Guest Post: The adVANture - 22,000 Miles on the Road, and What Happens When Dreams Become Realities, Part 1

Amy, Bracken and their home on the road.
(A. Christensen)
In the fall of 2010, Amy Christensen and her husband Bracken did what some of us dream of doing: they took off on a year-long road trip. Amy and Bracken both had jobs, they had roots, and yet they still managed to spend months upon months traveling. Of course, being detail-oriented, one of my first thoughts was, how on Earth do you even begin to plan where you'll go? How do you plan your route, what you'll do, and see everything you want to see? When Amy, a certified life coach, and I agreed to trade guest posts, I told her I was incredibly curious about the "how's" of the trip, as she and Bracken had done an amazing job chronicling the adVANture already. As it turns out, even some of the best-laid plans can teach invaluable lessons.

The sun was warm that morning. A cool breeze drifted past as we sipped our americanos and contemplated our dreams. My now-husband leaned in and hesitantly, as though he was afraid to give voice of his long-held dream to our newly emerging relationship, uttered the words that would alter the path of my life in ways I'd never imagined.

"I want to travel the country in a van."

Have you ever known, to the depth of your inner being, when something is right? The kind of right that takes your breath away because you hadn't seen it before, but it's there, standing before you in razor-sharp focus?

Yes, I responded. Of course. Travel the country in a van? Totally.

Bracken getting some work done at Tyler State Park in Texas.
(A. Christensen)
The idea gradually shifted over the next few years from that morning. There was the “if we go,” to “when will we go,” to finally, “how do we make this work?”

Simple. Yet not so simple at all. I felt my world—my comforts and sense of stability and grounding—begin to shift beneath my carefully organized life.

Three years after that sunny morning at the coffee shop, I'd quit a comfortable corporate job; we got married, and packed everything we owned into storage and moved to Kaua’i for eight months. I’d gotten certified as a life coach and was just beginning a new (more flexible) career and navigating the waters of entrepreneurship when those “how” questions started to get a little more concrete.

After returning to the mainland, we began shopping used car dealerships and scanning Craigslist for vans. And then it happened.

We bought a van. Paid money and suddenly, the dream became real. Crystalizing into a huge white metal box on wheels. We joked that we’d just purchased our first home.

Amy climbing at Red Rocks, NV. Fitting in climbing, running,
hiking and more was super important to them.
(A. Christensen)
This. Was. Happening. This dream that began that morning over coffee was beginning to take on a resemblance to real life.

Five months, many, many (many) hours of research, design, gathering supplies, staring blankly at the walls of the van wondering how in the world we were going to make the design work, and then the actual construction piece, later, we headed out on the open road.

A friend once asked me if it was hard leaving home. For us, since we’d been staying with friends through the construction phase, being on the road felt like a homecoming. It was our space. Our routines. Our dreams. Together. It was wonderfully liberating.

I kept pinching myself every now and again to remind myself that we were actually living our dream. Right then. We weren’t preparing anymore. We were finally at the doing stage.


There are dreams. And then there are realities. If I've learned anything from this experience, it's that dreams come true in ways you simply can’t anticipate.

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. (A. Christensen)
As with so many things in life, there’s the original vision (to concentrate on climbing destinations around the country) and then the reality (we needed Internet for work, wanted to visit family and friends and added in mountain biking, trial running and other enticing destinations into the mix). We needed to prioritize. 

We knew the framework of our route needed to center around climbing, trail running and mountain biking. Then we added in family and friends near and along routes in between the climbing, trail running and mountain biking. And because we were working three days a week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), we needed to also have access to the Internet (read: larger towns with at least one Starbucks or indie coffee shop—preferable two since we tried to change locations between the morning and afternoon).

We planned a rough skeleton of where we needed to be at certain times based on the seasons, our work schedules and family events), leaving the rest up in the air.

Stay tuned; on Wednesday, we'll conclude Amy's story here! Then, be sure to take a look for her lessons learned and nuggets of wisdom over on her blog at Expand Outdoors. If traveling the country in a van is on your bucket list, you won't want to miss the rest of the story.


Beth said…
Amy, I had to laugh! Bracken suggested living in a van all sweet over coffee...Forrest suggested it as I was sobbing in our living room when I realized that life in the Silver Valley was Not For Me. Funny how these things can start so many different ways!
Katie Levy said…
 Beth, I think that was one of my favorite pieces of both parts of Amy's post! It's as if it was totally normal conversation to have over coffee :)
I love this :) I think it is so great for people to do stuff like this and just walk away from "real life" for a bit. It's healthy!
No kidding! It'd be really fascinating to compile all the various ways crazy plans start to come together. :0)