How often do you pass signs on the freeway and think "one day I want to stop there". Well, that's what I do now. No more rushing, no more "maybe one day". Today is the day and what amazes me are the experience I end up having and the people I end up meeting.
I saw the “Fresh fruit” sign off the 5N freeway near the Grapevine. As usual, I took the nearest exit – Copus Rd – and went exploring. I didn’t need to go too far, as good signage and a bright purple barn led me right there.
Murray Family Farm
Murray Family FarmVanLifePhotos finds The Little Purple Barn Murray Family Farms was where I spent the next 30 minutes talking with a wonderful employee about the 2 farms, the other farm near Bakersfield is larger with more kids activities. They are a sustainable, organic farm. I learned about the variety of fruits and vegetables, honey, and nuts they grow, about the freshly baked pies, seasonal u-pick-it events and left with an assortment of citrus fruits that are not common in most supermarkets. I need to head back soon as it’s berry season!
Murray Family FarmCitrus Extravaganza Murray Family FarmCitrus Extravaganza Murray Family FarmCitrus Extravaganza
Last week I decided to drive North. I often prefer to pick a direction as opposed to a destination so as not to limit myself. If I say San Francisco then I’ll be inclined to get there by a certain time or day, and I like to wander! With a combination of websites and apps, I often have researched places I’m interested in seeing, however nothing beats driving, spontaneously seeing a sign or something of interest and pulling off to experience it.
VanLifePhotos driving through the GrapevineVanLifePhotos at Fort Tejon One such stop was “Fort Tejon", an Army outpost located in the Grapevine. Having spent 6 weeks last summer on the East Coast learning more American History than all the years I have lived in America, I was excited to see this in my "back yard", so to speak. I wonder how many times I drive past things without knowing of their existence? Well that is part of this new journey – to discover.
Fort Tejon was established in 1854, and was abandoned 10 years later. The fort was established to protect stock rustling, and to protect both the Indians and White Settlers from raids by Indian groups in other regions. There are both original and restored barracks to wander through.
Although I wasn’t there to observe the living History demonstration, which occurs on the 1st Saturday of each month, I left with a deeper awareness of how life might have been during that period.
VanLifePhotos - Fort Tejon Army BarracksSoldiers Uniforms Fort Tejon 1854 VanLifePhotos - Fort Tejon Army BarracksSoldiers Uniforms Fort Tejon 1854 I will add it was unusually cold and I actually ran back to the van too late as my fingers and toes were already tingly numb and white (due to Raynauds). I was grateful as I turned on the heater, boiled the kettle, made a cup of tea, and reflected on life.
Nope, that is not a typo! Rainbows have always had a much deeper meaning for me. The way I see it, all colors are beautiful as they are – unique and different. Yet in order to create a rainbow, you need light…not darkness. Light to shine the way for those 7 main colors to come together and unite in order to create something so beautiful, with absolute inclusion and acceptance of each other, that everyone finds magic, beauty and awe in their joining. This is what we need to do, with ourselves and our communities. As is evident by the inside of my van…this is how I choose to live life, surrounded by rainbows!
A rainbow cannot exist if one color is left out – a color can neither be excluded nor choose not to participate. It cannot work that way as every color has to be involved! Each color is beautiful. Sure, many people have their favorites; and some colors are on opposite sides of the color wheel, yet each one has something special to offer and nothing can replace the beauty and magic created when these colors join together…imagine if that never happened.
Be like a rainbow. This is what I do when I travel – I look for rainbows everywhere, and many times I create them! Shine the light – look for the beauty all around you. Share a rainbow story with me below…nothing makes me happier...and let me know if you guessed my van would have a rainbow interior :)
When I first told my parents I was going to live in a van, I’m not sure there are words to describe the look on their faces. They always support my choices, even when they don’t agree with them and since they clearly were not sure how to react, I quickly clarified… “That is if I can afford it!” Well that really confused them so I pulled up class B vans on the Internet and showed them I would be just fine! After all, even though their free-spirited, curious-minded, wandering unicorn wanted to travel across the country taking photos and spreading peace, love and kindness whilst living in a van, they would always want to make sure I’m safe and happy.
You would think I’m “20-something” venturing out on my own for the first time. Not quite - I am almost 50, but I am as giddy as a kid in a candy store as I’m about to embark on the sequel to the book I call my life. It’s not just a chapter it’s a new beginning in a way.
Like so many others who choose vanlife, I get a barrage of questions which usually include ... “You’re doing this alone? (yes). Won’t you get lonely? (maybe). How do you know what to do? (I don’t). How long are you doing this for? (No idea). What are you running away from? (actually running towards).” And the list goes on. Of course, it’s followed up with either “Wow, you’re so brave I could never do that” or “I’m so jealous I wish I could do that!” Oh and let’s not forget “I can’t believe you gave up your life to do this!” Well, that’s hardly the case. I’m choosing my life.
So why and how vanlife? It came to me as I was driving through the Canadian Rockies. I felt so peaceful, calm and present. Every mile seemed more beautiful than the previous one, and I felt like driving forever in order to keep this feeling alive. It occurred to me life could be like this if I wanted it to – I just needed to make a choice. How badly did I want to continue feeling this way, free to explore the beauty around me? I think it was a rhetorical question! My decision was made!
I already acknowledged I didn’t fit into what society considered “normal” although as my son’s T-shirt says… define normal! I believe as with most of us, my journey started long ago, the difference I think is that I listened and acted on it. I spent years swimming against the current, teaching my children lessons that I had finally fully embraced, after all, what good would it be if I didn’t practice the path I set out to guide them on – living authentically. I no longer worried about what others thought of me, or feared making a “mistake”. Doubt didn’t creep into my mind attempting to conform me, nor did the desire to own what others have, convince me otherwise. I was happy for those who wanted a certain lifestyle and appreciative of the fact I knew what I wanted.
Change is rarely fast or easy. It is however liberating. I was choosing more which meant I needed less. I was ready for a more simple lifestyle. I wanted less clutter in my brain and my surroundings, less possessions, less chaos, less crowds, less distractions. I wanted more nature, more freedom, more authentic experiences, more time to live life.
I’m not exactly lacking for “luxury” in my van. The lifestyle I have chosen may very well be alternative to most but I certainly have everything I need. Water, electricity, a kitchen, a bathroom, a bed, a sofa, dining room table, TV, computer… it’s just living life on a much smaller scale… and of course, it’s about making major changes. It’s about my wants vs my needs and it’s personal. There is no right or wrong. It’s not good or bad and there is no judgment on anyone else for their choices. Just as there is no one way to live life, there are many options to living in a van, but no matter the changes I make, one thing is for sure – I’ll always be a rainbow unicorn!
I’ve done it. Truth be told I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m a person who listens to my gut instinct and for almost 2 years in a very loud and clear way I have been listening and the time is finally here.
It has taken me up until now for most of the major pieces to fall into place. It’s not like life stops in order to complete the checklist, and I wasn't waiting until everything was checked off. Life doesn’t happen that way for anyone. So in between the rollercoaster of life, I scaled down my lifestyle, gave away most of my material possessions aka “stuff”, figured out my needs, researched RV’s and jumped into the deepend. I have never been camping. I have never owned an RV and I certainly had no idea about inverters, generators or any colored tank! I made the decision to do it, and never looked back to see if “doubt” was following me. I am a 1st-timer, full-timer, heading out solo (which doesn’t mean I’m single btw). I’m almost 50 and I could not be happier or more excited.
I’m under no illusions. Do I know what I’m doing? Well...very much so as far as the choice I have made, and at the same time absolutely no idea whatsoever about living in a van! Will it be challenging? That’s actually funny as I think living in Los Angeles can be challenging, and facing an illness is challenging, so I guess it’s all about perspective and what one sees as challenging. Will there be a learning curve? Oh heck yes, the amount of times I have already heard beeps and alarms and think eek now what…although to be honest, with ADHD, forget curve, everything I do in life is a zig-zag, so that’s to be expected. Will I have mixed emotions? Absolutely, but again, that happens in life anywhere and to everyone, and I have found wonderful support already. Am I scared? No.
I guess I’m the kind of person who doesn’t fear change or new opportunities; the kind of person who loves to learn and try new things; explore and understand the world around me. So thanks to Nanci and the wonderful team at Van City RV, and the amazing company Pleasure-Way Industries, I’m now the proud owner of a Plateau TS and have started my adventure!
I hope you'll join me on my journey as I explore the country, share my photos and experiences, and learn about vanlife. It's called a lot of things - Class B Motorhome, RV, Camper Van, Conversion Van, Sprinter Van - and whereas I don't have a "formal" name yet, one thing is for sure, I call it Home!
Time flies! In just a few weeks, the first annual Beverly Hills 5K Run/Walk & Fitness Blast will take place. It starts and finishes in front of Beverly Hills City Hall which is where the Monday morning Walk with the Mayor gathers every week with BOLD determination, motivation and amazing orange energy with the goal of transforming Beverly Hills into America’s healthiest city #bhhealthycity. A more perfect day could not have been picked as this event takes place both on the birthday of the City of Beverly Hills as well as on the Anniversary of BHEF - Beverly Hills Education Foundation which has been chosen as this year's beneficiary. BHEF is a non-profit organization that raises money to support all five of the Beverly Hills public schools.
Given that I'm a digital nomad and always on the move, means that I am rarely in one location for an extended period of time. I roam around spreading love, happiness and kindness, photographing, learning from other people's stories, and exploring the beauty of new places around me. I leave pieces of my heart in many places (don't worry, I have a big heart and I choose to leave them!). The community of Beverly Hills is one of those places. The leadership, inspiration and vision of Mayor Lili Bosse is quite exceptional and the support of the Special Ed division of the public school system while my son was in school is something I will always remember. I am grateful to have had the opportunity over the years to play my part as a member of the community through friendship and volunteering my photography.
While I was in town working as part of Dion's All Season's Media Fitness Team, together with Bob Seagren’s Run Racing team we worked on making Dion's vision a reality. It was exciting being a part of the early stages of design, planning and BH City Council approval and I look forward to seeing what I have no doubt will be an amazing event!
I never know where I will be from week to week, so no guarantees, but I hope to see you all out at the starting line Sunday January 28 at 7am or at the Fitness Blast after the 5K. Dion has amazing health and fitness experts coming to teach and inspire. Stay healthy! #bhhealthycity
Join in as the course takes you through the beautiful bold city of Beverly Hills! How incredible to run if you choose... or walk or stroll through the streets and past these stores - only in Beverly Hills!
Thank you Lili for bringing together so many people, for motivating and inspiring and sharing your vision of health, happiness, kindness and compassion. You have a loyal following of BOLD inspired individuals. I hope you know how much you have impacted the lives of so many. You make a difference, thank you! xo
To sign up, click this link Beverly Hills 5K Run/Walk & Fitness Blast
To follow the facebook group, Click here
Have you ever stopped to think what it might be like to see yourself in a photo for the 1st time?
5 years ago, I traveled to Cambodia and after visiting a few small villages, I learned the kids and their families had never seen photos of themselves and I decided the next time I visited South East Asia, I would change that. Fujifilm Instax made it happen! This trip, I started out in rural villages in Laos before heading back to Cambodia. You didn't have to be there to feel the emotions in these images.
These faces!!!! The emotions. Happiness. Excitement. Wonder. It truly is priceless to see the reactions of the kids receiving photos of themselves for the first time. What an honor and a privilege. I know I left a piece of my heart in each village we visited and once again my life was changed by a simple act - spending time with happy children who appreciate what they have, are grateful for what they are given and show compassion and kindness to each other! If we could all learn from these kids the world would be a better place. This is my ideal job - doing what I love and loving what I do. I will soon be heading out in my van to travel America, so, being completely honest, if there are any companies or individuals who are looking to hire someone to join them to spread happiness to others, please reach out to me :)
We were out in rural areas far from a city. Part jungle part mountains, all beautiful and I was taking photos on my iPhone, using the Instax Share App, connecting wirelessly to the Instax Share SP-2 mini printer and instantly printing out a photo for each child! We couldn't shoot and print fast enough as the kids kept running off to bring their siblings and friends ensuring everyone in the village received a photo. Technology is amazing, and something we take for granted. Thank you Fujifilm Instax North America for sending me all the film and mini printer to make that happen and bring such joy to these kids! It's my new "don't leave home without it" piece of equipment.
What does it mean to give? According to the dictionary ... 1.freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone)⠀
What about receive? ... 1.be given, presented with, or paid (something).
So essentially, when you give...you receive! This could not have been more evident whilst photographing these kids. I honestly don't know who was really on the receiving end!
"Can you tell us where tourists don't go?" I received a curious look from the hotel owner at Villa Rattanakon in Luang Prabang but there wasn't time for her to ask me "why" as I immediately followed up with our intentions and how we preferred to learn about a country - authentically, through the culture, people and customs. Something important to us was to take and print out photos immediately to give to the kids as I had learned on a previous visit that in rural villages most children have never seen a photo of themselves or to take it one step further, don't know what they look like as there are no mirrors. Think about that... Of course getting there was a journey in itself!
So many lessons to learn along the way. Life lessons - Time moves at its own pace and people are more accepting. It's a very good reminder to just be present and go with it, after all, whats the rush?
And then there is the experience of wandering very carefully (those leaves are sharp!) through a pineapple farm and watching your son's reaction to learning how pineapples grow. His mind was blown! This led to agricultural lessons of all types. Another story entirely as to how rice grows - like most people, he never stopped to think about that!
Along the way we stopped to chat with this mother and her children who explained they had gone into the jungle to get food. She was very happy to explain how they collected the bananas and timidly asked for her own Instax image after we gave each of the kids their own. I actually can't describe the feeling of knowing I was giving this woman her first family portrait. The happiness could be felt long after we drove off.
My gratitude to the wonderful staff at Villa Rattanakon for understanding what we needed and finding the perfect guide to help us on our journey, and of course a huge thank you to Cy for helping us accomplish beyond what we set out to do.
Luang Prabang was a bit of a shock to my senses. We had just spent a week in Nan Province where Steven and I were the only western tourists, and other than our friend Dream, about the only people who spoke English. Although tourists from other areas of Thailand visited, the city was geared towards locals. What we found in Luang Prabang was polar opposite. The city was set up specifically for tourists, and sadly, a little like a set at Universal. It's not good or bad, just different. It was not however what either of us were looking to learn about the culture of Laos. Knowing what you want to experience on a trip and learning your travel style are so necessary and probably the 2 most important things I was hoping for Steven to figure out on our travels. Scroll down or "stroll through" my Image Adventure of a "Life in Luang Prabang" before I take you exploring the rural villages of Laos and possibly the highlight of the trip!
I was in heaven when I heard about the Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok. I made sure to allow plenty of time to navigate my way around Bangkok on the BTS to find this randomly located cafe. It's down a street that leads you to believe you're in the wrong place but keep going and you'll definitely see it! Now I'm not usually one who has expectations as it's the quickest way to disappointment, however, the thought of rainbows and unicorns...I mean...happiness! I have to be honest, the concept is amazing for us Unicorn lovers - food, merchandise, chairs and walls were pastel rainbows and unicorns! What would have been wonderful to see however, was service and energy that matched my enthusiasm for being there. I felt indifference as if nothing was needed because tourists would come based on the theme alone... oh and instagrammable images! Don't get me wrong - it's worth going to see and if you are going to order anything, make it the rainbow crepe cake!
Unicorn Cafe is located at Soi Sathorn 8 BTS Chong Nonsi 086 3979262.
As a piece of constructive feedback, it would be nice to see new stuffed animals / plush as the ones there looked well worn and no longer snuggly, and a smile with some positive interaction would go a long way from the staff working there.