Adventure Van: West Coast

Forgive my absence – I just returned from five months of travel. Yes, you heard me right – I’ve been traveling for nearly half a year! Thanks to my remote job, I can work anywhere there is WiFi. So starting last summer, I took a three-month road trip exploring the western states with my dog and the next two months I spent traveling throughout western Europe.

Moving around so much has left me a little travel weary, so I think I’ll stay in the Pacific Northwest for a while. After everywhere I’ve been, it still feels like home. Being winter here, it’s overcast and rainy most days, but I am happy to be in the company of my family and dogs. I don’t mind the rain so much— it makes the air taste fresh and everything look green. There’s a leak in the van I can’t seem to address because the rain won’t stop long enough, but one of these days I’ll take care of it.

Perhaps the thing I’m most stoked about is having a space to call my own again. Turns out living in hostels leaves little room for privacy (big surprise, I know), and it’s even harder to create when you don’t have a space dedicated for it. Now I can sit here and parse through images – everything I’ve seen, everywhere I’ve been, all the people I encountered – from a perspective informed by the journey as a whole. I aim to publish more pieces as my memories unfold, so stay tuned.

First Stop: Olympic Peninsula

After half a year designing and converting an old Chevy cargo van into a camper, it was very exciting when Nyma and I finally loaded up and hit the road! We started by going north to the Olympic Peninsula, a fabled land I had heard so much about but had never seen, despite it being essentially in our backyard here in the Pacific Northwest.

I still remember that first day  – once we had cleared the city traffic and were really on the road, a feeling of bliss washed over me when I realized we could stop nearly anywhere and call it home for the night. Of course you search for ideal places, but in a crunch you can park anywhere a car could. Traveling in a van feels like complete freedom! We could hike every day, do all our own cooking, and pull over anywhere to make camp. When we looked at the map, all we saw was possibility.

The Olympic Peninsula is known for its diverse terrains. We bounced between rainforest, stunning beaches, lakes, and mountains—all in one little corner of the world. One of the wettest places in North America, life thrives in abundance. Rivers are raging, moss covers everything, and the canopy is alive with the songs of birds and insects all hours of the day. There are one-thousand year old trees, moths the size of your hand, and elk the size of pickup trucks roaming around the forest.

At that point in the journey, I was looking for somewhere to cultivate solitude. Rilke believed that for a writer, solitude is the space where inspiration grows. Inspiration was everywhere in the Olympics. I found it beside waterfalls of cascading crystals, on quiet mountaintops overlooking the ocean, and alone in the forest among rows of purple foxglove fringed with the gold of summer twilight.

Views are always better when you earn them!
All that hard work deserves a nap.
Chilling with Nyma on Hurricane Ridge.
One of our favorite campsites when we spent a weekend in peaceful solitude.


Mechanical Difficulties

I ran into my first issue with the van on this part of the journey—the first test, you might call it. One night, after driving to a ranger station to fill up the water tank, I turned the key in the ignition, the lights on the dash blinked on then died a second later. The engine didn’t even turn over. My first thought was a faulty starter, but after some research online, I got the idea that maybe the battery connection was severed. So I got out my tools and investigated.

Tracing the battery cables from their sources, I discovered the problem soon enough. Oil dripping from a leak in the engine had coated the negative ground at the chassis, gunning it up sufficiently that the battery was no longer grounded. After unscrewing the bolt, wiping it clean, and reassembling it, the engine fired up right away. Crisis averted! The one good thing about acquiring an old vehicle was the mechanical skills I picked up while refurbishing it.

Going South for Surf!

From the Olympic Peninsula to the redwoods, we ventured south along the coast. We couldn’t stay anywhere for more than a few days before growing restless…


Until we got to Santa Cruz. A magical land of surfers, hippies, and well-to-do bourgeois – it may have insane real estate prices, but it’s very friendly towards van dwellers.

Being in one of the birthplaces of modern surfing, it felt appropriate to finally get on a board and try it out for myself. I’ve had my eye on surfing for a long time, but never tried it for fear of what it might do to me. What if it became an obsession that I’d shape my life around, lead me down the path of long-haired hippy just trying to ride the wave?…Oh wait, I already embody all those things. I guess it couldn’t hurt to throw in surfing, too.

Long story short, I loved it every bit as much as I feared I would. And Santa Cruz – what a place to learn! With over 40 surf spots in town, there’s always swell somewhere, and the vibes from the surfer community were generally very chill.

I’ll admit, I was seduced the moment I paddled past the breaking waves and into calmer waters. Sitting directly on the water, feeling the gentle rhythm of the ocean lull me up and down was meditative in the best kind of way. No matter how many waves you catch, you leave the water in a state of zen that lasts all day. The only trouble is, you wake up the next morning wanting more. And that’s how it starts…

We spent three weeks in Santa Cruz, and it was a wonderful time. I had a couple friends there and really liked the scene. There was also a minor hiccup keeping us there, though, and that was the van’s failing brakes. They started giving out on the last leg of the drive to Santa Cruz, and were toast by the time we got there. Turned out the master cylinder had a slight leak, which made the fluid run low and allowed air to get in the lines. After replacing the master cylinder and getting the brakes bled, the adventure van was back in action!

From here we hit the big city (San Francisco) to visit more friends, then booked it east to the desert for the next chapter of our road trip. We had some pretty epic sights on our horizon! But I’ll get into that next time…

In the meantime, here’s some more photos.



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