It's 3:00 am, I just chugged my third double shot, dogs are refusing to wake up to go the bathroom, and we've been on the road for 12 hour. My truck is stuffed full of camping gear, seasonal beer, and everything else I need to live out my new normal over the next 3 weeks on the road. I’ve been anticipating this moment for almost 2 years, planning for 5 months, and now that it's here? It doesn't seem real. I’d be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what’s to come. Not necessarily the adventure, or even the nuances of living out of my truck with 2 large dogs, but mostly because I have absolutely no clue whats in store for me in the next 3 weeks or even the next 3 years.
Before we go any further, I think a bit of preface is necessary to paint a timeline of the last few years of my life. As you can probably imagine, a lot of change has taken place.
This particular story starts September 2015 after I had finally convinced my now ex-wife to go on a camping trip with me to Aspen, Colorado. We had just finished driving straight from KY to CO with our three dogs; Carol, Coda, and Kali, who turned out to have very severe road trip anxiety and almost caused multiple accidents by trying to crawl under the brake peddle.
We arrive in Aspen around 10:00 am and we were ready to jump on the Maroon Bells 4 pass loop trail for the next few days when we found out there’s no traffic allowed to the trail head until after 5:00 that night. We had a decision to make … wait until morning to start our hike, or start tonight and hustle to our first camp. Since our trip schedule was packed full we decided to head out that night which ended up being the wrong choice. After three miles of sucking wind with packs that were too heavy, and dogs that were too excited, we were greeted with a “No Camping” sign where we were planning to sleep. The sun had already set behind the mountains, and the temperature was dropping almost as quick as our moral.
After about a mile and a half further, I made the decision to pitch our tent at the first sign of semi level ground. It was after 10:00 pm and we had only slept 3 out of the last 48 hours (in addition to an 8000-foot elevation gain in the same time). Our tent was in the middle of a scree field with a 10-degree slope, dinner was hot chocolate and Ramen, 2 dogs were missing, and I still had to hike back a mile to pick up her backpack which was left out of exhaustion. By the time I finally had a chance to settle in for the night, it was well past 1:00 am, and neither of us wanted to continue the hike but we committed to making that decision in the morning.
Just then Coda became curious, stepped inside our tent, and her claw sliced straight through my ultralight air mattress, and our decision was made…we were heading to Denver in the morning and getting a hotel. We woke up the next morning, packed our tent and enjoyed a leisurely hike back to my truck taking plenty of pictures and eating the next few days rations along the way.
The rest of the week was spent taking the dogs to different parks, having brunch daily, spending time with family, and mini hiking trips to stunning locations. On our last night in Denver, we were walking the pups under a sky colored in pink, orange, and red when we both realized this was a place that we could easily call home.
After a week where nearly everything went wrong, we still wanted more. There’s something about those mountains that are equally as addictive as they are fulfilling. 2 months later, and we were planning a full summer long road trip for 2017.
Flash forward a year to September 2016, we found ourselves in the middle of a divorce, I was in Colorado, and for the first time in 4 months I had a glimmer of hope and felt at peace. It was in that moment, sitting on a rock with my feet in the Colorado river, watching people surf in the middle of Glenwood Springs that I knew I still needed to take the road trip we had planned.
Originally, the goal was to leave at the end of May 2017 and tour Western North America, but unexpectedly, I was still in the middle of a divorce related lawsuit which was consuming my life. It was nearly impossible for me to focus on anything outside of the present. I was in survival mode and made the decision to push the trip back.
Looking back, this decision crushed my morale at the time, but it was the right call. I went from having a specific dream to look forward to, to convincing myself it would never happen and finding it hard to do anything that involved a hint of adventure because it wasn't the adventure I was dreaming of. During that period, where the majority of my free time was spent staring at a screen in my living room, I discovered the world of Van Dwellers via Instagram. I have never been more thankful for my fellow millennials who are pursuing and celebrating something that would have been considered an act of desperation 10 years ago.
Why should I limit this adventure to just 3 months? With a bit of strategy, some hard work, and a desire for experience over expertise, I’m sure I can figure out a way to outfit my truck and live a nomadic lifestyle with my dogs.
That brings us back to present day, and the first step of this next stage of life.
Step 1 - Short-term Testing
Over the next 3 weeks, the goal is to figure out the necessities of living out of my truck, as well as any affordable luxuries which could make living out of a vehicle with two 80lb dogs a bit easier. It also happens to coincide with a family camping trip in CO … In fact, I believe this will be the first time my entire immediate family has gone camping together in over 5 years. After the 3 weeks are up, I’m heading back to KY to begin the next step.
Step 2 - Build and Plan
When I return to KY, I have roughly 2 1/2 months to convert my truck into a dream rig, find potential clients to work with during my life on the road, decide to either sell or rent out my house and get rid of 70% of what I own. In addition to all the planning mentioned above, I have roughly 5 weeks of personal and professional commitments ranging from a close friend getting married to a photography project in Africa.
Despite my best efforts of planning for the next several months, I’m still scared. As I'm driving through Kansas, everything started to turn from fantasy to reality. The stars are still out, Coda is snoring in the backseat of my truck, and Carol is resting her head on the shoulder of my seat. There's a part of this trip that feels like letting go of the last 8 years of my life, but the reality is that part of my life will alway be there.
In many ways, I am a completely different person than the man who started planning this trip 2 years ago, yet so much is still the same. It would be very easy to focus on the empty seat next to me, and convince myself something or someone is missing, but for the first time in my life, I am content in the uncertainty and solitude.
I have no idea how long this adventure will last, or who I will meet along the way. I can’t begin to imagine the amount of growth, challenges, pain, grief, or loneliness I will experience on this adventure, which is where most of my fear is coming from right now, but on the other side of that fear is excitement, peace, and joy.
So today, as I drive up into the mountains, I say bring on the fear, because I know my God has bigger plans for me today and every day to come. While letting go of the past 8 years isn’t an option, It’s time I start the process of moving on.
Stay up to date with all my future adventures and discoveries through my Instagram, as well as plenty of pictures of my pups! This is Part 1 of a new blog series following my life in real time. The hope is to provide a glimpse of the stories I experience on this new journey from beginning to whenever it may end.