Our life on the road began in earnest as we crossed the Peace Bridge from Buffalo to Fort Erie, Ontario, leaving behind the hospitality of friends and surprising charm of western New York.
One week in, living out of a van has proven to be an exercise in contradiction: exceptionally cramped, yet overwhelmingly unrestrained. Cramped, in that no nook or cranny of Madge the Van is unpacked with some supposed life essential: the tiny closet stuffed with medicine cabinet upon yoga mat upon toilet paper upon camping hammock; the bench cabinet overflowing with laptop computers upon window screens upon solar shower upon extension cords.
Packing and unpacking each morning and evening requires foresight, planning the needs of the next twelve hours. The van is a transformer—constantly evolving from road warrior to cozy camper through a series of exhausted grunts, lurches, and squeaks. Every once-simple staple of life at home—like turning on the faucet or sitting down on the sofa—causes a Rube Goldberg effect: possessions tumbling and shifting throughout the van.
It all requires deliberation and patience, and brings into acute focus the physical burden of each thing. Are the benefits of this tea kettle worth the hassle? But it’s merely an adjustment—a small price to pay for the unrestrained possibilities of a year untethered to a physical place.
This week, we began to learn these lessons along the north shore of Lake Erie, tracing the very southern reaches of Canada. Brilliant sunshine invited a festive atmosphere along the lakeshore as celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday (red and white confetti and a L’Unifolié on every front porch) lingered a week after the holiday. Away from the coast, the stretch of Ontario from New York to Michigan is flat and rural, slow and humble. Local governments proudly draw attention to the thousands of wind turbines that sprout from the farmland like giant robotic flowers with community slogans like “Progressive by Nature.”
We moved westward towards Detroit, testing a pace that turned out to be too fast for our liking. Too fixated on a destination. We experimented with the amenities of a sandy coastal campground and the spartan practicality of an interstate truck stop—the rows of idle semis with resting drivers at the latter proving unpredictably comforting.
When traveling, it’s usually the comforts of home that you miss: bare feet on familiar carpet or the controlled chaos of your refrigerator. But by the day, the creature comforts of our mobile bungalow are becoming more familiar, and the cramped quarters more welcoming. We’re settling in for the long haul—jam-packed nooks and all.