Three weeks ago when states started issuing stay at home orders, we wanted to do our part to socially distance and try to keep not only ourselves healthy but those that we cared about. Florida was one of the last states to require non essential businesses to close but we had already stopped making unnecessary trips to the stores or to see friends. As a photographer who specializes in photographing people, this time is challenging and photo shoots have been delayed and will be rescheduled at a later time.
It's great that we are checking on each other to make sure that we are ok both medically and emotionally. As many people are feeling confined to their spaces inside their home, I realize how much space I really have. It's not that we have a huge mansion, it's that Mike and I spent almost three years living together in our vehicle and sleeping in a 10'x10' tent, by choice.
What you may not know about us is that in 2015, we sold our house in Key Largo, Florida and decided to take a very long road trip. We've always been travelers and love exploring, so without the physical and financial constraints of a house and mortgage, we wanted to figure out how to make it work. We had bought a Ford Edge in the spring and packed it with everything we thought we'd need or want for about six months of living on the road. We each packed one carry on size suitcase that we'd use daily and filled up a third suitcase with backup clothes like jeans, jackets and sweaters for cooler weather because we really didn't know where we were going. We took a small cooler, a computer, our camera gear and an atlas. That first road trip took us from Florida to Michigan, through Canada to Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec. We traveled to Maine and all of the northeast states before ending up in Washington DC. From there we traveled west to Colorado, then flew to Alaska where we spent three weeks before flying back to Colorado, driving to Michigan, then Toronto, Tennessee, North Carolina then back to Florida. Over the course of approximately six months, we traveled more than 25,000 miles together in the Ford Edge.
Whereas most people would figure that was a great trip and been happy with all the experiences they had, we realized that we didn't want to stop. We took the month of January reorganizing and set out for another year. We had done a pretty good job packing the first time and we only added a couple of things for the next roadtrip. Mike packed a guitar so he could learn to play it and I packed more spices and recipes for cooking. We spent 2016 on the road and never made it west of Utah. Mike and I got better at living together in our small spaces and we figured out how little we really needed in order to be happy. We lived out of our two suitcases, discovered monthly rentals, explored the country and took over 40,000 photographs.
What we realized is that the more we traveled and explored, the more places we wanted to go. So in 2017 we had an opportunity to spend a month in Bali that we couldn't pass up. That was an amazing trip and we were figuring out the best way to spend the entire summer in Alaska. We bought a truck which gave us more room in the back to pack our stuff but less living room in the vehicle so we were closer than ever. We borrowed my sister's four person tent, found a 20 years old sleeping bag and borrowed another. We bought an air mattress that we could put in the back of the truck or in a tent, added pillows and blankets and went on the road for the third time.
We traveled from Florida all the way to the West Coast and up through California, Oregon and Washington. We drove north through Canada on the famed Alaskan Highway. After three unforgettable months of salmon fishing, exploring, and photographing the bears and Northern Lights, we returned through Canada and spent the rest of the year working our way back across the country. By the end of 2017 we had been to three foreign countries, 25 states, 14 National Parks and sat through 30,000 miles together in the truck.
Finally in 2018 we were ready to have a home base and start a different journey that has led me to where I am today. Right now I'm being asked to stay at home for my own health. I look around at my three bedroom house with three indoor bathrooms, a stove and refrigerator that both work. I can walk outside and sit in a chair on my patio and even swim in our small pool. Mike and I can choose to be in the same room together or we can move to opposite sides of the house. When I wake up in the morning, I don't have to worry about standing outside in 40 degree temperatures and try to get a camp stove going to make coffee in my borrowed JetBoil coffee maker. I can go for a walk around my neighborhood or get on my bike. I have internet access, cable tv, electricity, heat and air conditioning.
So when people ask me how I'm doing, I have to say that I'm doing really well. I have a LOT of room, I'm married to someone that I enjoy being around and I don't have to wonder where in the world (literally) I may have to set up our tent in a couple of days.
It's easy to miss what we can't do or what we don't have access to immediately, but spending three years living on the road, away from friends and family while sleeping in a tent makes me appreciate more what I have today.