Kelly and Brendan decided a few months ago that they would leave their lives in NY behind, move into a 1984 VW Westfalia camper van, and take life on the road. There are times when you just need to leave all that is familiar. In early June, they departed for a 48 state, 6 month tour of the United States to tell stories, create inspiring visuals, and amplify the voice of American makers and doers. These two are inspiring, and we were thrilled to sit down and hear more of their story.
Where did the bane Vancrafted come from?
From the moment we decided to set out on this journey, we started brainstorming. I was jotting down words and phrases in my Moleskine - as writers and creators, it was important to us to share our motives, our methods, and our mission. The words van and crafted were floating next to each other on the page as Brendan looked over my shoulder. Vancrafted! He said, that's perfect. It was there on the page but just needed to be said out loud. We would be making things out of our van: pictures, videos, memories, stories, and we wanted to also connect with others who take pride in making. "Vancrafted" seemed to encompass that.
Why did you guys decide to hit the road?
It was a 20 degree day last February and we had taken a trip to Rhode Island to visit my family. We took a frigid walk on the beach and those icy winds must have blown a bit of clarity into our minds. It was that day that we knew we had to get out of NYC and spend more time outside, more time creating, and more time with each other. A week later, Brendan showed up at my doorstep when he was supposed to be working and said, "Let's do it. Let's move into a van."
Where is your journey taking you?
Our journey is taking us both close to home and far away. Before we officially departed on the trip, we moved into Brendan's parents house for 6 weeks while we renovated the van (this was our first time living together, the second time was into the van). We officially departed from Brooklyn on June 13th and headed up the coast to Maine's Acadia National Park and then began our trek west through the northern part of the country. We sweated in South Dakota's Badlands and shivered in Yellowstone's elevated forests. We oohed and aahed over the Grand Tetons and nearly got "sucked into" Jackson Hole. Our van has not started in Acadia National Park, Niagara Falls, middle-of-nowhere Ohio, middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, and Yellowstone (to name a few). Thankfully, our journey has not yet taken us to a mechanic shop. Brendan has fixed each and every problem and she is running better than ever. From Wyoming, we dipped into Salt Lake City, made our way north through Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, and west through Oregon. We moseyed up to Seattle and have been driving south down Highway 1 through California. Once we get to LA, we plan to travel east through Colorado and be home to our families in the northeast by Thanksgiving (or else our mothers will not be very pleased!).
What is the most impactful part of the journey so far?
I don't think there has been just a single part, but really the more consistent and challenging moments collectively have created a new way of thinking...which brings us to the next question.
Has your time inspired any new thoughts on life?
Absolutely. Living in a small space, constantly moving, and trying to always create is something that pushes us every day. I [Brendan] have become more patient -- breaking down in our 30 year old van is not some huge failure, but rather just a thing that happens. I am trying to take a new stance on working -- a catalyst for this trip was discovering myself to be less intrinsically motivated to create what I wanted to see. I had been working for years for others and it really bummed me out. Now, I'm trying to approach each day as an opportunity to look at something differently, listen to a great story, build upon it in my head, and create something new. That something new can be a journal entry, a photograph I take, a photograph I edit, a video concept I come up with, or even just a small doodle -- anything to keep the creative juices moving forward and for myself.
Before we left, we had this hypothesis that we could work anywhere. With technology making connection easier, we don't feel as tethered to a city or a desk. We can edit photos and video from a tree-shaded riverbank and write under the light of the campfire. We both sought success in NYC and this trip has re-defined our definition of that very thing.
Is there any advice you can give people who don't have the opportunity to pack up and experience the road? How can they experience new adventures on a smaller scale?
Absolutely. In fact, the way we have been thinking about our trip as time has passed is more focused on these smaller experiences (always looking at it as one huge behemoth experience can get a little overwhelming at times). One thing the trip has forced us to do is look at every obstacle or bit of down-time or distance we must cover as an opportunity to do something new. Because of that, we ALWAYS take the 2 lane highways and never the Interstate -- this can show you something you wouldn't normally see and gives you more options for food, snack, and entertainment than a normal rest-stop would. Also, you don't need to go on a multi-month, multi-week, or even multi-day trip to have an awesome adventure. A really cool trend that we fully support is going on micro-adventures -- day or even half-day trips can be amazing escapes and can test you more than you think. Is there a lake nearby? Go fishing. Is there a river nearby? Try tubing. The hardest part is feeling like you don't know what to do or where to go. Get over that feeling and get outside! We promise, it's always worth it.
What books are you reading right now?
Kelly is reading Shantaram and Brendan is reading Slaughterhouse 5
[previous books on the road have included Franny & Zoey, The Old Man & the Sea, & Mother Night]
What albums are you listening to on the road?
We've been listening to a lot of "No Separation" by Spirit Family Reunion, a really awesome playlist Kelly made a while ago featuring people like Miner, The Mynabirds, Vance Joy, Michael Kiwanuka, and for our longer drives we always have Ira Glass and the rest of the team at This American Life.
How can people reach out or follow you?
We post daily on our Instagram account @vancrafted and post more in-depth thoughts and photo sets on our blog vancrafted.us. We love to connect with people along the way and have been astounded at how many wonderful friend we have made through this trip.