Words by Katy Anne, Photos by Ilana Freddye
Hey guys, I feel like we need to reintroduce ourselves. We've been posting here and there but we definitely lost some momentum. That's mostly because we lost our identity - after our engine died last March in New Mexico, we were a little physically and mentally displaced. We wanted to keep traveling, cooking, writing, etc, but we didn't exactly know how to do that outside of the realm of the road. It wasn't easy to transition this project, or our lives, into post-van-life-life.
We ended up selling the dead Toyota Sunrader to a couple in Canada for about $1000. We listed it on Craigslist "for parts" (I could cry thinking about it) and eventually they found us and had it shipped to Vancouver where they've renovated it into their own. We lost a lot of money at the time. Sometimes we still get angry at the mechanic who screwed us over and have fantasies about knocking on his door in LA with my lawyer mom and demanding our money back. But that’s not the way the cookie crumbled, and that's okay.
In the Fall, after another summer working together in The Hamptons, I moved back to Brooklyn and felt like I was being eaten alive by the city. I don’t think I’ve ever felt less creative in my life. Being still was jarring after a year on the road and New York felt like it lost its magic. Meanwhile, Ilana bought her first reliable, grown-up car, put a foam mattress in the back of it, and started traveling the country again on her own (and going to like 6 weddings – she’s a professional bridesmaid now).
For better or worse, we took the time to be our own humans, which was necessary after so long living in a small space together.
There's days I miss the utter vagabondness of living on the road, of leaning in completely to a life that drives you more than you drive it. The momentum of a life in constant motion can be inspiring if you let it. Ilana felt like the road took her out of her head - that kind of measurable daily movement made progress in life feel tangible. I felt like sometimes it was hard to keep up, that the perpetual movement meant I had no time for reflection.
Living in a micro-motorhome is challenging; living in a tiny space as two independent people is challenging. I learned that I need more alone time than I ever realized; we both learned that communication is key. We had to hash things out with each other - we had to get real. We fought about curtains and coffee and commas in our Instagram captions. It seems so ridiculous in hindsight, but that's what hindsight does - convince you that you should have known better, using the information you only know now.
In the weeks before the engine died, we embraced van life more fully than we ever had. We finally let go of obsessing over every little noise the engine made; we let go of our expectations for what the journey and our blog and our Instagram and whatever else might be; and we just f--cking lived it.
When we heard the engine knocking and pulled onto the side of the highway, Ilana looked at me and said: "should we take topless photos on the hood of the car?" And without hesitating, I was like "YEP." That moment encapsulated the mutual acceptance of our fate: our car was dead for good, we knew it without saying it out loud. And there was a certain freedom that came with it - half naked on the hood of our 1988 Toyota Sunrader, the desert sun beating into our bodies, we knew that it was the end of the road for us. We were ready to let go.
What we've realized in the time since is that our van life goal, beyond just giving that lifestyle a shot, was all about food: the regional food across this country and how it relates to culture and community and farming and history and identity. It's been fun to start exploring that goal in different ways. Together and separately we've been traveling internationally and digging into the food cultures of places all over the world - Morocco, Spain, Tokyo, Paris, Wales, Amsterdam. For the last two months, Ilana has been tucked away in Appalachia baking bread with Tara Jensen and obsessing over sourdough focaccia; I spent the month of April at Coombeshead Farm in the UK, learning about running a self-sufficient farm and restaurant (and eating a lot of Cornish pasties).
I think we both feel freer than ever, and isn't that the point?
So as we settle back into this space, we've opened up the blog to be a lot more than just van life. We still want it to be a space for our travel stories and the veg-focused recipes we make on a daily basis, a space to tell the stories of the people and places that inspire us - plus some travel tips and city food guides for you to see the spots we've vetted in cities across the world.
Thanks for sticking around. We're excited to be back.
xo Katy and Ilana
PS. We're working on a very exciting project involving bread and #morevegetableslessproblems - stay tuned.