cute girl back of vanHi! Nice to meet you, I’m Lauren. I’m the one who came along and surprised Justin with a serious relationship after he chose a twin size bed for his van’s buildout. (Okay, it’s actually slightly smaller than a twin size bed. I was being generous.) Anyway, it’s very cuddle-y. And don’t forget, Achilles is a necessary part of the cuddle puddle too. Needless to say, we have a pretty specific sleeping situation that is very reminiscent of Tetris.

Want to know how to get a girl to fall in love with you, your dog, your van, and climbing, all at the same time? Here’s a story:

Who Is This Alex Honnold Guy?

I had just started dating Justin, and it was my first time going on a climbing trip with his whole tribe (I just call these trips “weekends” now). We were in Holcomb Valley, which is a local-ish sport climbing crag scene out in the San Bernardino mountains, near Big Bear. Yes, trad is rad and Justin outgrew Holcomb pretty quickly, but I’m still pretty stoked on the place. Maybe because it was my first?

The trive in holcomb
Left to Right: Dan, Caroline, Shannon, Chris, Justin, Lauren, Rachel, Will. (Some of the Tribe)

We sat around the portable LED light (don’t be the asshole that lights a fire in a restricted area), and once the conversation turned to climbing it seemed like everyone was speaking a different language. I tried to make mental notes of all the lingo, so I pictured each word spelled out in the air. Crimps, jugs, monos, dynos, gaston, mantle? What the hell is a gri-gri? And who is this Alex Honnold guy? I sat silently wondering what it all meant, feeling slightly overwhelmed. Imagine trying to make a good impression on your boyfriend’s closest friends when you don’t speak their language and you don’t even have a toilet to shit in.

Caroline looked up at me with her distinctive, friendly blue eyes and said, “You have no idea what we’re talking about do you? You’ll learn.” She was one of those welcoming people you thank god for at parties when you don’t know anyone except the host. I didn’t have the luxury then of knowing that Caroline would become one of my favorite people to climb with, or that I would fall super hard in love with Justin, or that his tribe would become my tribe, too. All I had was my social anxiety and a beer.

Making Messes

Lauren on lead
Lauren leading “Burros Might Fly” (5.10b, PG13)

Looking back with hindsight is such a trip. I never could have known then how things would progress, and I guess that’s why I love all of this so much. Progress. I know how cliche it is to draw parallels between climbing and life, but I think there’s something to be said about how simple it is to make those connections.

My first time in Frieda, she was mostly finished except for the pantry/closet area. She was a literal blank slate full of possibilities, and the empty walls pretty obviously marked the beginning of a new chapter for Justin. That’s how my first trip to Holcomb felt– everything was fresh and new, and I only had a vague idea of what it would all eventually look like. That weekend was the first time I used the poo shovel, the first time I met the group of people I now call some of my closest friends, and the first time Justin told me he loved me.

Van comparisonSo much has happened since then. The slate isn’t clean anymore (that never lasts for long, right?), but I don’t want it to be. Things are messy and things are amazing, and that’s all part of it. Clean slates don’t feel like home, anyway. They feel like museums. Frieda’s walls aren’t blank anymore, they’re filled with a spice rack made from cigar boxes, a magnetic knife bar that we were all sure would lead to sudden death, a philodendron named Robert Plant, and a mural of J-Tree painted by a friend. Everything has its own place and its own story.

I remember Justin telling me about the first cut he made to install the fan in Frieda, and how it felt so important and permanent. No pressure, but once you carve into this, there’s no turning back. Everything is so new, and then in an instant, it isn’t anymore. Savor the newness, but don’t be afraid to make a mess either.

So go fall in love with someone and sleep together in a van on a (smaller than a) twin size bed! Go on adventures and create stories! Fill the walls! 10/10, highly recommend.

cute couple on rock

I read somewhere that it’s good to be with somebody who feels like home and an adventure all at once. I guess I took that advice very literally. During our last trip through a few different states, we were walking back to Frieda after a hike when we both noted how strange it was to see so many California license plates in the parking lot. We thought we were in Idaho, but we were actually already back in our home state.

We didn’t even know what state we were in, but we knew we were home.

9 thoughts on “A man, a van, and a dog: How they stole my heart

  1. This is incredible! I’m amazed at the stories I hear about couples living in vans together, especially with a dog. Truly inspiring. I hope all 4 of you (that includes the van) prosper!

      1. Wow ! …and I thaught the dog was cool. You got a keeper there for sure…but you know that Im pretty sure. Very cool your lifestyle and trying to do the same. So many question about starting out and being new to van living, a nomad ,and a no experience , out of shape, fear of heights, future ( I hope) rock climber who doesnt know where to start. Stuck a year in HB in my rig. Ready …but no compas on where or what to do.

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