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After Residing in My Van Touring for 4 Years, I Admire a Dwelling Base

  • I grew up within the suburbs and at all times felt like I needed to be in movement.
  • My accomplice additionally needed to journey, and we spent 4 years touring the world.
  • However I began to really feel like settling down. It is allowed me to mirror on the locations we have been.

Rising up within the outskirts of Chicago, I by no means thought I might be browsing from the chilly waters of Canada to the rugged coasts of Mexico, snowboarding via Japan, climbing within the craggy Tetons, or exploring the American West out of a 60-square -foot self-built camper van with no everlasting deal with.

All through 5 or so years of sustained journey and nomadic wandering, I cultivated a life on the transfer—a dramatic and purposeful departure from the worry of stagnation I felt rising up within the strip malls of my hometown.

Over the previous yr, although, I’ve modified issues up, placing roots down among the many sweet-smelling pines of a California ski city. After slowing down sufficient to catch my breath, I spotted I wasn’t working away from house—I used to be working towards discovering my very own.

Rising up within the suburbs made me need to see what else was on the market

The highway did not at all times enchantment to me, however I knew from a younger age that hormones weren’t the one perpetrator within the discomfort I skilled in my teenagers.

I by no means felt fairly at house as an adolescent — not due to an absence of affection, however due to a sense deep in my being that I used to be not the place I used to be meant to be. In highschool, anxiousness began to eat at me. Mine made me query not simply my place of residence however my place on the planet. If everybody I grew up with appeared completely content material within the suburbs, there should be nothing improper with the place itself. It was simply that I did not fairly match.

Survival instincts kicked in—combat or flight—and I selected the latter. I left the flatlands for faculty within the West, hoping it could make my fears vanish just like the rolling cornfields I might left behind. I put my head down, piled on classwork and extracurriculars, and blazed via college, adopting a traditional circulate: Should you’re at all times on the go and continuously exhausted, it is easy to neglect your worries.

As soon as I began touring, I used to be hooked

After commencement, I stored transferring, falling in love with mountaineering and tenting and climbing and pictures — all actions that stored me busy and not less than momentarily fed my nervous system serotonin and beat again that feeling of stagnation.

I used to be touring to unbelievable locations, embarking on adventures I might by no means dreamed of again within the suburbs. However my worry of not doing sufficient in life would sporadically rear its ugly head. Regardless of my new passions and feeling of objective, I frightened that I wasn’t doing sufficient to achieve success, to be glad, or to be in the best place.

I used to be fortunate to discover a accomplice who shared my love of journey and appreciation for fixed movement. As an alternative of discovering an condo to maneuver into collectively, we constructed out an previous Chevy Categorical van, equipping it with a small kitchen, a mattress, a wood-burning hearth, and a shared pee jar. Wooden panels and blue paint made the 60-square-foot field seem like a house, whereas our laughter and midnight gradual dances made it truly really feel like one.

Katie reading in the van in Mexico

Botwin studying within the van in Mexico.

Courtesy Katie Botwin



Desirous to take pleasure in the advantages of our new house on wheels, I turned a contract photographer. On our first van journey, we relished the romance of the highway. We warmed up with tea and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches by the hearth after browsing via torrential rain in Canada, biked alongside rocky shores in Oregon, and marveled at sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from distant bluffs in Baja California. We labored in espresso outlets and libraries and trailhead parking tons, staying so long as we needed at every cease till the highway beckoned us.

After we weren’t within the van, we nonetheless stuffed our calendar with adventures till it was overflowing, like once we booked a two-month work-and-play snowboard journey to pattern the legendary powder of Japan. I figured a distinct continent would quell the worry that I wasn’t doing sufficient in life, that I simply wasn’t transferring quick sufficient — however previous ideas crept in between the thrill of onsens, sushi, and snow.

A ski resort in Japan

A ski resort in Japan.

Courtesy Katie Botwin



Upon our return, we continued exploring the western US within the van, from the winding rivers of Wyoming to the deserts of Utah and the rocky coastlines of the Pacific Northwest. The journeys had been a blast, and we had adventures I would not commerce for the world; I grew and discovered immensely from the experiences we shared throughout this time.

I began to wonder if being in movement was the identical factor as transferring ahead

The photographs I took on these journeys are priceless treasures to me now, they usually speckle our partitions. However these journeys had been typically exhausting, partly as a result of I used to be unable to shake — and even articulate — my fear of not taking concrete steps ahead in my life.

We awakened every single day understanding it could be totally different from the final. Folks, international locations, views—all the pieces was continuously in movement. So why, deep down, was I nonetheless affected by a worry of a immobile life?

We determined to place down roots in a cool little spot in a Sierra ski city. After touring for years, I discover it so shocking that I can truly take pleasure in stillness. Whereas the highway nonetheless calls to me, and I nonetheless reply once in a while, my years on the highway have made me deeply recognize the ability of permanence.

This house base has given me time to mirror, to sift via reminiscences and moments, and to handle anxieties as a substitute of working from them. It is also given me time to breathe. Within the blink of a watch, it appears, I’ve gone from continuously chasing the following adrenaline rush simply across the bend to revealing within the tranquil wonders of roots.

Katie in Canada

Botwin in Canada.

Courtesy Katie Botwin



Being stationary, I’ve come to comprehend, is not synonymous with stagnation, simply as life on the highway would not assure progress. What issues greater than our GPS coordinates or journey plans is how we chart a path via our personal insecurities and challenges. For a few of us, journey is a way of therapeutic; for others, it is an escape from the harshness of actuality. For me, it was a little bit of each.

For years I chased new locations and new adventures, sure that fixed movement would possibly dampen my inner struggles, however I used to be fully unaware that it extended confrontation. My most fulfilling adventures today needn’t contain a passport or my climbing footwear or my snowboard; they could merely be sitting with a superb ebook in my favourite chair by the hearth, recording my ideas in my journal, or having a craft evening with new mates.

As of late, I usually discover myself sitting in contentment, glad to simply be, glad to be nonetheless. I am exploring myself and my new neighborhood in methods I did not — or could not — whereas I used to be on the highway. I nonetheless really feel that fight-or-flight intuition some days, however now I am lastly courageous sufficient to plant my ft, ball up my fists, and throw a punch.

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