travel

How to survive a 2 week road trip across America

When I told my coworkers that my husband and I were driving across America to see as many national parks as possible, a wedding, and more....in just 2 weeks, they thought I was crazy.

Shucks, they still think its crazy. I had my boss look me at me and say "Sounds nuts, Becker. Good luck." Queue the eye roll.

Not many people get excited about road trips, hiking, camping, and roughin' it like Josiah and I. We had a very close group of friends that loved it, but at the end of the day, we were still the couple that would fully prepare for a campout. We have it down to a science of how things are packed, in what order, and what foods to bring. Honestly, we should be professional campers. Is there such a thing?

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In march, when we were looking at flights to California for my brother-in-law's wedding, Josiah looked at me and said "I'll prove to you that driving out there is cheaper. Gas, food, National Park pass, campsites. I'll prove it." So, he made a list of everything he could think of, and even with a little wiggle room we thought...we might as well do this now!

So on June 26th, we headed off for Knoxville, TN towards Memphis, TN (at this time, mind you, we had no idea we would be looking to live in Memphis.) and on to route I-40. We traveled across Texas through Amarillo, then to Holbrook Arizona, Kingman Arizona, and then to California. The way back was a slightly more northern route through Arizona, Las Vegas, Utah, Denver Colorado, Omaha, Illinois and then back home. Its was an exhausting 2 weeks, but absolutely amazing at the same time. I took tons of video, which got made into this lovely montage:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsYes0JolQw

 

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All said and done, its was a huge undertaking. I do wish I had photos of each piece of planning we do prior to the trip, but I do have the words to tell you, so here it goes!

 

  1. Plan your route and what to see
    1. We did precise calculations of how long it would take to get to each stop. We made a list of places we couldn't miss,  and places we would go to if we had time but could be cut. It was so important to have that communication of expectations.
    2. We are National Parks people. We wanted to see the unique landscape and treasures unique to that region. Because of that, we bought a national park pass that's good for a year. Definitely a plus for us. We aren't big city people so even though we passed through places like Denver and Las Vegas, we weren't spending a lot on sightseeing there.
  2. Plan your accommodations
    1. Plan on camping, using hostels, or staying with friends if you're trying to go the economical route. At the beginning of our trip I posted our list of locations to friends, and a few volunteered a night's stay. #Worthit. Some nights we stayed in KOA cabins with air conditioning which was like a luxury hotel for us. Set your expectations early on.
  3. Plan your gas
    1. Get a gas card or a travel card. OR, if you don't want to be limited to a certain brand, just wing it and look for the cheapest gas. BUT DO NOT wait until your tank is empty. Fill up in cities before you get to the expensive desert regions.
  4. Find ways to make it fun for everyone
    1. My husband just wants to see the natural landscapes. He's an explorer. He wanted to get to every national park and then some. 
    2. I am a photographer. I needed a project to work on. So, I bought a portrait lens for my Sony A6000 and in every state or big stop, I took portraits of the baristas that served me coffee. It was awesome, and I'll write a blog about it soon. I even plan on creating a educational talk about starting conversations with strangers. It was the only way to keep my creative mind at ease while being cooped up for 15 days.
  5. Don't be ambitious with food. Plan to eat out a few times
    1. We cooked almost every night. We were doing this trip to actually save money, so we bought food along the way that we could cook on our own camp stove. We didn't cook over a camp fire to save time, which was a very smart choice. Make compromises where you need to, and communicate what local foods you want to try.
    2. Try local food that you can't get anywhere else.
      1. In Moab, Utah I wanted to try the local drive-in and nitrogen frozen ice cream. Those were worthy purchases. 
      2. Colorado has a famous restaurant called Beau Joe's Mountain Pies. The crust end is so thick and roll-like that they make honey dipping sauce to go with it. Its a must try.
  6. Establish standards for your comfort, cleanliness, and timeliness
    1. For us, we knew that the car would get dirty and possibly smelly, so we invest in deodorizers. I can't stand bad smells, so that was a priority to me. 
    2. We kept the car in order for the most part. Dry goods and cooler were in the same accessible place every day. Snacks, maps, fan, and water were in the same place everyday. Establish a system that you can loosely stick to and not get mad when your car mate changes it up or improves upon it on day 3 or 4.
    3. Keep a good bed time. Especially if you're traveling through the heat and need to be at certain places before the 12-4pm heat hits. We were quite bad at this. We would stay up too late and leave too late. Plan for sunrise or sunset moments because you might never see that landscape at that time again.
  7. Keep a visual record
    1. For us, that was in the form of my video taking and picture taking. You don't know when you're going to be back, so take so many photos. I take a lot of photos of moments that weren't particularly about the locale, but about the people. I'm bad about including myself in photos, so I missed a lot of my own reactions and moments.
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But preparing for a road trip is not just a list of practical things to check off. Because frankly, I did everything in the above list, and things did not go as expected.

You know why?

Well, after two weeks on the road Josiah and I had changed. We had encountered a world of possibilities where people of all social classes, backgrounds, languages, and financial means were traveling together on the open road. We had changed, but time seemed to have stopped in our little home town. We wanted to scream out "Does no one else see how different I am?!" "Does anyone realize what else is out there?...WHO else is out there?" Our eyes had been opened to everything we can do, and could do, if we followed God's call to leave the comfort we were in. 

We let the experiences change us, and we learned from them. I met people I would never talk to because I put myself out there in new ways, creating imagery through coffeeshops (more on that later). We climbed mountains in sweltering 115 degree heat, and ate Colorado Mountain Pies. We've stood at on top of the mountains of Virginia, the edge of the Grand Canyon, on the cliffs of Horseshoe Bend, and at the shores of California to come to the realization that God is greater than our wildest dreams.

A road trip is an amazing experience. Its not a resort, there are no massages, and showers might be hard to come by, but I recommend doing it, and doing it well. 

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So what's the secret to surviving a 2 week road trip?

Letting go of your expectations and letting yourself be open to change. Don't hold on to the plan too tightly, and plan on drinking lots and lots of coffee.

Let God be in control, and you'll find yourself finally at peace with the world.

Sincerely,

Kaitlyn Becker 

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What's really going on in Memphis, TN?

We moved to Memphis, Tennessee in the middle of Hurricane Harvey on a Thursday. I couldn't see more than  20 feet in front of me, my hazard lights were on, and two tornadoes had touched down in Decatur County.  All I wanted was to be warm and drinking hot chocolate with my friends in Lynchburg, Virginia, and it was 708 miles behind me.

A quick few photos with Dani, one of my best friends and LU Marketing co-worker.

A quick few photos with Dani, one of my best friends and LU Marketing co-worker.

It was too late to turn back now.

Today marks two weeks at my new job at Stash Home in Memphis, Tennessee. The hurricane is gone, my stomach is settled, and I have the brain space to be blogging, so that's good news. But its all so scary and new. Quitting your job and moving across the country may sound exciting at first, but the glamour does wear off after all the goodbye parties and packing is done. You are left in an unfamiliar place with not a lot to go on. It can be discouraging, but I know you, if you're reading this, are cheering me on from a distance! Please keep doing that. Keep texting us, and calling us. We're exploring and learning, but we do still miss all the familiarity of home.

About three months ago we had decided to commit ourselves to pray more for what God had in mind for our skills. We knew that we liked Virginia, and our friends there, and that God was using us. But, we also knew that we were itching to be used in different ways, learn new things, move, and possibly improve our finances in the process. It was time for a big change. 

We can't honestly say we're doing great. The world's measurements of success are not God's measurement of success, and we have to remind ourselves of that everyday. The process is harder than we thought. We're still searching for a place to live, a job for Josiah, a church, and friends. The basics. All the things that you take for granted when you have them. 

 

Our Gospel Community Small Group August 2017, the week before we moved to Memphis, TN.

Our Gospel Community Small Group August 2017, the week before we moved to Memphis, TN.

I was part of a traveling ministry team, playing electric violin and acting in dramas from September 2010-December 2013. These people were my closest family! That's me at the top....with blonde hair!

I was part of a traveling ministry team, playing electric violin and acting in dramas from September 2010-December 2013. These people were my closest family! That's me at the top....with blonde hair!

Playing Viola, as part of Atlas Rhoads at Christmas Coffeehouse as a student, December 2013.

Playing Viola, as part of Atlas Rhoads at Christmas Coffeehouse as a student, December 2013.

Attending a ReHash designer meet-up cookout with friends from school and my ministry team, Vision Ministries, April 2011.

Attending a ReHash designer meet-up cookout with friends from school and my ministry team, Vision Ministries, April 2011.

We had seven years in Lynchburg, Virginia. 3.5 as students and 3.5 as alumni and employees of Liberty University.  A blessing we didn't expect to have, filled with the most special memories and incredible friends. That's why I've included a lot of college memories in this post. People I roomed with in college dorms, new 'family' I made in my traveling ministry team and at work, and trails I hiked while living in the Shenandoah Valley. The three jobs I had after college at a law firm called Liberty Counsel, Sodexo Hospitality Dining, and as a Liberty University Marketing Photographer.  I wanted to showcase old moments while also showing you what God is doing in our lives. Slowly but surely, we're learning how to live here. 

There are festivals and backroads, and good food and crazy people. There's traffic and accidents, but there's great ministries and friendly neighbors. Its a city that we're living in, and God calls us to meet with people where they are, no matter how ill-equipped or young we feel. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Attending Liberty University convocation with a few of my favorite room mates, Taylor and Ashleigh, Fall/Winter 2012.

Attending Liberty University convocation with a few of my favorite room mates, Taylor and Ashleigh, Fall/Winter 2012.

My roomie, friend, and photography mentor for many years, Carla Miles. (www.carlajanephoto.com)

My roomie, friend, and photography mentor for many years, Carla Miles. (www.carlajanephoto.com)

My staff team at Liberty Marketing Photography, August 2017. Love each of them!

My staff team at Liberty Marketing Photography, August 2017. Love each of them!

So, what really has been going on for two weeks? After all, I haven't really posted on social media except for a post of a park we went to, and some other "stay tuned" announcements. And thats fine. It is really important to me to be present with my sister and brother-in-law, and work on communicating with my non-social-media husband. After being separated by so many states for so many years, being close to my sister Lindsay  is an awesome blessing. We are so thankful to have family here, and our times getting food (and a little ice cream!) together have been great! The rest of our time has been filled with Josiah and I doing all the non-glamorous job searching, house hunting, emailing, driving to apartments to check them out. Not a lot of "vacation-style exploring." 

My job is about a 45 minute commute, made longer by the kind of traffic that would give the most patient person a migraine. My little 2-feet-off-the-ground sedan feels like a little krill about to be eaten by the move-or-die traffic of large whale-like vehicles. Traffic is either moving at 80mph or 10mph. Sometimes I'm parked on the highway. Its confusing. It cuts a lot of time out of my day, and I find myself getting home around 5:45 or 6pm, trying to decompress and make dinner, and then finding its too late to go out and explore, so our evening consist of online house hunting and bedtime. Alarm clock rings at 6:02AM, and I leave around 7AM.  Its not an exciting cycle, but its going to have to do for now before we truly get settled. 

Hiking  McAfee's Knob June 2016 on a three day hiking trip.

Hiking  McAfee's Knob June 2016 on a three day hiking trip.

There is a mysterious force the compels people to try new things. Its the desire to see if you're capable of learning something new in a new place. The desire to see if the grand adventure of leaving comfortable and diving into the unknown is tangible or just a pipe dream. Taking risks, and praying everyday; that's what we're doing. But we need your prayers too. We truly do.

We didn't have this all planned out years or months ago. We didn't see Memphis, TN as a "destination", or even the place we would settle for the rest of our lives. Even today we don't have a such a place in mind. We're learning to be faithful with the skills god has given us as a couple to serve him, and we know God will provide. The bible tells us in the Sermon On The Mount that the beatitudes, a list of qualities that mark good character and faithfulness, is what we need to focus on. If I was focusing on a checklist of my personal accomplishments and dead set on getting there, I would be severely off course of what God has for my life. I am a sinner who needs God's guidance. 

Matthew 5: 3-11 says

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We 'walked' in May 2014 as graduates of the School of Communication. We were married a few shorts months later.

We 'walked' in May 2014 as graduates of the School of Communication. We were married a few shorts months later.

My cousin Elizabeth, who I've had to privilege to live near since she moved to Lynchburg in 2010!

My cousin Elizabeth, who I've had to privilege to live near since she moved to Lynchburg in 2010!

Josiah and I at the basement studio of Joel (my old coworker and boss at LU Photography) and Janine Coleman's house, October 2016.

Josiah and I at the basement studio of Joel (my old coworker and boss at LU Photography) and Janine Coleman's house, October 2016.

So how can you help us, from miles away?

  • Pray for us, please. It is the biggest tool for helping believers in need.
  • Share this blog post with your friends in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. 
  • Leave a review on Facebook, and leave a comment on this post!
  • Follow @KaitlynBeckerPhoto on Instagram and look at it, or share it with a friend. I just like making friends with people, and yes, I'd love to meet potential customers but first and foremost we are here to meet people and start LOVING Memphis!
  • Send seafood. I miss fresh seafood. Preferably oysters and lobster and scallops. 

 

So here's to all the new things that we're learning. Here's to finding people that love us as much as we want to love others. Here's to good barbeque, Ole Miss, Alabama, and saying "Happy Fall Y'all." Here's to finding what the 25 year-old Kaitlyn and Josiah can do away from the comfort of their first real home. 

 

Here's to Memphis.

 

Sincerely,

Kaitlyn Becker Johnson

Shooting football at Liberty University, Fall 2016.

Shooting football at Liberty University, Fall 2016.

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