In And Out Of The Van

Photos & Text by Gale Straub, Founder of She Explores

I am, effectively, off the road. Sure, I’ll take weekend excursions and extended trips. It’s possible that we might jump in and go for months at a time. But for now, I’m spending the summer in Maine and New Hampshire in and out of the van. As I write this, I’m lying on my stomach, fully parallel to a lake. It’s bright blue far off, ombre sand close to shore. The air is full of yellow pollen, landing on the water in swirls.

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Writing doesn’t come easily to me so I avoid it. I prefer to arrange shapes with my lens: spot color and click. I’m excited by beauty and the emotion that can be conveyed in a scene. An image can feel so full. There are many layers to a photograph, emulsion and light and otherwise. By contrast, writing feels thin like a wire cage. There’s nowhere to hide.

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So I’ll get on with it. Life on the road was everything I never dreamed. We covered ~30,000 miles over the past 11 months. I grew closer to my significant other than I thought possible (or advisable). I gained too many freckles and a surprising patience for the slowly approaching horizon. I hiked sporadic ocean side from Washington to California. I saw snow in August and felt summer in February. I ate a staggering volume of ice cream and drank a silly amount of craft beer. I learned what I already knew – America is big and beautiful. People are kind and curious. I’m a sucker for it all.

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I got stressed out. I paid for health insurance but still could not find a checkup. I paid out of pocket for healthcare in Oregon and California. I wondered about consistency and I learned that nothing is as it appears. I sometimes longed for routine as I had for its opposite. I felt dirty, at intervals even homeless. I started a business and work on the road grew challenging.

We never planned for our long term travel to last forever, but I could see how it could. Partly because life goes on. Partly because though the timeline always hovered around a year, the van feels like home.

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I try my best not to romanticize life. I take it at face value and then I peel it away. I know that there are ups and downs behind every delicate photograph, but I appreciate (all of you) taking the time to get outside and recognize beauty as you see it.

She-Explores has always been about women taking chances, stepping outside, and lingering at the bend in the road.

Wherever I go next, I will continue to share your stories and some of my own.

Share your beginning & endings