Perhaps we happen to be lucky– Matt and I were both raised in Utah by parents who love the outdoors. From their love, we developed a passion of our own and it has taken us to where we are today– many mountain adventures in almost three years of marriage, eight months of which has been spent living in a 1978 VW bus. People ask us how life is on the road, or if we are traveling across the country– after catching a private smirk from one another, we politely tell them that we live in Utah and though we do travel a bit, neither one of us would say that we live life on the road. We love the simple life Utah has to offer– mountains and deserts with a million opportunities for adventure great or small. We work a little, and play a lot, chasing dreams and goals we couldn’t otherwise pursue.
To give you some perspective on our lives, here is how the past week has gone for us:
- Sunday we woke up lazily in a Walmart parking lot surrounded by a few other RV’s and semi-trucks. Sure, its not the most romantic of camping locations, but its free and convenient. We spent a couple of hours borrowing the internet from the Starbucks across the parking lot before we headed to the grocery store to find some fresh food for breakfast and lunch. We don’t have a fridge and its difficult to keep a cooler cold in the dead of summer, so we tend to go to the grocery store daily. We then started packing for a little overnight backpacking trip with a couple of friends. That evening we hiked to Timp Basin (about a 6 mile hike on the backside of Mount Timpanogos in Utah County.) We ate rehydrated backpacking meals for dinner and slept out under the stars with the summit of the mountain as our backdrop.
- Monday morning Matt and I woke just as the sky started glowing red from sunrise. We don’t often get up that early, so it was a treat to watch the magnificent display unfold as we were curled up in our sleeping bags. Timpanogos is a beautiful mountain, but it is especially grand when the light first hits it’s peaks. After everyone had awoken, we hid our camping gear and made the mile and a half jaunt to the summit, waving to our friends and families in the valley below. We took our time on the way back to the car, soaking in the smell of the wildflowers as we went. Every sense seems to be heightened in the mountains– the world feels so much clearer. Back to the bus to run a few errands before nightfall.
- Tuesday we woke up to an exciting new day that started with running more errands. We had been casually looking for a new van, and happened to find a rig that suited our needs. Its sad to talk about changing homes from one van who is full of so much character and spirit to a new one of practicality and security, but we have needed something more suited to Utah’s harsh weather. After finalizing a price we figured out a loan and bought the van– making car payments each month is so much sweeter than dumping money into rent. Magnolia (the name of our bus) will still be home for the next few months as we build out the new van. By this point the mountains were calling, so I set out on a trail run. Four miles in the heat of the day, but a little sweat is good for the soul. Then yoga to stretch the sore muscles. In the evening we decided to hike up to the Diamond Fork hot springs (about a five miles round trip) to soak our sore muscles with the same friends who hiked Timp with us the day before. While we were there we met some silly new folk, and enjoyed our walk back to the car as darkness set in.
- Wednesday isn’t usually work day, but Matt picked up an extra shift at the local climbing shop. It’s sometimes hard to call it ‘work’ because we are together selling gear, the tools that bring us so much joy in the mountains. Having this simple, steady source of income has been the key to living the van life. I suppose it restricts us from extended travel, but it sustains itself, and its something we both enjoy. We closed up shop at 8pm, and drove to the Rock Canyon Parking lot to cook a meal of Annie’s lentil soup and pepper jack quesadillas on our Coleman stove. A live folk band serenaded us from the nearby amphitheater while dark settled in. We decided to stroll up the canyon and set up hammocks– Matt read a few chapters from a book we were reading (The Beach, by Alex Garland) while I strummed a few notes on the ukulele. The wind rustled the leaves of the oak trees and the walls of Rock Canyon reflected the lights of the city as a few stars made their appearance. Back to the bus to sleep.
- Thursday morning I biked to a yoga class while Matt started his usual shift at the gear shop– Thursdays and Fridays are typically work days. By the time I returned to Matt and the bus it was getting hot, so I drove up Provo Canyon in search of a cooler, shaded trail to run– Big Springs trailhead is where I ended up. I was tired so I took it easy and cooled myself by jumping in the stream at the end of my run. That counts as a shower, right? And here I am, bumming more internet from Starbucks and writing this post. I’ll be joining Matt at the gear shop in a few minutes so that he can get a few things done. We will see where the night brings us, perhaps we will climb since we haven’t been out yet this week.
- Friday will be another work day with yoga, running, or climbing squeezed in to the times before and after the 10 hour shift. Saturday we are summiting Mount Nebo, the tallest peak in Utah county. Sunday we will slowly make our way to Zion National Park by way of Maple Canyon to hike, trail run, climb, and Canyoneer.
Life is simple, unexpected, and full of adventure, life, and love. Everyday has so much to offer and our motto, as Henry David Thoreau beautifully wrote, is to:
Suck out all the marrow of life
Walmart parking lots, public restrooms and showers, and zero air-conditioning are less than glamorous aspects to van life, but the pros far outweigh the cons and simplified living satisfies our untamed souls.