Transformative Travel: Adventures in a minivan
I tiptoe barefoot towards the pebbled shoreline as the rain mists my face and exposed shoulders.
I feel the water inviting me closer — reaching and retracting. My toes slip in, a sheer, white cold racing up my legs. I feel my breath catch in my throat and I know I am forever changed.
My husband and I are no stranger to raised eyebrows. We tend to do few things conventionally, but when we revealed our plan to spend our honeymoon cooped together in our minivan, make-shifted into living quarters for an entire two-months, we certainly became the subject of curiosity.
Why? How? What?
We’ve always been avid travelers. In fact, I knew I was going to marry him when on our first date he asked me if I was up for a road trip.
We have insatiable interest in the world and about life—how other people eat, live, love. We want to drink it all in every chance we get. So, this idea felt so natural and so necessary.
We mapped out our route with two agendas in mind: see as many of all 50 U.S. states as possible, including as many national parks, and put our feet in all five of the Great Lakes.
We outfitted our van with a bed, a camp stove, nooks for storage and the essentials for 60-plus days on the road. We had no plans, other than the goals listed above, and no expectations.
I have yoga to thank for this: my “beginner’s mind.” Understanding that everything is always in constant transformation, myself included, allows for more flexibility and continued curiosity. Perhaps it’s always been yoga that fostered my love of travel. It’s true that it taught me the value of being in the present moment, and you certainly need that when you’re not sure how far you’ll drive or where you’ll sleep for the night.
“Somewhere between the sleeping in rest stop parking lots, cooking potatoes over an open fire and washing dishes before packing it all back in, we fell deeper in love.”
That experience at the Lake Erie shoreline was the beginning of our 2,400 mile adventure, and an unfolding of personal growth and intense expansion. What followed was my evolution from one Great Lake to the next and eventually on to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Great Salt Lake and the Gulf of Mexico.
Standing at the edge of all nine of the largest bodies of water in the United States, I felt such clarity but curiosity, such unknown, but an incredible calm. Such wonder.
It’s like when you look up into the galaxies that live outside of ours and you feel so small, only I didn’t feel small. Actually, I felt so expansive. I started to picture myself melting into the frigid water beneath me, spanning the miles and miles ahead where the water disappeared into fog. I felt my connectedness to it all.
And I guess, after all, this is the exact reason I travel. To know and understand that there are so many lives outside of the one I live in every day. So many beautiful opportunities for connection to our surroundings, our community and our Earth.
So there I was, at each encounter, feeling connected and fully awake like never before. Squeezing my eyes shut tight, even now, I can feel that air, brisk in Pennsylvania, salty and humid in Utah, still in Michigan. My feet wet, solid beneath me, but slinking into the ground becoming roots in the soft sand. I vividly remember thinking to myself, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
Our 73 days on the road took us from Iowa to Honolulu, Hawaii and 42 other states on the way. Somewhere between the sleeping in rest stop parking lots, cooking potatoes over an open fire and washing dishes before packing it all back in, we fell deeper in love—with each other and ourselves and our planet. We were tested physically, mentally and spiritually as we aimed to tread lightly, spend frugally and absorb deeply.
I carry these memories with me in the most intense of ways. Years later, my yoga practice is more stillness than sweat and I find excuses to spend a lot more time outside—if not with my feet in the water, with my feet at least in the soil—remembering and honoring all that I offer to myself simply by being, and all that the Earth offers simply by doing the same.
Adapting back in the “real” world allowed for more shifting as our responsibilities changed, but our growth has continued. The pace of life on the road is much slower, but we’ve worked to maintain quiet and calm, especially after the birth of our son. We’re still avid travelers and will forever be, though we may need a bigger van as our family continues to expand.
Since our honeymoon road trip, we’ve managed to visit five more U.S. states, bringing our total to 48 states visited (Alaska and Montana, we’re coming for you next). We hope to carry on this connection to the Earth and curiosity about the world to our children as they grow and explore alongside us.
Reanna Spain is a Des Moines native, writer, marketer, mother and certified yoga teacher. Learn more at www.reannaspain.com.