Guest Post: The adVANture - 22,000 Miles on the Road, and What Happens When Dreams Become Realities, Part 2

Mountain biking near Bryce Canyon in Utah. (A. Christensen)
Earlier this week in Part 1 of Amy Christensen's series about the adVANture and what traveling North American for a year really looks like, we learned about the idea for the trip and what happens when you realize your dream is becoming a reality.  But what happens when that reality doesn't quite pan out the way you expected it to? Find out in the final installment.

The first part of the trip centered on family. We enjoyed a gathering of Bracken’s family in Branson, MO, my cousin’s wedding in OH and spent Thanksgiving through New Year’s in Brevard, NC helping my mom recover from major (unexpected) surgery (along with enjoying the fabulous trails of Pisgah Nat’l Forest). Having such a flexible schedule turned out to be a huge benefit we were incredibly grateful for.

After the new year we headed south, thinking that we’d avoid the colder winter temperatures in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and on into Texas. Due to an unnaturally cold winter, we experienced snow & ice in Columbia, SC, 20º days in Savannah, GA and a dip to 6º in Houston (yes... that’s a single digit!).

the Van, hanging out in Missouri. (A. Christensen)
At this point we were almost four months into the trip and our tent remained unopened. Seeds of doubt threatened as we began to wonder if our trip would continue to be limited to sleeping in Walmart parking lots, and days at Starbucks, punctuated by only a few cold runs and rides. This is not what we’d signed up for.

It took months to settling into a groove and learn the rhythm of the road. I’d lived in the same house throughout my entire childhood. I’d moved around a bit after college, but I’d always had a steady routine—an expected course ahead of me. And while the idea of traveling and living on the road was romantic and exciting, in reality it turns out I wasn’t all that natural at going with the flow and living spontaneously.

The most surprising thing we experienced was decision fatigue. The idea that we'd have all the time in the world to read, learn a new language, and experience every area we wanted was quickly dashed. Planning ahead, even if it was just to which Starbucks we were heading to when we arrived in a new town, helped a lot.

"The Wave" in Arizona. (A. Christensen)
Much of our time was spent on the details of life that, living in a regular home, one doesn’t have to think about so much: where to eat, where to sleep, where to work, where to camp, shower and do laundry. What trails did we want to explore and did we have time to run and climb or should we try and fit in a mountain bike ride instead? It was a constant string of decisions that on their own seem rather mundane, but stacked up one after the other became exhausting quickly.

Collaboration and compromise are essential traits when you travel (especially when you’re in such close quarters for so long), but if you’ve ever been involved in the, “what do you want to eat? I don’t care, whatever you want is fine with me,” conversations, you’ll know that the back and forth can get frustrating. When you're both tired and drained and hungry (or “hangry” as we like to call it), you don't want to have to make any more decisions. We began taking turns with the decision making on long work days which helped immensely.

Four months into the trip, we had made it to Big Bend National Park, in southwest Texas. The supermoon rose over the Chisos mountains. From our campsite we watched the light illuminate the cliffs above us. As we sipped our beers and relaxed after a long run and hearty dinner, it suddenly felt like we’d arrived. 

Bracken going BIG on Gooseberry. (A. Christensen)
Exhausted from physical exertion in a stunningly (and surprisingly) gorgeous part of the country we reveled in the warm temperatures. We hadn’t moved our van for three days.

This is what we’d imagined and envisioned. This was what we’d signed up for.

We traveled over 22,000 miles, through 25 states, two provinces and visited 23 National Parks. We circumnavigated the Sierras (from Sequoia to Yosemite via Bishop and South Lake Tahoe). I began a courtship with mountain biking in British Columbia that is still going strong while my husband honed his already amazing bike skills, pushing his own boundaries and comfort level higher into the air. We reconnected with family and friends we hadn’t seen in years. Met new family members and traveled with new friends.

I can look at a rock climbing picture in a magazine and recognize the area simply by the texture of the rock. Or walk into a convenience store and get a glimpse of the wall calendar in the manager’s office featuring a picture of The Wave and I smile to myself and close my eyes, feeling the rough sandstone beneath my bare feet.

Amy running in Big Bend National Park. (A. Christensen)
When I meet a stranger from Eureka, CA or read a story in the news about Alpine, TX, I am immediately transported. I can see the trees along the road, feel the heat of the sun on my skin and the sand beneath my feet. I turn my face into the breeze and feel the salt air on my cheeks. Suddenly the world has grown and shrunk in the same instance as I imagine myself miles away.

Huge thank you to Amy for taking the time to write all of this down! Do you have an extended road trip planned, or want to have one planned? Have you been on a trip like this? Tell us in the comments, and feel free to ask Amy any questions you have! Also, keep an eye out for a lessons learned post on Expand Outdoors.


William Snyder said…
Awesome two posts by Amy!  Really enjoyed reading about the realities of their travels.  I can totally relate to Amy's commentary regarding being transported back to places visited.  Via my many road trips I later encounter the same feelings.

Thanks for sharing your story!
Thanks William! Glad you enjoyed them. :)