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the end - home

bill: we have been home for a while now but we are finally getting around to wrapping up the blog. i thought that people might be interested in some of the final totals of things (finances, distances, etc.) and our final thoughts on the year, so here you go. amy has had 5 months to write her part of this post but despite my incessant nagging hasn't gotten around to it so it will only be me in this time, but she did shoot 10 rolls of film photos over the course of the year that we have just got developed, which is the perfect way to sum up the year.


total number of kms driven:

  • 34,229 km

  • current mileage - 176,298 km

kms walked:

  • 1712 km

km hiked: 

  • 806 km

total distance travelled by foot:

  • 2518 km (about the distance from vancouver to thunder bay)

vertical metres hiked: 

  • 37,764 metres (that's basically climbing from sea level to the peak of everest 4 times)

total time hiking:

  • 286 hours

number of surf days:

  • 28 (pretty good honestly, if i could surf for a whole month out of every year that would be amazing)

number of climbing days:

  • 42 (way less than i would have expected before we left, back home i would probably hit about 150+ days a year, but that explains why we weren't able to climb as hard as we wanted to)

number of hiking days:

  • 89

number of scuba diving days:

  • 3 (a new record!)

number of individual flights (counting connections):

  • bill: 18

  • amy: 20

highs and lows:

parkhurst mountain summit

summits: 17

  • mary's rock (1071m, shenandoah)

  • mcafee knob (974m, virginia)

  • emory peak (2360m, big bend, texas)

  • ancient art (1661m, utah)

  • elephant butte (1439m, arches)

  • half dome (2694m, yosemite)

  • bishop peak (472m, san luis obispo california)

  • mount storm king (1382m, washington)

  • sun god mountain (2421m, bc)

  • parkhurst mountain (2494m, bc)

  • abbott ridge (2465m, glacier)

  • perley rock (2869m, glacier)

  • grizzly shoulder (2750m, glacier)

  • pocaterra ridge (2667m, kananaskis)

  • mount washburn (3115m, yellowstone)

  • sleeping giant (563m, thunder bay)

  • ngu lam (225m, cat ba island, vietnam)

elephant butte summit

half dome summit

highest elevation:

  • 3115m, washburn peak (yellowstone)

highest elevation in the van:

  • 2950m on a pass in white goat wilderness wyoming, turns out carburetors work just fine at almost 3000m

lowest elevation:

  • amy: -2m, new orleans french quarter

  • bill: -18m koh tao, tao tong reef (scuba diving)


number of states:

  • 23 states

  • 3 provinces

number of countries:

  • 8 for amy

  • 9 for bill

favourite place:

  • 100% baja california sur, mexico

  • baja is just sublime. waking up every morning on the beach, perfect weather, surfing everyday, cheap amazing food, the best sunsets and sunrises we have ever seen, outrageous natural beauty, black volcanic mountains and azure seas, white sand beaches, a built-in community of equally chill van-dwelling friends, whales breaching right off the beach every morning, dolphins and wild donkeys, the best twisty mountain motorcycle roads in north america, great locals, great culture, tecates and micheladas, and honestly safer than a lot of parts of the usa, it is hands down our favourite place in the world

least favourite place:

  • joshua tree

  • fuck joshua tree

  • it is pretty though


favourite city:

  • usa: austin - the coolest, cheapest, hippest, tastiest city in america

  • canada: vancouver - but only in the summertime

  • asia: tokyo

sf is pretty cool too

best climbing:

  • squamish - the grippiest granite with the most bomber crack climbing, hands down the best climbing in north america in my opinion

  • notable runner up - las vegas is the best climbing in the usa, it is excellent if you like giant days of trad multipitch face climbing up massive faces on cool ass sandstone, i just like crack climbing more so squamish is no. 1

  • yosemite is fine but everything is really polished and slippery, overrated in my opinion, maybe it was cooler 60 years ago when the rock was still grippy like squamish

best dive bars:

  • also las vegas

best beaches:

  • koh samet, thailand

coolest stuff:

  • utah

weirdest stuff:

  • yellowstone

number of american national parks: 

  • 20

top 3 national parks

no. 1: olympic

olympic is very dope. wild, dense, untamed rainforest colliding with dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches, directly adjacent to the rugged and serious snowcapped olympic mountains. something for everyone, as long as you like wild beauty and cardiovascular suffering.

no. 2: glacier

basically everything that makes the canadian rockies great, but with may more grizzly bears and more montana cowboy wilderness. really beautiful place.

no. 3: yosemite

if you can manage to book it, yosemite is a really fun time. endless granite faces to climb, innumerable waterfalls, beautiful hikes, excellent vibes at camp 4, a truly surreal environment.

trip highlights

motorcycling the ha giang loop

i have wanted to ride a motorcycle across vietnam for a very long time. this was a bucket list item well checked. ripping a dual sport down the wildest, windiest, most insane roads i've ever seen, seeing the absurdly beautiful landscape of northern vietnam, and hanging out in all the remote villages at homestays, this was probably one of the coolest things we did.

spending two weeks climbing in the yosemite valley with all of our friends

thanks to everyone that came out to yosemite for amy's birthday, having two weeks to climb and hike with all our friends in the best place to do it was amazing.


total cost:

  • amy: $34,171

  • bill: $37,814

  • honestly this seems like a lot of money, but just living our normal lives in ottawa costs around $3000 a month each, so it really isnt much different than sitting around ottawa and buying groceries and paying rent

total gas cost: 

  • $9565

total food cost:

  • restaurants: $9904

  • groceries: $9334

total parking costs:

  • $638

total campsite costs:

  • $2390

total flights cost:

  • $7143

total repair costs: 

  • $2233.25

  • oil changes: 8

  • oil top-ups: innumerable

if you wanted to do this, it would probably cost (assuming you are travelling with another person, and you already own a van):

  • per day in the van: $69/pp

  • per day in asia: $116/pp


van repairs i did on the road:

  • gas gauge stopped working - rewired gauge

  • old headlights were super dim - installed new led lights

  • blinkers stopped working - installed new flasher

  • hitch broke - installed new hitch

  • radiator leak- fixed leak, topped up rad

  • transmission fluid leak - refilled transmission, tightened the line clamp

  • transmission fluid leak again - jerry rigged a brace for the line, refilled transmission again

  • front brake wear - replaced front brakes

  • black water tank draining pipe tore - duct tape and hose clamp

  • rear tail light lens shattered - replaced it

  • back window shattered - replaced it

  • power steering pump failed - tightened the position on the frame

  • carburetor vapour lock - insulated the fuel line and fuel pump

  • driverside window motor mount broke - jerry rigged some new mount bolts

  • wiper motor stopped working - polished the corrosion off the ground

  • sink drain leak - installed new drain

  • black water backdraft in the van - installed a directional vent cover

  • replaced air filter

  • rotated tires

  • thermostat impudence problems - rewired the house battery connection

non-urgent repairs that i still have to fix:

  • the ceiling leaks - needs to be recaulked

  • undiagnosed engine sound when going up steep hills in the desert heat - may be mild spark plug knock?

  • the black water vent tube has deteriorated and leaks black water out the top of the tank, needs to be sealed

  • driverside upper ball joint squeaks, needs to be replaced

  • the front tires are cupping, i probably should just replace the whole front end - shocks, springs, upper and lower control arms

  • the choke started sticking on our way home, either cable needs to be lubed or the carb needs a clean

  • the a/c is still broken but it will probably stay that way

  • the kitchen tap lines are leaking, need to be resealed

bike repairs:

  • blown fork seals - replaced

  • kill switch stuck - removed the retainer pin

  • rear sprocket worn out - replaced

  • front tire cracked - replaced


best burrito:

  • fast burrito, port angeles, washington

best mexican food:

  • el maris quero food truck fish tacos, austin, texas

best fried chicken:

  • willie mae's scotch house, new orleans 

best sushi:

  • kyoto

best pizza:

  • 4p pizza, vietnam 

spiciest food:

  • hattie b’s cluckin’ hot chicken sandwich, nashville, tennessee

best burger:

  • shake shack, obviously

best curry:

  • khmer kitchen, siem reap, cambodia

best hot sauce:

  • tantalus bike shop hot sauce, squamish

best beer:

  • tecate, duh

  • or 33 acres of sunshine in bc when there is no tecate

dan and the tecate v modelo blind taste test

our go to van foods:

  • quesadillas or burritos, with the mexican herdez guacamole salsa

  • veggie dogs

  • eggs and toast with the melinda's hotsauce you can only find in america, or the tantalus bike shop hot sauce

  • kraft dinner

  • shin ramen with kewpie mayo, nori, and poached eggs

  • bagel sandwiches and goldfish crackers for hikes


the first time amy lost her water bottle in san javier

items lost:

  • amy’s water bottle fell out of her backpack somewhere along the PCH

  • my favourite hat blew off my head into a pile of sleeping elephant seals

  • 2 hubcaps

items broken:

  • my gopro broke when i took it 60 feet under the ocean when it is only rated to 15 feet

  • my good climbing shoes tore on our first day of climbing in kentucky so i bought the cheapest pair i could find which were terrible and made a lot of the climbing on the rest of the trip way harder than it had to be

broken/lost sunglasses:

  • amy: 3

  • bill: 2


  • elephants

  • grey whales

  • humpback whales

  • grizzly bears

  • black bears

  • wild donkeys

  • water monitor lizards

  • mountain goats

  • buffalo

  • bighorn sheep

  • dolphins

  • lots of street dogs

  • elk

  • monkeys

  • many types of deer

  • many types of lizards/geckos

  • pronghorns

  • prairie dogs

  • sea turtles

  • tortoises

  • many types of tropical fish

things we wouldn’t do again

bring a computer monitor and a playstation

  • i honestly thought there was going to be a lot of downtime so i brought video games to play in case i got bored but we were really going all day everyday and spending very little time actually sitting around and relaxing. if anything we would watch 20 minutes of tv on the laptop in bed. the monitor just ended up being a giant black wall to hide nacho chips behind, but mostly was just in the way.

bring a guitar

  • ditto. i maybe played a couple of hours of guitar all year despite dragging the thing all around north america. basically any downtime i had was spent writing this blog. or nagging amy to write her part.

bring a motorcycle (maybe)

  • there were many, many times where i was very happy to have the motorcycle; i will never forget riding it down the highway one in the baja or the pacific coast highway, long winding stretches of open highway with the ocean breeze and mountains all around. it also got us into a bunch of cool places the van would never be able to go, like the blue valley in utah above, down the offroad trails in big bend to the hotsprings, and up the mountains in mexico. it let us do a bunch of thru hikes we wouldnt have been able to do with one vehicle, like in olympic or capitol reef. it also got us out of trouble a few times; like when the transmission on the van emptied itself (twice) and i had to take off on the bike to go buy transmission fluid. it also served as a bit of an insurance policy; if the van broke down or got stuck in the middle of nowhere on a mexican highway or in the desert or mountains, i would be at least able to get us out of there, and maybe go get cell service or parts to fix the problem, thankfully this didn't happen, but it was nice to have in the back of my mind

  • despite this, the bike was a major pain in the ass almost every other second we were driving. the bike broke our back window in texas, which was a major problem only solved by the greatest luck, and the length of the hitch got us stuck in a wash in utah that took us 4 hours to get out of. the hitch finally snapped driving down a hill into a campsite in washington. almost every second that we were driving i had to constantly survey the road for bumps that might bounce the bike up and smash our back window again, or judge every single parking lot entrance and camping spot for even the slightest incline or decline that would cause the trailer hitch sticking far out behind the back bumper to scrape on the ground as the front of the van lifted and the back lowered and potentially break the hitch, or the window, or get us stuck. the van would have been a far more capable and pleasant to drive without the damned bike on the back, and that minor constant annoyance likely outweighs the intermittent joys and benefits of having the bike.

things we would do again

pretty much everything else


thanks to everyone who made this such a great year, old friends and new friends, it would not have been the same without you!

and thank you to everyone who followed along and read the blog!

total number of blog posts read: 4903

total number of individual people who read the blog: 1530 people from 46 different countries

total money made off being travel bloggers: $0 - looks like we will have to go back to work

lessons learned

for one: river surfing sucks

people treat travelling like it is some sort of mandatory educational requirement for an enlightened life, or a mandatory part of coming of age. people often say; "travel is the best education".  i disagree. i think all of the moralizing of travel is just a form of self-aggrandizing and justifying what is ultimately just a really nice, enjoyable, but very expensive way to spend your time. do i feel like i have grown or changed significantly as a person over the course of the last year? no. maybe i hate the idea of working for the rest of my life a little more than before, but other than that, not really. people that make these assertions like “oh you absolutely have to see the world” seem to ignore the immensely privileged nature of travel; you not only need lots of money, but also lots of time where it is okay that you aren't making money, and the kind of security and stability that allows you to come back and land on your feet. i learned a lot more about the world while being poor and reading books in my apartment than i did hanging out with drunk europeans in thailand. we were very lucky to be able to do what we did this year, but do i think that everyone needs to do it to be a fully realized person? absolutely not.  do i recommend it? yes, but mostly because the world is beautiful and seeing it is a tonne of fun.

i have done a lot of reflecting on time of the course of the year. novel moments always seem to last longer than familiar ones, a week of vacation seems to possess way more time in our experience than a couple of months of working, doing groceries, laundry, and other unmemorable tasks our brains seem to throw out the second they pass, not even allowing them to take up any sense of time.  this, i think is why time speeds up so much as we age; our schedules become so static that our brains don’t really need to remember them, and being that the present is so fleeting as to barely exist, memory is in essence our sense of time. this year felt like it took forever.  a year of work goes by pretty fast now that i am in my thirties, but even just the first half of this trip felt like a lifetime; a totally new and novel experience to drink in every single day.  and because of that, i think i can remember every single moment of the last year.  every different parking spot, every campsite, every hike and climb and surf break.  every walmart and mile of highway. every person and gift shop and meal.

in “in search of lost time”, proust finds that by eating a madeleine; a type of cookie, he is transported vividly back to his memories of eating the same cookie as a child, a memory so strong it allows him to re-experience the moment as if it was happening right then. just as he feels like life and time is slipping by him so quickly, he finds a way to reclaim and extend it. how to take this and turn it into any actual guidance about how to live our lives is debatable, but in my opinion by creating the greatest number of vividly memorable moments we can create, we fill our lives with madeleines, we slow down and reclaim our time.  time spent in drudgery is lost, time spent in novelty is forever regained. so go live in a van and do cool, beautiful, fun, memorable stuff all day and fight against the inexorable march of time to the grave.

while i don't agree with "travel being the best education", maybe i would say that "travelling in a 37 year old vehicle is the best mechanical education". this year i have learned more than i ever would have thought about vehicles.  turns out if you want to learn how engines and transmissions and suspensions work, just buy a very old vehicle that needs constant maintenance on all these things.  even better if it is an rv that also has plumbing, electricity, solar, and propane that all break all the time so you can learn how to fix those too. 

i have learned that i can be depressed anywhere. i had long conceived of my mental health as being directly correlated to the 9 months of absolutely bullshit weather we get here in canada, and imagined california as a panacea to my woes; i imagined that sunshine, perfect weather, no snow, no rain, just surfing and palm trees would make my life immeasurably better. in the depths of the canadian winter i have oftentimes find myself looking at jobs in san luis obispo, california, "the happiest city in america". so i stopped taking my meds when we got to california. and by the time we got to san luis obispo i was back to being thoroughly depressed. even having no stress, no worries, no snow, no job, and surfing and hiking everyday in the sunshine wasn't doing the trick. maybe it isn't that winter in canada that is the problem, maybe it isn't the stress or the dark or the cold or the work, maybe i just need to keep taking my meds. maybe canada isn’t so bad.

san luis obispo is pretty dope though

i learned that i am a baby.  sitting at my desk and thinking about climbing mountains seems totally fine, but once i am actually in that position dangling over 1000m of exposure with no protection and one loose rock or misplaced step away from a fall to certain death, the sentiment changes.  i used to be able to do it much better when i was younger, but far, far more intermittently, maybe working up the courage over the course of the year while daydreaming about mountaineering while typing at a computer, or with some psychologically protective layer of boredom over the rest of my experiences all year that one single day of death defying wasn’t as terrifying, just fun and exciting.  but when i started doing it every day all day, it started to pile up and get more obviously scary.  i figured it would be the opposite, that i would get even more desensitized, but the longer the trip went on, the more i was thankful for every moment i was sitting in a safe warm bed and not dangling over the abyss on some runout trad climb or class 4 scramble. maybe it will come back the longer i sit at my desk and daydream about climbing mountains again, but last time i checked i am still baby.



taking the year off work is likely one of the the best decision i have ever made. sure, probably not the best financial decision we have ever made, but in this year we have had an entire careers worth of vacations, 30 years worth of trips, at a fraction of the cost per trip, and we still have a career’s worth of vacations waiting for us when we get back to work.  it was in a way an early retirement, but for us waiting until we were retired to do this didn’t make any sense.  we couldn't go rock climbing, or mountaineering, or surfing, or hike 30+km a day if we were 65 years old. and those are a lot of the activities that i care the most about and that let you see the world the best. if we waited until we were retired we would miss so much of what the natural world has to offer.

home is where you make it. of course in one way i mean the van, which is basically the same as having your own apartment with you everywhere you go and getting to travel while sleeping in your own bed every night. but in a broader way i mean places. we just got back from a climbing trip to las vegas, and flying back into vegas again, it felt a lot like coming home. we went back to vegas 3 times over the course of the trip. we spent weeks there. i didn’t even want to go to vegas when we were planning the trip, but when we got there we fell in love with it. now when we go back i already know my way around, it feels cozy and familiar. the parking lot of the planet fitness on the west side of vegas will always be a little bit of a home to me, as weird as that is. same with squamish. or san pedrito. or kitsilano. these places now all hold a little part of my heart as a type of home that i never would have imagined. it is very different than a place i have vacationed to; i have been to the rockies a million times, but i have never really made them my home. there is something about doing the daily routine, the groceries, the laundry, the commuting, the sleeping and eating and living over longer periods that builds these places into our hearts in a way that just vacationing doesn't. and that is why the parking lot of the las vegas planet fitness is in a way my home. 

overall, living in a van is awesome. there are hard things about it, like having things break all the time, not having a shower or a working toilet, and having to find places to park overnight, but overall these are not that big a deal and pale dramatically in comparison to how amazing having the freedom to do whatever, go wherever, and see whatever you want all the friggin time is. this has easily been the best year of my life by a wide margin and i will be counting down the days until we can do it again.

amy is now freed from her duties, she never has to hear me nag her to finish her blog post ever again.

oh, and we finally named the van:


because it's beige and always full of sand.

thanks for following along everyone!

the end

1 Σχόλιο

David Caughey
David Caughey
23 Ιουν

I have loved loved reading this blog - I can't wait til you go on your next big trip and I can follow along with y'all again ;) Congrats on sticking with this til the end!!!

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