Since posting about our travels around California last year on Into The Eco we have received a lot of questions from friends, asking us how we got around and for any tips, we learned along the way. So while we currently have no upcoming holiday plans, I am feeling like writing more about our American adventure, this time about the in-between parts of our trip. I hope it helps answer any questions people may have, or spark many more, maybe even inspire you to take a trip of your own. Please always feel free to ask away.
While Josh and I were on our travels we stopped at some great places (read about Yosemite and San Francisco) but most of our time was generally spent on the road, seeing what some might say the real America. Travelling with destinations in mind and stopping off where ever took our fancy along the way. This might be some peoples idea of hell, but we really enjoyed the feeling of freedom this enabled us and I loved stripping down to the bare basics for a while.
America can be an expensive place if you want to travel luxuriously. We were on a very tight budget, to say the least, we couldn’t really afford such a big trip, but we had a spontaneous idea to go and we just went with it, throwing caution to the wind, and worrying about our wallets upon return.
We booked a couple of places to stay so we had something to aim for along the way, a ropey hostel with shared bathrooms at the beginning of the trip in San Fran. A lovely Airbnb to end the trip in LA which I am happy to recommend, and a really dingy room at Circus Circus (the oldest casino on the strip) in the middle of the trip in Las Vegas/Hell on earth for me.
Due to our budget, we couldn’t afford to stay in fancy hotels, so the rest of the time we left open and camped, with the exception of two nights when showering was a necessity, so we treated ourselves to a stay in one of the many motels America has to offer.
When it comes to camping we went super basic, nicknaming ourselves Basic Bitch Camp. Some of our fellow campers had come beyond prepared in comparison. Our camp consisted of a small two-man tent, two sleeping bags, two roll mats, a rolled up towel for a pillow, some mess tins and reusable cutlery for eating, some marshmallow toasting forks, ingredients for smores, tins of beans, corn, a bit of meat here and there, plenty of firewood and a trusty bottle of rum (to warm the tum).
We did this because of our really tight budget, but also to prove that we didn’t need much other than some good tunes and each others company to have a good time and see some beautiful parts of the world. Most campsites have fire pits and even in the national forests, most sites had DIY fashioned pits made from rocks, which makes life a lot easier. There is not much that can compare to the warm calming feeling of watching the fire. (Of course, always make sure to leave no burning embers where ever you are).
So far I am probably making the whole thing sound unappealing, but going back to basics has its plus points. It made for quick camp set up in an evening and packing up in the morning was a breeze. Allowing us to move on quickly. This is exactly what you need when road tripping. A couple of times we arrived at a good pitch location and got set up just before it got dark.
Then the fun begins. Building the fire, listening to music, finding a good log to sit on, and talking till the fire goes down. Looking up at the stars in the sky. Then wrapping up in as many layers as possible and getting tucked in for the night. We went around Easter, so it was still quite chilly at night.
I would say we pretty much winged it. Driving to see the amazing natural phenomenon, like Monument Valley, The Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, Lake Tahoe, then finding a place to sleep. Slowly edging closer to our the next place, taking in the breathtaking rolling landscapes, and that is all there really is to it.
What we learnt from our journey:
Less is More:
Previously I was not a big camper, but I am converted and I think I dealt with it really well, bar a couple of freakouts in the middle of the night when camping in the national forests. Genuinely, the time spent on the road are some of the fondest memories of our entire trip. Spent listening to our favourite music, driving down desert roads, around bendy mountain trails, along 13 ft of snow, having random conversations with others on the road. From the crisp snowy mountains in Lake Tahoe to the hot Death Valley desert. It was an exhilarating feeling and the views were the best I have ever seen in my life. Humbling to say the least. The fewer distractions the better I say, a trip like this makes you realise, how much we worry about always being entertained. Be present in the moment, these opportunities don’t come around that often.
Connection with Nature:
The start of this trip marked a special time for me. I had finally got the courage to start Into The Eco and we couldn’t have timed a better trip for seeing why it is so important to look after our planet.
In a short space of time, we experienced the beauty of living simply and enjoying nature at its best. Waking up to the sun flowing into our tent in the middle of nowhere, opening your tent, to see you are surrounded by trees or overlooking a beautiful lake. Just wow!
When arriving at your new home for the night, slowing down and taking it all in. Camping for us was not about finding trendy hang out spots or using fancy gear, we decided to do it as a means to do the things we wanted to do, and realised that camping isn’t just more fun, but it’s also a state of mind.
Seeing a beautiful part of the world in this way enabled us to take a step back and bridge the gap between us and our respect for the natural world. I felt a broader understanding of why we need to protect and sustain natural beauty and the places we live, and not to take any of it for granted. With the experience came a deeper understanding of the world outside of our everyday vision and the joy in the simplest of pleasures. It is important to not just be told why we need to be mindful of the environment, but to experience why for yourself. Go live it!
We know how lucky we are to have taken this trip, we felt so grateful to have this opportunity, just looking back through the photos is giving me a lump in my throat. We returned home more mindful with a sense of responsibility and purpose. Knowing that those who respect nature, respect themselves.
Respecting nature is acknowledging that our everyday behaviour has a knock on effect. This increased connection with simple and natural ways of living brought us more happiness than expected, how could anyone feel down watching the sunset across Joshua Tree? I like to think we have kept all of these sentiments with us upon returning back to normal city life. Knowing that our outlook on life is more important than anything else.
We spent real quality time together, just the two of us, with no distractions. No phones, definitely no wifi or Netflix. We made memories that will stay with us forever. I learnt the joy of breaking free of the city buzz, turning down convenience for adventure, enjoying the silence, breathing in the fresh air, cooking on an open fire with nothing but a bit of Bruce Springsteen playing while listening to the fire crackle. I am not going to lie, you have to make your peace with smelling like a bomb fire and not showering every day, but it is so worth it.
Adventure is out there:
When I look back now I do feel quite brave for agreeing to go on such a trip, I am happy that I am the kind of person who not only went along with the idea but loved every minute of it. At first, I wanted to spend more time in the cities, but Josh assured me that adventure is outside of the cities, and he was right.
Most of all we relaxed and escaped the familiar. Not once in my life have I started the day not knowing where I was going to end up sleeping that evening. We let go of expectation, the pressures of pretences were lifted, we were there only for ourselves and we enjoyed our journey. Not comparing our trip to others who have done it before. We read up here and there, but not too in depth, we mostly trusted the process. The trip was real. So I would advise anyone who is planning a similar adventure, try to do the same, go with the flow and trust that all will be work out for the best.
– Download maps on your phone before going, you can’t rely on having signal and 16 days of using 3G will cost you a small fortune.
– Have a rough idea of where you want to go, what are the main things you want to see and plan your route around those places, then take the scenic route, stay off the freeways where possible.
– Allow time for rest and don’t rush too much, let yourself take it all in, but defiantly no sleeping in the car, you will miss so much beautiful scenery. This obviously applies to the passenger, definitely no sleeping in the car for the driver.
– Plenty of water always, refill your bottles where ever you can, and have a sugary drink on hand to perk you up if you are feeling low on energy. I recommend Iced Tea.
– Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and luckily in America, they are huge and normally come with a side of potatoes. Most days after a hearty breakfast it kept us full until stopping in the evening.
– Make yourself a banging playlist before you go. This will make driving around so much fun. We threw in some chilled vibes, some good sing-a-long tunes, American folk etc. Go for it. We also mixed it up and enjoyed listening to some good podcasts along the way.
– Comfy clothes and shoes are a must, suitable for warm and cold climates, layers are always a good decision, my woolly hat was a life saver. A good pair of jeans, comfy shorts, mix and match T-shirts, a jumper, scarf, a hoody and jogging bottoms, you get the gist. (We didn’t have any specialised gear, just our usual clothes, and it worked fine)
– If you want to go to Vegas, I think one night is more than enough two max. Going here reminded me why we need to love nature. The land of excess. The Hoover Damn is definitely worth a trip if you are in the area.
– National forests are free to camp in so if like us you are on a budget this really helps. Campsites are very reasonable though, some you may need to book in advance like at The Grand Canyon. We didn’t and it was full already.
– Around Earth Day you get free entry to the parks for a whole week, check out the dates before you go, this saved us a lot of money, and we got to see Yosemite and The Grand Canyon twice for free. Thank you Earth!
– Take rubbish bags with you so you can leave your pitch nice and tidy as you found it, and they also come in handy keeping a clean car. Biodegradable if you can find them.
– Hand sanitizer and baby wipes will be your best friends. I don’t think I need to explain this one.
– Take a decent torch this will come in very handy, it is always good to be able to see what you are doing.
– Pine Cones are great for getting the fire started, have a bit of a savage. Have a couple of trusty lighters to hand.
– Carry a portable phone charger in case you are running low. Most cars have USB ports now so I would suggest keeping the phone you are using for directions and music plugged in at all times.
– Stop the car as often as you like to take photos and admire the view. If in doubt, stop. This is what you came for.
– Try not to freak out at night in the tent, most of the time it just the wind. Not a bear.
– Stay Safe, have any emergency numbers you may need written down.
And you are good to go! Take care go have an adventure! But remember you don’t have to fly to another country to have an adventure, explore the beautiful places close to home too. Please let us know if this has been useful, any more questions you have please ask away.
Into The Eco xx