A Mobile Living Conversion Walkthrough

It is no secret that Van Life comes with its unique ups and downs — just as any other lifestyle does. I’m certainly no expert on life on the road, but through a combined two years of the lifestyle I’ve found myself learning through many a difficult experience. Running out of water and having a trip cut short — lucky to not get swallowed by sand on the way out. Being forced to live off snacks due to rotting food, and being stuck in a mud storm having no choice but to sleep in the driver’s seat — without access…

How to sleep free across America.

hoto by Author

Faded National Park stickers and added rust — time painted upon the van full of memories. After four years parked in Los Angeles, my campervan was itching for new roads, and in the wake of a breakup so was I. On July 18th, 2020 — five years since the van’s last voyage carrying us across Eastern Oregon — I sold it to a woman with her own Van Life Dreams.

As I watched the 1988 Ford Econoline drive off for the last time, I reminded myself that one road ending meant another was beginning. The money from the van sale…

So you think you can Van Life?

by Author

Sitting under the stars atop a rock overlooking a moon-lit forest of Joshua Trees was the perfect time to discuss the pains of life. Six years of city life were taking their toll on my girlfriend and I. At twenty-six years old, we’d spent the entirety of our young life either striving for success in school or in our careers, and everything was beginning to lose its magic.

On that special February night in Joshua Tree, it was obvious to us both that a change was needed. Losing yourself in nature delivers a unique chance to revisit life with fresh…

Riding the edge of the Great Plains

With hills of fresh white snow glimmering in the sun of a beautiful October day, I crossed into Nebraska via the Pine Ridge Reservation and onto Nebraska State Highway 87. Blue skies above the Nebraska National Forest were a friendly welcome to the Cornhusker State. I was surprised by the nation’s 37th state, assuming the Great Plains to be just that — rather plain, but the panhandle of Nebraska is full of gems. I’d soon find a whole new sense of awe for Nebraskaland, “Where the west begins”.

Up before sunrise, 307 miles of Dakota between me and the next stretch of badlands. Overnight frost had formed inside my Jeep, signifying the decision to wrap camp the night before was paying off. Early October in the plains — for the first time in years I used the ice scraper on the windshield, spitting snow dancing salsa in the dim light of the morning. As in Montana and now North Dakota, old man winter pushes me forward: today I’ll drive due south, but first instant coffee and granola.

Click here for the first chapter of my journey through the…

“It’s like we branded each other.”

Photo by Author

She stepped up into the campervan, the original seats from 1988 creaking as she buckled the seatbelt and checked the mirrors. The dreamcatcher dangling from the rearview mirror was swaying slightly from the rocking of the van.

I watched all of this from outside the closed passenger door, the last time I’d see my traveling companion saddle up to ride. This time without me, in our Ford Econoline, tattooed with stickers and painted in a now faded red, white, and blue. …

The Badlands, ND — Photo by Author

Golden sunset to the west, icy orange fingers of a snowstorm to the north, extending southward in a spectacle of color. Racing against the setting sun, I was eastbound on I-94 questioning whether this was Montana or North Dakota. For miles, the badlands had flirted in between farms and prairies, and I was eager to get to a campsite — there was no way of knowing what the storm had to offer.

Topping a rise I saw it, glimmering in all its glory: “Welcome to North Dakota. Be Legendary.” A slogan properly said with a raspy cowboy accent.

Lessons Learned on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Off Interstate 80 on the western edge of Utah lay the Bonneville Salt Flats, a vast swath of bright white land lined by towers and islands of brown rock. The layers of time all around the flats vary in shades of tan and brown, telling the story of the Great Basin. A drama of epochs, ages, and eras in the making; that shaped the area centered in Nevada and reaching into the neighboring states of California, Oregon, Utah, and Idaho.

The Great Basin was coined by John C. Fremont on an 1843 expedition upon which he recognized that the landform’s…

Smoke Plume over Susanville, CA. Photo by Author.

Northern California, August 2020.

Wildfire smoke was a daily part of life by now, and for 300 miles in every direction, there was no escaping it. What a time to go camping.

Yet it wasn’t just camping, I’d converted my Jeep into a camper and set out on an open-ended quest. There was no choice but to endure the smoke as I hightailed it from Lake Tahoe up U.S. 395, past blackened land and into the small hamlet of Susanville, CA. Everything tinged with an orange hue, passing firefighters battling blazes on both sides of the highway. …

Joshua Tree National Park — Photo by Author

The headlights died as I clicked the engine off. Leaning forward, confirming the darkness, a whole slurry of doubt came flooding into my mind. Alone? In the wilderness, that is absolutely crazy. My friends’ responses now making sense: Why? How are you going to pass your time? What if something goes wrong?

Why did this trip have to start at night? After driving four hours into the middle of the desert, I still found myself hesitant to get out of the car. …

Scott Carnahan

Cameras by trade, writer by plight. A story obsessed thunderstorm junkie armed with a journal and fueled by music. | Denver, CO ⛈🏜🏔✨ scottjcarnahan.com

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