A summer can be life changing. Case in point: Hannah spent the summer of 2014 living out of a Dodge Sprinter van with her three best guy friends. They covered ground from Pennsylvania to Vancouver and Hannah discovered a love along the way – the state of Montana. The next year she packed up and moved there.
Read about her travels and discover her beautiful photos in the interview with Hannah below.
Meet Adventurous Hannah
How did your trip come to be?
I wish I could give you an awesome tale about how it happened, but honestly one night we were all drinking. We pulled out Nat Geo’s Road Atlas and said we’re going to do this. We all share a mutual love for the West and the open road. We made a plan, right then and there. Surprisingly, every single one of us stuck to it. Half a year later and we were on our way.
Why the Dodge Sprinter van? [Editor’s note: Woman after my own heart]
If only I could take credit for this one, but I was not the originator of the Sprinter dream, though I quickly fell in love. My dad is an electrician and that was his work vehicle. When I was a teenager, I thought it was the most absurd looking thing. Ah, little did I know I would end up living in one for the summer.
What was your experience like traveling as one woman with three men? Were you able to get the alone time you may have needed?
Yes, alone time was needed and thank God we did heaps of backpacking where the talking dies down. On the trail, you finally get the space and silence you need for yourself and your thoughts. I have known all three of these men for a long time and typically I enjoy being the only gal around, but believe me there were times where I thought about pushing each one of them off a cliff (I am sure the feeling was mutual), but those moments seemed to pass quickly. I mean, come on, living out of a van with four people is anything but easy. Tempers can get short quickly and run pretty hot, but at the end of the day all of us were happy to be there and we did way more smiling than anything else.
What did you learn about yourself during your travels that you might not have learned without the trip?
I learned how much I appreciate balance. Living out of a van was amazing, never knowing where we were going to sleep, the thought of waking up somewhere new each week. The uncertainty of it all is more addictive than any drug…yet I missed the space of a home. To unwind, relax, and see something as simple as the garden in my backyard grow. I realized at the end of the trip that traveling will always be a part of my life, but I don’t need it as a constant.
The most important thing I learned, though, on a personal level, was that Montana was it for me. It’s solidified itself as my true love. As soon as I got back home to Pennsylvania, I went to work on making my next move a permanent one.
Do you have any safety tips for other women planning to hit the road?
Honestly, you hear it all the time, but common sense is your best weapon. That and bear mace 😉 Really though, follow your gut, humans have instincts for a reason and we should always follow them. If you get a bad feeling about a place, leave. You find out you love a place but only planned to stay for a short while, stay longer. Learn to trust your judgement.
Pennsylvania to Vancouver covers a lot of ground. Which area stole your heart?
Oooh now that’s a hard one. We covered every ecosystem in the country, from merciless deserts to the temperate rainforest. I loved them all but in VERY different ways. Since you are making me choose one, it will have to be Sequoia National Park. Those trees are the toughest things I have ever seen in my life.They are arguably the largest living organism on Earth. Sequoias have fought countless battles against mother nature and thousands of years later they show the scars to prove it. Yet here they are, standing large and proud, making us feel incredibly small in this world of ours. For the first time in my life, I felt like a child again. This giddy sense of excitement that overtook me, I remember it well when I was a kid. Those trees ignited my imagination and I was instantly lost in a world of my own. I kept thinking how we will all die and these ancient giants will remain and to me that is an oddly comforting thought.
Have you found that more people your age are taking extended road trips?
You know, I have. We are so connected nowadays. Technology is constantly opening new doors, allowing us to see millions of other people’s lives, even on a daily basis! I sometimes find it useful and at other times it disgusts me, depends on the day you ask…but back to the point. Being on the road also grants you the opportunity to meet lots of people who share the same mindset and are doing the similar things. Our journey showed me how many people are out there, living deliberately and it is a lovely sight to see.
Name your five must have items for road travel.
Well, the Sprinter van of course, she would be the first.
The second would be a good book (reading is sexy don’t let anyone tell you other wise). One of my favorite quotes is, “we need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f**k them”. I stand by that.
The third is my headlamp, what an efficient little guy.
The fourth would be an Ipod, with a boatload of tunes on it. When you’re on the road for four months, you need a shit ton of good music to get you through some of those long hauls.
And the fifth would be the three gentlemen that accompanied me, Brody, Douggie and Dune, I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without them. It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with. (and perhaps a camera, sleeping bag/pad, backpack… sorry 5 is not nearly enough).
If you could do it all over again, what (if anything) would you do differently?
I wouldn’t change a single part of my trip, well except how much I packed. Absolutely unnecessary. I am an awful packer. Oh and backpacking in Utah in the middle of August (not the smartest decision), and not buying a Yeti cooler… that’s about it!
Any road trips on the horizon?
I road-tripped out to Montana in the beginning of last summer (2015) to set up shop. As I mentioned earlier, Montana is my place, and now it has become home for me. I am laying down new roots and I couldn’t be happier.