• Alex Griggs

Connecting with Nature

Updated: May 24

When living in a tin can on wheels, there's only a thin wall separating you from the outside world, and transitioning from a world of modern technology to a frontier-esque existence presents an interesting, if not sometimes difficult, dissonance.

sunset silhouetted cowboy with lasso on horse
Literally in a steel horse (van) I ride

I’ve always been drawn toward the outcasts. To the lone frontiersmen of the plains and mountains, the vigilante bounty hunters of the old west, the pirates of the Caribbean, the Han Solo of the Star War (heh). There is a certain type of courage and confidence I admire in these archetypes. Not one is afraid to carve their own paths. It’s the journey that calls them, the openness of adventurous possibilities stretching out before them.

One main theme among each of these characters is their connection to nature (or space) and the way it guides them along their journey. Han Solo knows there isn’t supposed to be an asteroid belt here. Cowboys and the pirates follow the stars. They all rely on a deep understanding of their own frontier.

Moving into our van has been, among many other wonderful or difficult things, an exercise in getting closer to nature. When Nikki and I made the decision to become nomadic, one of our main reasons was to reconnect with nature and the Earth. Fast-paced city-dwelling life was monotonous and grey and tiring at best. We wanted more color, more sunsets, more sand, more dirt, more moments in cleaner air.

sunset over pond and rural farm
More moments like this

The road has been our home for a relatively short while and we are just beginning to grow used to the controlled chaos of constantly uprooting ourselves. There, of course, have been difficulties. We work normal 9-5 office jobs so finding a cell connection before we settle on a campsite or parking lot is the most important. No coverage, no Internet, no job, and certainly no #vanlife.

Despite this, on one of our first forays out into the world, we ignored the idea of mountains and valleys and decided our WeBoost antenna would do the trick just fine. We were quick to realize our stubborn faith in technology as experienced in a city was not realistic when applied ubiquitously across the country. Mountains and valleys and hills and large trees have now taken on another meaning for us besides just being the wondrous natural beauties.

Before we left to live this life, nature was very much a separate entity in our lives. It was out there and we were usually snuggled inside on a couch watching a movie in a temperature-controlled setting ignoring it, for the most part. Again, we were quick to learn, unfortunately, through the hard way, when you are out in nature there isn't any separation anymore.

Storm clouds rolled in above our heads while we slept at a campground in the New York Catskills. Our dreams were deep and satisfied having returned from a laundromat and finishing hanging up our clothes to dry all before dinner. Our entire camp was set up, chairs, hammock, awning, an outdoor rug, and all. We congratulated ourselves on a job well done before going to sleep.

At 2:30 in the morning, we shot up in bed to a loud crashing force hitting the slide of our van and the incessant noise of heavy raindrops pummeling our solar panels. Wresting with the sliding side door, I discovered our awning had popped the wind moorings and collapsed, creating a second barricade past our van door.

Remembering all our supplies and (now once) clean laundry, I pushed the awning away and jumped into the rain. As unprepared as we were for this rainstorm I was unprepared for the temperature change from the warmth of our bed to a frigid mountain storm. It was horrifically cold. Along with the awning, all of our laundry lines had fallen into the dirt. I scrambled, grabbing up as much clothing out of the newly forming mud as I could in the light of our open van door.

Within seconds I was completely shaking in cold, saved the clean clothes I could, threw it in the van, and jumped in. Nikki, ignoring my warning of the cold through my chattering teeth, jumped out of the van to salvage the rest of our clothing. This was a failed attempt. It was freezing and, after a quick attempt, Nikki jumped back inside. We were freezing, muddy, and soaked head-to-toe. This taught us something extremely obvious:

Check the weather

They even make apps on your phone to make it easy! Who knew? In the modern world, there is no reason to be surprised by the weather. Everything you need to know is on your phone, yet somehow we keep finding new things to track, that now seem vital.

I am prone to do things on my own, for better or worse. I don’t like to ask for help. But not asking for help means you have to know the right tool for the job and how to use it. Despite all of my misplaced confidence in my aptitudes to prepare for the journey, #MotherNature will never and did not go overlooked. While this wasn’t the way we were anticipating to reconnect with nature, I think it has been the best experience yet. Nikki and I use multiple weather resources now. Doppler maps, multi-day forecasts, countless local weather reports, and two or three back up resources to confirm those are all accurate. Again, use the right tool for the job.

So, added to our considerations to trip planning, which already includes trip lengths and driving shifts, friends and family, (the list goes many miles) we have added in weather forecasting. This brings me back to those old #cowboys and space #pirates.

I can’t help but feel closer to my heroes as I plot out storm paths and routes to dodge them. I feel like I know something out of an experience that I wouldn’t have appreciated as much otherwise. It’s the wisdom of “doing”. Because of one night of chills and dirty laundry, we are better prepared for our journey now. We learned to watch the skies and path ahead.

As I sit here tonight, the last few days of cloudy skies have made our batteries dip below a comfortable level. Without concern, I watch the last of today’s clouds rush passed in the moonlight, knowing that tomorrow will be a full (battery) day.

Thanks for reading and see you out on the road!

Want to see more of our adventures? Follow us on Instagram @theadventuringgriggs

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