• Victoria

From Sick to Healthy, and the California adventures in between

My decision to stay up all night, partying in oldtown Scottsdale impacted me for an entire week (and longer if you count the good memories.) I picked up some nasty cold germs somewhere along the night’s adventure. That, coupled with excessive amounts of alcohol, landed me into a sickly state. This is the first time I’ve ever been sick in the van, and it SUCKED. I just wanted my mom, or anyone, to take care of me and feel bad for me. I eventually found that on Facebook.

I spent the first sickly night on the side of the road just a few hundred feet off a major highway. The distant traffic provided good background noise. I drank NyQuil from the bottle, skipped dinner, and passed out after watching the sunset with Luca.


The next morning we played fetch for about 30 minutes before hitting the road. As the drive professed, so did my cold and I became nothing more than my sinuses. My brain lost all other functionality. I pulled over at the most beautiful rest stop to figure out how I would survive that night. I began researching campgrounds rather than free parking because I was in desperate need of a shower. Every campsite I called was either full or way out of my price range.


I switched from google to Facebook and put out an SOS. Driveway. Shower. Anybody. Please. I had several people reach out, one of them being a good friend, from another life of mine, and also from my hometown. If my mom wasn’t going to teleport me home to take care of me, this was my best option.

Crossing the boarder into California was one of the most anti-climatic entrances into a dream, I’ve ever experienced. California, a place I had been dreaming about for years, and a place my mouth had been watering for for months. A land full of beautiful places, kind people, vastly differing landscapes, some of the national parks I most eagerly awaited, and of course, my vegan mecca. Finally, I was there. And there it was bland. No sweeping landscapes, No cool welcome sign. No one to share the excitement with. But there was a lot of something; snot.

Amazing shower had, I hung out with Layla and we caught each other up on our lives since we had last seen each other years ago. I got to meet and play with her adorable son, Keegan. I slept in the van that night, not wanting to contaminate a guest room.

The next day I woke up feeling the same, but at least not worse and I headed south to Vista, CA where I would participate in a vegan outreach event. The night was amazing despite my cold, and you can read about that life-changing experience here.

My next night’s sleep was rough. I parked in a planet fitness parking lot and felt safe because there were a couple other rvs and campervans. However at about 11pm I am woken up by what I am pretty positive are nearby gunshots. I finally summon the courage to peep through my blinds and I see a man walking around a car, banging on it with a 3 foot long stick. I can’t fathom why he is doing this, and it’s not until he stops, opens the passenger door and slides inside that I say to myself “you’re ok Victoria, it’s just a crazy person” This repeats itself at 12am and again at 1am, 2 am, and finally stops after police circle his car a few times after the 2 o clock car beating.

I did absolutely nothing the next day.

Nothing worth mentioning happened the next night at a random parking lot I went to at suggestion of my iOverlander app.

Facebook saves me again. My friend from my Gainesville life, Scott, hits me up. He tells me he lived out of his car for a summer after college to travel slowly across the country. He heard I was sick, and offers me a blow-up mattress, infinite showers, and basically just exactly what I needed to heal. Luckily, staying with him offered a lot more.

We talked and talked and talked. He was easily the most intellectual, interesting, and informed person I had spent time with in a long time. He also didn’t mind filling in my gaps of knowledge, with a patience not prevalent in most smarty-pants. Anyways I have never enjoyed sickbed more, because even in my weakened state, I was able to learn a lot, think about things I had never before thought, and all normally before, after, or during an amazing meal!

He isn’t a vegan, but he adopted the vegan diet while I was his guest, which was a step farther than most people go, and it made me feel really welcomed and comfortable. To top it off, he made a better vegan dish than I did. For the week, I was a happy non-camper :)


When I started to feel better, I went on Tinder to see if there was anyone interesting in the area. Within an hour, I had been invited to go sailing on the bay- as long as a van tour was included. He picked me up so I wouldn't have to lose my perfect parking spot in front of Scotts. We went sailing, out to a bomb Indian restaurant, and then to sunset cliffs to watch the sunset. It was a fun, full day, but at the end of the night we hugged each other goodbye, knowing we would most likely not see each other again. It's moments like these where I LOVE the life I'm living. It was so simple to just have a fun day, with zero expectations. Well rather, an understood expectation that I am leaving. When I want to actually start dating again maybe I will feel the other edge of the sword; but for now nomad life is freaking awesome :)


The week ended with me feeling back to 100 and postponing my gen mining plans to go hiking in Anza-Borrego for the wildflower superbloom and camping in Cuyamaca State Park with Scott. We left at 4:30 am, his idea not mine. It ended up being a great idea. We got to see majestic fog topple over the mountains and hang out in the valleys as the sun rose from its hiding place. We also got to the trail before the flock and got to experience the canyon like it was our own; each flower there just for us.

We saw humming birds, salamanders, and what we most wanted to get the chance to see; Bighorn sheep along the ridge. We knew we needed to get back to the van where our pups anxiously awaited us, but even after saying out loud it was time to go back, we kept getting distracted by new boulders, flowers, and sheep.


We enjoyed pb&js, grapes, and chips back in the van. The pups were alright. We went to the small adorable town of Julien next, famous for its apple pies. We found a brewery and stepped in for a couple cold ones, and then went to a grocery store to get provisions for the night.

Scott set up camp and while I cooked dinner and we dined over a campfire, contemplating what a perfect day we just had. I had fun feeding the fire and sat as close to it as I could, for the temperature was quickly dropping into the 30s. Surprisingly I had one of the best nights sleeps I’ve ever experienced while camping, and was very grateful for my electric blanket. Glamping is still camping, right?


We took the same route back to San Diego, but it looked like a totally new path, with the sun being fully up this time. It was as pretty of a ride, and though not as early as on the way up- still filled with many yawns. Laundry and reorganizing the van consumed the day. That night, Scott took me out to show me around little Italy, so I could experience a typical Saturday night in San Diego. It was a lot of fun, and we stayed out until the bars closed. Still, I imagined being back in the wilderness and preferred that to any form of nightlife. But balance is key, so I’m glad I got to experience both.

I woke up early (for me) the next day and packed up the van, said goodbye to Scott, and headed in the direction of a bus stop, where my friend Emma was waiting for me.

Emma and I were best friends in 3rd grade. I hadn’t seen Emma since 3rd grade, but Emma(and the likes) is just one more reason why I will never delete Facebook. It connected us over decades and I was able to make plans with her because of it. We were going to mine for gemstones about an hour and half outside of San Diego. It was so cool to reach out to her with this idea and have her say immediately “Never done that before, but I’m down.” We chatted the whole way to the mine, catching each other up on lost time and it was special to see that though our lives had taken many different turns, we were on a similar life journey with lots of parallels.

The Himalaya Tourmaline Mine is a dig I’ve visited once before, and was anxious to get back to. Emma and I had a blast sorting through mud and stones to find us some precious tourmaline. I found a large beautiful green tourmaline and Emma, on her very last bucket’s worth uncovered a massive crystal quartz that the whole dig site pining over it. I had slight envy running through my blood, but not to match the amount of happiness I felt for her and her find. I knew that going forward, she too would be hooked on discovering the earths treasures.


She let me into her house for a shower (I was covered from head to toe in mud) and a pasta dinner. Emma is 90% vegan and wants to one day go all in, so it was nice knowing I didn’t have to explain myself or feel nervous that animal products would be used in the meal.

We hugged goodbye and I headed to meet up with a van friend I had made over meetup.com. We grabbed a beer at a Modern Times Brewery and I shyly asked if I could park next to him for the night. He is a San Diego local, living full-time out of his van, but continues to work. So while his lifestyle isn’t as nomadic as mine, I was happy to have some company and also the insight of where we can safely park overnight. He knows of a parking lot with no "no parking" signs, that has waterfront views of a peaceful marina. We take out dogs on a walk and then say goodnight because the day of rock collecting was now fully weighing on me and I was totally beat.

He woke up hours before me, so we met up several hours later at Coronado dog beach. I found loads of useless but pretty shells and an adorable miniature sand dollar along our walk.

I then headed to Cabrillo National Monument. This is about the 5th time I’ve waited in line to pay entrance fees and felt estatic to show my annual park pass, which gets me in all national parks and monuments for free:)


The views from atop the monument were amazing. If I had arrive in another part of the year I may have had a better chance of seeing whales migrating along the coast. After soaking in the horizon from up top, I drove down to hang out by the tide pools. After I got a pic with Luca and my waves-crashing-against-the-cliffs-fix, I headed back to the van. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I noticed a girl staring straight at me through the drivers side window. I looked back to see what she needed and then we both lifted our sunglasses simultaneously. It was Holly Smiles staring back at me. No way! I pull back over and hop out of the car. I then notice its not just Holly it’s also Margaret, my other best friend from 3rd grade. They don’t even live in California. They were visiting from Virginia and saw the Florida license plates on the van and thought, could it be her? It was literally one of the craziest things that life on the road has brought me. We chatted for a bit and all felt amazed that in a world so enormous, here we were, almost 20 years later in the exact same place at the exact same time, thousands of miles from where me met many moons ago.


I instantly forgave myself for dilly-dallying earlier in the day. If I hadn’t been coasting through the day like I did, I would not have gotten to the experience the insane connection of randomly seeing old friends.

I left that area, gleaming about how many friends I really DO have in this world and realizing that I have people cheering me on that I don’t think about on a daily basis.

Now I’m headed to what I expect will be another great week of van life. I’m going to San Pedros National Forrest for a van life gathering with loads of other vanlifers. Stay tuned, I most certainly will be writing about what goes down at this gathering!

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