We all woke up early to load into two cars. There were 11 of us and we were meeting two others there. Six of us rode in one vehicle and 5 piled in the other. We had a 17 hour drive ahead of us to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for family vacation! My brother Shawn and I snuck “fart putty” in each car to ease the silences along the way. That night we stopped at a hotel in Tennessee and walked to a restaurant across the street called Taco Boy.
Sunday, July 10th
We finished the drive and met my sister Jordyn and her boyfriend Johnny who came from North Carolina at an Airbnb that we all went in on together. Almost all of us had our own room and bathroom, with a huge kitchen and living room that we could all sit in together. We hugged and quickly brought our bags up to get our swimming suits on and go straight to the beach. We walked the one block and kicked off our shoes in the sand. It was cloudy and windy out but we ran in anyway. The water was warm. The ocean breeze was calming and refreshing. Seagulls squawked above us and large cranes glided just above the edge of the waves. Afterwards we rinsed off in the pool and made a giant whirl pool.
Monday, July 11th
Our first full day of vacation was my favorite day. It was sunny and warm and we spent the whole day on the beach. The only time we went inside was to eat. I had so much fun swimming and fighting the waves with my siblings. We like to jump the big waves or ride them back to shore and swim back out again. One wave knocked my sister Emma on her feet so bad she got a bloody nose! We even found a jellyfish swimming in the water. I laid in the soft sand and soaked up all the warmth I could. Unfortunately, me, Staford, Emma and my brother Kyle all got really bad sunburns (even though I applied sunscreen multiple times throughout the day). I woke up with a swollen eye and a puffy forehead. Poor Staford got it the worst with blisters on his skin. My cousin Abby had a bad ear infection and had to go to a walk in clinic but was able to get drops and started feeling better. The elements hit us hard! Jordyn and I had fun spending time together making Chinese food for dinner. One of my favorite parts about our place was that it had a huge dining table that we could all sit at together for each meal.
Tuesday, July 12th
It was raining on and off in the morning so we all went to go walk around the outlet mall. That evening a group of us decided to go to the movies and watch “Thor: Love and Thunder”. It was really funny and I laughed a lot. When we got back all of us stayed up late sitting on the balcony. We laughed and made jokes and mom had to tell us to be quiet. One reason that I love my family is because they make jokes out of everything and are constantly making me laugh so hard I cry. There was a lot of that this trip. A lot of times I felt like a little kid again- in a good way.
Wednesday, July 13th
Almost every morning I had coffee on the balcony with my mom. Most mornings we walked the beach and most sunsets we walked it again. Our last day was bittersweet. Time went too quick and I wasn’t ready to go back to the “real world”. We spent as much time as we could on the beach. A group of us made a giant Patrick Star in the sand, headed by Kyle who is really crafty and artistic. It was raining on and off again but I didn’t mind. I collected shells and watched the strong waves. At the end of the day we took family pictures and we stayed up late playing games together.
Thursday, July 14th
Though it felt like we had just unpacked our things, we were packing them up again. We drove all the way home without stopping. I watched the grey fog roll off the Smokey Mountains through the windy, green, roads of Tennessee. We made it to the driveway at 4:30 a.m. and were exhausted. On the beach I felt so rejuvenated and healthy. I hardly every checked my phone or looked at what time it was. I’m so grateful for the time I got to recharge and do whatever I felt like doing (mostly sit on the beach). I’m also thankful that even though many of us are grown up now, my parents still want to go on vacation with us and make memories.
I hope you enjoyed these journal entries from my family trip to Myrtle Beach. Thank you for reading Into Nature!
After Staford had worked 50 hours and we worked so hard to get settled into our home again, it was time for a weekend road trip. We needed a getaway. Arkansas is a perfect place to visit for a quick trip into nature. It’s neon green forests and clear blue waters transcend you into a place of peace and quiet where you can really appreciate the beauty around you and forget about your troubles and responsibilities at home.
Dogwood tress dotted our drive with white flowers against the green backdrop. Lost Bridge Campground was packed with people in the North camping area that sat right on the lake. We chose to camp in the South area in the midst of the trees. We were completely alone at spot 48. And we could still see the beautiful waters through the trees. We’ve been so lucky to have all the privacy and space in the world when we camp.
At our beautiful campsite we saw Turkey Vulture, also know as the garbage collectors of the wild, flying all day long. We saw Gray Squirrels eating and scattering around. The birds in the trees never stopped singing their songs. Our dogs, Finn and Meeko, curled up outside and soaked up the sun for hours. Staford and I read, played games, and watched Modern Family. Eventually we fell asleep for a long nap with our van doors wide open. The breeze kept us comfortable and the song of the birds put us to sleep. It was the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time.
We went for a hike on the Lost Bridge Trail. During the Great Depression, a bridge was built over the lake. In 1943 a flood toppled the bridge and was completely engulfed by Beaver Lake in 1964. There were many things to see on the trail like white-tailed dear, snakes, and a homestead built in 1916. On our walk we mostly saw purple Spiderwort flowers and yellow Tickseed Coreopsis. Spiderwort flowers only bloom in April and May and live one short day before wilting back to the ground. Early pioneers used Tickseed Coreopsis to replace coffee beens and are often used today by beekeepers for its nectar.
We ended our trip with full bellies and drinks next to a roaring campfire. Just a few days in the van and I remembered why I love traveling so much. Being in nature made me feel so refreshed, grateful, and steady minded. Without distractions I was able to think about important things without feeling stressed or rushed. If you’re a part-time traveler and you have a favorite weekend spot, let me know! I hope you enjoyed this blog and thanks for reading Into Nature!
Do you ever feel that something bigger is calling out to you? Do you feel how it aches in your soul and twists your guts around? I feel it, too. The universe flows through each one of us, giving us each something bigger to be drawn to. It’s vastness awaits us. We are the stuff of stars- the stuff of God.
Though this is true, the universe often has its own plans and ways. We long to learn wisdom, love, acceptance, and the ways of life, but the universe will teach us lessons in its own way. And usually not in the way we expect. How do we navigate these trials and ever changing paths?
Trust. I trust in the plans set out for me and find comfort in the fact that everything always works out the way it’s supposed to in its own timing. For those that don’t remember, our travels came to an abrupt stop in January due to unforeseen circumstances. The other morning I said to Staford, “What was this all for? This was supposed to be something bigger.” With love
and tenderness he replied, “This is something bigger. All of this. We’ve had life changing experiences. We’ve grown as people. We’ve grown as partners. And I’ve learned things that I’ll take with me forever.” I had so much fear of the unknown (because things didn’t go my way) that I didn’t realize life was teaching me its most valuable lessons right here and now.
Throughout this strange time in our lives I’ve continued to journal out my thoughts. I had written things that hurt my heart: “I feel like a loser.” “I feel like I’ve failed.” “What am I doing with my life?” But it’s not true. None of that is true. There is always hope to be had and happiness to be found. Just because I don’t have the answers doesn’t mean I have failed.
I hadn’t posted since January because part of me felt that I had nothing to write about. But I do. We are going through things that a lot of people don’t want to talk about on social media: setbacks, financial issues, and disappointment. I want to be totally transparent in our traveling journey so that others can see it wasn’t a straight path. It had many twists and turns.
Recently Staford and I both took work close to home so that we could get back on our feet and have the support of our family. For now, we are going to travel part-time in our van (any chance we get). We are also focusing on things such as passive income, opening up our own shops, and fixing up a rental property that we own. And I am proud of us for pushing forward! I continue to seek guidance. I keep trusting. I accept that things will continually grow and change. And now, as the world is in the midst of so much sorrow, war, and fear, I count my blessings that my problems are so small compared to others. It will fall into place. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and thanks for reading Into Nature. Come back next week to read about our weekend camping trip in Arkansas!
The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
Last Sunday I didn’t post a blog because I wanted to find the right words to say on this topic. It’s good to have goals and make plans in life. It gives us something to look forward to and work toward. Without them, a lot of us would wander around aimlessly until we found the wrong things to fill our time. But sometimes, no matter how well you plan, or how hard you work, or how pure your intentions are, things don’t happen the way you thought they would.
New Years was a great way to celebrate all that we had accomplished this past year- and we had accomplished a lot. We said goodbye to our friends and family in Missouri and didn’t plan to be back until July. It felt so good to be back on the road. We talked the whole way about all the possibilities ahead of us. We would stay in California for a few months, then go to Oregon and Washington, Montana and Wyoming, finally heading East. We could stay on the beach or go see the Red Wood Forest. Who knew what unseen and brand new sights were in store.
It was going to take us a few days to make it to California. At the time I had been working online, so we had to stop and park for my scheduled hours. Our first night we stayed in Yukon, Oklahoma, the birthplace of Garth Brooks. We even parked on Garth Brooks Road. It was so cold- only 15 degrees. We started early the next morning so we could warm up in the van. That day we made it all the way to San Jon, New Mexico. If you’ll remember from previous blogs, we’ve stayed at a park in San Jon a few different times. I logged in for my shift that night as usual when a turn of events occurred.
That evening I was unexpectedly let go from my job. There was no warning or notice. I was really upset. I cried a lot. What were we going to do? This was not at all a part of our plan. Staford was still looking for online work, so we were both jobless just like that. Financially, we were not in a place to be jobless. I was so devastated that we didn’t even talk about it that night. I couldn’t bring myself to because my mind was in such a negative place. But the next morning we had to face the situation. After hours of going over our options, praying, and deliberation, we decided to go home.
Some might think it would have been a better story if we would have kept going and figured it out. And maybe they’re right. But I believe that there is a season for everything, and right now I’m in a season where I just need to trust. We are at peace with our decision. That same day we decided to go home we drove back toward Missouri and stayed in Yukon, Oklahoma again. Less than 24 hours before we were talking about our plan ahead. Now we were discussing all our options for when we got back home.
I still have my ups and downs about the whole situation. We put everything we had into our van and our dream. Sometimes I feel like a loser living in the backroom at my moms house. But then I think about something my mom said to me on the phone when I told her what had happened with my job. “Megan, think about how lucky you are. You have lots of parents that you can live with and eat with for free. Other people in your situation don’t have that. Come home, make some money, and get back out there.”
I wanted to be completely honest and transparent about the situation we are in and what we’re going through because not everything is easy and perfect. Sometimes you have to adjust your plans over and over again. And sometimes you have to keep trying in order to achieve something you thought you already achieved. I’ve had several moments in my life where I’ve realized that the world doesn’t revolve around me or my plans. This moment was one of them, and that’s okay.
So what’s next for us? We are currently back in Missouri. We are working and enjoying time with our friends and family. Our plan is to save our money for the next few months, find other online ways of income, and get back on the road. Once we are able to get back on the road, we want to go back to the West coast and then go to South Carolina for family vacation. After that we hope to travel even more. If you’re going through an unfamiliar season of life, you aren’t alone. As always, thanks for reading Into Nature.
The other day I went to the store to buy a new planner for 2022. The cashier smiled at me as I handed him what I picked out. “Hopefully 2022 will be a better year for all of us!” he said. I smiled back. “Yes.” I said.
Many people were hit with so much turmoil and hard times. And it is horrible. And it is real. Walking out of the store, I started thinking about my 2021. I looked at pictures on my phone to visualize the year. Then I found this stunning picture from Saint Elmo’s ghost town Colorado in April. And I realized that my year was truly stunning and beautiful, just like this picture.
In 2021, Staford and I gave everything away and left our home and jobs in Colorado to come back to Missouri and build our van. We went on our first trip together in our new home. We celebrated three years of marriage. I finished school. Staford cut his hair. Tons of friends and family came to visit us. Adventures were taken and miles were driven. People were born and people died. And everything happened the way it was supposed to, just like every year before this one. God- The Universe- has a will and a way for all the years to come, too. Did you live out your dreams this year? Did you let your life be changed?
Our Favorite Things Of 2021
Snack- S’mores by a campfire
Movie- Harry Potter series (watched 3x)
Book- Monster series by Naoki Urasawa
Activity- Hiking or playing video games
Album- Shore by Fleet Foxes
Video Game- Animal Crossing
Place- Durango, CO
Purchase- Our van Hedwig
Podcast- The Hopecast by Jane Goodall
Reminder- There’s not point in worrying
Camping season- Fall
Restaurant- Littleton Cafe
Creative outlet- Taking pictures
Blog post- Arizona series
Moment- Driving through the desert
Finish writing a children’s book
Eat an arthritis friendly diet
Get into bird watching
Learn and practice Japanese
Communicate with friends more
Incorporate working out
The Road Ahead.
This year Staford and I will be traveling all over the West and East coast. We will stop in places like California, Washington, Alabama, and North Carolina. This is the longest stretch of time we will have ever been on the road without coming home. I hope you come along with us to learn and grow. If you let this year pass you, it’s okay. You are lucky to have another year full of light and opportunity ahead of you. You deserve to live your dreams and accomplish your goals. There’s so much more ahead of you than there is behind you. Look at each sunset knowing you did your best that day. You can help us share our journey through WordPress or Facebook! Our goal is to have 100 blog followers by April! We currently have 54. Thanks again for reading Into Nature.
After months of traveling and exploring, we finally came home to our families in the midwest state we call home- Missouri. Staford and I both grew up in small towns where everyone knows you, people take things a little slower, and the comfort of home never fades.
Theres something about the holidays that brings families and friends together. You can call it the Magic of Christmas or The Holly Spirit. But no matter what you believe or celebrate, the magic is there for everyone to feel. That feeling makes you want to hug and laugh, serve others in need, and give to those you love. No matter your love language, everyone can appreciate a thoughtful heartfelt gift from someone they care about. You can allow yourself to feel lighter and happier. You can forgive those that you haven’t forgiven and build relationships that need work. It’s the season for all of these magical things and new beginnings.
This time of year can also bring people discomfort. Money, loss, depression, and family stress can make one feel more alone than ever. It hurts my heart and I feel others pain. I can reflect on Christmases in the past where I felt no magic or love. I felt as if all the world was closing in around me, especially on Christmas. I think it’s important to mention that this is okay. It’s okay to feel all of these things around the holidays, because these feelings are valid and real. Nothing is every perfect and the holidays don’t automatically fix your problems like in the movies. Embrace what you are feeling and share it with the ones you love. They can be there for you, even if they don’t understand.
I believe one of the most important aspects to remember about Christmas is that not everyone is as fortunate as you. Not every child gets a gift, not every family gets a warm meal, and not every person is feeling joyful and merry. These people- especially the children, are the ones that are most important around the holidays. We as a whole need to make it our priority to give and serve to these people in need. It is our responsibility. Theres nothing that will fill your heart more than providing something to those that actually need it. To feel grateful is to recognize what you have, appreciate it, and then take the extra step to grow a servants heart and sacrifice your time or finances to help out. No matter how little you have, there is always a child out there that has less.
The holidays are a time of birth and re-birth. A beautiful season to grow and reflect. I have hope that all of my readers are healthy and happy and ready to take on the new year with many changes. I welcome all of your holiday experiences and thoughts to my Contact Page. Wishing you all love and light. Thank you for reading this Christmas story from Into Nature.
Van lifers face many of the same problems everyday that can cause stress and make our unique lifestyle harder than it needs to be. Take a look at these quick solutions that can make things easier. I hope you can learn something new and solve one of your problems! Thanks for reading Into Nature!
1. Personal Space
Everyone needs alone time and a quiet place to be away from it all. With such a small space, it’s hard to get away from each other and the dogs sometimes. Our solution? An indoor table and an outdoor table! As you’ve seen before, we have a large table in our van to work at, but we also bought a card table from Walmart for $35. This way one of us can cook or work outside while the other enjoys the inside table. The table folds in half for storage.
Our dogs have lots of freedom to play outside and get dirty. And they do! Finn and Meeko like to lay in the dirt, jump in the water, and get into things they aren’t suppose to get into. They shed and track in dirt into our tiny space everyday. But the worst part is the stink! Even though we can’t always give them a bath, we can help them smell better with doggy cologne! It’s cheap and effective and helps them smell fresh.
When we first left for our trip we stayed in several cold places like Arkansas and Colorado. Though it was warm during the day, it got down to freezing at night. Staford and I had trouble sleeping because we couldn’t stay warm. Until… we bought cold weather sleeping bags! It truly made all the difference. We can now sleep comfortably and stay warm throughout the night no matter where we camp.
People always ask us how we find these amazing, beautiful secluded spots to camp at. It can be difficult to figure out where you can and can’t camp and what you can find for free. We don’t stay at campsites or pay for places to park. We also go out of our way to camp in a spot alone and find our spot before dark. Free Roam is an app that connects to your phone GPS to show you were free open land is.
When you are a full time traveler, you spend a lot of time outdoors and very little time getting clean. Showers are difficult to come by and creeks are usually freezing. We use washcloths and biodegradable wipes to freshen up throughout the week. We also purchased a solar shower bag for when we absolutely had to take a shower. It isn’t the most convenient tool due light water pressure and an easily punctured bag, but it gets the job done!
We named our van Hedwig after Harry Potter’s owl. Hedwig is a snowy white owl that is intelligent, loyal, and affectionate. She soars through the sky with ease. Our Hedwig has taken good care of us, getting us from place to place with no worries. We invested lots of time and finances to make the van comfortable. It didn’t take long for her to feel like home.
The day we bought our van was exhilarating. We had searched for so long for the right one and even test drove a few. We had finally made the commitment to the dream we had been talking about for the last year. We saved just enough to pay for the van in full and drove off the used lot with our new home. Hedwig is a 1997 Ford Ecoline extended cab with an added high roof. She was previously used for transportation and had a wheelchair lift inside that we had to remove.
The van drove well and was in great condition. However, the inside was a mess. We decided to buy used because one of our goals was to minimize our bills on the road. We didn’t want to be stuck with a large car payment every month. We knew we needed a high roof so that Staford could somewhat stand and not be hunched over. We didn’t rush into the purchase and we had the van inspected before we made a decision.
We built the van in Missouri where Staford’s parents had a shop with every tool you could ever need. Staford’s step-dad showed us how to use power tools, install things, and make our vision come to life. We had no previous experience building anything or working in a shop. It truly was a giant learning curve for us. We had a goal to finish the van in three months but actually finished it in five. One reason for this is because
our entire household contracted COVID-19. That set us back for many weeks. We also ran into a dreaded problem for builders- leaks! We couldn’t begin installing our electric until we had patched up all the leaks in our fiberglass roof. We chased leaks for about a month, using a visibly obscene amount of silicone on our van. Every time we thought we had patched them all, another would pop up.
We budgeted for the build and for a few months without work. We spent time working on the van every single day. We made a trip to Lowe’s at least twice a day for supplies. In the beginning we purchased an old pop up camper to scrap for parts. We did everything ourselves from installing the floor, cutting the wood, and sewing the curtains. Building this tiny house on wheels was a lot more work than I expected, but so worth it in the end. There were times where I was truly overwhelmed and wanted to quit. There were times where I started to wonder if we made a terrible mistake. But everything we did just goes to show that anyone can do this. You just have to be willing to learn and exercise your most inner patience and determination.
As we drove south the saguaros grew taller and the mountains dustier. The road to Tucson was hot and gave us the feeling we were in a Western movie. We listened to Johnny Cash and watched thousands of starlings in murmuration.
At sunset we found a quiet spot surrounded by mountain ranges on every side. We stayed on an old settlement of some kind that had a wooden horse pen and a rusty, broken down silo. We went to bed looking at the distant city lights.
In the morning the birds chirped and the sky turned yellow. Every sign we drove past on the dirt roads were full of bullet holes. You could admire Mt. Lemon from almost every angle of the road. We arrived to a home full of family at our destination.
Saguaro National Park was the highlight of our trip. On the drive the saguaro started multiplying by the thousands- then the millions. Forests and miles of beaming saguaro were all you could see. We walked a trail filled with Lycaenia Phlaeas, or Small Copper butterflies. These wonders of nature are found all the way from North America through Asia and to Ethiopia. Most saguaro don’t begin growing arms until they’ve reached 75 years old. Some live to be 200 years old. I also learned that cacti turn purple when they are stressed by their environment. This can be caused by extreme heat or too much exposure to the sun. Later we adventured to Wilcox, AZ to see where Staford’s mother grew up. We drove through the small desert town and admired her childhood home, saw the old town movie theater, and the lot where her fathers bar used to be. We spent the rest of the trip with Staford’s incredibly kind family. Our time was filled with lots of stories, lots of play, and too much food and drink.
Barrel Cactus Saguaro National Park
Jumping Cholla Saguaro National Park
We immensely enjoyed our time in Tucson. The area was fun and welcoming. The lifestyle was active and enriching. We were sad to leave the Southwest. We drove through New Mexico and Texas. We saw mountains go to flat land and warm weather turn to cold. But it’s back to the Midwest for the holiday season! Come back the next few weeks to learn more about our van, life in Missouri for the holidays, and more about what we’ve been into this past year. Thanks for reading Into Nature!
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox and add us on Facebook!