We thrive on discovering trails and cycling routes on diverse terrain, through landscapes we've not been. Acquainting ourselves with local breweries, grocery markets, and bookstores brings us joy.
When Susan and I began our journey together, and the van living experiment in the Fall of 2017, we started by heading East. We spent several weeks exploring Stanley and Ketchum, Idaho. We loved the mountains and trails, but never considered living there. We were heading to warmer weather and a life on the road.
Since then, we've lived in a van, literally down by the river, on Highway 6, and in more Walmart parking lots than we care to recall. We lived in Bishop, CA then Prescott, AZ; back to Bend, OR and again to Prescott post Covid; Tucson for a year, and yet again back to Prescott for the past year. New locations allowed us to explore trails, gravel roads, mountain peaks, and breweries in The Sierra, southern Arizona, northern Arizona, and a bit of Utah and Colorado.
This past fall we went to Bend to visit with family. We decided to take an extended trip home to Arizona and retrace the start of our original journey. We spent 10 days running through the Sawtooth and Teton mountains. We got married and rekindled our true passion for running in mountains, above tree-line.
The past 4 months have been an exciting, though at times stressful, process of figuring out how we can move to the small town tucked in the mountains. That being Ketchum, ID. We let our lease expire, and opted to pay more month-to-month to give us the flexibility to jump on any opportunity that might arise. We found a couple apartment options, but they fell thru.
At last we committed to a year in a tiny studio that came available, and we're excited to resume our days of hotel-style living. It'll be about half the size of our current apartment, but much larger than the van. We're currently attempting to sell as much of our possessions as possible to reduce the cost and logistics of moving.
I joke that we're trying to get back to our Reacher'esque vanlife days of nothing but the clothes on our backs and hotel living. But, we have too much "essential" gear for exploring the open country and mountains, so we're getting rid of whatever we haven't used in the past year, and the few pieces of furniture we own.
Back in 2017 we were on a search to find and live in a town where the population number is lower than the elevation. Not easy to find, particularly an affordable town with job opportunities. Thankfully now, we've had the same remote jobs for almost 3 years each. We're grateful, as it’s what allows us to make these decisions to just pick up and go elsewhere.
Our many moves and divergent living arrangements has given us better insight as to what is important, for us. The van taught us how important it was to have easy access to trails and nature. It also reinforced the need for me to live in a space in which I could stand. Living in several studios showed us we don't really need very much space, as long as we can get outside. Tucson reinforced the importance of walkability and public transit. We went almost a year without a vehicle. Revisiting Bend reminded us that nothing compares to running above tree-line.
All our experiences have contributed to choosing what we consider an ideal location. We created our city rank system — a list of requirements we put into a spreadsheet and assign a number. Criteria like cost of living, proximity to better adventures, walkability, weather (sunny days), trail networks, athletic community, gravel rides, and steepness.
Our ranking system confirms there is no perfect place. But, by prioritizing what is most important and weighting those criteria appropriately, we get as close as possible.
To be honest, post Covid we just tried to find a cheaper place to live — cheaper than Bend. But slowly the cost of living increased everywhere, and we found ourselves a further drive to the types of adventures we love most. We accept now that perhaps we have to pay more to be in a place with abundant backyard adventure opportunities, versus the previous thinking that living cheaper would afford more adventuring and travel. So we're prioritizing less driving and more doing out the door at the expense of living tiny at a slightly higher cost.
Why move so often. Why not? While we have the jobs that allow it, the health and fitness to try new things, and the love for mountains and the outdoors, it seems we're destined to explore new places. At least that's how I frame it when selling the idea to Susan.
Someday we'll settle somewhere, maybe. For now, we're committing to two years in Idaho. More importantly, we're committing to new bikepacking trips, humble mountain summits, backyard fastpacks, trail runs with moose and bear, and, dare I say, snow sports.
Quote to ponder
So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry. – Jack Kerouac.