So far on this trip we have been pretty frugal with where we camp, I guess always looking for a good bargain runs in the family. We got into the Badlands national park pretty late so there was no one at the little station. We continued on driving keeping the change in our pockets for another night. When we rolled into the campsite we were faced with the same issue, no one was there. Truly a shame isn’t, when you have to pay to get in somewhere but it always seems people are conveniently absent when you go. It’s such a struggle not having to pay...
As we settled into our home for a night at the cedar pass campsite we cooked up some dinner of lentils, rice and some garbanzo beans. Such an appetizing meal at first glance, not sure why we had any leftovers to be honest with you. We planned to wake up early to catch the sunrise as we heard it was beautiful here. Sadly we woke to a cloudy day and no sun to be seen. We packed up our stuff, did the dishes from the night before that we were too lazy to do, filled our water jugs and hit the road to travel through the beautiful badlands.
Kember drove first but we made it less than a mile out of the campsite before we had to stop for her to get all of her film cameras ready for action. I took this time to check the coolant and add oil to Vandy. I even had several minutes to spare thanks to Kember's mass of camera equipment, so I walked around a bit, I even “climbed” a small hill. The badlands are pretty remarkable it's all this clay like material, the rain causes the mountains and hills to erode. Something about that stuck in my head all throughout the day, that the badlands I am seeing right now are different from the ones people saw last year or even a week ago. Even if it’s the smallest difference I feel like it adds a personal meaning.
We stopped several more times to take in all the beauty, each direction you looked seemed pretty and more breathtaking then the last. We finally made it a whopping 6 miles to a small lot that had hiking trails off of it, and this weird wooden platform you could walk on that just took you around in a circle. We met some people who commented on Vandy and said they saw us the day before driving and hoped to see us again in the badlands. I like to think we made their dreams come true. As they got to their car the man pulled out a jar of pickles… This then made us immediately think we also needed pickles to add to our collection of miss match food that stocks our fridge. Right now it's full of, pickles of course, cookie dough, kombucha, grape jelly, peach salsa, Kember pudding jar and our lovely leftovers.
We hiked around a bit and as we headed back to the van we call our home I saw these 3 little old ladies that seemed to be in quite a debacle. They left their car on the side of the road to go for a hike but as it turned out the path they took didn’t loop back to where they started. They were warned about this issue but decided to take the risk. One lady came up to me explaining this issue, even though I guess I was eavesdropping unknowingly. So she hopped in the van and we were off to find her car. A few minutes pass and we are all caught up on each others back stories of why we are here and where we are headed, there was still one problem, no sign of the car. So we swung back around and dropped her back off with her friends Lynda and Kate. I only know their names because she yelled them as I opened the door for her to hop out. For the rest of the day every parked car I saw I wondered if it was the lovely trio of ladies we met up with earlier. I hope they found their car by now, it’s late and cold, but most importantly they had a dinner reservation at 5!!
Another exciting moment today, while we were at the grocery store Kember saw a sign saying “German Shepherd Puppies For Sale.” She was hooked and I mean we called the owner and were about to drive an hour to her house. I knew this would be a horrible idea, a cute and very fun one, but horrible. We called our lovely parents to tell them the fantastic news!! They were going to have a new grandpup, they immediately shot down the idea. Kember spent the rest of the day sulking at this idea. We even thought of some adorable names for this new little guy that could have joined our adventures, I of course suggested Dakota because we are in South Dakota, I don’t think I have to mention the other names we tossed around because that ones the best. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you think we should add a dog to this trip. I don’t think my sister will let this one go for awhile, she asked me why I hated dogs or she never failed to mention that we could have been at the pet store right now picking out cute toys and collars for this new addition. The one that got me the most was that I could be cuddling this little fluff ball. She almost had me I have to admit but I stuck my ground at being the more mature sister.
The rest of the day was full of more amazing views as we headed to a new campsite in the badlands. There are hundreds of cows, bison or buffalo (not sure if there's a difference) and prairie dogs which I have to admit have the cutest little butts. Kember even jumped out of the car and to what I believe got way too close to a buffalo/ bison (still don’t know) to take a picture.
I have had a lot of fun on this trip so far, I am not only seeing places I have never even seen before but I am getting to meet a lot of great people along the way. So many people see our little old Vandy driving by and toot their horns waving, some even come over to ask us about it. Most importantly to me I am getting to spend this time with my sister. We are getting to experience all this beauty the world has to show us together, I honestly wouldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime.
Today we left Minnesota and headed for South Dakota to spend the night in the badlands, which gets its name from the extreme temperatures and lack of water, but looking past those of course... It doesn't seem like bad land to travel through at all.
Even the drive through South Dakota was amazing, several people may say that all you will see is nothing but fields for miles and miles. Which is true, but to me that is fascinating and truly nothing like I have seen before, at least not since I started this trip. Driving across each state you really get a perspective of how big the U.S is and how many different the landscapes there are.
As I sat driving for 300+ miles I couldn't help but look around constantly, my eyes were of course on the road... But I realized that this may be the only time I will see this state. I have driven hundreds of miles in my lifetime but as you do the same route everyday you stop appreciating your surroundings. By the age of 8 I knew where everything was in Fairfield, there wasn't much else new for me to see. I walked by the same old run down community theater hundreds of thousands of times. Yet some days as I drive by it now, I almost forget that it's there. Everything we see on a day to day basis becomes boring with time, to a point where you just forget that it's there.
From the second we left Minnesota's corn fields and entered South Dakota I saw grassy hills as far as the eye could see, with hundreds of cows spread across them. It was truly a "Post Card Image" with it's inviting soft grass and a bright blue sky filled with cotton candy clouds. In that moment I knew I needed to take a minute to appreciate this once in a lifetime opportunity.
I want to remember what it was like to experience seeing little towns every 30 miles and that every 15 miles there would be an exit with just a small gas station, nothing else. All the Firehouse brewing company billboards with old fashion fire trucks parked next to them, or even the Wall Drug signs that I still have no idea what that is. I will never see the blue and yellow old buggies parked on some guys acres of farmland, so I have to take a moment now to acknowledge it. I think we all have to do that more, it's easy for me to say we need to look up from our phones and see the world around us when I have the gift of driving anywhere. But even in your hometown or your college campus that you see everyday, just spend a moment even if it's just a split second in time find some beauty in the world and appreciate it. Don't let your daily routine forget that it's there.
Once and a lifetime opportunities have that name for a reason, and I think we have to jump on them when life gives us that chance. The second I knew I could take a gap year and do something different from my siblings who went to Norway, I knew I couldn't pass that up. I want to be able to do more, to see more, and that's what I did.
My friend called me last night and she told me something that stuck with me... I am writing about this because I know she won't read it. But she mentioned to me that a fellow classmate in the same major as her took a semester off to work as a civil engineer for Disney. To me that is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I 100% think anyone should jump on that if they had the chance. Everyday so many people pass up these chances to learn more and see the world outside of their bubble because it’s scary. I say take the risk, that you don’t always have to have a plan but if you just plan to work on yourself and fill your life with amazing opportunities I think you will be pretty successful in the end.
So that’s what I am doing, jumping on every opportunity that comes my way. I hope all of you out there take a moment and do the same. Don’t let years go by and you ask yourself “what if.”
I'll have to catch you up on what we have been up to the last few days. I realize now that it will become harder and harder to post these blogs, which I have a few reasons of why so stick with me... One because of the no wifi situation. Two I have never written about traveling before so it's hard for me to find inspiration, which I know sounds stupid because of all the beauty I am surround by each day (especially my lovely sister). Three I'm not used to people reading my writing so I am not really sure what to write about. I'll eventually get into a flow of this but you've been warned, I have no idea what I am doing.
So... Tuesday night we were camped on the Mississippi river in Iowa. It was absolutely beautiful, we kinda just rolled in late at night and parked only feet away from the bank of the river. As much as we wanted to stay, we caught the sunrise and were off to Wisconsin and up to Minnesota.
Here's Vandy parked next to the Mississippi river, up and early ready to get going.
The drive from there was pretty simple... Lots and Lots of corn... Kember may or may have not jumped out of the car and grabbed an ear from someones farm. It now sits on our dash board enjoying the nice hot sun that beats down drying it out. Roam our buffalo also sits on the dash board although he seems to fly off time to time after a sharp turn. That's kinda just what happens when living in a van, things in the back sliding and falling all over the place. Although we choose to ignore it 90% of the time. Another fun fact about living in a van, because I know all of you reading this are also van life folks and not at all normal people. The hours of driving seem to go by fast as long as you fill them with laughs and the serial podcast I got my sister hooked on. Sadly there is very limited country music. So if you do go on a road trip across the country or even down the street, find a buddy that loves country music as much as you do. I hope you take that life tip with you everywhere you go...
Once we landed in Minnesota we stopped to see a friend from Connecticut who studies at Carlton College. I'll give you a few details now but believe me this person needs to have her own blog post so you might have to wait to hear about all of her greatness. We got to the college around 3 on Wednesday so Gabby gave us a tour of the campus and met a bunch of her friends. She even showed us the most amazing burrito place down town. I'm a very big fan of burritos if you didn't know, so I was quite excited!!
Something about being on a college campus makes me feel weird, that right now I am supposed to be a freshman off at some school. But instead I am sitting on the floor of MIA, for anyone from Minnesota you would know what that is. Otherwise feel free to look it up... Kidding it's a museum that my sister is obsessed with now. But I don't know the second I walked in it felt like I was back in middle school on a field trip, where we are forced to go to museums and write about 5 things we saw throughout the day. I wish I had more of an interest in art, to me all of it looks the same. At the end of the day I appreciate all art because I understand the skill and thought process that goes into each piece. I just never seemed that motivated to go out and spend my day at an art museum. I enjoy seeing how passionate my sister can be with it though, how much she genuinely is interested and cares about all artists and their difference processes. I hope I can find something like that, as of now I'll continue to look and give myself time to focus on things that make me happy.
Before I end this blog I'll probably bring the topic of what it's like for me to be on a college campus or what I feel about college in general but for now I need to ponder and let those thoughts marinate. I'd also like to shout out my fiancé Olive for believing in me and for giving me the motivation to write today. Love you buddy and miss you like crazy.
It has been 22 days since we left for this trip, so we kinda just fall into a routine now, way different from your average nightly routine when you live in a house or in a dorm. To me it seems more simple and easy living, but from an outsiders view I can understand that it can seem very complex. That there is no absolute, which I admit I have craved in my life, I have always needed to find an answer. But since we left I have fallen in love with living in the grey area.
I am an indecisive, go with the flow, anything is fine by me type of person. I have lived for doing spontaneous things, or I guess you could say, never having a plan. So a lot of me lives in the grey area in my day to day life, although not all of me. As I travel the states in a van having a plan but also at the same time no plan at all. I am working on becoming okay with living in the grey area with other places in my life. To become more okay with not finding an answer. Sometimes there's just no answer.
I guess part of me wants to find the answers but not be limited by them, that college is not the only answer, that there is always an open ended option. We all don't fit into a box or a multiple letter choice answer, there is so much more than what people have the option of. We limit ourselves without really knowing, society has controlled us and made us unaware of all of the potential each and everyone of us holds.
Last night as I was going to bed I had a thought to myself, this whole time while on this trip I have been so connected to my friends at school. They can all text me, call me, snapchat me, Instagram, Facebook... so on and so forth. So I sat there wondering what am I doing? I love hearing about what my friends are up so, all their studying they have to get done, or that sick party they were just at. I even love seeing all the selfies my parents take while they were away in Italy. So don't me wrong I want to hear about you guys but it seems to make this trip less exciting. That I never actually left.
The point of being away from someone and reconnecting is you start to appreciate the time you have together, you hold it that much closer to your heart. So if I don't answer your calls or texts or I don't respond to that cute snapchat selfie you just sent me I am sorry. I am out here trying to live my best self and see as much as I can around me.
It is a hard thing to balance, not wanting to miss out on what your friends are doing. Although the way I see it; if you spend all your time listening to what your friends have experienced, you miss all that is before you, all that you could have been experiencing. I think we all face these challenges in our lives one time or another. That yes you missing a semester of college or taking that job over the summer, may cause you to miss some moments with your friends. But you will be getting the experience, you will be the one with more ahead of you, the one taking an opportunity and not looking back. So I say go for it.
Maybe I am naive, that I don't understand college life because I have never been but I think we all put an image on college that makes no sense. College is 4 years of your life... That is such a tiny fraction of all the years you live. I honestly believe the whole idea of college will never make sense to me...
All 17/18 year olds are spending hours on hours to prove to a college why they should be picked. But how many hours do colleges spend to prove to kids they are the college for them? Surely not enough I'd say. I think this process is all backwards. That colleges look for the kids who are "fit for their campus." Why does every place have make people fit into a check list. I don't think I will ever understand this world, or why education has to put people in to debt or be inaccessible for those who cant afford it. Sadly I don't think this problem will ever change, like a lot of the problems I see in this world. I am just one person, one kid from Fairfield Connecticut, so what do I know? Honestly not a lot, and I am okay with that. But I want to learn more and that's all that matters to me. I am willing to put in the time and effort to learn more. One step at a time, some steps are planned out while some are eyes closed and hope for the best. There are no absolutes in life, I am learning that maybe the hard way or maybe just the normal way like everyone else.
Well our second day of our trip we met up with a man named Bert who fixed our accelerator and off to Chicago we were. Right through Ohio and Indiana we made it to Illinois.
It kinda hit us pretty fast, that we weren't on I-80 and in the middle of nowhere anymore. The big city of Chicago kinda hit us straight in the face. But she has definitely been good to us.
I got to see my best buddy Christine which is my first and last stop of my friends for the rest of the trip until we head back east. We walked 25 minutes to a Goodwill because that's how committed we are to thrift stores, sadly it brought nothing but broken dreams and sore legs. Still worth it I'd like to think so, it's all about the experience. Something about going road tripping I have discovered is you never forget, that 20 years down the line I will still remember seeing Christine in Chicago, meeting her roommates, walking by the lake, of course Rahsine a man of very few English words and so much more.
I love seeing my friends enjoying their college experiences but I must say I am so glad I am not sitting in a classroom right now. That here I am sitting in a Starbucks listening to country music (because I am not allowed to play it in the van) and thinking about my good ol' pal Sage for forcing me to drive her to Starbucks on weekly basis... That and I am writing about my travels around the states and not a history paper for some professor. Finally I get to write about something I enjoy and that I am passionate about.
I wake up everyday unaware of what day of the week it is and it is the greatest feeling in the world. Not having a set plan the night before but just get up and see where the van takes us.
I sometimes forget how crazy this is, that my sister and I are in a van just traveling and seeing as much as we can see. It's a funny feeling looking at your map and not being in little old Fairfield anymore that I am actually in Chicago right now and in any minute we will be back on the road. Illinois and Wisconsin will soon be passed and Minnesota is where we will land next.
I'd love to hear any places you guys think we should stop on the way:) Have a wonderful day kiddos.
Honestly I am not even so sure where to start right now...
It's 10:24 pm on Saturday September 24th and we are parked outside of a Walmart. Lets back trek a few hours and I will get you guys all caught up to speed on how our day went.
I'll skip the boring details; but finished packing up the van this morning and head to breakfast with my sister and mom for one final goodbye. At around noon Kember and I hit the road heading West as fast as possible. Well Vandy can get to a top speed of 60 mph so we were in for a long ride through Pennsylvania to Ohio.
Kember had the first shift and we switched places once we needed gas. All was well to be honest, we listened to several podcasts along the way and we found a camping site in Ohio where we decided we would spend the night... As I said before, that's not where we are right now but just wait the juicy details are coming.
It's kinda nice sitting in the slow lane going 55 with cars and even 18-wheelers passing you. I asked my sister if on this trip we would ever pass someone, she said "probably not" hopes are definitely high over here. But the moral of me saying that is we have no time limit, it truly is a nice feeling to have nowhere to be and no deadline. Just enjoying the moment we have right now in front of us.
About an hour away from our soon to be home for the night in Ohio we needed gas, as I pull off the highway I realize something is wrong. We are going 30 mph without my foot on the gas, and I'm not just talking about when you are slowing down to take the exit, I am saying going up a hill and I need to take left into the gas station but Vandy Did Not want to stop. At this point my sister and I had no idea what was going on. A full gas tank later we put the car into drive and literally Skirt away from the gas station but drove around going 20 miles an hour with no foot on the gas for a solid 10 minutes.
We decided to get back on the road as our dad said "just keep driving and see what happens" Thor's a man of many talents but advice isn't one of them. Vandy was still going 60 mph without an ounce of pressure on the gas pedal. A few exits later we were parked on the side of the highway with our hazards on. Our good pal Rachel from Auto Zone told us a bunch of things that could be wrong with it so we called her buddy Bert. I won't bore you guys with the rest of those details about the van but lets just say we aren't getting to Ohio anytime soon... Or maybe we are if we just keep driving and see what happens.
But yea to all the people who said we would break down in Pennsylvania and have to turn back... A big F you. Hopefully we will be out of Nowhere PA in no time... fingers crossed.
Hopes and prayers would be much appreciated. Love you all.
Graduating high school is a big milestone in your life. It is kinda the turning point where you ask yourself... "now what?"... well at least where I come from that's what everyone asks. 90% of the kids I graduated with went off to college, that was their "now what", like the majority of young adults in the United States. But why? Why at the age 17/18 do we have to decide what we are doing for the rest of our lives? We are not taught to have our own ideas and creative minds in school. We are all programed to follow our peers in front of us never straying too far from the "normal" lifestyle.
Here I am at 17, where all my friends have decided to go to college and learn from more teachers giving off facts from a book. I honor that decision and I respect getting an education, but for some reason I can't see myself in a college dorm right now.
I guess I see myself in a small Volkswagen camper van with my sister with no agenda besides seeing as much as this world has to offer us.
So here's my blog to all my friends who have suggested this idea. The point of this online journal is to share my adventures with you guys, so while all of you are sitting in a 200 person lecture hall or your 9-5 job, you can live vicariously through me. Kidding of course, I just want to share my ideas and my experiences with everyone... well at least everyone who clicks on it.
Greta Ann Vanderblue.