Monday, December 24, 2018

Kim's last vanbatical post


I had really good intentions coming back into the van to get the posts up and running again. I wrote that interview with Mike on the 3rd night of being back on the road. But I just wasn’t as passionate about writing posts.  I started “vanlife then and now” and “yosemite to Joshua Tree”) and now they just sit unfinished on my lap top. Maybe I lost the interest to write about van life because really, I am not living in a van anymore, I am just visiting Mike. So given that the only blog post that is forming in my head is this one, it kind of tells me that it needs to be my last (at least last vanbatical post).    

So first off, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who read the vanbatical blog. Whether you read all the posts or just a few, hearing about how you enjoyed reading it and just the fact that you wanted to know how we were doing and what we were up to warmed my heart.

Secondly, to update (and as I have mentioned in previous posts), I am spending the winter in Kenora and Mike is continuing his journey in the van with Dawson. Neither of us can say whether Mike will post more here or not but follow him on Facebook and you will at least get some pictures (usually of Dawson) and a short blurb about where he is. As for me, I would like to write more but am not sure if that becomes another separate blog or continuing to type draft blog posts on my lap top and saving them.

And lastly, although the long term van life wasn’t for me, I am so happy that I chose to take this year off, travel around with Mike and our dogs and then finish off the “sabbatical” back at home in Kenora. A year off work (or even 6 months off) really gave me new perspective on so many things. So if during any of your readings you had a thought of, wow I wonder if I/we could do that, I would really encourage you to think about it, talk about it and research it. We met a lot of people doing it. With kids, without kids, with dogs, with a cat, in RVs and cars and vans or on foot or on bikes. So you don’t even need to travel in a van (in fact you don’t even need to travel if you don’t want to) but I encourage you to at least entertain the possibility of the time off. I just don’t think it is something that people ever regret.

So signing off for now. Keep in touch via email (kimmowrey@yahoo.com).

Friday, December 21, 2018

On the Road Again

Las Vegas to Yosemite

Back in the air again. My 4th flight in less than 2 months. Who knew a “vanbatical” required so much flying? This time, I am on my way to Vegas. On landing, the West Jet flight attendant is playing some Elvis Presley tune and telling us to behave ourselves in sin city. But after getting my suitcase (which I could barely close after Mike told me to pack the orange and black sleeping bag), I am not taking a cab to the strip but instead looking around the passenger pick up area for the van.

Making the decision to get back in the van after deciding to not finish off the trip in the van wasn’t easy. And even up till the day I left, I was looking for excuses to cancel the flight and stay. Not that I didn’t want to go and see Mike but I had kind of gotten into a nice routine in Kenora and leaving felt disruptive (remember that I like routine!). But once getting here, I was happy to be here and grateful to be touring some pretty impressive sights. The time frame of 3 weeks felt manageable.

So maybe not surprisingly, we didn’t spend any time in Vegas. Instead, we headed straight to Red Rock Canyon National Conservatory. This is still in Nevada and easily a 20 minute drive from Vegas. I am sure guidebooks will tell you that it is a great way to get away if you are feeling a bit over stimulated on the strip. There are many well marked trails in the park or you can just do a scenic drive through it (although if you are going to pay, you might as well stop and explore). Mike had already been doing lots of desert walking with Dawson but this was my first time back in it since Osoyoos. It wasn’t as hot as it was in Osoyoos when we had been there in June (in fact the Visitors Centre staff member we spoke to said temperatures were cooler than normal) and luckily the rain held out while we were hiking (yes it also rains in a desert – especially in winter months). Cactus and gnarly trees and red rock cliffs and climbers (who looked like lego figurines on those cliffs) were the sites of the day while Mike and I hiked the trails and got caught up on the past month apart. The nice thing about this park was they did allow leashed dogs on the trails (we were soon to learn that many parks in California do not want any dogs at any time on any of their trails).

After 2 nights in Red Rock, we moved onto Death Valley National Park and arrived in mid afternoon to +20 degree Celsius temperatures. This is a whole other level of desert. I think Death Valley is the 2nd largest National Park in the US. And because it is so hot in many parts of it, nothing really grows very tall so you can see forever – cliffs and valleys and salt flats and more desert. And what are the salt flats? It is a huge area of the park that is 282 feet below sea level and made up of, well, salt. As I write this, I realize I should have paid more attention in the visitors centre but I seem to recall that since it is so stinking hot in Death Valley, the water evaporates that would normally pool here, leaving behind salt (although why the water is salt water and not freshwater is the part I should have paid more attention to).

As I mentioned earlier, since this is a National Park, Dawson wasn’t allowed on any of the trails. Although walking on roads isn’t what I imagined I would be doing in a National Park, one of my favorite “road hikes” was a winding switchback style road that led to a campground from where a 7 mile trail began to the highest point in the park (telescope peak). The road was fun as it had been recently been closed to vehicles due to snow. Snow in Death Valley where it was 20 degrees the day before? Yes, because Death Valley also has areas of high elevation (telescope peak sits at 11000 feet). So Dawson had a blast running through the snow (busted – we might have let him off leash here) and Mike and I were still rewarded with great views along the way.

From Death Valley we made our way to Sequoia National Park. This will likely be one of my highlights of this trip. Not because of any epic hike but because those Sequoia trees are amazing. They tower above you so high and their trunks are so wide and the bark is this stunning golden reddish colour. They are also brilliantly adapted to a very specific elevation (I think between 5000-7000 feet) and to fire. Their bark is actually fire resistant because they need fire to burn the forest floor exposing the soil so their seeds will germinate and also to open their cones Sequoia National Park is also a place of learning from mistakes. In the 1950s, it was a full of towns with multiple gas stations and hotels and roads and infrastructure but in realizing this was harming these magnificent trees, they took it all down. It is inspiring to see where Nature got to come first.



Sequoia National Park is attached to King’s Canyon National Park so we continued on to the smaller part of King’s Canyon Park that was still actually open in the winter. A friendly ranger at the visitors centre, recommended we leave the National Park boundaries and go into the national forest area (about 20 km away) so that Dawson could join us on a hike. King’s Canyon was also our first night of 4 nights camping at elevation. So although it didn’t go down to -7 degrees Celsius in the van that Mike experienced in Utah, it did go down to +3. This is where my frustration of having to stuff that orange and black sleeping bag into my suitcase back in Kenora turned to gratitude to Mike for ensuring that I packed it. And what is so magical about this sleeping bag? It is rated to -29 degrees Celsius and it definitely kept me warm when that temperature went down.

On to Yosemite. If I had to guess, this will likely be Mike’s highlight of this portion of his trip. With good reason. You are in this beautiful valley with shear 3000 feet rock cliffs surrounding you on every side. With cliffs like these, you can understand how rock climbing was born here and still captivates climbers like Alex Honold who solo climbed El Capitaine (one of those cliffs) documented in the recently released movie, Free Solo. The history of Yosemite is also pretty amazing. Although not the first national park in the US, it was the first area of land to be protected anywhere in the world back in the 1870s and sort of set the precedence for both national and state park protected public land in both the US and other countries. The famous explorer John Muir was then also instrumental in establishing Yosemite as a National Park in the early 1900s.






And where to from Yosemite and those cold nights at elevation? I hear the coast is warmer – let’s head there…

Monday, December 10, 2018

Interview with Mike

Hey everyone! I am back in the van with Mike travelling around the southern US for the next 3 weeks. Stayed tuned for more posts. For this one, my goal was to interview Mike about the last few months of his adventures (given that I had mostly been writing about me). So on night 3 of me arriving, Mike and I went to the bar, I bought him a beer, opened my lap top and start asking questions. Here is the interview:

Kim: Back in September, I talked a lot about my struggles being in the van and making the decision to leave. What was me leaving like for you?

Mike: I would say it was kind of bitter sweet. I was sad to see you go and sad to see you leave but I was also curious about how I would do by myself travelling solo. I was curious to see how that experience would be.

Kim: Tell me more about that experience.

Mike: It’s different. You don’t have to compromise on decisions but at the same time, you don’t have anybody to bounce ideas off and work through decisions. Since you leaving was near the end of our “6 months” where we had to get back to Kenora, it wasn’t too bad because I had a plan for the next 3-4 weeks in place - leave Vancouver Island, visit my brother, visit some friends along the way and drive to Kenora.

But yeah, when you are by yourself, you do all the work. When it was you and I, it was like an hour of set up/take down – putting the top up, putting the front cover on, swinging the bike. So initially after you left, I was overwhelmed with how much there was to do. I had to look after 2 dogs, I had to cook all the meals, do the dishes, set up and take down the van by myself. It was a lot of work but then I kind of started cutting out aspects of the set up and take down of camp to try and simplify things and reduce the work load.

Kim: So what are the highlights of those few weeks of finishing touring around BC and heading back to Kenora.

Mike: Biking with my brother (Steve) and his wife (Elaine) [in Golden, BC] was a ton of fun. I had done so much biking on the trip but it is different when you are biking with people who know the trails, know where to go and who are pushing your limits in terms of speed and skill. I really enjoyed hanging out with my brother, and visiting with him hanging out at his property.

Tofino was also super fun. Surf culture is so fascinating and it is something I have not been a part of but it is a fascinating culture and it is crazy how popular it is on Vancouver Island. Seeing all the vehicles driving from Victoria with surf boards on the roof was pretty wild.

Quadtra Island is also super cool. Kind of a typical hippie island (near Vancouver) where everybody is very community minded. They are very independent, almost a quasi self governance and they kind of rebel against capitalist society to some degree. For example, bartering is still a thing.

Kim: And then what was it like for you coming back to “out of the van life” when you got back to Kenora.

Mike: I definitely struggled going back into a regular house and a regular bed. One of the most difficult parts was not having everything I owned close at hand. So when living in a van, if I went for a hike, I would often decide at the trail head what I was going to wear and what I was going to bring. But when I wasn’t living in the van and had my stuff in the house and in the van, I would get to the trail head and think oh why didn’t I bring that or why did I bring this.

And then just not being on the move was hard. Being in one place for so long was kind of challenging. I missed waking up in a new place everyday, checking out new areas. As opposed to you, where you like your routine, I like the unexpected and the unfamiliar and unknown of what is going to happen each day.

Kim: So at the beginning of November, you left Kenora in the van with Dawson to head south. What has it been like travelling solo in the van with only 1 dog?

Mike: It is a little more simplified than travelling with 2 adults and 2 dogs. I don’t put the camper top up. I don’t put the sunshade on the front of the van. My meals are a lot simpler. I don’t clean as often. When you only have 1 person in the van, I have to do everything so I have cut out the unnecessary tasks.

Kim: (Cleaning is so necessary but continue…)

Mike: Well, I clean but having one less person and one less dog means the van doesn’t get as dirty as quickly. Plus I have a higher tolerance for uncleanliness than you do.

Kim: And what has it been like socially being on your own?

Mike: I think that your recommendation of taking Dawson with me has helped quite a bit. So Dawson kind of gives my day of bit of structure. He has to be fed and walked and taken to do his business so it allows me to interact with other dog owners or people who like dogs or miss their dogs because they are travelling and their dogs are at home. Dogs are a good icebreaker.

Kim: What has been some of the highlights of this leg of the journey?

Mike: Biking in Utah and Colorado is ridiculous. It’s a biking mecca. I can’t believe I waited until I was 40 years old to ride these trails. The trails in general are one of the biggest highlights but finally getting to see Arches National Park, Canyonlands, the Peubloan villages in Mesa Verde and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was really cool. The whole desert environment is fascinating.

Kim: And how is Dawson doing on these biking and hiking trails?

Mike: Dawson is such a good trail dog. He stays close, he listens, he does really well meeting other dogs off leash. And meeting people. He is really chill in the van.

Kim: Does he sleep with you at night?

Mike: Yep, he curls up on the lower bed beside me because I no longer pop the top to sleep in the upper bed . He does really well but on cold nights, I wrap a sleeping bag around him to keep him warm.

Kim: So how cold are we talking about?

Mike: Below -5 Celsius in the van.

Kim: If it is -5 Celsius IN the van, what is the temperature outside the van?

Mike: How would I know? I am inside the van sleeping!!

Kim: Fair enough. So tell me more about that challenge (the cold) and any other challenges you are facing.

Mike: The cold nights when it is below 0 in the van makes it difficult to hang out because you end up just having to crawl into your sleeping bag to stay warm and when it gets dark at 5:00 pm, it can make for a long night in bed.

Decision making can be challenging. I don’t have anybody to bounce ideas off of and Dawson isn’t very good at giving input. But I guess the flip side of that is that I am not compromising with anybody on decisions. I am just doing what I want, when I want to do it.

Kim: Now I am here for the next 3 weeks but what comes next for you after I leave at the end of December?

Mike: It changes daily. So right now the plan is to stay in the van until March mainly in the US but maybe into Mexico. After that, I am not sure. Might go to Nepal to go trekking with a friend. I would like to do a long bike trip like the Continental Divide trail. And I would like to travel around South America at some point either by bike or by motorcycle but all these things depend on how much money I have left. There is still so much stuff I would like to do and time isn’t a constraint but money is. At some point I am going to have to go back to work. Blech!

Kim: Last question. But this one is actually a question you have asked me to ask you so I am thinking you have an answer prepared. What has it been like having me back in the van?

Mike: It has been good to be back together in the van and travel together. I have my partner in crime back again. It has been a bit challenging getting back into the routine and roles. When we started out back in May, we very quickly figured out the tasks we did rolling into camp and leaving. But then after you left, I took on everything. And I had 2 months of me doing everything so it was a bit of challenge splitting the tasks between 2 people again. And I kind of changed up some of the systems and routines in the van as a way to adapt to being by myself in the van so when you came back you had to ask “oh where does this go now, what do you do with this”.

So those are the challenges but it is great to share experiences with you and have somebody to talk to and have somebody to provide input into the decision making and to share the work load. And somebody to keep the van clean.

Mike: So how about you? What has it been like being back.

Kim: Oh don’t you worry. I will write a full length blog post about it and read it to you in 4-5 days.




Kim Mowrey is a wanna be writer who currently blogs at vanbatical.blogspot.ca. She is temporary living in Kenora, ON and is married with 2 dogs. This was her first interview/article style post.




Who says you can't go home?


I know, I know. You are really wanting to read a blog post from Mike and hear about his adventures in the US. Well you are in luck – there should be another recent blog post called interview with Mike. Check it out if you want more of the “vanlife” stories. In the meantime, my latest blog posts have sort of turned into part journal, part exploration of the places I am hanging out in (not living in a van) and part just wanting to blog because I miss it.

This one happens to be about Kenora. A small town in northwestern Ontario situated on beautiful Lake of the Woods. If you are taking a cross country trip from the west, you will drive through it to start your 2000 km journey through Ontario. If you have already driven through Ontario and think you are never going to reach Manitoba, it will be the last full service town on the TransCanada highway you can go through before you reach the Manitoba border (just be sure to head into Kenora rather than taking the bypass around it).

I grew up in Kenora (As did Mike). We went to school here and moved back here after Mike and I got married (only to leave again to move to Thunder Bay). And now here I am here enjoying the remainder of my “vanbatical” that is not in a van.

I have an interesting relatinoship with Kenora. The parts that I love include the this time of year (October/November). There is a kind of quiet here (especially in the winter) that you just don’t experience living in a city (even a small city like Thunder Bay). A Sunday morning walk with Maverick close to my parents home and I will maybe see one car driving. And yes, walking downtown as we get close to Christmas means things are bustling and busy but it still doesn’t feel as hectic as a city (that only comes in the summer).

I love it here because this is where our families live. My parents, Mike’s parents, Mike’s sister and her family. I have old friends here that I have enjoyed re-connecting with (in the last 6 years, visits to Kenora were a rushed weekend where there wasn’t really time to see anyone else but family) and I have friends who have recently moved here that I am so excited to see regularly.

Other highlights for me include volunteering with It’s a Dog’s Life again. This organization does amazing work and is where we adopted Jerome (2007-2015), Moe (2007-2014), Maverick and Dawson from. We also fostered over 30 dogs while we lived here. It was a really important part in our lives and something we truly missed when we moved to Thunder Bay and couldn’t find an organization we felt connected to.

I also admire Kenora for fighting back after being named one of the worst places to live in Canada by MoneySense in 2011. The MoneySense website doesn’t allow me to link to the article anymore but the phrase they used at the time to describe Kenora was “Cultural Wasteland”. However, being back here for the past 2 months, I have been to a Giller Prize night at the library, a ballet performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet professional division (brought in by the Lake of the Woods Concert Society), a local theatre production by Trylight Theatre and live music at the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company. There is a also now a permanent outdoor stage at Anishabe Park, continuous free concerts under the tent on the harbourfront in the summer, an annual music festival on Coney Island (although they still call it “maybe annual”), Harbourfest, a vibrant arts community (and currently in construction is a new arts centre) and the Seven Generations (in what was previously Lakewood School where Mike and I first met!) educational centre has been hosting a variety of cultural events.

My struggle with Kenora is some of the “rules” that personally affected me when I lived here with respect to environmental issues, leisure activities and health care processes (I am sure my friends and family have heard me talk about them many times). I won’t go into them now but just know that in trying to suggest new ideas for change I too often felt the answer was no, we do it like this rather than, “that’s interesting, tell me more”. I admire the people who continue to fight for change but I personally got burnt out by always hearing this is how it is. In hindsight, maybe there were different ways I could have explored making suggestions and maybe there were other battles that were easier and where change happened that I have forgotten but it so often felt like a struggle and when a work opportunity came up in Thunder Bay, I took it.

However being back now, I feel like I am making my peace with Kenora. There are great people here and yes there are challenges but these exist in every community. And maybe it is because I am not working that I am a bit removed from those stresses. Either way, I am happy to be here and grateful for the opportunity to live here again and be welcomed back even if just for a short period of time. So thank you Kenora. It is good to be home.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

I heart Halifax

**photos courtesy of my Halifax friend


No, the van didn’t drive to Halifax. In fact, Mike currently has it down in Colorado. He is trying to catch up on blogging his adventures on Vancouver Island and in Golden, BC from back in October but if you want to know what he is doing now, I would suggest following him on Facebook to see biking and hiking adventures with Dawson in the US.

So what the heck was I doing in Halifax? A really great friend invited me to come visit so I flew out to the maritimes and lived in an apartment suite with running water, a shower, a bed, a kitchen, hangars for my clothes and a washer/dryer. Oh and did I mention the building was right downtown. And my friend’s apartment was down the hall. I was a long way from that van.

But back to Halifax itself which, if you haven’t been, is an incredibly fun city. The weather is warmer than northwestern Ontario at this time of year which means there are always people out of the streets going to bars or cafes or just walking and biking to their jobs and homes. It was +14 when I got there on November 6 and the coldest it got was +4 (although that wind was biting pretty good the day we drove out to Peggy’s Cove). If you have the opportunity to stay downtown when you visit (even for just 1-2 nights), take is as it is worth it. You can literally walk EVERYWHERE (well maybe not to Peggy’s Cove) but pretty much everything I describe visiting in the next paragraph is downtown and within walking distance. There is also a bus that runs from the airport to downtown every hour ($3.50 one way) and it is about a 45 minute ride. Super convenient.

Peggy's Cove
So staying downtown and being in Halifax for a week really meant I got to see and experience many of the toursity activities. The Maritime Museum of Atlantic Canada, the Citadel, the Art Gallery, Neptune Theatre, The Canadian Museum of Immigration (at Pier 21), the Discovery Centre, The Museum of Natural History and the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame (which could probably just be called the Sidney Crosby exhibit). I also attended an author talk at the Halifax Library (unlike any library I have ever been in), went to the Wild Leek (a yummy vegan restaurant), checked out their recently opened refill store (The Tare Shop) and took the ferry over to Dartmouth to eat a chocolate croissant at Two If By Sea Cafe (thanks to a Thunder Bay friend who had recently been to Halifax and recommended it).

Dalhousie University
It is a different sort of adventure when you are not living in a van for what you think is going to be a year, on a relatively strict budget with 2 dogs. Traveling in the van and moving pretty much daily means that a lot of energy and time is spent looking at maps to decide where we are going next, where we are going to stay the night, where are there public washrooms and where is a good place to walk the dogs. Add to that the weekly needs of trying to find clean showers, grocery stores, a laundrymat and wifi. So to compare that to my week in Halifax, (being settled in one place with all the amenities), I really only needed to focus on what I was going to do that day and had plenty of time for rest and relaxation and visiting too.

My highlights of the touristy activities:
1. feeling humbled and grateful in the refugee exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Immigration.
2. being moved to tears by Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice exhibit at the art gallery.
3. seeing the courage of Haligonians at the Maritime Museum who picked up the pieces after the Halifax explosion.
4. being transported to a 1940’s Nazi concentration camp to experience the world of imprisoned gay men at Neptune Theatre’s production of “Kamp”.
5. being wow’d by the craziest lego creations of world famous buildings at the Discovery Centre (no they weren’t as tall as those buildings but the attention to detail was incredible)
6. Meeting Gus at the Natural Museum of history. Gus is a 96 year old tortoise who goes for daily walks around the exhibits so we can all say hi.


Lego replicas at the Discovery Centre


But the moments I will treasure the most from this trip was my friend’s generosity in having me there (I was week 5 of 5 weeks of visitors) and spending time with her beautiful loving family who welcomed me into their routines of daily walks around Halifax, drives to Peggy’s cove and movie nights. I got to build sandcastles, dance in the living room (check out the Greatest Showman and you will find yourself dancing too), sing songs in the car, and laugh. I did a lot of laughing. I am so grateful to have been able to reconnect with my friend and discuss the challenges and joys of our lives. And even though my list of places I went to on my own was long, it really didn’t matter where my friend and I went (although being outside on a warm fall day with golden leaves still on the tree at the Halifax Public Gardens was a great backdrop), it was filling my social cup with a good friend that was the activity (and something I had really missed in the van).


Building a sandcastle at Sir tanford Fleming Park
Halifax Public Gardens


So to be honest, I am glad the van didn’t drive to Halifax. This was my week to have a different kind of adventure. One filled with both introspection and education but more importantly with laughter and love.

What to do on your vanbatical if you have decided to no longer live in the van

Over a year and half ago, Mike came up with this crazy idea to sell all of our stuff and live in a van. We like to tell it that he caught me in a moment of weakness after a stressful day of work. But I think the transition happened when we started decluttering our house and getting rid of stuff. We had been hoping to downsize to a smaller house in Thunder Bay and even had a real estate agent. But then when the van idea came up, it just meant downsizing into a van rather than a smaller house. Mike actually has a draft blog post about our process of decluttering but he never ended up publishing it. There are tons of books, documentaries and podcasts on the subject but our favourites are Marie Kondo’s The Art and Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Caitlyn Flander’s My Year of Less.

But back to the trip itself, if you haven’t already figured it out by now, we called this year off our vanbatical. The plan was to take a year and travel around North America with our dogs. Looking back, I think a year travelling in a van was a bit ambitious for me. And had I known this (although how does anyone know until they actually start living in the van), we might have planned things differently.

So here I am almost 6 months into a year off and 6 weeks out of the van having decided that I am not going back into the van full time. Any sabbatical book will tell you the most important part of taking a sabbatical is to plan what you are going to do on a sabbatical BEFORE the time off starts. But because I was planning on being in the van for a year, I am sort of going to have to wing it (which sounds ridiculous to me – I am a planner).

First order of business – secure housing. This was a bit more challenging than I thought. Temporary housing that will take animals. Word of mouth got me a place in Kenora down the street from my parents starting in January. And they were fine with me having one or both dogs. Check.

Second order of business – what the heck am I going to do? Go back to work? Volunteer? Continue to write a blog? People tell me that it is so exciting to have so much freedom but just like the vanlife sounded exciting, I actually find the uncertainty and lack of structure really hard. I like routine. I like to plan and organize my day and I have a lot of guilt if I haven’t “done” anything that I consider meaningful that day. These are very similar issues to those I had when I started the van trip so I am not sure why I thought being out of the van would make this part easier.

Third order of business – maintain a happy marriage. The year off was supposed to be this great opportunity to travel with my husband and share the experience of exploring North Amercia. But my choice of leaving the road and his choice to stay on the road means we are going to be apart now more than we are together. So the new challenge - how do we keep our relationship strong and support each other in our different journeys.

Side note: I booked a flight to Las Vegas in Decemberand will actually spend 3 more weeks in that van down in southern California. So stay tuned for “back in the van” blog posts.

Fourth order of business. Self development, self improvement, self discovery. Call it what you will but I have been reading Brene Brown’s books lately and really thinking a lot about shame, perfectionism, vulnerability, wholehearted living, gratitude, social connection, and life. It’s hard stuff but good stuff and I have some work ahead of me.

Fifth order of business. Reconnect with family and friends. I really missed spending time with people (other than my husband) who I loved and who loved me while travelling. Conversations with strangers on the road is fun but for me, it is not enough. Now I feel like I appreciate even more time spent with people where there is a deeper connection.  

So what is a vanbatical when you are not living in the van? It is a work in progress but it is also feeling grateful for this opportunity to have the time to focus on a few orders of business.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Taking a Break From the Road

After 126 days (18 weeks), it is fair to say Mike has embraced van life (although I think he embraced it from day 1). He loves it. He loves the driving, he loves talking to strangers (especially people in nice vans), he loves finding beautiful free camping areas (even if it means travelling to 2 or 3 not so nice camping areas first), he loves creating amazing dinners on a camp stove, he loves mountain biking and hiking and spending hours watching whales and bears.

I had a harder time with the transition. I left a city I loved, a job I was good at, a routine of activities that kept my calendar full, close friends who I saw regularly and a home that didn’t move around every day. I think those first few weeks on the road, I had to grieve all those things that I missed. I also struggled with the lack of purpose – what was I going to do today if I didn’t have work to go to, a house to clean, a garden to weed, a hockey game to play, books to pick up at the library and meeting up with friends.

I eventually found my rhythm. I learned to embrace quiet mornings when I got up early and Mike slept in. I appreciated warm (not hot) sunny days and hot (not warm) showers more than I ever had before. Little things made me happy – cooking bannock on the fire, my dogs running off leash on a beach, finally getting to the top of a long climb on my bike (often hiking said bike – and then writing a blog post about it).

But it certainly was challenging. There was that heat wave in Smithers and the rain in Alaska (and now in BC). There were long waits in ferry lines only to not be able to get on and there were the times we drove a long way down a road to check someplace out and kind of regretted it afterward. And there were the meltdowns (mine) that happened around 7:00 pm when I was hungry and tired but we were still driving around looking for a campsite that 1) was within our price range and 2) felt okay for us to stay in.

So after 126 days, I am ready for a break. It came to me when we got to Vancouver Island and I was no longer excited by cute coastal towns or another rain forest hike to a waterfall. I feel like you do when you’ve walked around a really big amazing museum and there is so much information but you just can’t take it all in and after 3 hours, you leave because your brain is full. Canada is like that really big museum and although Vancouver Island is full of places to explore, the fact that I can’t appreciate it tells me it is time to go home for a rest.  And yes, you don’t need to remind me that I don’t actually own a house anymore (or furniture for that matter). But my amazing parents are going to pick me up at the airport in Winnipeg and take me to their house (which when you are with your family, is always home). I will have some time out of the van and Mike and the dogs will explore Vancouver Island a little more and eventually make their way to Kenora to meet back up with me (the plan was always to come back to Kenora in mid-October so the van could fulfill its insurance obligations of being in Ontario every 6 months).

So...what this means is the blog may not have any posts for a few weeks. But I have hope that Mike’s new experience – semi solo van life (him and the dogs) - may re-inspire him to write a post or two.