United States of Being (in our VW)

The morning of September 16th Border Services Agent 009 leans back in his creaky chrome chair and says, ‘can you be more specific?’ And so our entry into the United States, the second in a month, began with the confiscation of two sweet potatoes. Aside from our vegetal transgression the response from Border Services Agents generally begins with ‘Road Trip?’ or ‘how old is this vehicle?’ or ‘what is this vehicle?’ and a lengthy conversation/interrogation of the attributes of our VW van ensues. Later the same day the van piqued the interest of a toll booth operator in Ohio and he kept chatting at us for a good ten minutes about the merits of our vintage VW. Moral of the story: If you want to move around easily between the two countries we recommend that you get yourself a vintage VW Westfalia. And the submoral of this story: it takes longer to do anything or get anywhere because people just want to talk to us about our van.

Since crossing the border into Detroit 12 days ago we have spent time in 9 extraordinary states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina), camped in 9 campgrounds – 3 National Parks, 6 state parks and 2 private campgrounds. We have made friends in 4 of these places and met several more extremely friendly people like the guy from Texas who sold a Harley Dealership and bought a double axel Adventurer bus in which he is travelling for a year with his wife and three daughters. He was a super friendly guy but couldn’t talk for too long as he had to get back into the bus to continue home schooling the girls. Every so often we could hear their central vac being activated as they were trying to dispense with an invasion of marmorated stink bugs (an invasive species imported from China). Aside from meeting great new friends like Jennifer and Earl from Indiana, Julie and Dean from Illinois, Bill and Sharon from Virginia and Bruce from Asheville, NC we have met some amazing park rangers. The award for most accommodating campground staff goes to the volunteers and rangers at Loft Mountain in Shenandoah National Park in the friendly and crazy beautiful state of Virginia. Our favourite hikes so far have been in Shenandoah National Park. We finally made it to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and a lesser known property, Kentuck Knob. We found ourselves in complete agreement with Wright’s dislike of attics, basements and garages. His feeling was that they encourage collecting and storing of unnecessary things that become dust collectors. Noted for the possibility of home ownership in our future. As we continue to travel and live in a very compact vehicle we find we need less and less. We have no real compunction to shop for things, just food. Speaking of food (and art) culture Asheville, NC gets the blue ribbon. We are still dreaming of 12 bones and the blueberry chipotle ribs.

This new temporary lifestyle we have devised continues to challenge and frustrate us. We get that we are fortunate to be able to do this, whatever this is. It is a choice and was planned but we are confounded every time we consider what the future holds. It is difficult sometimes to just enjoy the present without considering or worrying about the future. This is not unlike our past work life really. We never knew how much work we would have from month to month so planning was difficult and we lived this way for 24 years. It’s funny that at all these campgrounds people tell us that we are ‘living the dream.’ This wasn’t our dream it just manifested this way like everything we have ever done. We love seeing new things and places and learning as we go. We really enjoy travelling and sleeping in our van, it’s even become hard to sleep indoors now. We are comfortable in and around this moveable space. This manner of travelling means we spend a lot of time outside. We cook and eat outside. We listen to the sounds of nature. We see a lot more sky and stars than we generally do back ‘home.’ We have seen more sunrises and sunsets than ever before. The funny thing that is happening to the two of us city folks is that we are increasingly happier outside of cities. We aren’t sure where all of this is heading and we are mostly okay with that.