What do blog readers of a travel blog want to read about first? As I sit here, the morning Midwest sun shining through the window, I wonder how to begin. I guess one begins at the beginning, which is right here.
We have not yet begun our coming journey. At the moment, Sven, Big Emma, and I are spending our days at my parent’s home in Illinois. We recently packed our bags from the place we called home back in Germany in order to be reunited with our Bus. Here, we are spending our days getting ready, busying ourselves with the plethora of things that need to be done before we can actually hit the road. We need to be ready – we need to clear things up with insurance companies, get our website up and running, make sure our finances are in order. And, almost more importantly, our Bus needs to be ready. Fixing things, getting the camping gear together, sorting out the belongings we think will be necessary and then cutting that pile in half. We are pimping up the car – the roof rack has been designed, replacement parts have been ordered, cabinets have been repaired. And, most importantly, we have been spending precious time with my parents before we are on the move.
So, what happens next? Where do we go after the beginning? Well, that’s exactly the question to be posed.
“Next” is mid-June, our scheduled departure date. The days where we will say our next rounds of goodbyes, wave, shut the sliding door with an enthusiastic “shhhhhhhnnnnnnnt!” and turn our “actually leaving in Big Emma”-playlist on. We will smile, and hit the open road. Let the unscheduledness begin! The first stops on the way to Canada will be various friends and familiar faces on the border to the Rockies – Wyoming, Montana – and up towards Calgary. And then the wide stretches of Northwestern Canada. And then Alaska.
Alaska. One of the few of the 50 States I have never been to. Big, wide, Alaska. Although snow will not be falling in many areas in the summer, I still picture the state as largely white. Glaciers. Northern Lights. The biggest mountain on the continent. Emptiness. And all of the details that I can’t fill in now, because I have never been there. We plan, if Big Emma is willing, to make it all the way up to lonely Prudhoe Bay, on Alaska’s northern coast. The beginning of the Panamerican Highway. If we can possibly make it, we will drive the Panamerica from start to finish. Which means first getting all the way to the top of the world.
But only one thing is stopping us from full-blown, head-on, calendar-burning, unambiguous temporal bliss – an Alaskan winter that we want to do our best to avoid. We are prepared for Alaska, even the Arctic Circle, but we prefer not to live in a VW Bus during a full-blown Alaskan winter. This means we must get back out of Alaska, and even large parts of Canada again, before winter hits. By the time late fall rolls around, we plan to be back in the continental United States.
Winter on the West Coast. I’ve never been to Seattle, or Vancouver, or Portland. Neither has Sven. I want to enjoy the fog, and the rain. I want to camp under ginormous trees. And when it starts to get too cold to be comfortable in the Bus at night, we will leisurely move south. Towards warmer climates, and Christmas. The first time I get to enjoy California without being on the clock, having something that is constantly pushing me forward. It will probably be the last time I am in my home country for quite a while.
And so comes the unambiguous temporal bliss. After that, we will just be headed South. On our own schedule, going where it makes sense, where we want to go, on our own timeline. Spontaneity will rule our world. We will take pictures, write, and wake up where we want to. Mexico, Guatemala, Belize. Confined only by the visas we are offered, we will explore to our heart’s content. Meet people. Be warm. Starting here, there is no schedule except the one we want to keep.
And, of course, the one Big Emma will sometimes insist on imposing upon us. Which she will. All of this, every day, is dependent upon Big Emma and how well we can get her started every morning. Maybe she will insist on seeing the Alaskan winter. Maybe she wants to see summer in California. Maybe she just wants to get the colder stretches over with so she can bathe in tropical sunlight. Fixing the Bus will become a theme of daily life, whether we are in Anchorage or Panama City or Lima. This will determine how far, how fast, how long. What we have is not a plan. It is not certain, not determined, not going to look like I’ve described it here in practice.
But we will, eventually, make it down to Lima (and beyond), assuming Big Emma sticks it out long enough to get us there. We want to cross the Darien Gap. We want to visit friends all over South America – Natal, Santiago, Buenos Aires. For us, the Panamerican Highway is relatively circular. Maybe we will circumnavigate the Amazon. Eventually, we will reach the end of the road in Ushuaia, Argentina. But those destinations are still very, very far away.
As I sit in my Midwestern hometown, I imagine all of the adventures waiting for us between here, there, and everywhere.