Lake Catherine State Park, Hot Springs, AR

Benjamin’s and my first real trip in the van was a trip down to Dallas to visit my family. On the way back up we stayed at Lake Catherine State Park. The tent campsites were only $12 a night. Can’t beat that! I wish we could have stayed longer.

Boogie did good on the drive down to Texas…no problems at all. She was unbelievably comfortable. I can’t believe I haven’t had cruise control before. I had a car made in 2008; it took getting a 1992 van to have cruise control. As much as I drove in my old car, I was missing out by not having cruise control.

Lake Catherine (and lake Hamilton nearby) were created by Arkansas Power & Light. Lake Catherine was built in the 1920’s along with the building of the Remmel Dam on the Ouachita River.  Harvey Couch was the founder of Arkansas Power & Light and named the lake Lake Catherine after his only daughter who was 6 years old at the time it was built.

Lake Catherine State Park was absolutely beautiful. There were some RV’s but it was pretty empty. No one else was at the tent campsite so we had it all to ourselves. The restrooms were sparkling clean and the showers were nice and hot.

We had a view of the lake from our campsite. We woke up and had coffee. While sipping coffee we watched a little woodpecker pecking around a tree. A gang of three rowdy crows made their rounds circling our coffee spot.

After coffee we set out on a hike to the waterfall. There are three hikes; a 2 mile hike, a 4 mile hike and a 3.5 mile hike. We did the 2 mile hike. All trails pass the waterfall. The hike was beautiful! There were lots of trees and bright green moss growing on rocks and trees. Most of our trail followed a stream and crisscrossed it as you went along.

We saw this interesting tree along our hike.

The waterfall was stunning! There were lots of really small waterfalls along the way so I kept thinking we had seen what was the main waterfall. But nope! We finally made it and it was stunning.

After a morning at Lake Catherine, it was time to head back up to Kansas City. We had to get home because we head to Senegal next week. We took the Scenic 7 Byway through the Oauchita National Forest.

While driving through it I looked up what wildlife live in the forest. There are black bears, white tail deer and several smaller critters. Black bears were reduced to an estimated 50 bears in the whole of Arkansas in the 1930’s due to over-hunting and habitat destruction.  They were thought to be completely absent from the Oauchita Mountains and were found mostly in White River National Wildlife Refuge (southeastern Arkansas).

In the 1950’s the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission restocked 250 bears back into the Ozark Mountains and Oauchita National Forest. Now there are estimated to be 3000 American black bears in Arkansas. (source)

What would a national forest be without bears? It would be bear-y sad.

We stopped at Terra Studios in Fayetteville, Arkansas. From their website, “Terra Studios is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization devoting all resources, profits, energies and donations to a dream of a brighter future through using art to create a better world. Our purpose is to promote art and inspire creativity.”

-Amanda

We Found Our Van

The very day we decided on finding a van, we found one on Craigslist. They couldn’t meet us until two days later. Two days later, we bought her!

We’ve named her Boogie. She is awesome.

Boogie is a 1992 Chevrolet G20 Conversion Van. She is in great shape! The couple that owned her before us took excellent care of her.

They wanted to sell her to buy an RV to better travel with the grand kids.

We took out the electric bed and seats from the back and built a platform bed with storage. We didn’t really have to do too much else! She is ready to roll. The couple we bought her from had put in carpet and had done other things to make her more comfortable.

They bought her in 2013 and have put in a couple of thousands of dollars in repairs and upgrades. She has a new transmission, coils, breaks, battery, AC work, electrical work…etc. We have a file folder full of receipts from her recent makeover.

So we felt really good about purchasing her. It felt right and we could tell they put a lot of care into her.

She passed inspection, we got her registered and now she is ready to roll!

Here she is!

xo, Amanda

Our Fears About Van Life

I wanted us to write down our fears about doing this. I thought it would be fun to look back and see how things worked out.

Amanda’s Fears

BUYING AN OLD VAN

Neither of us knows how to work on a van. So I guess my biggest fear is breaking down in the middle of nowhere and not being able to get help. Benjamin did make a great point…at least we can sleep in our van while waiting for help. 🙂

EATING HEALTHY

We travel a lot and aren’t good at eating healthy while we do. It is easy to make convenient (non-healthy) food choices over healthy food choices while traveling. This is something that we’re really taking the time to plan. We have lots of cooking stuff and are reading blogs and recipes from people that do this.

We live a super-healthy lifestyle and want to maintain that while on the road.

GETTING WORK DONE

I’m a bit nervous about being able to focus on work. My hope is that since work time will be limited, I’ll have to hyper-focus when we do have internet and time to work.

Benjamin’s Fears

MY JOB

As far as my professional life goes, I am extremely dedicated to the well-being of my clients. I’m a business and life coach, and I have at least 1-hour phone calls every week with all of them. But it doesn’t end there. For each of my clients, I have a never-ending to-do list of spreadsheets, research and development, questions to raise, questions to answer, assessments and reviews of our discussions, and on and on….

So one of my biggest fears about van life is the fear of not being there for my clients when they need me. I’ve come to realize that I want my clients to succeed just as much (sometimes I feel even more!) as they do. I have to really plan my week’s schedule very carefully and be upfront with my clients as to where and when my help will come. Nothing will change…I will still devote my time and energy at a very high level to them, but the fear is the difficulty in workflow with van life.

MY PARENTS

Aside from my beautiful, wonderful and fun-loving wife, my parents are my best friends. Currently we live in a downtown apartment, and they are a short suburb drive away. We stay over at their house often, and I work around their house when they need me to. I fear that some of the heavy lifting that they have been accustomed to from me will fall back on them, and they are in no physical shape to do so. This really scares me.Plus, I’m going to miss them.

HEIGHTENED DIFFICULTIES OF SIMPLE THINGS

Washing dishes, cooking, making coffee in the morning, getting up to go pee, keeping the van tidy, folding up our clothes and blankets, making sure everything is dry before it is stored.Up until the last five years, I’ve been a pretty avid backpacker and camper. I understand that the simple things take more time than they otherwise would. Because of my career path, I’ve been out of the loop a bit when it comes to this; Amanda as well. I just hope that we can develop a routine out of the wander we are seeking.VAN BREAKDOWN

We have a 1992 conversion van with 140,000 miles, and I’m not all that savvy when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Thank God for YouTube…

DECISION-MAKING

I’ve seen and read some statistics about the main marital issues stemming from money (or lack thereof), lack of communication and lack of a shared commitment towards the same ideas and goals. But at the core, aren’t all of these about making decisions together? I hope that Amanda and I can communicate clearly and make decisions together that view both sides. Sometimes neither one of us speaks up about the thing we want because we want to please one another. This is healthy to a point, but my fear would be a slow invisible wall of sorts that begins to rise when we get out of decision-making balance.

 So there you have it! It will be fun to look back after a few months on the road to see how we tackled these fears and if they actually ended up being non-issues. 🙂
 xo, Amanda

Over Coffee

Benjamin and I decided to buy a van and travel the U.S.

Telling it like that, it sounds sort of rash and impulsive, but actually, it has been growing inside of us since the day we met.

We both love travel and have traveled together in Haiti, Uganda, Senegal, Fiji, India, China and in the U.S.

Our most recent plan has been to buy land in Colorado and move into a tiny house. We still want to do this, but have put it off a bit to try out the nomad life and to see the country. We also want to pay cash for everything (land + tiny house), so living this lifestyle will give us more time to save our pennies towards this dream.

When we first got together, we had this crazy idea to travel the U.S. in my parents’ RV. We bought a wall map, mapped out the route and put pins at every place that we wanted to visit. We made a budget. I’m not quite sure why we didn’t do this then. We both started new businesses, which certainly took all of our focus and efforts.

Over the last couple of years, since being together, we have created a lifestyle that is completely location independent.  Both of our businesses are online and we can work from anywhere. All we need are our computers and an occasional internet connection.

Our plans have come full-circle. Instead of an RV, we’ll live in a van.

xo, Amanda