Michigan Vanlifer - My Trip Across America (Again) in 50 Images
It’s been a lifetime dream of mine to live in a van. Two years ago that dream became a reality. I bought a van and a puppy. I drove from Traverse City, Michigan to North Carolina across the country to California and finally back to Michigan again. I shared that story: “I Bought a Van (and a Puppy!) – My Trip Across America in 50 Images.” Now that puppy has been to over 29 states and in the same spirit I am choosing another 50 favorite images from my offseason travels to share with you here. Just in case you’re wondering, 95% of these images were captured on my everyday camera the Fuji x100v. This fun little camera is always by my side.
Last year, my van journey started in October in Gainesville, Florida after my photography season in Northern Michigan. I actually stayed in Gainesville for a couple months. Here I celebrated my birthday with friends. I attended the amazing Hullaween festival and a couple smaller reggae and bluegrass festivals in the area. I also studied yin yoga and got an additional yoga teaching certification at Yoga Pod. I can’t wait to return to this fantastic yoga studio and reconnect with my yogi friends next winter! Oh yeah, I had my solar setup completely redone in Gainesville. Hello lithium battery and all the power I need to edit my photos!! 🙂
Next, I made my way to St. Augustine, Florida and met up with my good friend Meredith, who I met in Traverse City, Michigan. In St. Augustine, we practiced lots of yoga and spent a lot of time soaking in the sun. I love Meredith’s enthusiasm for life and her playful energy. Honestly, she’s my soul sister and I appreciate her so much. After a few weeks, Meredith and I caravanned down to Key West, Meredith in her 1980’s retro Dodge named “Eunice” (that is also is home to her cat and dog) and of course my home on wheels for the last two years is the #SmoothOperatorVan. We drove all the way to Key West finding lots of yoga classes along the way. When we made it to Key West, we found a super chill vanning community and a new hobby slackline, a great test of my balance skill. I also played around on the unicycle and with my diabolo flow toy in Mallory Square. Kovu was my main attraction and she got me lots of tips. She definitely paid for her dog food that month.
And I guess I just couldn’t stay out of Gainesville and their wonderful yoga community at Yoga Pod. I stopped for a couple weeks to visit with friends and play in the sun on my unicycle. I also took out the big cameras for a few professional quality shoots for my yoga pals. Thanks so much for making my Gainesville visit so much fun. I’ll see you in January. Now off to another festival Okachobee and then to New Orleans…
In New Orleans, I celebrated my friend Moss’s birthday. Moss and I have been to 4 states and 4 festivals together. This time we attended the incredible Buku festival with friends Kristi and Bailey. Wow, Buku is a visual experience like nothing else. I couldn’t help but bring my Fuji X100v for some dramatic concert photos at Buku. I put down the camera to enjoy lots of dancing and made plenty of new festie pals. In New Orleans, I ate some of my best meals in New Orleans and enjoyed capturing photos of our shenanigans downtown. This city has so much character!
After New Orleans, I drove north with Kovu in the Smooth Operator Van for visit to family in Chicago. Of course my dad and I had to make a trip to downtown Chicago to visit our favorite place the Shedd Aquarium. Here I photographed lots of jelly fish and talked to the belugas for a good hour. I could stay in this place all day photographing fish and wildlife. I also enjoyed lots of hikes with family and time with the dogs before leaving my van behind. For my next destination I would be flying.
Next I hopped on a flight to Los Angeles and caught a bus with my good friend Nicole Geri to Santa Barbara, California. If only it were that easy. LOL! My Spirit Airlines flight to LA was actually canceled and so I had to book a last minute flight. We also missed our bus and I unfortunately lost my wallet in a rental car. Luckily, my wallet was returned to me and this trip was so worth it! The whole point of the trip to California was to attend Lucidity Festival near Santa Barbara. I had originally signed up for Lucidity in 2019, but it was postponed twice. Even though I received a refund, I was given free tickets for this year! So how could I say no!? Lucidity Festival was honestly my favorite festival I attended. The photos speak for themselves. I met some amazing people here and will definitely be returning for another year.
In Santa Barbara, I met with my wonderful friends Andrew and Rachel. Honestly, I could live in Santa Barbara! What a beautiful community! On my trip, I enjoyed visits to the winery, mountain biking in real mountains (only kind of scary), and performing in the beautiful downtown area. This is one of my favorite cities from all my travels. I had the pleasure of capturing my friends Rachel and Andrew’s wedding here and their engagement session nearby in Alabama Hills. You may recognize their beautiful faces from my blog. Thanks Rachel and Andrew for showing me around your hometown.
Thanks for enjoying my offseason van travels with me. These travels honestly fill me up so much and its why I have been living on the road for over 4 years in total. I love being able to open my door to a new scene and new experience everyday. I look forward to another great photography season in Northern Michigan and then who knows where the road will take me? 😉
Josh Hartman – Follow my travels and Kovu too: @hartmantravels and @kovuthevandog