- Off the Beaten Path: Hidden Gems We Found on Our Van Life Journey
- Cliff Diving and History Lessons: Exploring Dorset Marble Quarry in Vermont
- Buffalo, New York: An Underrated Travel Destination with Rich History and Local Adventures
- Camping at Niagara Falls: A Guide to the Best Spots and Activities
- From Niagara Falls to All 50 States: How One Travel Experience Inspired an App
- The Value of Being Present: Reflections on a Social Media-Free Journey
- Lessons Learned: The Importance of Balancing Social Media and Living in the Moment
Our Van Life journey started with a simple dream: to explore North America as much as possible. After finishing the van's final construction only a month ago, we spent three unforgettable weeks in Maine, and we knew that transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle was already worth it. I mean Acadia National Park stunned us and made us crave for more. We initially set our sights on traveling northwest, but without a concrete plan or itinerary, we weren't sure whether to focus on visiting National Parks or on our goal of exploring every state in America.
Off the Beaten Path: Hidden Gems We Found on Our Van Life Journey
During our journey, we found ourselves in White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, where we decided to Google "things to do" in the area. However, with so many options, it was difficult to determine which places were absolute must-visits and which ones were just good to see. At times, the places we visited began to blend together, and even finding a dog park became a challenge. We eventually discovered one, but it turned out that dogs were not allowed in the park, and the experience left us feeling a bit lost in the area. At times, it seemed like we could have been anywhere along the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as we constantly had to check the map to understand our location.
Due to our poor planning and the lack of cell service in New Hampshire, we didn't stay there for long and quickly made our way to Manchester, Vermont. However, something about Vermont caught our attention. As soon as we arrived, it felt as though we had stepped into a charming small-town movie set, where neighbors knew each other, and conversations flowed freely on the streets. We spent our time exploring the town, walking around with our two dogs Sahara and Everest, and indulging in lots of coffee and pastries.
Cliff Diving and History Lessons: Exploring Dorset Marble Quarry in Vermont
During our stay, we met a friendly local lady who recommended that we visit the marble quarry in Dorset, Vermont. She mentioned that this marble quarry was particularly special because of its fascinating history. Vermont marble has been used in some of the world's most famous buildings, including the Jefferson Memorial and the United States Supreme Court. Not only do you get to see a part of history but you can cliff dive off the marble rocks into the crystal clear water.
It was a Friday afternoon and we had just finished work a bit earlier than usual. Without wasting any time, we quickly closed our laptops and eagerly set off for the Dorset Marble Quarry. When we first arrived, there was a man with an umbrella standing at the gate collecting the cash-only entry fee. We were a bit hesitant about paying the $15, just weren't sure what to expect and if it would be worth the cost. However, we were pleasantly surprised and can confidently say that it was worth every penny. We were amazed by the unique geological formations and colors of the marble but the experience of jumping off the high rocks into the refreshing water below was a thrill of a lifetime! And the fact that our furry friends could also join us and enjoy the grassy area nearby made the experience even better.
It's no surprise that Vermont has inspired many artists, including singer-songwriter Noah Kahan, who famously wrote the song "Stick Season." Have you heard of it? While the song warns of the dreariness of Vermont's stick season (the time period between fall and winter), this should not deter you from giving Vermont a fair try in your travels to the North of the United States. If you have a chance, we highly recommend making a stop at the Dorset Marble Quarry. Just perhaps maybe not during stick season, haha! Trust us, you won't regret it.
Buffalo, New York: An Underrated Travel Destination with Rich History and Local Adventures
Our next destination was Buffalo, New York, and we had a special place to stay - the great uncle Scott's (GUS) place. We met Scott during a trip to Belize, right at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. It was surprising to find someone as adventurous as us, who couldn’t be confined to one place during such a tough year. We hit it off right away, and since then, we've stayed in touch. We were excited to see him again and catch up on all our adventures. As soon as we arrived, Scott welcomed us with open arms, showed us around and we felt right at home. His place was cozy, and the walls were adorned with all sorts of travel souvenirs from all around the world, including a bunch of local trinkets. Since Scott is a professional barbecue judge, it was no surprise that we found close to one hundred different grills throughout the property (sorry GUS, had to call that out!). As we chatted for hours about our adventures and swapped stories, our dogs lounged on his couch, looking content and at ease.
During our stay, GUS taught us about the rich history of Buffalo, New York. We even had the opportunity to take a canoe named after Scott himself, the "Scott Canoe," down the Buffalo River. It was a unique perspective of the city. We had no idea Buffalo was booming at some point, with industries such as grain milling and steel production. We saw some iconic buildings that were once thriving factories, but now repurposed into art galleries, restaurants, and office spaces. We also learned about the city's connection to the Underground Railroad, which played a significant role in the abolitionist movement during the 19th century. It was eye-opening to see Buffalo in a new light and gain a deeper understanding of its past. Keep in mind that New York is so much more than just New York City!
Camping at Niagara Falls: A Guide to the Best Spots and Activities
A trip to New York State is not complete without a visit to the stunning Niagara Falls. The natural wonder is just a short drive from Buffalo and offers breathtaking views from both the American and Canadian sides. We walked at Niagara Falls Park for hours and while having visited the falls in the past, I never had the opportunity to fully take it in as much as I did this time. Watching the sunset, and feeling the mist from the waterfalls, it's hard to believe that such a magnificent natural wonder exists in our world and we get to be there as long as we want.
By the way, if you're planning a trip to Niagara Falls, consider making it a camping adventure by reserving a camp spot at the park. It's an amazing way to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the falls and get to really take it all in. And if you're up for some exploring, bring a bicycle and ride along the scenic paths surrounding the falls, or at least hit the trails by foot.
From Niagara Falls to All 50 States: How One Travel Experience Inspired an App
It was already afternoon at Niagara Falls, and Z and I had just woken up from a nap. It’s unusual for us to take naps, and it felt a bit odd. Perhaps it was the weight of planning our next course of action that had us so drained. We had so many destinations in mind, but organizing them seemed impossible. Despite our best efforts, no app or website could provide everything we needed for tracking our route, saving new destinations and routes, and sharing our experiences with others easily. And that's when it hit us - we should create our own app. An idea was born! We spent four hours straight recording our thoughts for this app, even coming up with a name and basic design. We knew we had something special and that pursuing it was inevitable. It's funny how travel can inspire unexpected ideas! The app is now almost at the MVP (minimum viable product) stage, and if you want to be one of the very first test users and enjoy its benefits, feel free to reach out to us.
After our inspiring time at Niagara Falls, Z and I were filled with a sense of curiosity. We were thinking, “If New York ended up being so special, what about all the other states?” Originally, we planned to head straight to Montana, but we decided to change our course and explore the middle states instead, starting with a tour around Michigan. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that we wanted to see all that the United States had to offer. Our new goal was to visit every single state in the country, and we were excited to explore places we had never been to before, like Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. We were well on our way to becoming members of “all 50 states club”, haha. Honestly, I didn't even know such a thing existed until after our van travels.
The Value of Being Present: Reflections on a Social Media-Free Journey
This journey was shaping up to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, full of new goals and experiences. At that time, we didn't have any social media accounts. I know, kinda crazy for 20 something year olds. We had always preferred to maintain close friendships with people through phone calls rather than social media. However, during our travels, we often met people who wanted to follow our journey. They asked us if we had instagram or YouTube and what our account name was. We didn't have one and were hesitant to take that step. We weren't sure if we were ready to share everything about ourselves with the world. While we were keeping a video journal for our close family and friends, the thought of opening ourselves up to strangers on the internet was overwhelming. Do we really want to hear the opinions and thoughts of people we haven't spoken to in years or those who don’t know us? We didn't want to add unnecessary stress to our journey and our goal was simply to explore and savor every moment of this adventure.
As I sit here now, reflecting on our adventures, I realize that not having a social media presence was one of the best decisions we made at that time. We were able to fully immerse ourselves in the journey, keep a diary of our travels without feeling the pressure to document every detail and share that with the world. We were able to connect with people on a personal level, through phone calls and face-to-face interactions, without the filter of social media.
Lessons Learned: The Importance of Balancing Social Media and Living in the Moment
In retrospect, I am so glad that we made some videos along the way. Ah, those memories are special. After finally opening a social media account (instagram and YouTube), it brings me so much joy to be able to share those very moments with a wider audience, even people we’ve never met. I learned that social media also has its benefits. It connected us with a diverse group of amazing people whom we might never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Every person’s story is so unique and really widens our horizon. At the same time, this journey has taught me the value of living in the moment, of being present and fully engaged in the experiences that life has to offer. The pressure of social media should not take away from the present moment. There is this fine balance to it all.
In the end, this VanLife journey was not just about the places we were able to check off our list, but about the journey. It’s about the people we met along the way and lessons we learned. It’s about the simple things in life like being together with our dogs and making new friends. It’s also about the hardships in travel which made us more resilient. And now, as I look back on it all, I am grateful for every moment, whether shared or kept to ourselves, because it all contributed to the richness of our life adventure.