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Where We Went & What We Packed: NY--> Utah By Van

Lily, NY



When Covid was at its peak, I was living in a van. I was lucky to say the least– The National Parks all over the US were my playground while many people were stuck inside their homes watching Netflix and/or making banana bread. Hey! Don’t get me wrong, those times seemed like fun seeing friends and family trying new things, and enjoying the WFH life…but I wasn’t envious. I was out exploring all that I could during that time, and I am so happy I took advantage. From New York all the way to Colorado, Utah was my absolute favorite state to explore. Everywhere you look there is something to see, something that catches the eye, something to photograph. Prior to this trip, I was all over Southeast Asia hoping one day I will move to the country and have my life by the beach— but, once I arrived in Utah, I was instantly reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful country; I stopped daydreaming of a life outside of the country I was living in, and decided to be present…and wow was I present.



Where we went:

New York to Colorado to Utah and beyond.


How we traveled:

A Mercedes recently renovated sprinter van


Where we slept:

In a tent under the stars while at Arches National Park, but mainly in the van.


Who we went with:

My ex boyfriend/best friend at the time. To be honest, this trip is my favorite memory of that relationship.


Some things we packed:

Camp Kitchen, 65 L Backpack, Aeropress Coffee Maker, the best hiking boots by La Sportiva, LuminAID Packlite, a lightweight tent for camping under the stars, Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers (the best candy ever), lots of fingerling potatoes (honestly the best camping flex), my iPad for downloaded movies ;)


What we ate and drank around the fire:

So weird, but we really enjoyed making buttery shrimp and potatoes whenever we camped. I know, weird, but let me tell ya: delicious. We would boil some potatoes in our jet boil, grab a pan and coat it with the best butter (anything local is my favorite) and sear some good ol’ shrimp in the fat. Shrimp take no time to cook so it was an easy, protein packed, healthy-ish meal. And for the potatoes: we’d mash them up once they were cooked, throw in even more butter and sometimes some cheese;) At night we’d often have some red wine, or hot lemon tea by the fire. Oooh yeah…that sounds good about right now.


What activities we did:

Well, since I am narrowing down on this 3 week trip and am just discussing Utah, I’d say the majority of these eight days were spent hiking at every single park on the Utah map. We made it to Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Capitol Reef & Canyonlands. At Zion we hiked Angels Landing and the Narrows, but we also hiked some trails off the beat and path that we found on the AllTrails app. At Bryce Canyon we hiked the fairyland loop— a 8 mile loop trail— which was incredible every step of the way but took about 4 hours because we got caught in a lightning thunderstorm! However, I highly recommend it. While in Moab— the area in Utah where you will find Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches… we explored with our Birkenstocks and enjoyed one another’s company. The parks were heavily trafficked and we just wanted to relax and enjoy the views more so than hike once we were there.


A word to describe the trip:

Really, really, really fun.


Favorite moment of the trip:

In Zion, we had a hard time finding a camping spot so we used this app called: iOverlander which gave us insight on public areas to park in—shower friendly, inhabited by x people, free or costly etc.— and found THE MOST epic campsite imaginable. We felt like we were camping on the moon. There were huge boulders everywhere, the dirt color of volcanic sand (weird but true!) and super private. We made a fire, cooked up some red sauce and pasta, and watched a movie outside while the stars shone over us. It was really spectacular. Not only was the spot free, but it was THE COOLEST spot we had ever stayed in and it was our favorite spot of the whole trip. I wish I could go back.


What you took a mental picture of but couldn’t capture with a photo:

Showering out the back of the van. We had a water pump and a doggy pull out bench and every time we wanted to shower, I would hop on the doggy bench, hook up the shower and be completely exposed to everyone behind me (oftentimes there weren't people around). I could have easily gotten arrested for being naked in public, but luckily no one saw!


Did anything remarkable or synchronous happen?

We camped on top of a huge canyon and nearly tipped the van on our way up. It was absolutely worth the treacherous ride up, but it was HORRIFYING. At nighttime, we were all alone— if we died, no one would know. We were extremely secluded, but wow…the stars lit up the entire site and the white noise while on top of a 100 foot canyon was absolutely magical. The view in the morning was even better— canyons running for miles, and you could hear a pebble drop if you kicked one off the ledge. Insane. But scary!


What we listened to or song theme of the trip:

Chris Stappelton— Tennessee Whisky (cliche a lil’ but my heart felt good!)


Was it kid or dog friendly?

Definitely dog friendly, but I think a kid would be exhausted!


Would you bring your grandma?

Maybe, although I think she would have a hard time showering naked outside with strangers all around…so maybe no?


Would you visit again?

150% no brainer


What did you learn/lessons you took away?

Getting out in nature is medicine.



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