Echo Update

I feel like in the last 48 hours we have made more progress on Echo than we’ve made in months. Her walls are up and stained, the mandala ceiling is beautifully hung, the fan is no longer leaking water on us when it rains, and she looks amazing. Obviously I am just a tad biased, but everything looks perfect. At this point I don’t see any reason why she won’t be ready to go on our road trip in August. Check out the “Adventure Van Build” page to see the progress on the ol’ girl since we got her in February. I just added on some more photos from the last few days for those that are interested!

When we first decided to do this, I honestly was not expecting it to be this hard or time consuming. Not that it’s incredibly difficult, but there isn’t much out there to help you when you’re trying to figure out the best way to build something, attach something, frame something, etc. I feel like all the other van lifers like keeping their builds a secret, which is totally fine, but when you’re in the fabricating stage and have no idea what you’re doing it makes you want to pull your hair out to say the least. Once everything is completely finished, I plan on going back through and putting details on every step we did in hopes that one day it may help a fellow DIYer out. I will say, having to fabricate every single aspect of this build ourselves has been challenging, but also incredibly fun. Matt and I work great as a team, because if we didn’t, one of us may have off’ed the other by now.

I am completely exhausted from the last 2 days, so I’ll keep this short and sweet so I can  log off and relax before it’s back to the daily grind tomorrow!

Cheers!

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Just Do It.

I hate running. I hate running so much that I’d rather miss a flight then have to run through an airport. (That’s completely true, just ask my friends.) But 3 weeks ago I decided that I was going to run a 5k on May 28th. Despite my deep rooted hatred for the sport, sometimes I have to do things that take me out of my comfort zone. Why do I like to torture myself you might ask? To prove to myself that I can. It is ridiculously easy to come home from a long day at work, lounge out on the couch and stare into your phone for hours on end. Forcing myself to do something I wouldn’t typically choose to do and not make up a billion excuses why I can’t or shouldn’t do it is the sole reason I’ve done some pretty rad things in my short time on this Earth.

I truly wish more people would step out of their comfort zone and do something they never thought they would/could do. Being in the line of work that I’m in, I talk to all different types of people from varying backgrounds and personalities all day. Any time I get back from a trip, I am met with an array of thoughts and opinions on the things I just did. Some people would NEVER forego indoor plumbing and a real bed for days on end, and that is totally understandable. But so many people tell me how they would love to try and backpack/camp/climb/etc. but could never do it for various reasons. They are too out of shape, they couldn’t ever take time off work, their partner would never be on board. It sometimes takes everything I have in me not to shake them and tell them to go and do it!  Who cares that you’ve never slept in a tent? Or hiked longer than 2 miles? At one point none of us had. You have to step out of your comfort zone and go. Be uncomfortable, get dirty, push your self to try something new, and don’t get discouraged when things don’t go exactly as you thought they would. (Thats all part of the adventure!) Even as I’m typing this, I am planning for a 200 and some mile thru hike next summer with Matt. It is weeks off of work and away from our home. It’s travel expenses and the expense of me not having any paid time off. It’s all the other unknowns that I could dwell on and talk myself out of going and doing it, but if we don’t go now (and by now I mean next summer) we may never do it.

Everyday that you wake up you have to make the decision for how you want to live your life. As cliche as it sounds, tomorrow isn’t promised, so why wait another day to do something that is new and scary? Or something that is physically and mentally challenging? Think of something you’ve always wanted to do and go out and do it. Go out and find your adventure.

 

New MacBook, New Blog Post

I sat down 2 hours ago, in my favorite spot in my home, with my old laptop and attempted to write. After what seemed like hours of my computer crashing, restarting, and bogging down every time I clicked on anything, I threw said computer across the room in a fit of rage and went and bought a MacBook. Okay, so maybe all that was a bit exaggerated, but I did end up getting talked into spending WAY more money then I ever thought I’d spend on a computer. (Thanks, Matt.)

I had full intentions on writing a beautifully written post about our trip we took almost 2 weeks ago while we were flying home, but the lack of caffeine and the abundance of podcasts I had to catch up on took up all of my 7 hours of traveling and nothing was written until now. I will start off by saying that before Matt and I leave this earth, we will more than likely be living somewhere west of the Mississippi and south of Colorado. I cannot explain the feelings I get being in the southwest corner of the good ol’ U.S. of A. Each trip out west evokes feelings inside of me that I don’t feel otherwise. I feel more at home in small, no name towns in the middle of the desert than I do driving around the town I grew up in. I find a sense of peace with each passing sandstone formation that flood my view from my passenger side window. This last trip gave me all the old familiar feelings, as well as some new ones I’d yet to experience.

I turned 27 the day after our flight touched down in Las Vegas. We started our morning out at our favorite Boulder City diner, The Coffee Cup. If you’re in the Boulder City area for breakfast, you must visit this little diner and you must order peanut butter oatmeal pancakes. I think it’s actual a sin to not order these pancakes. Do they put drugs in them to keep you coming back for more? Maybe. Did we eat there the 2 days we stayed in Boulder City?  Most definitely.IMG_7673

After my favorite breakfast of all time, we spent the good part of our morning and afternoon sport climbing in Red Rock Canyon. I truly believe that no matter how many times I visit RRC, my brain will never fully grasp the vastness and beauty of that place. It really puts everything into perspective for me. And of course the climbing there is amazing. I even led my first sport climb, which in turn turned into me leading every climb the whole trip because I now understand how amazing it is to lead a climb. No rope in your face is definitely the way to go. We wrapped up the day by finally seeing Absynthe on the strip, and I am SO glad we did! It was hilarious and amazing and every other adjective to describe something great.IMG_7760.jpgIMG_7700image

We headed out to Joshua Tree on Monday, but when we arrived the 50 mph winds and 48 degree weather left us a little disappointed, but that didn’t stop us from soaking up as much as it had to offer.

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We did a good amount of exploring around the park, but in the end it was a bit too windy to keep our tent and belongings on the ground, so we headed back east and cashed in my remaining Marriott points in Las Vegas. We spent the rest of our time there climbing, laughing till we cried, drinking delicious margaritas, and eating delicious food. It was a hard drive back to the airport that Wednesday morning, which brings us to the last week and a half we’ve been home..

Leave it to Ohio to welcome us back with spectacular weather! Cold, rainy, all around dreary. Did we accidentally fly to Seattle? Even with the not so stellar weather, we’ve managed to get in a decent amount of work on Echo. Thanks to a few amazing humans, I pooled some birthday cash and we bought insulation for the inside on the van, as well as wood to start framing everything out. (There are updated pictures on the Van Build page for those that are interested.) We also mounted our cargo rack and attached our Goal Zero solar panels, even though there has been zero sun to actually try them out. At least they are mounted and ready to go for whenever mother nature decides it doesn’t hate us here in the Miami Valley and stops raining. Next on our list is cutting a hole in the roof for our fan (I’m semi terrified of this), wiring everything up and put up our walls and ceiling. She really is coming together nicely. And I couldn’t be more happy.

Enough for tonight, I need to spend the next few hours learning the ends and outs of my new MacBook and retrain my brain that there is no longer a right click option.

 

Airports, a love story.

There is something oddly comforting to me about being in an airport. I think it stems from the amount of time I spent waiting in airports for my dad as a kid. Back in the days when you could walk through a single metal detector, walk through an airport without a boarding pass and greet your loved ones as they exited their plane. It was such a normal routine for us to drop him off and pick him up from his work trips that it became my favorite nights of the week. I’d load my self down with change I found around the house and wear my Beauty and the Beast giant metal hair clip just so the metal detector would go off and the TSA officers would have to use their scanners on me. Why my mom let me do this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. is beyond me, but I’m sure it had something to do with keeping me entertained and happy which in turn kept her sane.

You get to see humanity at its best and its worst in airports. The stressed out mom trying to hold it together with her 3 kids running and screaming through concourse A, the business man who has zero tolerance or patience for the above mentioned kids getting in his way, people so excited to be reuniting with a loved one and on the other side of the coin, people going to say goodbye to a loved one one  last time. If you really just sit back and take it all in, really take it in, you get a small glimpse into the lives of everyone around you. How often do you get the chance to sit for 2+ hours waiting on your connecting flight and just observe? There is literally nowhere you have to be and nothing else to do, but observe your surroundings. It is by far my favorite thing, next to the actual trip I’m embarking on, about traveling.

In a few short hours we will be touching down in Sin City, to celebrate me turning 27 (inching closer and closer to 30) and to spend the next 5 days climbing in the desert and soaking up the sun like the sun worshiper that I am. I dropped enough hints to Matt about taking me to see Absinthe that he finally got tickets and I cannot wait to finally see a show while we are in town. I’m sure I’ll have another post up soon with pictures and videos of this adventure, but in the meantime it’s back to my favorite past time, people watching.

Echo has a floor.

It’s been awhile since I last updated this page, mainly because it’s been winter time in Ohio which means there isn’t a whole lot going on. And standing in an Uninsulated metal box trying to work is not fun, at all. However we have tried to capitalize on some of the nicer days we’ve had lately and get a good amount of body work and building done on Echo. Thanks to our good friend Murph we can officially stand in the cargo area and not worry about potentially falling through the patches of rust. And we are no longer in danger of having our windshield fall in on us. We spent our last 3 days off work laying insulation, installing a sub floor and finally laying down our laminate. I have to say, I’m in love with the floor. I told Matt once this is all done I want the same color laminate throughout our house (he either didn’t hear me or was just ignoring the fact that I just contracted him to do yet another project).

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We just got done ordering our Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator that should be getting delivered to REI for pickup the beginning on next week! We went back and forth on getting the 1250 vs the 400, but with the hefty dividend we got back this year from REI we figured we would put all that money towards it go with the 1250 (even though I’m just a little sad I can’t blow it all on 20 pairs of new Chacos). Once that gets here we will then be able to get our wiring done and start framing out and installing our walls.

We we also ordered our mattress today for the platform bed we are building. We still aren’t 100% with the plans for that just yet, but we have plenty of time.

Be sure to check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel for progress videos!

-Jess

 

 

Enos and Backpacks and Maps, Oh My!

I’ve had quite a few people ask me about what typically goes into our packs on our backpacking trips. Depending on what region we are in, the time of year, the length we will be gone, etc. it tends to vary, however I thought I’d share the essentials that we have with us when are doing any kind of back country hiking and camping. Most of the stuff shown is available at REI. If you aren’t a Co-Op member with them, I would highly suggest becoming one. Just $20 and you are a member for life. Amazing perks and an amazing company. You can learn more here.

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Everything in the picture above are essentials (not pictured; clothes, toiletries, food). Obviously things that we find to be essential and what others find to be essential are completely different, but I feel like this a good starting point for anyone looking to grow their gear collection or are just getting into backpacking. There is also a flask full of bourbon and Uno shoved in there somewhere, because who doesn’t love bourbon and card games?

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The pack I use and love is an Osprey Ariel 65 L pack. I love Osprey for their great customer service and warranty. They repair any damage to your pack, no matter how long you’ve had it. This pack is great for longer trips, I’ve never had any issues with not being able to  get everything I need inside of it. I love the removable hipbelt on this bag. It can be removed and molded to fit your body, giving you the most comfort out of any other bag out there. Most REI stores as well as many independent stores can mold them for you in house.

Weight: 4 lbs 8 oz

Average Price: $290

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No one, and I mean no one should ever leave home without their Eno. This was the best wedding gift we received and we have put these bad boys to good use. I can’t think of a time or place where a hammock isn’t enjoyed. Need somewhere to sit? Eno. Need somewhere to sleep? Eno. Need something to fill the space between two giant trees? Eno.

Weight: 1 lb

Average Price: $60

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The Marmot Aspen 3 is the first tent we bough together, and so far we’ve never had any problems with it. From experience there isn’t enough room to have a dance party inside, but you can comfortably sleep two adults and a 65 lb dog.

Weight: 6 lbs 1oz

Average Price: $130

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I need to take a moment and praise the people at Mountain Hardwear for making a sleeping bag that stands up to freezing cold temps. The Laminina Z is a god send. I am someone that can be in the middle of the desert in July and somehow get cold. The first time I used this bag was a night that dropped down to 18 degrees F and I was ripping layers of clothes off half way through the night from being so hot. The only downfall is since it is rated for 21 degree F and has quite a bit of insulation (that is synthetic) it can be a little trickier to pack down, but it isn’t really a huge issue to me.

Weight: 2 lbs 7 oz

Average Price: $160

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My Platypus water reservoir fits nicely into my pack, and keeps me hydrated on long mile days. This particular one is 3 liters, but they do make different sizes. They also have some cool water filtration systems that are worth checking out.

Weight: 6 oz

Average Price: $36

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I can promise you that you want a sleeping pad of some kind. We’ve made the mistake of going on a 2 week trip without them and it got to be a little miserable to say the least. This ThermaRest Prolite Plus is a self inflating pad that packs down very nicely. It definitley makes a huge difference keeping the cold off of you and gives just a little extra cushion.

Weight: 14 oz

Average Price: $90

 

First Aid kit is self explanatory. Get one. Keep it stocked. Throw an extra lighter and/or fire starter in there and you’re set.

Weight: 9.5 oz

Average Price: $25

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Last, but not least is our trusty bear canister. If you are in an area where bears are prevalent you will more than likely be asked to use one of these bad boys. Throw all of your food, drink packets, and anything scented in the canister and you’re good to go. Do they fit nicely in your pack? Not so much. Do Matt and I argue over who has to carry it? Every time. Does it potentially keep bears from eating all your foods, drinking all your tea, and using all your toothpaste? Absolutely.

Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz

Average Price: $80

Hopefully this helps some of you out. I would be more than happy to go into more detail about any of the gear listed above. Feel free to comment below and make sure to subscribe!

 

 

Echo is home.

She has been sitting in our driveway for close to a week now, and I’ve waited til this morning while drinking my tea to sit and reflect on the last few days. It’s almost weird to me how excited I am over this van. Maybe a part of it is because building this together will be the next chapter in our lives. Maybe a part of it is looking into the future and seeing the places she will take us; the people we will meet, the little towns we will come to fall in love with, the roads that seem to go on forever without a single soul in sight for miles. We are a long way away from these things, but I am so happy to start the process of getting Echo on the road.

I don’t know who said it first, but Echo is what we decided on. Echo the Econoline. Echo the Adventure Van. We both thought it had a nice ring to it. And for all it’s worth right now the inside of her is for the most part an empty shell, which does tend to carry an echo when you talk.

A lot of people have asked me what our timeline is to get everything built the way we want it and get her out on the road. I honestly don’t have an answer for that. In a perfect world, I would love for everything to be done by the end of spring. However this is a used vehicle, with lots a love already on her body and motor and I know things will not go as smoothly as I would hope. Just the other night we pulled out the partition door between the cargo space and the front of the van. We thought it would be a quick and easy task. Two hours later, a handful of swear words and lots of grinding out old rusted bolts, it was finally out. Right now my only plan is to be able to drive her to Colorado in August when we go on our backpacking trip. Other than that I am not rushing anything for the sake of getting it done quickly.

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Oh, and for whatever reason Jango has decided that this van is his new home and refuses to get out of it. He cries to get inside as soon as we let him out of the house so he can sit in the driver seat and just stare down our driveway for hours. I think he loves her just as much as we do.

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Be sure to check out the Adventure Van page for progress pictures!

Until next time.

 

The search continues.

After exhausting all of our efforts to find the perfect sprinter for us, we decided to expand our search to cargo vans. You can’t pass any used car lot without seeing at least one on the lot. We should have been able to find one right away, right?

Wrong. $10, 000 for a 10 year old rusted van with 200,000 miles? I’ll pass. You find a van with low mileage, there is rust beyond belief/asking a fortune, find a van that is decently priced and there are a million and a half miles. Is there a dance I can do to summon the Gods of used work vans? If so, please comment below with the info.

While it has been exhausting searching for our unicorn van, I was lucky enough to get away for a few days in sunny Key West and Cozumel. I never knew it could rain so hard and so fast that my rain jacket would be soaked all the way through in a matter of 2 minutes. Despite all the gloomy weather, driving through the flooded streets of Cozumel in a rental Jeep will forever be a favorite memory of mine. Plus I made friends with some parrots, so I can’t be too upset.

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Until next time. ✌🏼️

 

The search for the unicorn Sprinter.

If you’ve never been on a mission to find a Sprinter van that isn’t too new (WAY out of our budget) and not too old (WAY too many miles) with the exact wheel base you are looking for, don’t do it. Just kidding…. Sorta.

Leave it to us to start our search the day the weather decides to act like winter and start snowing. Seven hours of trekking through the snow and ice yesterday, and 10 hours of standing in freezing cold parking lots/driving freezing cold vans has me wishing we would have started the hunt back in the fall.

When we decided that building a camper van was what we wanted to do, I never in a million years would have thought finding the van would be the most challenging part. Matt and I have spent our last 3 days off driving from the most northern part of Ohio to the most southern, and still came home empty handed. I guess it’s good we aren’t pulling the trigger on one just for the sake of buying a van, but it’s frustrating to say the least. Since we both start back to work tomorrow we are taking a few days off from the search and regrouping, expanding our search options and maybe start looking into different vans that aren’t so hard to come by. However I am giving Matt full permission to buy one without me if he finds the perfect one while I’m out of the country next week, so maybe i’ll come home to our new Adventure Van sitting in the driveway!

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Whippin’ doughnuts in a van I don’t own

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Hello world.

Over the last few years I have gone back and forth with starting a blog to document our travels and adventures we get into, but never got around to doing so. Tomorrow Matt and I are going to look at a Sprinter van in northern Ohio that, fingers crossed, we will drive back to our home and get to work on converting it into a camper van that we can take around the country with us. I figured now would be the best time to finally sit down and start documenting our build, our trips, and everything in between. In doing so, I really hope to help inspire people to get out of their comfort zones and start living. I get asked all the time about how we are able to travel as much as we do, cost of trips, how we plan, etc. and it would be great to finally be able to put that info all in one place for anyone wanting to start adventuring.

Even if this blog just inspires one person to go out and do something they would never typically do, I feel like this is so worth it. Not that long ago you would have NEVER found me sleeping in tent, in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but myself and Matt to rely on. I’m sure my parents are dumbfounded sometimes that I forgo a cushy 5 star Marriott resort (I do still love my Marriotts, and make it a point to stay in the nicest one we can find on our last day of our trips) and willingly choose to go out into the wild with only what I can carry on my back. To me there is no greater feeling than unplugging from the high tech, social media filled, must-have-it-now world we have all grown so accustomed to and escape into the natural world that surrounds us.

I heard once that “the best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask” and that couldn’t be more true. Go outside. Do something you wouldn’t ever typically do. Go on to your next adventure.