Seventeen Months

Just over one month ago we returned home after more than 17 months of van living on our climbing road trip around North America.

When we first got back from the road trip we caught ourselves saying things like “oh, we could get ice cream because we have a freezer!” or, “isn’t it great to shower?” or, “standing upright is lovely” in the presence of normal folk. People would shoot us odd looks and we would stumble over our words trying to explain ourselves. It was an abrupt transition for us when our trip came to an end, one that we are slowly adjusting to for now.

It is hard to explain and justify the passion for rock climbing, the desire to live out of your vehicle, or the will to be away from stability for so long to those not already embracing this lifestyle. There are several comments and questions we heard over and over again before, during, and after our trip. Here are a few of the common ones:

1. “Don’t you get bored of climbing?  … NEVER!

This trip was incredible for our climbing. We climbed so many different styles, on so many different rock types, in so many different destinations. Each place we visited had its own flavour, uniqueness, community and culture. We overcame mental barriers, we dealt with injuries, and we came out stronger and braver on the other end.

Graham beefed up his climbing resume adding multiple V10 sends and a couple V11s, and pushing his redpoint limit to 5.13d. He began onsighting 5.13a and flashing V8/9. In less than 9 months, Kim went from having sent half a dozen 5.12as to redpointing 5.13c. She added over 100 routes 5.12 or above, and bumped her bouldering limit from V5 to V9.

Niagara Glen, Ontario. September 2015
“Beefcake” (V10) in Bishop, California. December 2014
“High Plains Drifter” (V7) in Bishop, California. February 2016
“Pucker” (5.13c) in St George, Utah. March 2016
“Monster Skank” (5.13b) in Red Rocks, Nevada. March 2015
“Easy Rider” (5.13a) in Red River Gorge, Kentucky. November 2015. Photo credit: Marcin Szymelfenig
Acephale crag in the Bow Valley, Alberta. July 2015
“Caustic” (5.11b) in Red Rocks, Nevada. February 2015. Photo credit: Tyler Audette

2. “You’ll find out how well you really get along after living in that van … turns out we still get along great!

We love the simplicity of our van home. Living in such a small space teaches patience, tolerance, and acceptance. We became even more grateful of each other and our relationship, and our appreciation for non-material living deepened. Oh, and three days after we returned home from the road, we got engaged!

We’re getting hitched!

3. “How can you afford this trip? … hard work, determination, sacrifice, and a lot of saving.

We planned the trip over the course of four years, budgeting to spend $20,000. When you think about it, between two people this only involves setting aside $2500 a year, or a little over $200 each month. The CAN-USA exchange rate hurt us quite a bit, and in reality, after adding every single penny we spent, we ended up dropping $26,331.22. We kept VERY good track of our budget, helping us to keep pretty close to it. We sacrificed a lot of luxuries, but we could have sacrificed even more. For those interested in where-the-money-goes when you’re on a long road trip, we’ll be posting a breakdown of our budget soon!

Prepping lunch every day in our modest kitchen
Who needs warm coffee shops when you can have this?!

4. “When are you going to settle down? … maybe never?

We measure our worth by relationships and experiences. By sharing things with others. By living below our means and with an open mind. Not by a job title or profession. Not by “fitting the norm”. We will likely settle down eventually, but in our own unique way. In a way that honours adventure, free spirit, travel, friendships, and family.

Also, it’s tough to think about settling, when for the past year and a half our home has looked like this:

Storm rolling in to the Buttermilks in Bishop, California
The Beaver Wall at Mt Lemmon in Tuscon, Arizona
The clouds put on a show in Joe’s Valley, outside of Orangeville, Utah
Our humble abode ❤

5. “When are you going to find a job … Well, we’re back in jobs now!

Graham has returned to the service centre at MEC, and Kim is off in Alberta for the summer working for the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. We’ll be reuniting in Vancouver in September, typing the knot in October, and then seeing where the future takes us from there.

Kim on a field day with ABMI. Photo credit: Jazmine Lowther

Our roadtrip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we are hoping will be much more than once-in-a-lifetime. We have made friends from all over the continent and the world. We have learned so much more about our sport, each other, and our values in this life. The trip was the best decision we ever made.

Our “commune” from Spring 2015
Some of the rad girls from the Flash Foxy festival in February 2016
Climbing family! Photo credit: Dan Beland
Another day out, here in Rocktown, Georgia. December 2015. Photo credit: Marc Bourguignon


3 thoughts on “Seventeen Months

  1. Hey digitalsy. We did not train at all before our trip – it was simply from climbing outside for that whole time!

    We are about to go on an 8 month trip for which we have done a few months of focused training for. This is the first time we have done any focused and specific training so it will be really interesting to see if it pays off. Stay tuned!


  2. Pingback: Las Vegas Girls Trip | Kim and Graham

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s