It’s December 2017, the snow is falling thickly back in Chicago, temperatures plummeting to windchill advisory levels, people rushing to buy last minute Christmas gifts… We are not participating this year. We are on the other side of the world sitting in camp chairs and looking out over a turquoise ocean with a cold beverage in hand, a friendly sun gently warming our skin. Between sips we look at each other and ask – how did we get so lucky? How did we get here?
As these stories often go, ours didn’t just happen overnight. We are working hard to fulfil our dream. A dream of living an examined, regenerative and more meaningful life. We want to lead by example and provide opportunities for inspiring more people to reflect on their own life choices and start making amends to the comforts we’ve grown used to on a small scale and, more generally, to the planet we live on.
But let’s back up a little more. For us, this journey began pretty much the moment we met. Spending many grey winter days and long summer nights talking and philosophising about the world and our place in it. We eventually came to the conclusion that neither of our career paths in the corporate world and in academia was conducive to where we wanted to be in life.
So when, during a skiing road trip across the West, unseasonal rain in Sun Valley, ID made us cancel plans for a day of skiing, we started planning in earnest. Asking ourselves, where do we want to live? How do we want to make a living? In short, what do we need to make this work? These initial general planning sessions soon blossomed into folders, excel sheets and hours upon hours of calculations and scenario planning until we had found our path: Creating a sustainable small tourism business in our favourite places in the US: Taos, NM and Port Angeles, WA which would give us the opportunity to share our vision and knowledge, give us enough flexibility to travel and also make a living renting out our properties. There is much more to it, of course and I could go on, but for now it is enough to know that we started this little business in early 2017 and it allowed us to, between us, quit our corporate job and leave the ivory tower of academia for contractual and flexible work at a small non-profit.
So this is how we got to Australia – with an academic contract ending as a visiting researcher at the University of Queensland and, upon completion, the time and resources to stay a while and sit out the northern Hemisphere winter down under. We spent two months in Brisbane where we bought an expedition ready pickup truck (or ute, as the local lingo goes in typical shortening fashion for “utility vehicle”) and prepared for the next few months living and working on the road. And this is what we are doing now – traveling across Australia. We named him William Jolly after a former mayor of Brisbane who utterly lacked the personality and anything even remotely resembling an interesting life to live up to his fabulous name. So we decided to give William Jolly another chance and new meaning.
While there is no such thing as day-in-day-out when living the van life, we are starting to get into a routine. Travel and bush camp for three to five days in a row before either finding an Airbnb in a big city or a well-equipped high end campground to cook and settle for two to four days. While out and about we adventure and experience – hiking Australia’s highest peak Mount Kosciuszko, going on a 4×4 adventure in the Victorian High Country, figuring out how best to avoid the holiday crowds on the Great Ocean Road, swimming with turtles and sharks in Exmouth, and making friends with the local roos in Australia’s Golden Outback at Lucky Bay. When we stop, we catch up on work, prepare food, recharge our batteries, electronic and physical, and enjoy to sit still for a little while. Oh yes and showers. They are nice.
So this is it for now and this winter – we’re learning how to live and work on the road and telling our story along the way. We’re taking time to reflect and think ahead to our vision back in the States. And we swim, in crystal clear waters on empty beaches and hike and drive to see the world.