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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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?
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.