In 2015, right after I returned from my Iceland expedition, I knew my life could not go on as it had. My three-year relationship was nearing completion. It didn't feel right anymore to be tied to one location, as amazing as Crested Butte, Colorado is, and tied to a job that kept me on someone else's schedule, building someone else's dream, and necessitating staying in one place.
I wanted the freedom to say yes to opportunities that came my way and the freedom to dream up my own. The pull to follow adventure and a more creative lifestyle was too strong. I had dreamed my entire life of living in a van, having lived in cars and jeeps at various points along the way, and the timing was perfect.
I already lived a pretty minimalist lifestyle (look up essentialism, that's what would best describe the way I live) so it didn't take much work to downsize even more. I knew I was moving to Guatemala for the fall and winter, so I took some good friends up on their offer to store my ski and mountaineering gear along with some other things in their basement while I went on the road. I spent a few months looking for vans in Colorado, and when I couldn't find anything suitable, I expanded my search. My best college girlfriend was getting married in Washington, so I looked at vans in the Pacific Northwest area. My eyes fell upon a blue 1997 Chevy Astro minivan with a high top. Better gas mileage than the big vans, affordable (I paid $7k for her), low mileage (88,000), and just enough room for my dog Cody Oats and me.
I called the owner of the small used car dealership she was at, talked to him at length, and bought Suzy Blue sight unseen over the phone. Huge risk, I know. But it felt right. The next week I sold my shiny new Mazda CX-5, moved what was left of my things into a tiny Uhaul van, loaded up Cody in the passenger seat, kissed my ex-boyfriend goodbye one last time, tipped my hat to the beautiful valley that had been my home for nearly three years, and pointed myself northwest.
That was over three years ago. Suzy, now 21 years old and with 145,000+ miles on her, has been my most reliable vehicle to date. We're a team; her and Cody Oats and me. She's had four different makeovers, as I learn what I need and don't need on the inside and outside and how to best disperse the weight. She has crossed the US twice, crossed Canada twice, been to Alaska, and has her sights set on Baja.
I've learned a lot along the way about living in my van, the pros and cons and how to balance work and play.
My biggest challenge to date has been finding reliable internet and cell signal, as much of my work is now done online and involves uploading videos and doing video calls. I will admit this does on occasion cause quite a bit of stress in my life.
But if my biggest stress in life is finding a place to do the work that I love to do, which is building MY dream, in between endless mountain bike rides and backcountry ski tours, I can't really complain.