I am excited to announce a significant change coming to my life later this year. With Piper by my side, I am embarking on a year-long(+) road trip across North America. With hopes of seeing every state – really seeing them, not just passing through them. We’ll travel slow, with the seasons, and among our favorite kind of people – farmers. Keep reading to find out why we’re hitting reset on our current lifestyle, when we’re leaving, where we’re heading first.
Last year, days after my 29th birthday, my neighbor and his girlfriend drove me to Maryland to purchase a 2003 Ford E-250. It’s your classic 2000s construction/electrical/cargo van – but it’s silver, not white. It has “barn door” side doors, not a slider, and windows on the rear doors. Before it became mine, this van spent its entire life serving the Maryland Department of Agriculture. I know this because I found some old papers and a lot of straw when I cleaned out the van. I couldn’t have been more excited to find out this van – my van – had a previous life on farms; I was sure it was a sign that this van was meant to be mine.
After vacuuming out debris, removing an old floor mat, and getting a patch of rust fixed, I started creating in three-dimension what had only lived on paper before – the sub-floor to my new tiny, mobile house. I bolted two by four framing beams to the floor and sandwiched layers of foam board insulation in between each one. On top of the framing beams and insulation, I screwed two large plywood sheets, custom-cut (by my dad) to fit each wall’s unique curves. This was the first of what is still an endless list of projects needed to convert this metal cargo van into a home-away-from-home.
Sometimes it feels silly putting so much effort into making this van – a thing that isn’t meant to be lived in – livable. I could have bought a small camper or RV, pre-insulated, equipped with a bed, sink, toilet, etc. But buying an outfitted camper doesn’t teach me how to create with my hands. It doesn’t let me learn when it’s smart to use a jigsaw instead of a circular saw. Or that you should definitely draw a picture with the measurements on it, not just write them down in a list. Buying an RV doesn’t teach you how DC power works, the difference between amps, volts, and watts, and how to wire a double-pole double-throw light switch.
Building the van myself is more than just learning for the sake of knowing. It’s the first step to re-writing my resume. Our trip will center around farming communities because this is more than a road trip – it’s an opportunity to experience agriculture and food systems across the country. I will sustain myself (and Piper) by finding work on farms as often as I can. If you know me, you know my passion for agriculture and helping people understand their food system. This trip is an opportunity to expand my knowledge of agriculture and food and share the experience with you.
At each farm (or as many farms that agree to me sharing), I’ll talk about my experience through posts on this website and a yet-to-be YouTube channel featuring videos of the landscape, crops, and the people who bring our food system to life. I want this to be a space you can come to see how cotton is grown, to learn the story of folks working in our food system, and to know the difference between organic and conventional growing methods.
There is no plan for where this trip begins and where it ends. Right now, I know only that I’m going, and I’ll keep going for as long as it makes me happy and I can sustain myself. This van is no spring chicken – it’s 18 years old and has nearly 100,000 miles. But we can’t be young forever, and youth isn’t a pre-requisite for abandoning convention in search of happiness. This van has a lot of life left to live. So do I.