The Morning Fresh

Katie Boué spent one year (2013) traveling the United States in a yellow, built-out Sprinter Van with her then-boyfriend, Niko. On the road, she climbed as much as she could, made new friends, and learned how to survive on a shower every 5.4 days.

Find out more – read the interview after the jump.

Photos above and below (C) 2015 Katie Boué 

Meet Athletic & Inspiring Katie

How did your trip come to be?

It was the simplest decision in the world: one night while my then-boyfriend, Niko, and I were chatting on the phone (I lived in Denver and he was in Florida), he said “we should go on a year long trip.” So we did. Then I started saving everything I had, moved back to Florida, bought the big yellow van, and started looking at my dad’s old road atlas.


How long had you been dating Niko when you set off?  What did you learn about Niko that you might not have without this adventure?


We had been together for about three years when we took off on our adventure. At the beginning of the trip, I thought we were the perfect couple. By the end of it, we realized that maybe we weren’t meant to be after all. Turns out, we make really excellent travel partners and friends, but not so much in the romance department. Possibly my fault for wearing holey sweatpants so much (sorry dude, they were so comfy).

What role did climbing play setting routes (no pun intended) for the trip?

Our route for the year was heavily dictated by prime weather conditions for climbing – we chased warm weather during winter and sought shade during the summer. Once we started meeting fellow dirtbags on the road, our plans often shifted to join our new friends to unexpected places like Moe’s Valley and Squamish. I would have never gone to Squamish if it weren’t for randomly meeting Vikki and Spenser of the RV Project while camped out at Joe’s Valley. The purpose of the trip was simply to climb, so we hopped from crags to boulder fields and explored the areas around them.


I’m starting to think living in a van is the best thing you can do for your relationship.  Do you agree or disagree?

I agree 100%. For Niko and me, it ended up showing us that our relationship wasn’t quite as perfect as we had thought it was – and that’s absolutely okay. We learned some incredible lessons, both about each other and ourselves. When you spend every moment of an entire year living out of a van, showering with baby wipes, and navigating life with someone, you really get to know them.

What was the highest moment of the year?  On the flip side, what was the lowest?

There were so many highs. The first moment I pulled out of the Tallahassee Rock Gym’s parking lot and officially hit the road was so overwhelming and freeing – but one moment reigns above the rest: when we adopted Amble. I woke up one morning to a photo of Amble in my inbox, shook Niko in his sleeping bag, and bam, she was ours. We drove 13 hours round-trip to scoop her from Mississippi, and now she’s the perfect crag pup down in the south.


A particularly low moment was when our turbo resonator blew on the way out of Indian Creek. We ended up having to get towed to Grand Junction, spent way too much money, and had to reevaluate our entire budget and plans unexpectedly. But we still made it work in the end!

You say, that at the end of your trip – you wanted to “feel like a lady again.”  How did the road make it challenging to feel feminine?

Fact: In 365 days, I only took 67 showers. That should establish the dive my personal hygiene took during my trip – it got ugly. I had no personal space, no lady-time, and no budget for splurging on things like painting my nails or buying new make-up. My hair got so knotty and nasty in Yosemite over summertime that I actually ended up chopping it all off into a short bob. When you wake up in a rest stop on the side of a highway and wash your face in a public restroom, it’s difficult to feel like a lady.

Did your van feel like home?

With a beautifully constructed bed, fully-stocked kitchen, solar equipment, and even a fridge in my van, it always felt like home. It’s one of the things I miss most when I go camping now – it was so lovely to have my home with me on every adventure!


Take a photo of your five must-have items for van travel.

Katie's 5 Must Have Items
Katie’s 5 Must Have Items
  1. Climbing Shoes (Five Ten Dragons!)
  2. My Camera (Nikon D7000)
  3. Beanie to hide greasy dirtbag hair (Thanks, Dakine!)
  4. Notebook (Moleskine)
  5. Baby Wipes

What was the adjustment period like, post trip?  

The adjustment period was rough, and lasted nearly a year. Niko and I felt restless when we returned to Florida. We broke up about a week after I sold the van, and then I immediately packed up and moved to Denver on a whim. It’s been a long year of transition, but I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life right now. It took a lot of ice cream cones, a way-too-long break from climbing, and a few rad adventures – but eventually I found my way after the trip. It’s all about that positive mental attitude. {Editor’s Note: Totally agree.]


Any great adventures planned for the future?

After the funk of my post-trip year, 2015 is shaping up as the time I train hard to climb hard again, travel as much as I can around the mountains, and enjoy the change of pace that comes with my job managing social media for Outdoor Industry Association. I just got back from a trip to the southeast, and I’m scheming up a little jaunt up the west coast at the end of summer. Even after a year spent traveling all over America, I still feel like I have so much to see.

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