Early in 2015, Mike and I were headed to Stevens Pass for a day of snowboarding. We woke up somewhere around 6am, hopped into the car we had packed the night before, and set out to make it there for first run. It was in the middle of a second disappointing winter in a row for the west coast, but we were determined to make the most of it. Suddenly, halfway through the drive, without any lead up, Mike turned to me.
"So... what do you think about taking off and travelling for a year?"
My heart stopped. Not because the idea was so surprising, but because it was the exact same question I had spent the past few weeks trying to figure out how to ask him.
I think he took my initial silence as hesitation, but it was really a combination of elation and relief that he wanted to do this with me, and that we were both ready for it at the same time. I had been feeling downtrodden by work for quite some time, and was in desperate need of escape. My team was working on new things, some very technically exciting things, but I couldn't find it in me to get passionate about them. And while I absolutely loved my coworkers and the overly familiar, oddball, endearing culture we had created, I just wasn't excited about the stuff I was actually doing. I started questioning whether I really wanted to go into software engineering, or if it was something my parents encouraged me into -- a trail that I just kept following because I was capable at it, opportunities were there, and it paid (very well). If I could have pointed to something that I actually wanted to do, then there would have been a direction to steer; but I was aimless and uninspired. I was stuck in a rut. I needed change.
Fortunately, Mike is much better at balancing life and work than I am. He had also just switched teams a few months prior, and was finally admitting to liking living in Seattle, so I wasn't sure he would be ready to uproot so soon. I had already told a few close friends and family that I was wanting to do something crazy like this, but I hadn't yet figured out how to tell him - or what I would do if he wasn't interested in joining. So when he asked first I was SO EXCITED!
We agreed that we would quit in the fall or early winter. This would give us time to save for whatever we wanted -- which was to spend a year exploring. No strict itineraries, no real plans or commitments. We'd go with the flow, spend time where we felt like it, and see what happened.
We didn't even have a real list of places or a direction we wanted to go until sometime in August. We hadn't put a ton of time into planning, because it was supposed to be fun and spontaneous. Originally we were just going to backpack around -- but then we'd always be trying to figure out how to get from one place to the next, and at the mercy of public transportation schedules and routes. So, why not drive? Mike had discovered www.desktoglory.com and a whole slew of "Overlanders" (yes, there's a term for this kind of traveler, and community resources!) who have driven throughout the Americas, so it was definitely possible. And then suddenly it was exactly what we wanted to do.
So the first step was: Get a truck!
On Labour Day weekend, Mike flew down to San Diego where he purchased a 2000 Toyota Tacoma from someone he had found on an overlander forum. He bought a one-way ticket and spent the weekend driving back up while getting to know Trucko and making a few national park visits along the way. (I used the last opportunity for a Squamish climbing trip with friends.)
Suddenly the trip seemed more real, and it was coming up fast.
October and November were filled with finishing up work while getting Trucko in fighting shape after hours. Mike is writing his own entry which will detail all the hard work that went into this, since most of it was his genius anyways! Upgrades included: an industrial canopy cover with shelves; multiple layers of insulaiton; new tires; brand new fluids; a shelf for storing our belongings. For anyone living in Seattle, there's an awesome little Tool Library which lets you borrow pretty much anything you need for a modest annual membership (they recommend a $40 donation, but you're welcome to donate whatever you are able to). The volunteers running it are super friendly and helpful, and the variety of available equipment should cover you for whatever odd job you need -- all the way from lawn mowers and sewing machines, to table saws, drills, and protective gear!
December saw our last days at work, goodbye gatherings with friends, and then a nice three week chunk of family time back in Ontario. We had also found tenants for our condo -- we were able to rent it out furnished, and were fortunate to have a good friend offer to manage the property for us. We also ended up donating about 7 garbage bags worth of clothing, books, and assorted items to Good Will as we freed ourselves up for a mobile life.
The new year found us back in Seattle, "living" with our good friends Caitlin and Cameron (they have a guest bedroom which they so graciously let us occupy with an ever-changing departure date, and the added bonus of tools and supplies we could use, like a sewing machine!). We sold our cars, I sold my motorcycle (to a friend!), and we got to some unfinished work on Trucko. We packed our things up, saw that everything fit, and were ready to head north. There were two practice nights of truck living, then a chance to see more friends and family in Vancouver, as well as to reorganize a few things and make some Trucko touch ups.
And then, after a year of planning and preparing for our adventure, we finally hit the road at the end of January.
Of course, I somehow managed to start the trip having already lost my camera battery charger, as well as the cables necessary to transfer pictures off the camera... but as far as bumps in the road go, that's something we can handle!
Onwards and outwards!