2013: The Year I Decided to Live in a Van to Travel, Climb, and Adventure Across America

Last year while looking back at my biggest adventures of 2012, I started the post by saying “I already know that after my yearlong Simply Adventure trip, I’ll be claiming that 2013 was the best year ever” – and I was so right. This year has been the most incredible, outrageous, challenging, inspiring, beautiful year of my entire life.

A crew of Stonelick crash pads out at Red Rocks in Las Vegas.

When I started writing this post, I fully intended on it taking the shape of the traditional month-by-month, adventure-by-adventure, mishap-by-mishap retelling of my year. I made it as far as March before I realized how incredibly futile it is to attempt to condense the experience of living “the dream” into a single blog post. For goodness sake, I want to write a book about it – how could I possibly belittle this year into a measly blog post?

I traveled well over 35,000 miles across the country, exploring 26 states (two by plane/train – hello, New York and New Jersey!), and even popping up into Canada for a few weeks. I slept in barren deserts, snowy mountains, forests thick with mossy trees, and on the side of busy streets in big cities. I have seen and done more in this year than many people will accomplish in a lifetime. I am incredibly lucky – and incredibly broke.

But every moment, every victorious climbing send, every piece of all-you-can-eat-sushi in Vancouver, every exploding tire on the interstate, and every I’ve-been-wearing-the-same-shirt-for-a-week realization have been 100% worth it. My savings account might make me cry a little when I look at it, but I have no regrets. I am richer now than I have ever been.

View from the top of Pistol Ridge in Indian Creek at Red River Gorge.

This year has been transformative, both physically and mentally. I used to be a cute girl, with (at least occasionally) matching outfits and make-up and long, well-kempt hair. Today, I am barely above bum status. My mismatched clothing is worn for days on end until it reeks, my hair has been chopped into a short bob that is slowly morphing into a mullet, and I shower once a week. Fortunately, what this trip has ruined of my exterior it has compensated for internally with a renewed adoration for being outdoors, a profound understanding of what I want to do with my life professionally, and a deeper love for Niko than I ever could have imagined.

Seriously, if you ever want to test a relationship, live in a van with that person for an extended period of time. If you can survive that, you can survive anything.

Will 2014 be able to compare to the rollercoaster of ass-kicking adventure that I experienced in 2013? Probably not, and I’m okay with that. I don’t really ever want anything to be like this year – 2013 was special, it was an adventure unlike any other. Even if I do spend another year (or many years) living in a van and traveling again, it will never be anything like my first. And that, is wonderful.

Cheers to all the breathtaking landscapes in America, to the hospitable and generous people we’ve met along the way (Spenser and Vikki, I’m looking at you), to chasing the perfect climbing weather, to giant boxes of TimBits, to my big yellow van, and to many, many more years of adventure. 

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7 thoughts on “2013: The Year I Decided to Live in a Van to Travel, Climb, and Adventure Across America

  1. Sarah Z says:

    This reminds me of how I felt after my study-abroad time in Central America: “ruined” on the outside, but so much richer on the inside. Kudos to you for doing such an amazing, challenging thing and thank you for the insightful way that you share it! Cheers and happy new year!

  2. Rick says:

    Well done. You’ll never regret having done this!

    We’re in the process of buying and outfitting our own Sprinter van. Inspiration comes from everywhere.

  3. Vikki Glinskii says:

    Spenser & I feel so lucky to have met you & Niko along your year-long journey! Although your next year might be full of different adventures, I’m confident you’ll get that itch and we’ll be reuniting in another amazing place soon enough (and when you have less space in your wallet) 😉 Thank you for being such a positive & supportive force to us!

    Of note, I think your exterior is doing quite well, thankyouverymuch.

  4. JoAnn Brady says:

    Katie girl… I know I’ve said it before .. but I want to be you when I grow up!!! You astonish me with your spirit, athletic and writing expertise, but mostly your insatiable need to explore, both yourself and the outdoors… You have an incredible bright future ahead of you and I will follow your every step (reading your blogs of course). Congrats to you and Niko for an amazing year together!

  5. NZ Muse says:

    A thousand times yes to this. I spent a small fortunate last year on a RTW trip and it makes me wince but the experiences and memories were worth every cent.

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