think people understand how hard van life can be, especially on your hair. Before leaving Australia I had a few dreads put in, in hope of avoiding natural dreads from occurring. Nothing could’ve stopped my hair from forming what looked like a nest for a little bird named Trixie, and we had to go into severe damage control. I say we because I wasn’t able to do this alone (thanks Mildred). Armed with a bucket of conditioner and a brush, we finally got there but not without a few tears and a small chop. Van life is tough, my hair is not haha.

Day 43

It has been so wonderful to once again stop in one place for a while. We are back in the comfort of our dear friend's house; with the ability to stop, shower, reflect, shower, and plan our next move (and maybe shower once more haha). Every day we are searching for our next place to sleep, our next place to buy food or have an adventure. Sometimes it is nice to rest, go for a skate, and just enjoy the day without too much thought or plan. We are blessed to have such kindness surrounding us.

Day 44

Today was the day of trying new things. Not only did we TRY to pretend like we wanted to leave this heaven of a house, but we TRIED a Fluffernutter Sandwich and a Chilli Dog. One was sorta gross and the other was sorta not gross. Which was which?

Day 45

Living this life is not for the weak at heart. Living this life, it takes the strongest of souls to be able to live day in and day out in the presence of one person, in a tiny little van, with the bare necessities, in a massive unknown country. Living this life has shown me that no matter what, you have to trust the person sitting next to you with every inch of your being. Living this life, you wake up and turn to the person next to you knowing you will be in for an adventure, and know they feel the same. Living this life has made me the happiest girl in the world. Living this life… with you.

Day 46

We are blessed to have found such good friends on the road. Friends that have put us up, fed us, made us smile and made us laugh until tears rolled. We are blessed to have learnt so much from all of those we have met on the road, and to have the ability to go forth and do it every day. Sometimes we are so blessed that we end up staying for longer than we could’ve imagined and made life long friends over a game of cards and a home cooked dinner. It will be hard to leave this place.

Day 47

Did you know that around 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean? That means that I can find my happy place a lot easier than one could ever imagine. I love the immensity of it, the unknown, the ability to hold so much life. We travel by road every day, and there is no where I would rather be. But in those moments, when the road meets the sea, I feel the most calm. I am home.

Day 48

Matzah Balls. Sunshine. Research. These words perfectly encapsulates our day. We spent the day on our laptops, researching the united states and where to go. We don’t want to miss one bit of this mad adventure we call van life. All the while, the sun was shining down on us like the day would never end. And to top it all off, our dearest friend Debbie cooked us fresh Matzah Ball soup! If I had it my way, Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles would be on repeat all day long.

Day 49

We’re on the road again! After a nice holiday in Florida with our new friends, we are on our way to Alabama. As the sun set, we were nowhere near the Alabama state line, so we had to pull in for the night and set up camp (in a parking lot). It feels great to be back in the van, back under a street lamp to sleep under. In the last hour of driving we listened to a podcast about the late great Rosa Parks, and learnt about this brave woman’s illustrious career as an activist which started long before she refused to give up her seat on the Montgomery bus. Over the next few days we will be entering these towns that have gone down in civil right history and we are eager to gain as much knowledge and understanding from being here. After really starting our civil rights journey in Atlanta, we feel we have only scratched the surface of this incredibly horrible and multifaceted part of history. As tensions rise in the Deep South of the United States surrounding the mass shootings and gun law debate, Milly and I are becoming more aware of the cultural differences that are present today. We plan to stay vigilant but not forget our stance on these horrific events and beliefs.

Day 50

Today we finally crossed the border into Alabama, and kept on driving until we found this unimaginably magical place. In the 1920’s, an English migrant was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was instructed by his doctors to move to warmer climates to live out his short life. Henry Stuart moved to Fairhope, Alabama and began work on this minimalist house that is now known as Tolstoy Park. Inspired supposedly by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, a known wandering recluse in his later years, Stuart created his hand-built home from hand-made bricks, and slept on a rope hammock suspended above his 14ft diameter floor, to live out his life in complete simplicity. 22 years later he left his dome haven, leaving behind much of his belongings; including a visitor log of over a thousand names who had visited him here. He died a few years later, in 1946. What is even more wonderfully quirky about this place, is that it is now situated in a parking lot for offices (I think I saw a doctor’s office and maybe a UPS office), yet once you step inside, it is like you are back in the 40’s. There are still books littering the shelves, chairs where he sat, and a guest book for everyone to sign. There were no security guards, there were no signs, there was no evidence that this little slice of strange history existed until you walked inside this round house and stood there. This is what I travel for.

Day 51

Sweet home Alabama. We have fallen in love with you. After driving the wondrous countryside; past the beaten down towns and the innumerable hoarder’s houses, we explored the stunning town of Montgomery. From slave trading to civil right marches, we were honoured to walk the streets and learn the history. But my favourite part of the day came a few hours before, when we visited Harper Lee’s grave. To Kill A Mockingbird was the book that opened my eyes to the art of literature and I was forever changed. Harper Lee has been a literary inspiration for many years, and I hope one day that my writing will inspire just one person. One day.

Day 52

Today we continued to our civil rights journey. We drove from Montgomery to Selma, all the while we were imagining what it would’ve been like to march this distance. Finally we made it to the bridge that changed history forever. On March 7, 1965, the first march took place; culminating in what is now known as Bloody Sunday. As peaceful protesters took to the streets of Selma on their march to Montgomery (87km away), they were met by a wall of law enforcement who beat and bashed the protesters on this very bridge. The violence was seen by people across America and the world and resulted in national outcry and inevitably change in the laws surrounding the right’s of African-American voters. Milly and I drove across this bridge today, still not fully comprehending how such violence could happen.

Day 53

See a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck. For those of you who don’t know, I am fanatical about this saying. I have been collecting pennies from the ground since the moment we stepped foot in the United States. Every time I see one, I say the little verse and put some good juju out in to the universe. Now, I have a small tin of pennies. Our van broke down again today, but much worse than before. We got out of the van and walked a while until we could find wifi and contemplated what we would do. As we walked back to the van, no closer to working out what our next move was, there was a penny on the ground. When we reached the van, we sat in the seats. We just sat, still unable to make a decision on where we were going to go from here. All of a sudden a man stopped behind. Fast forward a few hours; he has helped us find a mechanic willing to look at our van first thing in the morning, helped us get towed, called his daughter to come pick us up and organise a place to stay for the night, and then brought us home to have dinner with his family. It was nothing short of a penny miracle, and we are again blessed with the kindness of strangers.

Day 54

As the van sits in the mechanics being ripped apart and rebuilt, we are quite suddenly left without a home. When you live in your van, this is probably the worst possible scenario. You are not only left without transportation but you are also losing your place to sleep; your safe place. But instead of letting this bump in the road keep us down, we putour walking shoes on and explored the neighbouring woods in the town we are stuck in. Although we were unable to find any beavers or dears, we were able to get our feet dirty and our hearts wild. We are blessed to have met some of the kindest people in this town who have housed us for the night (and provided some amazing dinner conversation) and we will see what tomorrow brings.

Day 55

After dropping a small fortune, our beautiful baby is back on the road and sounds like a new woman. With the help of some amazing mechanics and our new Alabamian family, we will be back on our wild American road trip. We have not yet moved on, as there are threats of flooding and tornadoes on our path. Although that sounds like an adventure to me, we best sit down, buckle down and wait out the storm, literally.

Day 56

I can't believe we are back on the road after a small bump, scratch, bang and destroyed transmission. We hit the pavement and found ourselves driving all the way to Nashville, Tennessee! Music City! I cannot wait to wander the streets, play my ukulele, join a band, run away, become a full time gypsie and earn my money playing the back up banjo for a an international sensation. Ok that escalated quickly but you catch my drift. I am so excited to walk the streets that were once plagued with some of the greats like my man in black - Johnny Cash. Be still my beating heart. On to another day of Wild Adventure.

Day 57

Sometimes, you just have to take time for yourself. Whether that is in the form of an instrument, a book, a movie, or even some good old self reflection; it is necessary to take time of one’s self. This is the second time Milly and I have lived in a van together, the first being in Europe nearly 2 years ago. During these two experiences, we have always respected each other’s differences and allowed each other the time necessary to cultivate our own sense of self. Every day, we bring these two selfs together and intertwine to create this magical bond that allows our wicked experience to flourish. But this wouldn’t be achievable without time for ourselves. This is what today was. Milly with her sudokus and maps and research; me with my books, music and inward thoughts.

Day 58

Today we visited the grave of Johnny Cash; the man in black, the man who gave us ‘The Ring of Fire’, ’Jackson’ and the love story of John and June. Did you know that June Carter-Cash died just 4 months before Johnny did? Did you know that Johnny Cash always wore black when he performed as a good luck omen due to the fact he wore a black t-shirt and pants to his first gig? Did you know that at one point he lived in a camper named Jesse James, that caught fire and burnt down part of Los Padres National Wildlife Refuge? During his career he recorded 55 studio albums, 6 live albums and 10 gospel albums. He had a crazy life (one point being attacked by an ostrich that broke 5 ribs), and released some incredible music that I will always find time to listen to. He sang for the beaten down, poor and misfortunate and I love that. Rest in Peace, Johnny Cash. I love you.

Day 59

I can only describe Nashville as an assault to the senses. This is both an endearing term and equally not. From the urine soaked pavements, to the country-music-spewing bars, Nashville was by far the craziest town we have been in. When you can’t tell the hipsters from the homeless, you can only assume that we fit in perfectly. No jokes aside, the rate of homeless here is extraordinary, and we only had so much food in the van to give out, but at least we know we made one group of people happy with some left over pizza. Having been sleeping here in Nashville the past few days, we have even become quite friendly with the homeless who congregate day after day where we have been parking. A small wave, and a howdy do; very little separates us from them with some even sleeping in cars next to us. In incredible contrast, Nashville is swarming with celebrities we don’t recognise, and music we don’t overly relate to, but it has been one mad-as-a-hatter day.

Day 60

We cook in the van every night. Every. Night. I love my cooking, I do. But sometimes I wish that we had the freedom of an oven, or a microwave, or even better - a dishwasher. We work with what we have and what we have is a tight budget with an even tighter kitchen. Tonight’s dinner was a creation of my own, consisting of;
Beans - $0.57
Salsa - $1.33
Corn - $0.44
Avocado - $0.98
With a handful of tortilla chips and sour cream - $2.00
Our whole meal cost us $5.32 (plus a little tax). We will eat this a few times a fortnight and it is incredibly filling. We swap out a few ingredients and add rice for some variety, but mostly we eat a lot of beans and easy to prepare veggies because it is cheap and never not delicious. We eat solely vegetarian food, and are in the process of deciding where to put a herb garden in the van. We have a few spare cup holders that could quite easily fit a pot with basil in it!

Day 61

Today I was able to tick off one of my greatest bucket list items; to visit Sun Studios. As a kid, I had this book that referenced all of the musicians, recording studios and venues that shaped the music culture we know today. I have a father who weekend after weekend would play his vinyls, as we cleaned the vanities and benches that all seemed to collect dust right after you wiped them clean. I have a mother who used to let me blast my music as loud as the speakers could handle, as long as she wasn’t in the house to hear it. These moments shaped me, and made me dream about one day walking where some of the great musicians walked, stand where the great singers stood, and dance where the kids did back in the eras where I should have been. Today, I made that dream came true. I stood where Roy Orbison stood, I danced where Elvis danced, I sang where Johnny Cash sang and I listened to the blues where B.B. King made the blues come to life. Today was everything I could’ve dreamt of.

Day 62

Memphis is quickly becoming one of my favourite places in USA. From its vintage buildings, to its blues-erupting bars; Memphis is a place everyone should visit. We started our morning with a somber tone as we visited the place in which Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. His energy was palpable still today in the street art that splayed the walls of buildings. We continued our day in the oldest diner in Memphis; the Arcade Restaurant, where Elvis frequented for his deep-fried PB&J (no longer on the menu). We then walked the streets of Beale Street; the home of the Blues. We finished our day in the Peabody Hotel, where we watched is quacky inhabitants parade past on a red carpet and up into their suite in this unaffordable hotel. The ducks were definitely Milly’s favourite part of the day. Mine was seeing where Elvis bought a lot of his clothes and further enflamed my passion for funky jackets. I asked Milly if I could buy one, but I didn’t have a spare 500 dollars laying around. Oh what a day, oh what a city. Memphis, we love you dearly.

Day 63

We visited Graceland today. Did I seriously just write that sentence? We visited one of the most well known houses in America but what stumped me in my tracks wasn’t the jungle room that is covered ceiling to floor in green shag carpet. It wasn’t even the plane named after Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie, that was bigger than six of our vans in one (even his bed on the plane was bigger than our bed). It wasn’t even his collection of fan art or his meditation garden. What stunned me was when we met a lovely English woman and her daughter who began to tell us about how her husband always said he would bring her here but sadly died before he ever got the chance. She was now here with her daughter for her 60th birthday, and telling us how this was a once in a life time trip. This is what we talked about after we left the gates of Graceland; that we are so blessed to be doing what we are doing now because you don’t know if you will ever get the chance. People die before they ever get to make any of their dreams come true. Even Elvis Presley died at 42! Life is too short not to follow your dreams.

Day 64

Today was a long day on the road. We were joined by our new pals; Chuck and Josh via their podcast ‘Stuff You Should Know’ (don’t worry parents, we did not pick up any hitchhikers). We have fallen in love with their podcast, where we learn about things we sort of knew about before, and stuff that we had no idea on. After a long day of learning about hoarders, Mary Celeste, Amelia Earhart and feral children we finally made it to Louisiana! Oh, she is a beaut already. We finished off this wonderful day winding down in our humble home.

Day 65

We wear the same clothes over and over. I am sure you all notice that we have the same outfits on in nearly every photo we take. This is due to the fact that we barely have a week’s worth of clothes. Milly and I are lucky that we can share clothes, but there is only so many variations of the same black t-shirts and jeans one girl can do. To be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way because I love my overalls. They have coffee stains from all around the world on them, and I have made some of the greatest memories tearing them. I do miss wearing crazy button ups and changing the shoes I wear, but I would have it no other way. We live with what we can carry on our back so that home is wherever we choose. Today it is New Orleans, black shirt, overalls, Birkenstocks, hair down.

Day 66

A few weeks ago, we bought a can of beans but had no can opener. Talk about a nightmare! I looked out my window and saw another van lifer pull up near us. I walked over and asked if they had one we could borrow. Flash forward a month and here we are with those very same nomads in Bayou Segnette State Park, Louisiana. It is amazing to meet fellow rubber tramps, living on the road, seeing where life takes you. It is even better when you stay in contact and meet up in the most random of places, crack open a fresh box of donuts and share war stories of living in a van. Tonight we fall asleep surrounded by fellow campers, green grass and hopefully not too many alligators, with full bellies and smiles on our faces. Hashtag blessed.

Day 67

New Orleans, why do you have to be so perfect. From the hipsters to the colourful houses, I was in love the moment I saw a twisted moustache and ironic shirt combo. We walked the streets with our van lifer friends and tried to see Nicolas Cage’s pyramid tomb in the cemetery in the dead centre of town. When they told us it was 20 dollars to visit the cemetery we walked around the corner and gave each other boosts up the brick wall to catch a glimpse of this mysteriously strange site. I fell in love with a trombone busker and saw a homeless girl with a pet pig. We ate vegan and threw a football. This day was a strange and wonderful as this paragraph is.

Day 68

With the whistle of the trees and the crunch of camper tires on the bitumen, I sat and wrote of the past few days. I sipped my cold coffee, and shook my pen until the ink ran out, hoping to truly capture what we have seen and experienced. But it is so much more than what I can compose, andI only hope that we can find the words to remember these moments by. We wandered the streets, met the people, ate the food and laughed with friends. Today was a day that you dream about. 

Day 69

We have gone from sleeping in a State Park, to a parking lot in Walmart. Something can be said for it’s well lit and food filled environment, but I must admit to preferring to stay out in the wild. I would give anything to have the luxury to park up by a river every day but it is almost impossible to find anywhere remotely like that for free. We may have gone for a midnight run for icecream which is something that only makes sense to do here at Walmart, and I know it would leave many jealous. We are still travelling with our fellow van lifers who have fed us everything from curries to king cakes and we will be sad to say goodbye when we choose to leave New Orleans. How can we say goodbye to the good things in life?

 

Day 70

After spending the past few days in New Orleans, exploring the streets and participating in enlightening conversations with our new friends, I am more passionate now than ever to stay woke. Today we visited the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum that educates those on the neighbourhood’s history from the time of slaves to the desegregation of the south, and notably the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I could write for days about the social injustices that have plagued the people of the lower ninth quarter, but I will leave that for you to research yourselves. The point of this is to remind you to never to turn a blind eye to what is really going on around you. No good will come from being unaware of the realities of the world and having the belief that we have no way of changing it. The first step is to really understand what is happening in your own backyard. A few ways to stay woke in today’s society are; to follow news accounts and activists on the social media of your choice, take notice of the Google and Facebook trending topics, start a conversation with people around you, open your eyes to the reality of the world and seek the knowledge on offer. Don’t let the atrocities of history dare repeat themselves, and don’t think that these sorts of things don’t affect you. We are all a part of this story.

 

Day 71

TEXAS! We are in you! I felt a tinge of excitement when we crossed the boarder in to the Lone Star State today, and I can’t quite tell why. We left Louisiana, having spent the better half of a week there and feeling as though we had given it a good crack. And now we are preparing to traipse around this great state and see what magnificence it will hold. I am determined to see a shooting star, a cowboy, a buffalo and most importantly a tumbleweed. Deep in the heart of Texas.

 

Day 72

As we were on the road today, I saw the turn off for Port Arthur and without a second thought I turned off. I knew this was the home town of Janis Joplin and I was curious to see that the town that she wanted so badly to escape as a teenager. We had not intended to visit here but here we were driving the streets that once homed one of the greatest artist of the 60s. As we drove down the main street, it was hard not to notice that all bar a handful of buildings were bordered up, there was no life there. We drove around with our mouths opened, shocked by this apparent ghost town. On either side of the town was industrial factories, miles and miles of correctional facilities and livestock farms, yet here in the downtown there was not an inkling of life. We were wondering what it was like for Janis to grow up here, we wondered if it was like this back in the 50s and 60s. If we wanted to, we couldn’t stop to ask someone this very question because there was no one on the streets, there was just smashed windows and trees growing from the buildings balconies. Having read a lot about Janis and watching documentaries I know that Janis was misunderstood, bullied and taunted in this town, and I couldn’t deny this negative energy here. Janis plays loudly on our radio today.

 

Day 73

While we were in Central America, we met a wonderful man who instructed us to call him Cappie. He lead us on a wild adventure through some of the maddest countries and we left knowing we had made a freaking cool ass friend. Flash forward a few months, and we are having dinner at his childhood home with his cousin and her family and he is even here. This is the generosity that is shown time after time by complete strangers and I cannot even begin to describe how blessed we are. As a token of gratitude and a sort of ‘nice to meet you’ gift, I brought along a pineapple. I was often known to carry a pineapple around in Central America and carve it up to eat at will, so I found it to be fitting. So thank you, to all the kind and generous people out there. We love and appreciate everything and we love making new friends in the strangest of ways.

 

 

Day 74

What should have been a 3 hour drive today turned into a full day excursion as we scooted off the highway every chance we got. We drove through pastures and little towns. We passed cows and ranches and truck yards in pursuit of a great adventure. We spoke of our future back in Australia and where we wanted to travel next. We chased flowers and swerved to miss butterflies. Not every day is in need of crazy experience. Sometimes you just need a quiet day on back country roads, together.

 

 

Day 75

I cannot believe this van has been our home for the past almost 3 months! It has taken us through 11 states, driven over 11,000 miles and housed our crazy bums all along the way. We have made hundreds of coffees on the Ikea kitchen Milly and Gloria modified to fit in here. We have broken down and been rebuilt from the ground up. We have been stuck in traffic, camped on beaches, drove next to alligators and survived countless nights in snow storms. This van has become our home, our safety, our greatest friend on this wild adventure, and we are so lucky to call it ours. We consider ourselves to be houseless, not homeless. Rubber tramps cruising across the States.

 

 

Day 76

We really wanted to get out of the cities and venture out in to the bush. Little did we know that the Texan hinterlands look strikingly like the Australian outback. Although we are yet to encounter the notorious bison, we were able to find ourselves befriending lots of red dirt, cacti, oil drillers, cows and DONKEYS! The roads were flat and the fellow travellers were far and few between. We traipsed through little country towns with diners and antique stores, and drove through cow paddocks as far as the eye could see. It was nice to dip our toes into freshwater streams and smell the fresh country air again. It sort of felt like home.

 

 

Day 77

This post is dedicated to my amore, Mildred. You are the Sonny to my Cher (1964-1977), the Elwood to my Jake (Blues Brothers) and the Barack to my Michelle (or Joe Bidon, depending on our moods haha), and I will forever be grateful for this adventure we are on. As we spend our anniversary in the breathtaking state of New Mexico, I cannot wait to see what the next hour, day, year, lifetime holds for us. Ohh Honeyyyyyy, I love you. Now lets go to sleep so we can wake up tomorrow and go on another wild adventure together.

 

 

Day 78

Some things in America are wonderful. In and Out for example. It was a cheap dinner option that we full took advantage of tonight because it was cheaper than buy a basket full of vegetables! Some things in America are not so wonderful and their gun laws are one example. Today was March for Our Lives Day and although we were not able to attend a march today, we were there in spirit and support. Having grown up in Australia, as most of you would know, fearing that a fellow student, concert goer, or dance partner had access to a semi-automatic weapon intended for war was not something ever to be afraid of. But here in the US there have been too many massacres, too many tragedies, too many lives lost at the hands of people who should not have had access to these sorts of weapons, and this is due to their gun laws. And for those who think it is not our place to say or do anything about it as it is not happening in our world; you are wrong. This is everyone’s issue because it is too important an issue to turn a blind eye or pass it off as someone else’s problem. Parkland High School; 17 killed. Vegas Massacre; 58 killed. Orlando Pulse Nightclub; 49 killed. San Bernardino; 14 killed. Sandy Hook Elementary School; 26 killed. When will it be enough to change the laws and make the lives of US residents safer? Enough is enough.

 

Day 79

Today was another expedition to the wilderness. We visited the Saguaro National Park and wandered through the fields of cacti in the pursuit of the perfect 3-pronged cactus, to no avail. We purchased an Annual National Park Pass for $80 which allows us to enter most parks without paying anything extra. It does not cover camping but at least we get to spend the days exploring these magical places. Tomorrow, we will take this cactus search more seriously and hike on foot around the park on one or more of their trails. I am also excited at the prospect of seeing a tortoise in the wild. Is there such a thing? A wild tortoise?

 

Day 80

Some days I wake up and realise that I am living the life I have always dreamed of living. And this is not because I get to see beautiful places or do exciting things; it is because I am living on the road. I fell in love with literature in my late teens, long after my teachers were cramming books down our throats, telling us it would change our life (although I wish I had listened and read them then, instead of trying to catch up in my twenties). I found literature in the solitude of the second hand book store on Sydney Street in Mackay. I fell into a world that opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of this universe. But I fell hardest for Jack Karouac, and his nomadic lifestyle. I know now that I would never have fit into the beatnik group that he cultivated around him; for women were not seen in this capacity. But I am proving now to myself, that I do not need to be a man to live this life of adventure. We spend our days reading and writing and travelling the long roads of the states, just as those men did back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Although we are not hitchhiking or jumping trains, we are living on the streets, in the wild, listening to the stories of others and reflecting on what we are learning. We are our own version of beatniks and teenage me would be so proud.

 

Day 81

Today was a true day of exploring in the town of Bisbee, Arizona. When we first discovered it, I thought it was where all the magical hippies had escaped California to call home. You could tell from the energy radiating from it’s colourful houses and funky saloons. After meeting a wonderful musician and owner of a classic Cadillac; Dan, we learned that it was home to famous writers, photographers and artists. It felt like a place where I could call home. Either there or the incredible hotel that has made each room out of 1950’s airstream caravans, each with their own theme. We are ending our day parked up in the wilderness, surrounded by enthusiastic bird watchers. I must admit, it was incredible to see a real life road runner.

 

 

Day 82

This is where we spent last night; out in the bush where you are supposed to see a number of wild and exotic birds. However, we chose this place not because of the wildlife but the solitude and how much it cost to stay - nothing! This is our favourite sort of camping, free camping. For the past 83 days on the road, we have free camped every single night of that. A fair few of those nights were free due to the beautiful hospitality of new friends, but all the rest were spent out there, wherever we could find to park for the night. Last night, without realising it, we slept very close to the Mexican boarder. Of course, we thought nothing of it, until we came across boarder patrol on the road who instructed us to pull over and present our passports. To our luck, we had the most wonderful boarder officer who laughed at our plans and loved our home, and wished us luck on our travels. It is not every day you meet a kind boarder officer, so we are feeling very blessed tonight that we did not have a Tom Hanks in The Terminal situation on our hands.

 

 

Day 83

I have never really been one for souvenirs. This may have to do with having very little belongings to start with, or the strict budget that we live off but I have never really bought anything a long our travels. When I was in Australia, I wanted something to remind me of home; so it is then that I picked up a rock from the Northern Territory and made it into a necklace that I could wear every day. As we travel, if there is anywhere that really sticks out to me, that produces some emotional connection, I look around a try and find a rock. I have one from the volcano we hiked in Guatemala. I have another from where we broke down in Alabama, and I collected this one from the trailer park in Bisbee. Each carrying its own memory, its own emotion, its own significance on this journey. I will most likely come home with a whole backpack full of rocks, but I am ok with that.

 

 

Day 84

We woke up this morning in the outback of Tucson, ready for a day of adventure. We were joined by two new van lifer friends from Kentucky (and their adorable dog Milly), and went for a hike in the Sabino Canyon. Although we ended up hiking in the wrong direction for over 10km, it was still a fantastic day filled with cacti, warnings of bob cats and my infamous pineapple snack. We ended the night camped out in the wilderness and built a fire to keep us warm. If this isn’t what van life is all about, I don’t know what is. New friends, new mistakes, new memories.

 

 

Day 85

After waking up, surrounded by cacti and ashes from the fire, we sat and drank coffee with our new Kentucky friends, and shared stories from the road. They generously gave us some mangoes and even some hand me down clothes that we can’t wait to wear, as I showed them how to macrame rocks for necklaces. It was amazing just to spend the start of Easter weekend with people who know the ups and downs of van life and share our passion for travel. We sadly said goodbye in Phoenix after yet another cup of coffee, and Milly and I hit the road again. The highlight today was definitely seeing a Joshua Tree for the first time, that were sprouting up in the hills of Arizona. Although slightly saddened to see less cacti, these beautiful specimens made up for that short void. I have fallen in love with Arizona and I don’t think we will ever want to leave.

 

Day 86

Did you know there was a town in the middle of Arizona where donkeys run loose? Wild donkeys no less. This is what we discovered today while living out another one of our dreams; driving the historic Route 66. Although it is not technically a highway anymore, you are still able to drive sections of the infamous road that has been immortalised and romanticised time and time again. These are one of those days when I wish each and everyone of you could see what we saw. The landscape that we witnessed today was like no other. It had this celestial energy that cannot be described. I felt as though we were driving into the beyond, without every reaching it but still feeling the alchemical energy abounding. Today was about the land of the strange and abnormal, the intangible mystery of this country.

 

Day 87

Arizona, California, Nevada! We did them all today. We drove a long a stretch of road that crossed through three states within 2 hours, and I was as excited as a school girl on graduation day. It has been a dream to visit California, and even though it wasn’t for very long, it was still something. The Joshua tree littered road and a rustic little townwas all that we saw of the infamous Cali but it lead us to one of the craziest states yet - Nevada. One of our stops today was to this quirky place; the Seven Magic Mountains. An large art installation by renowned artist Ugo Rondinone was an interesting site to see on the desert plains and one that definitely worth the photo shoot that broke out in the crowd.

 

Day 88

We’re in VEGAS, baby! And boy, has it delivered. We have ticked off so many Las Vegas bucketlist items, such as; seeing the vintage Las Vegas sign, seeing a Cirque Du Soleil show, shared food with a homeless man, saw an Elvis impersonator, watched police bust some guys for selling drugs, offered drugs by a man, saw lots of boobs, saw someone win big, shared laughs- with two male strippers who sexually harassed us, and lost track of whether it was day or night. Las Vegas has definitely lived up to its nickname of Sin City and we are so glad that this little adventure is almost over.

 

Day 89

Some days you really realise how small the world is. Today we explored the Valley of Fire State Park with my Great Aunt and Uncle, whom I had never met. I often wonder how these little moments transpire and I am still bewildered how the universe brings people together. Not only was it a mind boggling day of earth’s magnificence, with it’s stunning rock formations and alternations of colour, it was surprisingly comforting to be in the presence of family; irrespective of the newness of the connection. Travelling can sometimes be a lonely business, even when you are not travelling alone, so to spend time with family is always appreciated and a reminder of home.

 

Day 90

Today we hiked the Historic Railroad Trail that takes you all the way up to the base of Hoover Dam. The 5 expansive tunnels through rock faces was once the railroad route that connected Boulder City to Hoover Dam from 1931 to1961. Today it is a fantastic 12km hike through the mountains, with the opportunity to see long horned goats, tortoise, eagles and stunning panoramic views of Lake Mead. We must admit that we got a little too much sun, and are now less like potatoes, and more like tomatoes but it was an incredible hike. We are going to sleep well tonight.

 

Day 91

Some days we get tired. Some days we don’t feel like going on an adventure. Some days we wish we knew where we were going to sleep, where we could use the bathroom, what we were going to eat and drink on a budget. Some days the bright and shininess of ‘vanlifing’ wears off a little and we just feel like two people in a van. Today was one of those days. But then one of us cracks a joke about our dirty feet or my overalls and we laugh and remember that this is what we have always wanted. Not every day has to be filled with spectacular views or exhilarating activities and sometimes we have to be reminded that it is ok to not love every second of living in a van. All we really need is to look over at one another, and love that we are on this journey together; this sometimes stinky, irritating, uncomfortable journey. I love the girl in this picture, and there really is nowhere else I would rather be.

 

Day 92

Today, we were feeling refreshed and ready for another day of driving. We left a small town off the historic Route 66 and decided to not take the quicker option of the interstate, but yet again spend another day on this iconic road. We had the music blaring and the sing a longs plenty. We were saddened after a couple of hours that we had reached the furthest part of Route 66 we could take and had to return to the interstate. But not for long, as we decided we were not wanting to spend the night surrounded by other tourists heading for the Grand Canyon. We turned off one of the dirt roads and found ourselves a camp site, in between trees and next to a fire pit. It was here we spent the afternoon, spending the last hours of sun light reading, chatting and enjoying the solitude of the forest. We have yet to spot any elk, but we hope to see some as the sun rises tomorrow before we head for the Grand Canyon.

 

Day 93

I cannot believe we were able to tick off another bucket list item today; visiting the Grand Canyon. The magnitude of it’s energy is indescribable. The moment you catch the first glimpse of this majesty of nature, your breath catches and you feel everything. You feel how minute you actually are, and how immense everything else around you is. With a ‘wow’ caught on the edge of our lips, Milly and I stood here unable to take it all in. This moment was reminiscent of visiting Uluru last year, the vast, intangible magic of a place that you will remember forever. We have decided to make it our mission for the next couple of years to hike a trail down to the Colorado River and back. One bucket list item turning into another.

 

Day 94

I cannot believe I have been blogging for the past 95 days. Sure, they might just be small snapshots of the occurrences of each given 24 hours, and a few random ramblings of the thoughts that cross my mind. But 95 days of it? I have never been this committed to a project for a very long time, and I am proud of myself. Every day I try to open myself up that little bit more and share our life with those around us, unsure that if it really means anything, but to me it does. Today we woke up with the sun and hiked to the Horse Shoe Bend and now I able to sit here and reflect on that and share it with you. How blessed am I that I have this voice, and have been given these opportunities. We worked hard, we travel hard, and we get to share that with each and everyone of you. We are blessed.

 

Day 95

We move every day. I suppose that is the point of van life, to take your home wherever you go. We hit the road and see where it takes us. There is nothing that makes me happier than driving with the windows down, music blaring whatever I am into that day and looking around us. Some days it absolutely takes your breath away. You cannot believe that they have created roads through these extraordinary rock formations, seemingly cutting through million year old mountains. It certainly makes for a stunning drive, and our home always has the most incredible view.

 

Day 96

This right here is probably one of the greatest purchases we have made this entire trip. For just $80, we are able to enter almost, if not all National Parks within the United States for a year. We have so far visited four National Parks so far (with plenty more to come over the next month), and two of those cost $30 per car (the Grand Canyon National Park and the Zion National Park). We have almost already spent what it cost for the year, and we have so much more to see. For anyone who is travelling the states and wanting to see some incredible landscapes, I would suggest getting one of these passes. They have free or significantly discounted cards for seniors and veterans, which is an added bonus. You can just call me Leslie Knope because I just LOVE parks, and waffles, but mostly just parks.

 

Day 97

Today was honestly the most fun we have had in ages! We left where we were staying sweating up a storm and literally ran into a snow covered mountain range. I was in heaven. I pulled over at the first patch of snow and jumped out into it without a shoe on my foot and instantly regretted this action. I was just so happy to be back under the pine trees and in the glistening snow. We then drove on to the profoundly gorgeous Bryce Canyon National Park, where the snow continued to bucket down and we scrambled to find jumpers and socks. We hiked in the snow, through these stunning crevasses and mountains, with huge smiles on our faces. I could’ve stayed here for days but our poor Australian bodies don’t tolerate this weather for long periods of time. We are knackered, happily knackered.

 

Day 98

I love skylines. I seriously am absolutely in adoration of a beautiful skyline and today was no exception. No matter where I wake up, if there is a stunning horizon in front of me, I cannot help but be inspired and humbled by mother nature. I remember the first time I saw the New York City skyline… I thought my heart was going to stop beating. It finally felt real that we were here. We were living our ultimate dream and in those building, on those streets; my people were waiting for me. I feel the same when I look at these mountains. There is intangible amounts of potential in what is in front of me, and I feel it. I feel it coursing through my body, from my beating heart to my deep breaths. We are here.

 

Day 99

As we pass our triple digit milestone, we had a long day on the road. We drove from Utah to Nevada and on to the land of the potatoes; Idaho. We drove for a couple of hours before we reached the art installation ‘The Tree of Utah’, an 87 foot tall tree made from cement and natural rock and minerals of Utah. But what we were really looking for was the great salt flats. We frolicked and wandered around this magical piece of land before hitting the road again. We were sadly marred by a serious case of the caffeine withdrawals and had a little trouble enjoying the drive today. That is what we get from trying to get through the day without coffee. Never going to try this again anytime soon!!

 

Day 100

Showers. A simple luxury that you don’t realise you have until it is practically impossible to find. Today was like a wild goose chase, in the pursuit for a hot, steamy rendezvous with water. Did you know that in Europe you can go to nearly any campsite and they will offer you a shower for free or at most 2 euro? Today we were told that we would have to pay for a campsite ($35-$50 per night), or go to the truck stop and pay $24 for both of us to shower. A guy today even told me that “we don’t sell showers”. I am happy to pay for a shower, but within reason. We decided to contact the local YMCA and we were told that they offer showers for $5 per person - bargain! Off we toddled, and checked in and headed to the bathroom, only to discover that it was communal showering. COMMUNAL SHOWERING. No doors, no curtains, no walls between you and the person next to you. Something is better than nothing but please, when you are showering tonight in your own bathroom, with an endless supply of hot water and privacy, think of us.

 

Day 101

Well, we did something exciting today. We booked a couple of flights to the UK! WHAT? That’s right, we are taking this adventure cross-continental. Why, you may ask. Why not? We have so much of this world to explore, so we thought we would take a month or too off from the Americas and see what we missed when we lived in Europe a few years ago. Although I know we will be sad to leave our van behind and continue with just a few things in our backpacks, we are excited for this new adventure. We will be heading off in just a few short weeks, so we will have to smash as much of the US in as we can. I cannot wait to see what the next month will hold. I am secretly hoping to meet either the Queen, Emma Watson or David Beckham, anyone will do.

 

Day 102

Finally the snow sort of cleared and we were able to hit the road and see what magic lies within the Idaho landscape. There are so many hidden gems within this enormous country and I think Milly and I are accidentally trying to see them all. Our first stop today was the Craters of the Moon National Monument; a lava stained land that makes you feel as though you are in fact on the moon. We tried to hike a little but we were slowly succumbing to hypothermia so we left in the direction of Idaho Falls. What we came across in Little Lost River was my most favourite part of today. A mountain that had painted numbers on all of the rocks made us question what was going on in this little town, so we stopped to ask a local. Every year, the graduating class would climb this mountain just outside of this quaint country town and paint their graduating year number on a rock. This tradition dates back for almost a hundred years, with the first number being 23 (1923 graduating class). This is what I love about driving across the country, finding things you never thought you would.

 

Day 103

Some days don’t always go to plan. I fell asleep last night and dreamt of frolicking in Yellowstone National Park with my second spirit animal - the Bison. We drove a couple of hours through fields and fields of snow, so it should not have been a surprise that the National Park would still be closed due to the winter. What else could we do but park up, jump the barricades and have a snow ball fight on the stranded road. Even though this is not how I thought this day would go, it was still pretty fun and not without a little excitement. It turns out we are only off from seeing this incredible National Park by 2 days, so it looks like we will be hanging around here for a little while so I can be united with my hairy soul sisters; the bison.

 

Day 104

BISON! Yellowstone National Park did not disappoint. After hearing the northern entrance was open, we hit the road and drove 3 hours from the western entrance and hello wildlife! On one side there was ELK, on the other side BISON, in front of us was DEAR. If we had seen a bear, I think we would have flown back to Australia right now; declaring we had seen it all. The animals here are magical, unworldly and seemingly nonchalant that you are pulling up and taking pictures of them. I learnt from a rather (understandably) cranky local that you should stay at least 20m away from bison, as they have been known to maul people, something I was unaware of when I was trying to take a photo with one. I will not do that again, mostly in fear of being yelled at, but still. We could not help but stop at every single bison we saw, as they were so magnificent while they chewed their cud. We also went on a hike through the Mammoth Hot Springs, which in itself is beautiful and a true wonder to behold. But today was about one thing; being with my dear friends, the BISON.

 

Day 105

The thing about travel is that it doesn’t always go to plan. Due to our naiveté, or shear bad luck, we drove from outside Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park, only to realise that the road through it was shut to motor vehicles. Ok, we thought, these sort of things happen, we might as well head up to Canada considering we were so close and our flights to the UK from Calgary are less than two weeks away. What we didn’t expect is to have trouble entering Canada with our van. Border crossing, something we had never had problems with before, definitely gave us a little slice of hell today. Fast forward a very intense interrogation process and van search, we were told we could not enter Canada today and had to return to USA. And of course, it all comes down to paperwork. But it is all part of the adventure, the experience and we could not feel more blessed that it did not go worse. A few tips if you ever face this sort of problem yourself; stay calm, be polite, and most importantly be honest. We will look back and laugh at this one day, not today, but one day. On a side note: Portland here we come!!

 

Day 106

Portland! We are in you! It only took us nearly 12 hours of driving today to get here but I can’t believe we made it. After our horror show of trying to cross the boarder yesterday, we had to completely change our plan for pretty much the next few months. We thought we would be leaving our van in Canada but now we are forced to leave her in the States. Last night, we were touched by two angels (better known as two travellers we met a few years ago in Slovakia, who quickly turned into friends and now life savers!), who said that they would look after our baby while we are in the UK. So this morning we woke up, pounded some coffee, chucked on Spotify and hit the road. The greatest thing about travelling is the people you meet. And if it wasn’t for stopping to have a drink with some fellow hikers in Slovakia a few years back, who knows where we would be right now. We are so grateful to our travelling friends, the ones who help keep this dream alive. We are beyond blessed and beyond happy to be here. Thank you.

 

Day 107

I don’t think people realise how easy it is to find happiness in the little things. I know I sometimes forget. Do you want to know what made today a wonderful first day in Portland? For starters, we showered! Not only did we shower, but we exfoliated and looked at ourselves in a mirror, and we were able to go to the toilet whenever we wanted! Not only that, I made a coffee in a coffee cup that isn’t made out of tin and walked through the neighbourhood to see if there was any good books in this miniature neighbourhood library while sipping said coffee. And I showered again before jumping into bed to write about showering haha. We cooked dinner in a real kitchen, we sat on a couch, we called out to each other from different rooms, and all of these things made us happy today. Who knows what will make us happy tomorrow, but my bets are on the shower.

 

Day 108

There is something that always makes travelling a little easier; finding somewhere that reminds you of home. Portland feels so much like Melbourne, it is uncanny. From the vegan culture, to the hipsters frolicking around, I feel as though I have fallen in love just as I had with Melbourne a few years ago. And to make it even more wonderful is the second hand clothing stores that house incredible bargains, from brandname clothing to apparently homemade items, we were kids in a candy store. I was in need of layers for our next round of travelling, so I couldn’t miss out an opportunity to give homage to one of my new favourite states. I know it is going to be hard to leave this incredible city, especially without a bag full of new clothes haha. As we sit down with our bowl fully of vegan spaghetti bolognese, we cannot keep the smile off our faces.

 

Day 109

One of the hardest thing to balance while travelling is my love of minimalism and reading. And this is made so much harder when we move from our backpacks into a van, because my idea of space slightly skews when I have a small cupboard to fit books into. And it is so much harder when you can trade books with fellow travellers, exchange them in second hand book stores or pick them up for as little as a quarter at library sales. But before you question why I am carrying around so many paper books when I could simply carry a kindle, I would like to explain that I have one of them too filled to the brim with over a thousand of books I could read. But any book lover will tell you that there is nothing like turning a paper page, and I will tell you there is nothing like the smell of a second hand book. I am sorry to say that my bag will always be filled half with books and I don’t see the changing any time soon.

 

Day 110

One of the most important things that you learn when you travel is that you have so much to learn. The world is ever changing, from the environment to the people who inhabit it. And it is imperative to stay informed on what is going on around you, to continually learn and inform yourself of the society around you. At the end of the day, like this piece of public art depicts is that we are all human and want the same thing; to be happy, to make a difference, to find love. It is important to remember this when you come across something that doesn’t make sense to you, whether that is environmentally, culturally or socially. It has nothing to do with political correctness but understanding that the world is forever changing and that we no longer have to conform to the societal standards of the past. And if it wasn’t a changing world, Milly and I as women wouldn’t be able to travel the world as freely as we are able to now (even though we as women have a long way to go in the fight for equality), and we certainly wouldn’t be able to get married. Sometimes we need to not blame ignorance and start to actively inform ourselves on what is going on and make this world a more inclusive place, am I right?

 

Day 111

Can you imagine what travelling used to be like without internet? Most of the time when Milly and I travel, we live off the grid. When we were in Europe, we nearly never used to post on social media and we would message our family at most once every few days. What would we do without having high speed internet to call home and say we were safe? Now, I love the ability to FaceTime my family, say hi, feel close even if we are thousands of miles apart. I only imagine how it would’ve been for your family member to head off, with the only means of communicating being pay phones and letters. Although I must admit to buying a few stamps today to send letters home to my family, it is such an outdated form of communication because everything I have written in my letters, I have already discussed with my family over the phone. But there is something about reading a letter (sort of like a paper book) and I couldn’t help myself. Back to travelling without internet. I am glad that we are able to share so much with people, but part of me wishes that I was able to experience travel without the magic that is the internet, to feel what it would’ve felt like to really be out there alone. To anyone who has FaceTime’d with us knows that we do live predominantly off the grid (I don’t have a phone anymore) and we only call our family off free Walmart wifi as we buy our groceries, but any internet, any chance to call home is a blessing.