The Vagabond in the Van

sarahs-cafe-amComo una vaga.
That’s the Spanish phrase my mother used to say anytime I was out and about for too long. As if it’s a bad thing to lose track of time exploring or talking to friends about the world beyond small town life. Well intentioned, but it framed wandering as something I shouldn’t do and only further built up my need to break free.
Earlier this year, I picked up a book called Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel for inspiration. It was mainly a how-to: live cheaply, travel on a budget, get opportunities abroad. Though a bit dry, it is full of resources and I recommend it if you’re serious about ditching normalcy.
Sunset at Yellowstone

But that’s all I’ll read from my own journal. This post is really about my critic-turned-unexpectedly-best-friend, Sarah, who actually fucking did it. She became the vagabond in the van.

Note the “Danger, Keep Out” sign and IDGAF attitude. Hi, Sarah.

When work becomes unfulfilling you could switch jobs, look for another company, pivot to another field… Or sell all your crap, build a stove in your van, and drive off in search of adventure. With some careful planning that’s what Sarah did. Made a list of all the US National Parks and some sites in Canada a few weeks before she set off. And then that was that.

Signature Blue Van (& Mountain Bike)

I had been checking her daily SPOT tracker updates and noticed she was headed towards Yellowstone. It was only Tuesday, and still early enough in the week to research a last minute flight for that weekend. I deliberated for a day, Sarah approved, and it was a done deal! Less than $400 in case you’re wondering. Guess not too many are interested in heading to Montana in the winter.


I admire Sarah in many ways. She’s a maker, doer, no frills or bs, nature woman. I’m a hypocrite holding onto wanderlust like it’s a good thing to have. She went all in; the woman is currently galavanting around Europe! Meanwhile, I scroll Hitlist daily, a travel app preying on people who have to fit vacation neatly around project milestones with a number of PTO days.

I think she’s doing pretty well for herself.

Showing off her skills, making some delicious van food.

But I won’t romanticize the whole thing. The lifestyle comes with a few major tradeoffs. Safety and warmth are now things she has to be concerned with daily. Good insurance and maintenance for the van too. Not a deal breaker for a tough chick like Sarah, but I’d need to toughen up a bit.

Annoyed that safety from bears is now a real life reality. And it costs $50.
“I can’t believe I actually need this shit. How do you even open it..” (Seriously, look at that face.)

But this Sarah was different than the colleague I knew. She was much more patient this time around (even with my constant napping). You’re not in a hurry when there’s no finite boundary around your adventure.

You even appreciate snow covered mud. Beautiful.


And familiar faces serendipitously spotted in the middle of nowhere. (Seriously, James, where is your ukulele?)


Boiling River, appropriately named. A hot and cold spa room in Wyoming’s backyard.

I’ll remind you of the manifesto you left for me:

  1. Boyfriends are limiting.
  2. Everyone is stupid.
  3. T***a is a job, not a life.
  4. I will climb, I will hike, I will get lost, I will be happy.
  5. I will call Sarah every week.
  6. I will treat each weekend as a gift.

But consider this blog a commitment, Sarah. (You can hold me against it later.)

7. I will break free.

I have to put a qualifier in it because I still believe in the mission I’m a part of right now. But you said 3 months of unhappiness before jumping to conclusions. I know it’s the right move for me. And I’m fascinated to watch where this next year goes…(currently about to post this from Dharamshala, India the sanctuary town granted to Tibetan Bhuddists).

Thank you for enabling me. Always. Crazy lady.

Going to check if it’s actually frozen over.
Turns out it was. Or this didn’t end well for Sarah.
Now with a good attitude about the whole bear spray thing.
  1. person who wanders from place to place without a home or job.
  1. having no settled home.

verb archaic

  1. wander about as or like a vagabond.

I love this word for it contradicts the story we’re told about how to live a happy life. Go to school, get a good job, earn a good living, settle down. It’s mind numbing. Americans are being fooled. I’ve only been out of college for 4 years and already I’m trying to un-do some of the blind decisions I made. Get a nice apartment, fill it with nice stuff. Truth is, you don’t need any of it. It’s dead weight. You don’t even need to settle down (with anyone or anywhere). For mathematical perspective: San Fransisco covers 47 sq mi. This is only 0.000082% of Earth’s surface area (land), 57.5 million sq mi. An entire lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to see it all.

So why waste time?

Breathtaking Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


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