Vanlife, Vagabonding, Dirtbagging, Homelessness, Vandwelling…
It goes by many names, but it’s been on my mind for almost three years now.
Right around the true emergence of my love for the outdoors and adventures and all that hippy stuff, I started hearing about folks that had taken their lifestyle mobile. Beyond just appealing to the typical youthful revolutionary present in all eighteen-year-olds, this idea also appealed to something a little deeper inside me.
People have been living in their cars as a means to travel longer and cheaper for decades. In the 1800s the traveling Romani people brought their home with them on the road, living in their custom Vardo wagons that included a chimney! Americans jumped on the mobile living trend out of necessity, using Conestoga wagons to make their way westward through the plains and mountains of the brand new western half of their nation.
The modern incarnation of vandwelling, and where I get my inspiration, is found in the history of Yosemite Valley in California. More specifically in the mythical Camp 4 campground of the mid-1900s.
Camp 4 was the birthplace and epicenter of rock climbing in America. Here, surrounded by the most pristine granite rock faces in the world, the forefathers of the sport made their homes in the forest of Yosemite National Park. This merry band of rebel climbers, including eventual Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard (who would sell his handmade climbing gear in the parking lot) and almost every other legendary American climber, developed the sport together in this Sherwood Forest of climbing. They battled Park Service rangers to stay in the park, put up impossibly hard routes on some of the most insane big walls in the world with ancient gear that would make a modern day climber sweat, and eventually got Camp 4 registered as a National Historic Place in 2003.
Camp 4 were the leaders of the “Rucksack Revolution” envisioned by author Jack Kerouac, rejecting the modern society of a white picket fence and a nice pension for the wilds of America in search of a greater truth. They lived in broken down station wagons pushed into the parking lot, ate cat food thrown out by supermarkets, and did just about anything else they had to do in order to pursue this vision and to appease their rabid obsession with climbing.
I don’t know how you read that and don’t get at least a tingle in your feet or a small urge to get out there. Me, that makes me want to take my old Chevy Trailblazer and drain my meager savings to drive out to anywhere that makes me feel the way Camp 4 made those dirtbags feel.
So I started daydreaming, then acting on my dreams. I convinced my best friend and partner Colleen to join me on a huge road trip, living in the back of a van. I started staying for days at a time in my Trailblazer, living out of it at trailheads and Walmart parking lots around New England and dipping my toe into this lifestyle. Thanks to my family, specifically my grandparents, I was gifted a gorgeous 1990 Ford e150 van for my graduation last December. And now, finally, after years of research and scheming and planning and replanning, we started working on the van that would carry us around this great country for a year.
After one more summer in Old Orchard Beach, Colleen and I plan to take off on a year-long dirtbag tour of America. We’ll beeline south to the Keys of Florida to avoid another New England winter, coast west through Texas and the America Southwest, up through California and Colorado and Utah, the Pacific Northwest, the endless expanse of Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas, and everywhere in between. We’re aiming for all of the National Parks in the lower-48, but we’re not big on plans so who knows?
I’ll keep updating our build progress on LivinDeliberately.com and might even move to a trip-specific site before we take off, so look for that. For now, here are some choice shots of the van from last week before we started renovating it. I think you’ll be able to see why its called the Silver Bullet.
Until next time,