What makes a story compelling?
What makes an adventure grand?
Is it the characters? The narrative? The setting? Do the destinations have to be far off places? Hard to get to places? How do normal people go on these epic journeys? These were all questions floating around in my head. (I tend to overthink things; for better…or worse.)
Let’s rewind back to the night of April 5th, 2014. I was sitting in our tiny apartment in Seattle reading blog posts on a TV (aka our second monitor for our laptops since we didn’t have cable). I had been following several blogs since the purchase of Big Blue, my 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon. Most had to do with people - families, couples, individuals - roaming around the country (or the world) in their Vanagons.
I noticed Danielle walking by in my peripheral.
“Is that what you want to do?”, she said.
I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about. “What? Is what what I’m trying to do?”
“THAT. Live like that. In the van. Is that what want to do?”
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to a question like that. I suppose I had never, honestly, truly, considered doing so. “Oh. Nah, not really. It’s kinda like surfing for me - it’s something I romanticize about, but I don’t think I’ll ever really get into it.”
“Well...that’s stupid.” She said, nonchalantly.
She must’ve been able to tell that those three words completely dumbfounded me. And I didn’t know whether to be mad because she called me stupid, or to laugh at her impeccable timing and honesty.
She elaborated, “Why would you put yourself through that? That emotional roller coaster of getting so excited and getting really into these peoples stories, but then not just doing it yourself?”
And she was right. Absolutely right. Long before I got Big Blue, long before I even met Danielle, I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world and have grand adventures. And so did she. But life, money, and time, as they often do, got in the way. But, it’s funny how life has a way molding you, of testing you to see if you’re ready. At any other time in our lives we would not have been ready to even consider it, but right then, in that moment, it was right.
We decided, that night, to promise each other the adventure of a life time - we would save, plan, test, and then set out on the adventure of life. We didn’t have a name for it yet; that would come later.
The question was then, "where to?". Most of the adventure blogs I was reading were of people traveling the Pan-American Highway from North America through Central America and on to the tip of South America. That thought, in that moment, scared the shit out of me, plus, I remembered an story I had heard.
I can't remember whether it was a friend of mine who experienced this or if it came from something I read, but the story is about a young American couple who were traveling abroad. One night they found themselves conversing with a group of fellow travelers, all from different parts of the world. When a couple of found out the two were from America, they said, "Oh, we were just there. We saw the Tetons, and the Grand Canyon, visited New York, New Orleans, and California. We went to Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone, and Big Sur! What do you think of the Grand Canyon?", they asked the Americans.
"Oh, we haven't been."
"Ah. Well, what about Yellowstone? It's amazing, yeah?"
"We haven't been there either."
"Really? What about the Grand Canyon then? It really makes your jaw drop, yes?"
"Yeah, um, haven't been there either."
The other couple paused, then said, "Well what the fuck are you doing here then?!?"
We don't want to be those people. Danielle has traveled abroad and I long for it, but everything in it's own time.
The plan for now is to spend the next 12-14 months getting out of debt, saving, planning, building up Big Blue, getting our gear figured out, and staying excited about the trip. Then, we'll sell most of our stuff, store the rest (if anything), and head out on an extended road trip of the U.S. visiting friends and family, paddling, and going to places in our own backyard that we've always wanted to see. We tentatively plan on spending 3 months on the U.S. leg of our journey.
After that, if we can still stand each other, and Big Blue is in one piece, and we have the financials figured out, we'll head South. All the way South. ;)
Finally, the Name
I knew I wanted to have a living memory of the adventure ahead. I also really wanted to create something that was more than a blog; I wanted to create a resource for everyday people who long to do what we have decided to do. Danielle was on board with this so we started brainstorming names. We tossed a few around, but Danielle was fixated on the word "wanderlust". Fitting, of course, but also a bit cliche. But, I'm sure you know, once you get stuck on something, you get stuck on something. We were in one of those modes when I started joking around about how Big Blue is German, I'm part German, and wouldn't it be funny if Big Blue could talk and had a funky German accent (ok, we were tired, perhaps a bit delirious). I started saying stupid phrases and sentences and it slipped. "Vanderlust" came out instead of "wanderlust". We were on to something. Sadly, vanderlust.com was already taken by an Irish Camper Trailer rental company, so Danielle quickly came up with the solution. Our plan was to take Big Blue around North, Central, and South America - Vanderlust Americas was born.