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Always The Road Trip

“So what do you do?”

Probably out of defiance for this kind of reductive small talk, Haley and I have always rejected a traditional twenty something existence. Our disaffection compelled us to pivot after our final semesters, graduating into a modest Chicago apartment where we could recalibrate a shared new life.

It was a good home for us. Our room was small, but we lived within our means. We missed a lot of weekends bartending, so we explored the city together on our days off. We frequented coffee shops, we worked on our art, we took any excuse for an extended road trip…sounds a lot like vanlife, yeah?

I suppose that’s why we resonated so strongly with Always The Road! Pete and Tay embody the best of the lifestyle. A courageous nonchalance, a colorful sense of minimalism, even a big ol’

dog for good measure. They were nothing short of our creative heroes, so you can imagine our stoke when they announced a second van conversion project! After months of exciting correspondence, last July we stepped into a perfected iteration of their original layout, to be affectionately known as Ferdinand.

If you’ve shared the pleasure of this experience, you understand the elevated craftsmanship I will now fail to describe. The smell of the cedar, the feel of the leather handles, the serape blankets hand stitched into our recognizable curtains. You can just tell this rig was built by experienced vanlifers, and it’s all in the details. Big things, like how the water system juts into the door frame for efficiency. Small things, like putting the trash can directly underneath the pull out cutting board. Unnecessary flourishes litter our interior (I’m a sucker for my guitar mount, Haley for our live wood edges) and made it promptly feel like home. It is perfect marriage of function and form.

But for every familiar evening in our cozy cabin, there’s some grand and novel view to greet each morning! In eight short months, we’ve toured two oceans of Americana. We’ve soaked in hidden springs and traversed up snowy peaks and sunk into desert mud. We’ve made neighbors of scattered friends, made friends of unlikely neighbors, and even picked up a furry third roommate! We’ve broken down more times than we would have liked, and awed at more places than we could have planned. Speaking of awry plans, our Denver autumn quickly spun out into the vast southwest, where we roamed for months on whim.

That indecision, though, is the crux of our personal vanlife. This community brims with purposeful renegades who have my utmost admiration, but more than anything, I think we just wanna be everywhere at once. I know finding balance between family and adventure is hilariously unoriginal, but it’s still precarious business making both sunsets and birthdays. The implications of our compromise are not lost on us, and neither is the privilege of that versatility.

As such, the van has felt less a revelation and more a gentle realization of virtues we’d been chasing all along. It’s allowed us the space to double down on our most sincere aspirations. It’s an elegant solution, really. I could never have guessed that a silly little photo app would reinvigorate our atrophied creative muscles, honing Haley’s photography and art or my writing and music. It feels rarefied to be able to allocate focused, twenty five year old energy for our most soul affirming projects. We are grateful.

We’ve funneled those formerly dormant passions into our latest venture, a content management company we’re calling Golden Pathos Collective! It’s our current response to that pesky “so what do you do” question. Though we are learning our answer may always be in flux, this whole experience has ossified our convictions to chase the things that make us feel alive.

As I write this en route to the Midwest for our wedding summer, my mind circles back to the day we picked up Ferdinand. It was momentous and aptly punctuated by a touching moment we shared with Pete’s father. As he proudly noted the care Tay and his son poured into our new home, I couldn’t help but believe that this transaction was something else, something special. Here we are, four strangers straddling the same state line that couldn’t hold our itchy feet and free spirits and restless souls. I don’t know what’s up ahead the road for all of us—their beautiful new house reminds me how unpredictably our paths can wind—but I am assured that those paths will always intertwine. Connected and lifelong and happy. The kind of friendship that only comes from sharing your home with someone else.

Photo by Taylor Bucher of @alwaystheroad


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