When I lived in my van, I didn’t plan a single climbing “trip” most years, and didn’t take one day of vacation to go climbing. When you live out of a van, one of the best benefits is that you never have to go “home”—you just move your home to the next place. In a single year, I was able to rope up for at least one day in dozens of America’s climbing destinations: the Ouray Ice Park, Joshua Tree, the Tetons, Castle Valley, Red Rocks, Devils Tower, Lumpy Ridge, Vedauwoo, Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder Canyon, and more.
With a mobile office, you can manage to work and explore some of the most beautiful places in the world—as long as you can connect to the Internet. My girlfriend and travel partner also worked remotely, and when we looked at a map and try to decide where to head next, we considered three things:
1. Is there good climbing there?
2. Are there coffee shops, libraries, or other places with free wifi?
3. Is there a place to park the van (preferably for free)?
We spent a week in March climbing in Joshua Tree, ticking off a handful of pitches and getting to know one of the world’s most famous climbing destinations. In the morning, we would drive into the park, walk to a crag, climb a few pitches, and pack up and walk back to the van before the midday heat got too hot. Then we’d drive into one of the nearby towns to a coffee shop or library, flip open our laptops and get to work until dinnertime, when we’d drive out to the free camping north of the town of Joshua Tree, cook dinner and talk about what we wanted to climb the next morning.
The bad part is you never get a real vacation this way—you just travel as part of regular life. But you’re unlimited in how much you can explore. Think about it: Joshua Tree is only three hours’ drive from Red Rocks. When you’ve had enough single-pitch desert granite, you can work all day, and in the evening, drive to Red Rocks and climb multi-pitch sandstone and patina to your heart’s content, and stay as long as you want. If you find out you don’t like Red Rocks, Zion National Park is three hours to the east.
This winter and spring, we figured out a system. Some days, we’d leave “the office”—a coffee shop or library—early and get in a few pitches, for example, on the Navajo sandstone sport climbs on Wall Street near Moab. Some weeks, we’d decide to work on Saturday and take Friday off to get on a mega-classic like Red Rocks’ Solar Slab when it wasn’t crowded. Other days, we’d take the morning off so we could get up early and beat the crowds to something like the wildly exposed Southwest Corner on the Headstone at Joshua Tree before driving into town and opening our laptops next to a hot cup of coffee.
If we wanted to go somewhere, we just did it. If it was five or six hours away, we drove at night or on the weekend. If it was two hours away, we drove in the evening or early the next morning, depending on work obligations. Instead of working all year so we could travel during our vacation, we worked on the road and traveled all year. But at the end, it still felt like we could use a vacation.