A Short Reflection on A Previous Life

A week of running from state to state gives me a glimpse of a former life, one before 2020.

I first stumbled on van life in late 2019. Getting soaring nature views from my bed and traveling all the time piqued my interest, and my then-boyfriends when I showed him. He had taken me camping for the first time the summer prior, and I found that I enjoyed it a surprising amount given the discomfort of sleeping on the ground and using public bathrooms.

We had made a few forays into the Adirondacks by that point, something he had grown up doing and that I never thought I would. I enjoyed being outside, didn’t mind a walk, and loved the way I felt after a hard hike. So we began to dive deeper into backpacking together and he loaded me up with hiking boots, poles, and gear for my birthdays.

It was around the time that we decided to hike in Alaska that I began to seriously consider how much time I wanted to spend outside. Let to my own devices, I’m not what you would describe as “outdoorsy.” I love gardening and reading in the shade of a tree, and I’ll spend every day I can lounging by the side of a pool. But hiking mountains, goings days without a shower, and using the bathroom outside? It didn’t suck as much as I thought it would. In fact, it challenged me. Sharpened me. I had someone to push me and hold me accountable.

I didn’t always like the effort I had to exert, but I loved the results. And I wanted more of it. But I was busy in the way every adult is, with business events and organization boards and committees. There were plans with friends, second jobs, date nights, family dinners, and working out to consider. My calendar was full.

When 2020 rolled out, a cascade of changes brought me to a standstill. By April, I found myself unemployed and living in the middle of a house under renovation. I couldn’t make plans or work out and forget about attending business events. It took a while, but I sunk into the stillness. I enjoyed not having to rush around every day, or needing to leave at 8 am and get home 12 hours later. My calendar was empty and I retreated into it.

Suddenly I had an abundance of time for hiking and camping. Yet it still required packing up, leaving my house, getting home, and unpacking everything. I longed for the simplicity of living in a van, but couldn’t see how I was going to make my way there. In the years it took me to work toward it, my calendar remained a ghost of years past, with an event or two a week breaking up the empty space.

But not recently. Last weekend I had to be in Vermont, this weekend Rhode Island, and next weekend New York. It is a small cluster of events tightly packed together, surrounded by emptiness on my calendar. And I relish in both, the excitement of having plans and the quiet of having nothing to do. I look forward to both, though right now I am admittedly looking most forward to the following weekend when all of my plans are over.

It will be June then when the days are at their longest and brightest, and spring has reached even the farthest recesses of the Northeast. And I look forward to sharing all of my hiking adventures with you.

Published by Jessica Reilly, Writer

Writer, cannabis aficionado, and poetry lover

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