Vanlife versus Houselife! 

Adventuring in Vanda – cooking, hiking, writing, sleeping, even the driving – is truly a delight. I love everything about it, even the occasional elements of uncertainty. I have come to appreciate the morning ritual of converting our bed back from a cozy sleeping cocoon to the day bed it becomes. I have embraced the forethought required for meal prep and clean up. In the van, I know where everything goes. I find the now accustomed, efficient step-by-step actions to be somehow soothing to follow. 

The familiarity I find in these routines may explain the unexpected ambivalence I have experienced as we have, on this trip, visited friends and family who have graciously invited us into their homes. It has been somewhat disconcerting to move our clothing, shower gear, and the many small items of daily life from Vanda into someone’s home – don’t get me wrong, it’s not problematic in any way, it is merely lacking in the efficiency I have come to appreciate. Our hosts have been lovely and accommodating. It’s just that suddenly, we are spread out in an unfamiliar house, in a guest bedroom and bath, plugging in our devices into numerous outlets, having to go back out to Vanda to grab a forgotten but must-have sunscreen or floss or slippers…

Equally unexpected was the sheer delight as we pulled into camp yesterday afternoon – a lusciously verdant state park in the hills above Napa Valley — camping in between houselife visits. Our hike before dinner had us crossing a stream, finding early spring wildflowers and tree buds, and another first-time bird sighting. Our dinner was a simple black bean soup with nachos on the side. We slept deeply and awakened to a stunning foggy morning in the green hills with the melody of the stream running through our camp. My heart is joyful as I write this morning, without cell service, so that this is an exercise in contemplation without the capacity to “go live” until we’re back out of the mountains. That feeling of unhurried thought and reflection is truly a gift. 

Having said all of that, I do want to capture in words and photos our recent visiting experiences. After more than a week of vanlife, we stopped in Phoenix, AZ to stay with Jim and Mary. Jim is an engineer; he and John worked together on what was then cutting-edge technology to develop the cardiac ultrasound devices back in the 1980’s when John was at UCLA. They have stayed in touch, sharing their passion for photography, wildflowers, and birding via emails. I had not yet had the pleasure to meet either Jim or his lovely wife Mary until now; Mary is a nurse also, so the four of us have medical backgrounds in common. Their backyard is a virtual desert jewel with the types of native plants growing in it and the birds those plants attract. They know the desert wildlife very well, so that our pre-sunrise hike to the top of a steep desert canyon from where we watched the sunrise was glorious albeit somewhat creepy in the dark! The saguaro photo below is an interesting juxtaposition of desert and city… I cooked dinner for us one evening in their home, which is also disorienting to be in someone else’s kitchen, using their tools! Fortunately, dinner was delish…

From Phoenix we went to San Diego, camping in the huge sprawling Campland on the Bay, which is not the kind of place we would normally choose, but it was right on Mission Bay for easy access to biking trails to the beach and beyond, and our particular site happened to be tucked away on a back loop, so it was quite tolerable.

The challenge to visiting friends in a big city, friends with whom you go way back and haven’t seen in a long time is that the socializing involves a restaurant meal, typically much more food than we eat in the van! Thus far, our dinners out have been delicious, each one, yet certainly a deviation from that to which we have become familiar in Vanda. I am merely observing, this is in no way meant as a negative. A shared meal is what brings people together! 

From San Diego, we went up to LA; we first met my niece and her fiancé at Venice Beach, after which we drove up to Valencia area to stay with John’s brother Daniel. Venice Beach is always a wild scene but worth the visit, whereas the Huntington Gardens and the Getty Museum are stunning. Such rich culture…

We are headed now from Napa area to our old hometown, to stay with dear friends, and to undoubtedly eat our way through the next few days! Life is good! We are blessed by abundance!



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