The Pendulum Swings…

In nearly a year of living in different places every week, I finally said it:

“It’s too much.”

“I just want to be home.”

Back in April, we drove over 4,000 miles in three weeks due to some unfortunate circumstances.  In total this year alone we drove almost 20k miles with the camper in tow, sometimes staying a night or two in a new place before moving on to the next. That requires a lot of logistics work and a lot of decisions to be made. At times the planning of those details is literally exhausting… imagine planning for a vacation every day. Where will you stay, what grocery store will you go to, which place has better reviews, which place is safer, more fun, more economical, what will the weather be like? And once all that’s figured out, you have to drive there safely while towing your whole life and your cats. That’s what RV life really is. And for most people they get a reprieve from that lifestyle when they pull back into their driveway at the end of a trip.

Mallory+Justin_McCrea_Travel2019-513But, this little cardboard box on wheels IS our home. We don’t have a sanctuary other than this. I think in that moment, when I said it was all too much, I was desperate to disconnect, to go on auto-pilot and stop paying attention to everything in front of me like one can so easily do at home. Sleep in, stay in jammies, don’t go outside, watch Netflix ALL day. Slowness is what I needed, some real down time.

After all that driving and decision making back in April, this feeling of exhaustion crept in on both of us. We weren’t enjoying anything and everything seemed like too much work. We were desperate for something easy. We needed somewhere to feel like home. Comfortable, safe, long term…factors that don’t always come naturally while living on the road. It took us a while to realize why we were being so negative and unenthused with things that would normally be awesome!

When we travel too fast, experiencing new things all the time, we get overstimulated very quickly by the constant visual and spatial pleasures. It’s a pendulum between being overjoyed and irritable because the balance is off. There’s no down time in between to unpack each big experience. What happens then is that we take really amazing things for granted. It’s a feeling we learned to acknowledge and deal with promptly, checking ourselves as best we can.

Our solution is balance. Days far away from it all are necessary, days doing nothing at home are necessary. Days spent running errands and meeting up with friends for beer and pizza are also necessary for a healthy life balance. Knowing our pace and finding that balance is one of the hardest parts of living this way.

Wheres-Mal-Now-Blog_2019_MalloryMcCrea-57We’ve learned that to be living the most of this life, we need access to get away from it all AND be among others within an easy drive. We need nature AND social interaction. We need creative, personal space AND big, scary adventures to keep it all balanced. All this to say that after nearly a year on the road full time, we are slowly learning our style of travel. We are tuning in more to what our bodies are telling us. We are learning what feeds us and what drains us.

For anyone else traveling, living in a camper and doing any kind of adventure/exploring…it’s so important to be mindful so you don’t burn out because this truly is the most extraordinary experience and we’re lucky as hell to be here…where ever here is.

On the Road Trip

It was July 2014. The back of the Jeep was packed. The sun was shining. We’d never been so excited for anything in our lives. This even felt bigger than our wedding day in a weird way. We knew the adventures we’d have on this trip together would change us, we just didn’t know exactly how yet. We had a loose schedule, a paper map and lots of snacks. That and our cameras…and each other. That was all we really needed. All the Before the Road Trip stuff had really sunk in in the time between writing that and actually leaving. We were ready to hit the road and get off the grid.

We drove from Ohio through Indiana, Illinois through Missouri and into Kansas. Kansas was where things started to get fun as you’ll see below. We found horses and drove the way back roads in the dead heat. From Kansas we drove through Colorado. I love Colorado. Mainly because my best friend lives there but also because it’s insanely beautiful. We stopped at Garden of the Gods before heading to Denver for a few days. From Denver we made the trek towards Yosemite through Utah, Nevada and California. The desolate desert, the colors, the big sky…it was all just too much to even understand as it was blurring past. We made time to stop in some awesome places of course, but you’ll just have to see those photos below! We loved the abandoned towns and old gas station RV camps. The first night we camped was right off the highway out behind a Bojangles in the mountains of Utah. After a really long drive and some altitude sickness we came into Yosemite from the high country. I could have died there that day and been happy. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Yosemite to San Fran to Napa to Point Reyes and back down the coast. California literally stole my heart. I have to keep going back just to collect the pieces. We camped at Big Sur and woke up to the sun. We stood under red woods and gazed at the stars. All of this was breathtaking, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring and life changing.
GreatAmericanRoadTrip-2014-4
The best part though, which we figured out after a couple days, was the simplicity of each decision. There was no need for forward thinking past the next few hours. Where would we eat? Where would we sleep? These became the only decisions we NEEDED to make and after a week or so all that became really something wonderful. All of the lofty thoughts about the future and deadlines and accomplishing tasks that creep up throughout a normal day/week were far off in the distance like memories. To add to this simplicity we had everything we needed in the eight square feet of space in the back of the car. Everything got really easy really quickly. We saw almost instantly how living with less really is the key to freedom.

I just started reading Vagabonding, two years after our first vagabond adventure, and this quote really resonated with me: “Vagabonding is an attitude—a friendly interest in people, places, and things that makes a person an explorer in the truest, most vivid sense of the word. Vagabonding is not a lifestyle, nor is it a trend. It’s just an uncommon way of looking at life—a value adjustment from which action naturally follows. And, as much as anything, vagabonding is about time—our only real commodity—and how we choose to use it.”

I think as photographers we are explores on an even deeper level because we feel this strong need to see more and document and preserve that which we explore. And in a nutshell, we didn’t know any of that before the trip but it’s generally the concept that changed our whole lives.

Mt. Evans Hike

The Mount Evans Wilderness is a popular destination in Colorado because it’s not a far drive from Denver. We happened to be staying in nearby Evergreen and meeting up with my friend Andrea from Denver so Mount Evans was a central location for us to get the best views during an afternoon hike. We started at Echo Lake park and had planned just to wander around the lake before realizing that the lake trail isn’t much of a lake trail. We stopped, of course, to take a some landscapes and portraits along the lake before heading into the snow covered pines. I bet we meandered about three miles quickly while talking and catching up. The snow was pretty well packed along the trail and we passed a handful of friendly hikers. We decided that there wasn’t enough daylight left to make it to the next lake so we hiked to the access road and turned around.
The best view was of Mount Evans along an open ridge line but best portrait spot was this dilapidated old picnic building by the parking lot that had great natural light and deteriorating stone walls.

Cabin among the Evergreens

If you’ve used airbnb before, you know that it can be a wormhole that takes you on a somewhat seedy joyride through mostly benevolent host’s homes but might also creep you out. We’ve used airbnb probably 5 times in all now and one of our favorite experiences was our most recent trip to Evergreen, Colorado. Evergreen is this quaint mountain town about an hour southwest of Denver. The main street winds along as you pass those quintessential golden meadows of Colorado, stately lake houses, a golf course and a string of old and charming cafes each with a covered porch made of rustic beams and actual tree trunks. We flew into Denver and rented a car for the short drive, stopping along the way for our necessities; Colorado brewed beer, cheese, coffee and snacks. We were photographing a wedding the next day so getting situated in our temporary abode was priority after scouting some locations at the Evergreen Lakehouse where the wedding would be.
As we followed the directions along the winding mountain roads towards the cabin, we kept talking about the odd weather. It was cloudy, raining, foggy. Not at all the typical Colorado weather we’d experience on every trip prior. Colorful Colorado was as moody and emo as the PNW that day. I can’t say we minded much…it made for some awesome portraits while we were scouting, never mind the mist and mud. The driveway to the cabin was steep, dirt and red. Well marked and easy to navigate, albeit a bit sketchy in our low-profile tires donned VW Jetta. We made it. Got the key, went in and didn’t die. Isn’t that always the first notion of probably making a good decision when booking airbnb…you didn’t die.
The cabin was ideal in most every way. The next day when Evergreen, Colorado had it’s first snow of the season, a complete blizzard by NE Ohio standards, it became even more ideal.
Bare necessities was the vibe at the rustic cabin on the hillside and we didn’t mind much. We were within 10 minutes for restaurants, coffee shops and a long list of hiking/sight-seeing but tucked up on a secluded mountain road far enough away from everything to feel all alone. We weren’t though, the cabin has a tiny neighborhood of other units housing some long-term renters which actually gave us a little more piece of mind out there in the middle of nowhere. We hiked Mt. Falcon, Mt. Evans and traipsed all around the Evergreen Lakehouse. We ate brunch at The Wildflower Cafe, has the best Oregan Spiced Chai of my life at Muddy Buck along with a pretty stellar Corned Beef Rueben. With all that Evergreen and the area had to offer, we even saw a bunch of Elk pretty close, our favorite part of the trip was lighting a fire in the woodburning fireplace at the little cabin with big windows while the giant snowflakes collected on the Aspens and Evergreens outside.