10 Things We've Learned on the Road (So Far)

1. Eleven days is not nearly enough time to experience the West Coast.

Well, we knew that, but with a wedding and a family reunion on the books, we only had 11 days to get from San Diego to Washington. We opted to skip the incredible Big Sur Coast (we’d both spent a good chunk of time camping there in the past), but even so, we didn’t have nearly enough time to see everything. Do yourself a favor and if you ever do a West Coast road trip, give yourself three months.

2. Having no plan is actually more stressful than having a plan.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, “going with the flow” and “winging it” when it comes to figuring out where to sleep each night is really frustrating. There’s nothing that gets the anxiety flowing quite like driving around sketchy neighborhoods late at night trying to figure out where to safely park the van to get a good night’s rest. We’ve found that having at least a rough plan—and finding good neighborhoods to stealth camp while it’s still light out—does wonders for our anxiety (and our relationship!).

3. Asking locals for recommendations is 1,000 times better than any guidebook.

A guy at a gas station told us about this one. Thank you, sir.

Secret spot, Idaho.

Secret spot, Idaho.

4. You really don’t need that much stuff to be happy.

Ok, that one’s pretty cliché. But we’ve really felt it on this trip. We filled the van to the brim before leaving, taking advantage of all Shaq’s extra storage space (John calls the space under our bed "the garage"). Within the first few weeks, we realized that we need probably about half of it. It's made us really re-think how we're going to live once this trip is over.

5. You can’t eat like you’re on a road trip when road tripping is your life.

Like most people, we’ve always associated camping and road trips with indulgence: Bacon with every breakfast? Yes, please. After-hike beers every day? Ok! Hot dogs and S'mores and gas station snacks? Sure, why not? About a month in we realized our pants were tight. So we stopped being fat kids. 

6. North America is f-ing amazing.

Seriously, go to Banff and drive the Icefields Parkway four hours north to Jasper. Now. And go to Olympic National Park. And the Tetons. And, and, and.... We are in awe of what we’ve seen so far. There’s this romantic notion we all have about traveling overseas—it’s always felt more exciting or exotic or cool. But damn, so much goodness exists right here. And we’ve only seen a corner of it.

The grandest of Tetons.

The grandest of Tetons.

7. Peeing in a jug at night ain’t so bad.

That’s all I have to say about that.

8. Working from the road is easier than you think.

Of course we would rather not be working at all (anyone want to pay us to do that?), but working from a van is actually kind of fun. We drink too much coffee and tap away on our computers, and go to coffee shops where other people are tapping on their computers, and sometimes we talk to them and it’s fun. Then we ponder how our existence now involves staring at these glowing metal boxes all day, "working," but really not creating all that much... But that's an entirely different blog post (more on that later).

9. Your faults are amplified when you’re with someone 24 hours a day, every day.

John and I have been together almost three years, and have lived together nearly that long. But there is something very different about living, working, and making every single decision together all day long. Our differences are amplified (namely, I’m impatient and John is of the slower-moving variety). But we’re learning how to better communicate and I’m learning to slow down and be more patient—at least in theory. John, meanwhile, really needs to author one of these blog posts.

Napa pretend honeymoon, pre-engagement. 

Napa pretend honeymoon, pre-engagement. 

10. We weren’t making a big enough effort.

Coming from drought-ridden California, we’ve been ultra-aware of our water use, especially over the last few years. But in the van, we’ve been shocked to realize that we use much more water—and create much more trash—than we thought we did. I think everyone (and certainly the planet) could benefit from living in a place where you have to fill up a five-gallon water container each time you use water and empty a small trash can every time it’s full, and really see how much you use each day. It’s definitely made us re-think our own impact on this trip and beyond it. But hey, at least we're peeing in a jug and not flushing a toilet!