Hi friend, Happy New Year! Now that we are 8 days into 2020, I thought it may be time to do a review of our entire year living in the van! Yup, that’s right: it has been an entire year already! Our Vanniversary was on January 5th. We didn’t really celebrate or do anything different, but we did reflect on what a wild ass year it’s been and I thought it would be fun to write a blog with our favorite moments and photographs. So without further ado…

MILES DRIVE: 25,000 (on the dot!)
STATES VISITED: 6 (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California)


on the 2nd “our notice was honored early” aka we were fired + decided to move into the van 3 weeks early. We hit the road on the 5th! Van hit 250,000 on the first day. We found natural hot springs in New Mexico and soaked for hours. Took our first long backpacking/hiking trip near Tombstone, AZ. Border Patrol raided our van and took our legal weed on the 9th forcing us to go West to Cali. Found the amazing Lake Havasu and soaked up all the laid back beach vibes. Went to Joshua Tree but it was closed due to the government shutdown. Left JTree and got a hotel in Las Vegas- ate at 2 different buffets LOL. Next was Sedona- we fell in love with this place, but we got a call to work the gem show in Tuscon and had to leave after 2 days. All 3 of us worked together for a day but we realized Rufio was bored and decided that just I (Ashley) would work but after 2 days of really mean co-workers- we decided we didn’t care about the money and left! That was the 29th. From Tucson we went to Colorado (cali weed prices are unbearably high even with a medical card).


We camped in Utah near Monument Valley at a place (we are dying to get back to) called Valley of the Gods. It was so rainy all of January though, so the road was too rough to drive the van through. We went south to Monument Valley and paid to enter the park. Found a ton of wild horses while we were hiking. Slowly made our way south camping a night or so at interesting places, found a couple areas we wanted to go back to. Made our way up to Agua Fria National Monument for Sean’s birthday and a long hike to rarely seen ruins, where there is no map or information, you just have to wander and search and use clues to find the ruins of a massive community. Celebrated our anniversary on the 13th in Tempe with a hotel room, eating all the good food + going the Desert Lights show at the Botanical Garden (HIGHLY RECOMMEND). As soon as the government shutdown was over, we went right to the BLM office, bought maps, and FINALLY found some BLM land to stay on. We spent a lot of time wandering the desert and finding wildlife, listening to coyotes howl and screech and celebrate, and just enjoying having space. It was so rainy across the entire country, there was no where we could drive to that was dry or hadn’t had rain recently (BLM roads are dirt/clay and often impassable after rain). So we stayed in a Walmart parking lot often, and wrote a lot of blogs, and explored many stores with Rufio. On the 25th, our van started leaking coolant and we had to rush to a Pep Boys to get it fixed- had to stay in a hotel for 2 nights- all together was over $1,000! We left Pep Boys happy and drove to a site we ended up staying at for over 2 weeks- a much needed break from all the driving we did in 2 months.


The beginning of March was mostly just hiking all the trails near our campsite. We only ever saw volunteers cleaning the trail- no other hikers for like 3 weeks- it was amazing! On the 5th we had a van tour recorded and afterwards both agreed that we don’t ever want to do that again haha. By the 11th, we were starting to head north for Moab and stopped at REI to buy climbing gear! I remember thinking how crazy it was to buy gear when we never climbed outside but I was determined that this year would be different..I think that was the extra kick I needed to make it happen. We stopped in Sedona for a week and enjoyed all the hikes and vortexes our hearts could take, still one of our favorite places! Sean accidentally shaved my head without an attachment- but it actually turned out to be my favorite hairstyle I’ve ever had and now I keep it like that! On the 19th we arrived in Moab. Rufio turned 5 on the 20th. On the 21st, we did laundry, took showers, Sean got a job at the 2 places he applied and accepted 1. We spent the rest of the month adapting to Moab, learning how to live in a van in Moab (learning curve), and exploring our new home.


April 1st I booked a guide to teach me how to climb outdoors, I learned so much and was stoked for what was in store. We bought a bouldering pad and started enjoying doing that more. Bought more climbing gear. Sean and I took a second class on outdoor climbing. The next day we tried climbing and both were so scared and ended up fighting and not climbing for weeks! We hiked a ton. Camped at the dreamy Mystic Hot Springs. Visited Escalante. Sean worked a lot, so it was just me and Rufio and we went full send into petroglyph hunting and cool hike exploring. We accidentally did a 19 mile hike after we saw a cool monument across the desert and decided we would walk to it.


We were finally settled into Moab by May. Started making friends with Sean’s co-workers. The van needed $4,000 worth of work. We bought a $40 blow up raft, $5 personal flotation devices (PFD’s..they don’t call them life vests any more because they don’t save your life), and a cheap bike from Walmart so we could white water raft the Colorado. As soon as we blew the boat up and put it into the water, a gust of wind blew the boat into Tamarisk and popped it. We had to drive all the way to town, buy a new boat for $80, went back to the launch, blow that up, and then take our maiden voyage which was a wild success. We spent the rest of may taking little rafting trips + hitchhiking back to the van. We eventually upgraded out $5 PFD’s to $120 ones..more pockets ;).


The weather was getting extremely hot during the day and the nights were bad too, so we found a room to rent for a couple of months! It felt like the perfect fit, but we quickly realized living with a person who drinks a lot and likes to party, isn’t for us (we are coming up on 2 years alcohol-free). I tried micro-dosing mushrooms and had some great success discovering parts of myself high up in the La Sal Mountains. I got my first tattoo! A little note my Aunt Denise sent me that made me feel loved and happy. Every day I look at it, I am reminded of her. We were featured in the summer issue of ROVA magazine which was really exciting for us! We started climbing outdoors A LOT, and because it’s so hot during the day, we would go before sunrise and at night when it started to cool down. Found a secret crag that we were only ever the ones at. We learned to SKY DIVE!! In Moab!! SO cool! Right after our first jump, 2 Moab locals passed away in sky-dive related accidents, and our teacher and the whole community were devastated- we wanted to take a little break but never jumped again- something we are determined to change this season!


We camped up in the La Sals to climb and hike and get a break from our roommate LOL and the heat in the valley. We fell in love with the summer weather + climbing up there! We did an unforgettable sunset mission in Arches National Park. We did a lot of exploring in the mountains and even tracked a bear on a hike. We white water rafted the Daily section of the Colorado in our $80 raft and had such an exhilarating experience! The van got new off-roading tires and went straight to Telluride! It was a nice way to escape the heat, see some where new, and buy some cheap weed :). Rufio rode the Gondoloa for his first time and both him and I HATED it- very scary- see picture. I started taking apart the van build because we were moving back in at the end of August. It was a lot of work in the heat, but I was also able to salvage a lot! At the end of the month, I was starting the new build.


It was our last month in our rental (we stayed there for 2.5 months) so we knew we had a busy month doing all the non-dog friendly things we wanted. The van build was finished during the first week, we were really excited to live in it and see how the new build would fare. We spent a week camping + climbing in the La Sals for our anniversary (dating), and we did a lot of hiking! Decided last minute to do the Confluence hike in Canyonlands Needles District- soo happy we did that! Bought and learned to Slackline! Taught myself to Canyoneer (NOT recommended LOLOLOL) and took Sean and our bff Chelsey on our first canyoneering adventure! It went so well that we did another canyon early the next morning! We quickly realized that we LOVE canyoneering, especially with our friends Chelsey + Drew. Our last week in August was crazy, (read about it here), we canyoneered, rappelled arches, and adventured hiked up to Pariott Mesa, a definite highlight of the season! On the 31st, we moved back into the van and I can’t even describe how happy and ready we were!


We started off by staying in La Sals for a couple of days to climb with friends, and came back to valley to do some more canyoneering. My friend Ali came to Moab and we did a super fun hike and worked on her project, The Heartbreak Roadtrip. Chelsey and I ran a canyon with some new friends and on the last rappel, Sean and Rufio were waiting for us with a solid firemans belay, and lots of stoke. On the 8th, we left for an epic roadtrip to California! We stopped in Las Vegas, spent big bucks at the Caser’s epic AF buffet, saw Zumanity (I should probably tell this story one day, but let’s just say…I DON’T RECOMMEND to people like me who are prudes hahahaha.) We left Vegas and got to Santa Monica, and drove for what seemed like forever and it took so long to find a place to park for the night. Overall, SoCal smelled like piss, the beaches were gross, and the vibe felt nothing like what I thought it was. This trip was actually a scouting trip for our winter, we thought we would spend it on the coast- we realized right away we would not like this at all. We left early, we missed the desert, our red dirt, and wide open, clean smelling spaces. We explored a lot of places in Utah we never been, and found some new favorite spots! We hiked in Goblin Valley and fell in love with their canyons and landscapes. We bought Rufio a harness specifically for roped activities with Rufio, so he can come with us always! I broke my toe 4 miles out on a hike alone with Rufio and had to hike back to the van in SANDALS. It was torture! Rufio pretended to hurt his leg and needed to be rushed the vet, turns out it was an ant bite. Rufio did his first rappel and did SO good, way better than we ever anticipated. We started pushing ourselves really hard at climbing and started to get better and improve a lot and climbing much harder routes. Fall was in full swing and so fun to drive around in up in the mountains. I got attacked by a type of hornet that rarely attacks alone (usually 1,000’s) while alone on a hike up in the mountains with Rufio. I instantly had an allergic reaction and had to pop 3 benadryl to be able to drive down to the valley. I was scared but we made it down safely and I slept the rest of the day.


It took 5 days until I could use my foot again after the sting. We bought canyoneering ropes and headed back to Goblin Valley to do some harder canyons with Rufio, it was so much fun and everything went perfectly! I had a custom made fire shaft made so we can spin fire with friends and in the desert. We drove to Denver to visit our friends John + Bethany, renew the van registration, and climb! Our good friend Cardamom ended up driving all the way down from Boulder to climb with us and seeing them was honestly so nice and wonderful, good friends are so good for the soul. We spent the rest of the month hiking some of our favorite trails in Moab, soaking up all the good temps, and spending some quality time with friends.


It was our last month in Moab, we had planned to leave Dec. 1, so we went into full send mode and did all of our favorites. We climbed a ton. Rufio and I did an awesome adventure hike with friends while Sean worked. We went to Looking Glass, free climbed nearly all of it, and then set up a swing for one of the most fun experiences of the season with great friends. We did one last canyon with a group of old + new friends and we had to all strip down into our undies to swim across a freezing cold pothole. EPIC.We climbed. I spent good quality time with my close friend, Zoe and we even got to climb a few routes together before they left for ice climbing! Our last week we climbed our first tower (I had my period and only made it half way) and then we went out to Andy Lewis’ Nonagon Spacenet to get out onto it! Rufio was not a fan of everyone ziplining acorss to get into it, but he was stoked when they made it back. On our last few days, we camped far off grid, visited Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands Island in the Sky district. I discovered watercolor painting. We hiked to Corona Arch one last time.


On the 1st, we left Moab for the winter!! First stop was Canyon de Chelly before leaving due to limited camping options and driving south to the Petrified Forest National Park which was EPIC AF! We planned on staying a week, but after a few days the rain started and turned the ground into wet clay which made hiking nearly impossible. That’s okay- that is the freedom of vanlife, bad weather doesn’t ruin anything because we have the time to come back whenever! We left and headed for a small mining town called Superior where we could camp and climb right from our site. On the 13th, I had a climbing related accident and took a big fall (nearly died) and ended up only with a bad wound on my leg. The next day, it looked pretty gnarly and hurt so bad so we went to Planet Fitness to shower and clean it. Rain was forecasted for a few days so went to that Walmart we stayed a lot in earlier in the year and made that a home base while the weather was bad and I was on the mend. After a few days the weather cleared, my leg was starting to scab over, and we decided to go to the Superstition Mountains while I still wasn’t able to climb. We found a great little spot and even saw a few wild coyote nearby! I started a side business selling my watercolor paintings and offering custom paintings of fellow roadlifers! There was so much hiking, beautiful warm weather, and incredible sunsets, ideal for us! We ended up meeting 2 of the coolest, nicest, most sincere (+ SOBER!!!!) people we have come across on the road, and we all ended up hanging out for days, playing games, sharing stories, hanging by the fire, and hiking! It was soooooo nice and overfilled our cups, we love you Jae, Jon, Rubinator, Brinnifer, and Kitty!! By the end of the month we were all ready to leave the dropping temps and head west. Jae + Jon drove towards the AZ/Mexico border, while we drove to California. We stayed at the same place near Joshua Tree as we did in January 2019 and rang in the New Year with a beautiful, never ending sunrise.

2019 was easily the best year of our lives. We met the most amazing people. We saw things we never knew existed. We traveled further in a year then some people do in 5. We explored areas deeply and realized that this land never belonged to us. We adventured hard. Worked hard. Loved hard.

We lived in 2019, and hope you did too.

Now, back to 2020.

Today marks 1 full week on the road since we left Moab! Even though we lived in the van in Moab, it some how feels like we left home all over again. When we left, the temps in town were hovering in the 30’s and dropping into the teens at night, so we were definitely ready for warmer weather and decided to head for Arizona where the weather forecasted to be in the 70’s during the day and high 50’s at night- perfection!

The first day on the road, we had to re-up on supplies. Our first stop was at a Walmart in Cortez, Colorado. We needed things like Propane for our grill, food (stay tuned for a blog about our weekly meal plan), and a few random things like disposable gloves (perfect for handling raw meat and saves on water and frustration), and I wanted to buy a machete for fun and bushwhacking, but Sean made me leave that behind LOL. After Walmart, we headed over to the local dispensary for winter medication ;)…Sean and I both have Medical Marijuana Cards which allow us to LEGALLY travel in Arizona with marijuana in the van. This does not protect us during Border Patrol Checkpoints however (technically federal property), and have had our weed confiscated during a search in Southern Arizona- but that’s a whole other story for another day. After Cortez, the only thing left to do was keep heading south- so that’s what we did.

With the Four Corners area in the rear-view mirror, we scoured the map looking for a new route we’ve never taken, and found only one: 191 South. Luckily for us, 191 was going to take us right to a google map pin we had saved: Canyon De Chelly National Monument, that was all we needed to see- off we went. Here’s a description from the park website:

Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover in large measure to preserve the important archaeological resources that span more than 4,000 years of human occupation. The monument encompasses approximately 84,000 acres of lands located entirely on the Navajo Nation with roughly 40 families residing within the park boundaries. The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation share resources and continue to work in partnership to manage this special place.

National Park Systems Website

The Monument has 2 roads that you can drive, with each going around the rim of the 2 main canyons that feature many Ruins and scenic pull-offs. Because we knew we couldn’t camp in the area, we had to pick 1 to do that day and save the other for a future visit. We decided on the South Rim so we could see the White House, even though we were not allowed to do the hike because of Rufio. In hindsight, I really wish we drove the North rim instead- but it just gives us a reason to go back sooner rather than later. Once we finished the South Rim, we started to turn our attention to where we were going to sleep that night.

Just 1.5 hours south of Canyon De Chelly is Petrified Forest National Park, it made the most sense for us to head there next. When we got to the park it was around 4:40pm and that’s when we found out that they close at 5pm, not ideal. 20 miles west of the entrance, there is a small town and a gas station that allows overnight parking, so we piled back in the van and headed for Holbrook, AZ. The first night in a new parking lot is always a little rough because I wake up a lot through the night, worried about people bothering us or being asked to move, but that night no one bothered us and we woke up to a clean restrooms and fresh coffee: the luxuries of staying in a gas station parking lot!

Around 6am, we left the gas station and headed for the South entrance of the Petrified Forest, where we planned on making breakfast while we wait for the park to open the gates at 8am. At the south entrance, there is 2 gift shops that each have an area to camp. On the East side of the road, it is free DRY camping (no restrooms, no water, no power), and on the west side, is paid camping with power. Not sure if they have an accessible restroom for campers.

side note here (talking about poop so feel free to skip LOL): when it comes to bathrooms in the morning, if we are staying on non-sensitive land, we dig 6-8″ cat holes, go to the bathroom in those and than bury it back up. When we are on sensitive land, we have WAG bags, which are basically giant bags you poop in and a gel substance in the bag breaks down your poo and you can throw it out in any old trash can when ya get to one. BUT when we are staying on developed land, that has no bathroom, or privacy, our options become very limited, I.E. using a WAG bag in the van. We haven’t had to do that in an entire year, but those are our options if there isn’t a restroom available. okay, now back to your regular scheduled programming..

We made breakfast at one of the sites, and I was in awe of these giant petrified logs they had laid out all around- little did I know what I was in store for in the actual park. If you made it this far and don’t know, petrified wood is wood that has turned to stone but still looks like wood- it’s really really freaking cool and also about 200 million years old. Much to my dismay, we were the 2nd car into the park that day- I like to be first, it’s a thing.

Once in the park, we realized that we were going to spend at least a few days there- so much to see and do and get this: TOTALLY DOG FRIENDLY. If you don’t know, National Parks are infamous for being very NOT dog-friendly, so this was a rare find! At the visitor’s center, they have binders you can borrow that have all the route finding backcountry hikes they have in the park, with descriptions and pictures to help you find your way to some far off places. Out of all the parks we have been to, this was a first! We wanted to check out their popular, paved hikes first so we parked the van and got to walking. Our first hike was to an ancient Log Jam that blew my nerd brain to smithereens. Here’s how it happened:

About 218 million years ago, flood waters carried fallen trees to this spot. After being quickly covered with sediment they slowly petrified- their organic material replaced with silica minerals over millions of years. Some of these prehistoric trees stood 200 feet tall. This pile-up of logs is an ancient log jam, brought to the surface again through erosion.

National Parks Service

So yeah, we basically walked around a tree graveyard- if the graveyard was 218 million years old. SO COOL. Book your trip now. Seriously! Here are some photos from this rad hike:

After we finished the parks paved trails, we began to dive into their Off the Beaten Path Hiking binder to see what fun we could find. Originally, our plan was to do all of the hikes listed, so we started with the one closest to us, that took you through the backcountry, up onto a mesa and gave a sweeping view of the area. We are confident off route hikers, and even with pictures, it was still a challenge to decipher their clues and to get to each route point. We hiked through freshly soaked clay, so our boots, pants, paws, and selves were pretty much covered in heavy clay that really bogged us down- true adventure!

We finally made it to the top of the mesa, enjoyed the views, and headed back intending to do another hike. Once we got back to the ground, we realized we went up the complete wrong mesa, LOL. We were satisfied enough with our findings, so we started to slowly head back to where we thought the van was. A few wrong turns and a couple hours later, we realized that we were in the wrong area. We eventually found the van after some searching, and got our now 20 pound boots off of our tired feet. Walking through wet clay is exhausting.

There is one hike in the park that to do, you need to get 1 of 3 permits given out a week, and lucky for us- the next day (Wednesday) was the start of their week! The next morning, we waited at the closed gate for a hour, to ensure that we got one of the permits. It had rained that whole night and was just stopping by the time the gate was opening up and it was clearing skies by the time we walked into the visitors center. We got the golden ticket! We were on our way to hiking the seldom seen, Devil’s playground. Just as we signed our name, a knowledgeable ranger rang in to give us some information. The road out to the only parking spot was made out of that same clay we walked through- the van would never make it through it. Just as fast as we got the permit, we had to hand it back in and we were BUMMED to say the least. With a full day and no plans, we drove the rest of the park we hadn’t yet seen and once we finished, decided to hit the road, as the rain turned the whole park to clay and made all the hiking we wanted to do, seem like an exhausting chore.

A friend on Instagram had told us about this awesome climbing area only a couple hours away from the park, that we wanted to head to next. It was already late afternoon, so we found a halfway point and drove there for the night. We hit the road early, and drove through the Tonto National Forest on our way to the town of Superior, Arizona. The drive was breathtaking, we had no idea this forest had such stunning scenery, rich history, and tons of free camping.

Tonto National Forest

We spent a couple hours checking it out and stopping at all the view areas and added it to our list of “must returns”. Not far away from Superior, we started keeping an eye out for any where to camp, when I saw a sign on the side of the road with a little tent on it pointing down a (paved!!!) road. We turned down that road and expected to find a paid camping area, but much to our surprise- it was FREE camping! We were elated! The town wasn’t far away- and it felt like it was perfectly in the center of all the great climbing around us. After the find, we went into town to grab a few things and stop by a climbing shop for maps- we didnt have service for a few hours at that point, so google maps wasnt helpful aside from getting us into the town. When we rolled in, we actually laughed- this wasn’t as big as we were thought- it was a tiny mining town with 1 grocery store and exactly zero climbing shops- actually laughing typing this because wow how hilarious that we thought there would be a CLIMBING STORE lol. We went to the Chamber of Commerce with low hopes and there happened to be 4 old men sitting at a table having coffee and just hanging out- they were elated when Sean walked through the door and even more elated that they could share information with someone in their town, and the most excitingly, in their office. One of the men used to climb and gave us a ton of great information and asked if we found the camping, and then told us that the camping was right next to a lot of great climbing- we never had to leave the area we were camping- music to our ears. We headed back to camp with no map but stoke that we some how magically ended up in the right place!

Ready to adventure some more, we drove around the area looking for a quieter place to sleep and some where for us to climb first. We found only one other place to camp, and snagged it right away without looking any further. We were excited that there was a giant boulder that we could climb on when we were at camp. After setting up and getting our stuff out, we started to hike around to see what we could find. Literal feet from the van we spotted a shiny metal bolt and then another and another…..and that’s when we realized that we somehow snagged the only spot on top of a climbing wall, and we had the whole place to ourselves. We practically ran back to the van like bandits that just found loot, to grab all of our gear and get to climbing straight away. A few weeks ago, we would talk about our winter plans and our dreams, and we kept saying we just want to find some where that we can camp right at the crag- it only took a few days for our dream to come true!

The rock is completely different than the sandstone in Moab, a totally different climbing experience for us. At first it felt like we had to start all over but then realized we just had to get our hands and fingers used to the sharp, jagged rock. All day Saturday was spent on the wall, completing nearly every route a few times each for practice. Our second to last route was a real challenge, the day before neither of us could send it. But on Saturday, after a full days work- we both sent it first try! We celebrated like we won a million bucks- and then tortured ourselves by doing the route 3 times in a row. With just enough strength for one more route, we moved over to an easy dihedral route, and though we both sent it, it was a challenge getting our tired bodies to the top- a tell tale sign that we were both done-zo for the day. After cleaning up, we walked the 20 feet back to the van, happy and tired.

Unfortunately, a rain storm was moving in, a day earlier than expected. It looked like we had enough time to clean up the site and make sloppy joes for dinner before it would start raining, and then we could head towards Phoenix for supplies while we waited the rain out. As soon as we hit the road, the rain started and its been raining ever since (now Monday), but today it all clears and then it’s nothing but sunshine for the forseeable future!

While in town, we signed up for a membership at Planet Fitness so we can shower and have somewhere to go on rainy days or when we can’t handle our own stench any longer (takes way longer than you would think haha). Last year we didn’t bother with laundry or showers often, but this year I think we may do both a little more frequently, we’ll see though. Today, we are going to check out a Blood Plasma donation center to see if we can make a few bucks this winter donating our plasma, and get an oil change before we make our way back to our little climbing paradise.

This first week has been off to such a great start, I’m certain it’s a sign of whats to come this winter! Thanks for reading and being interested in our adventures- scroll down for more pictures of our week.

Hello, Ashley here coming at ya from Moab Coffee Roasters. It’s 13° outside and I’m frozen. I wanted to share about my struggles with SAD with you all, but to be clear: this is in no way intended to be a guide, medical advice, or solutions for you.

Winter is knocking on our door and as much as I am trying to keep a welcoming attitude towards it, I can feel the SAD creeping in. I’m not talking about sadness, I’m talking Seasonal Affective Disorder. Each year as the sun dwindles and the cold moves in, there’s a chill that infects my mind and body and leaves me majorly depressed until the warmness of spring is finally upon us. In previous years I have done my best to combat it; remaining active, changing my attitude towards it, using supplements, medication, creating myself a cocoon and never leaving my bed, and probably like every homeopathic remedy you can google and yet- I still find myself struggling. This year though, I am determined to not just survive winter- but thrive in it.

I’ve created a game plan that I think will greatly increase my chances of enjoying this winter: listening to my body. It seems simple, but I assure you- it is not.

Like Chris Traeger, my body is finely tuned, like a microchip. I’ve learned over the years what my body needs to be healthy, happy, and active. The sun plays a major role in my body’s ability to function, more specifically, my Vitamin D levels have correlated with my feelings of depression. (Get a blood test if you think your microchip has been compromised.)

Currently, I’m taking a regime of vitamins that I feel as though are working for me and giving me some extra energy now that my supplies are dwindling. I take vitamins D3 + B12 as well as an iron supplement after my breakfast in the morning and maybe it’s the placebo effect, but either way: I feel pretty dang good considering. I also invested money into quality base layers, socks, and outerwear so I could be outside without shivering or feeling the cold, I swear by the brand Patagonia, they make quality, long-lasting clothing backed with a lifetime warranty- well worth the money. A couple days ago, I purchased a fleece liner for my sleeping bag to give it an extra cozy feeling and it increases the warmth by 15° which is dope! The byproduct of these investments has been insurmountable. I wake up in the morning warm and cozy, I don’t have to jump up, throw layers on or start the van, which makes a big difference on the rest of my day when I don’t start off freezing. When I do get up, I put on my layers and am warm and bundled and not dreading going outside because I’m prepared. These incremental changes all add up and make a measurable difference at the end of the day. I know this because I went from not wanting to leave the bed all day, to getting up and hiking or exploring regardless of the 19° weather.

I have committed myself to going for a hike every day now that the cold is here. I know my body needs and craves it, I just have to battle my mind to get it moving. Another part of listening to my body is ignoring my minds will. Depression wants me to stay in bed and let the winter and life pass me by, but my body wants to move, explore, and feel the seasons, I must let my body win this battle. So far, I have been doing really well keeping this commitment to myself and I’m certain the effects have been noticeable. What helps me, is to have a going list of all the different ways I can go outside and move my body during the day, and just picking the one that feels best for that day. Maybe it’s only an hour walk around town, or a quick 2 mile hike to an overlook, whatever my body needs that day, I do that. It’s not easy, it is a fierce battle, but this year, I’m determined to let my body win the SAD battle.

Something really weird that I’ve done for the past 2 years that I swear by is kind of a trick I play on my SAD. The shortest day of the year is December, 21, every day leading up to that gets shorter and shorter, until December 22, every day gets longer and longer. I am usually so pre-occupied enjoying the holiday festivities, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that my depression doesn’t have time to fully settle in, so by the time my SAD is in full-swing, it’s like January 2nd lol. I try to focus my mind on the glass being half-full, and that every day stays light out for longer and longer and that spring and warmth are just right around the corner! I don’t have any idea why or how this works, but I offer it to you to try and see if you can trick your own brain. Good luck!

No matter what this winter brings and how I get through it, I will know that I tried my best and that will definitely be enough for me. I’ve struggled with depression my entire life, so I know I can make it through this season too. If you feel the depression start to creep in, know that you aren’t alone and that you’re feelings are 100% valid and real. Reach out if you’re starting to feel depressed, ask loved ones to keep an eye on you, communicate when you’re struggling, and most importantly: listen to your body.

If you’re struggling with feelings of suicide, seek help immediately. Click here for the phone number or to chat with someone who wants to help + listen.

Linked all my go-to gear below!

Favorite Warmest Hoodie
Base Layer Pants
Base Layer Shirt
Merino Wool Socks
Super Warm + Soft Hoodie
Fleece Lounge Pant
Winter Jacket
Sleeping Bag Liner
Cozy Wool Slip-On Shoes