If you’ve ever dreamed from your cubicle about quitting your job and hitting the road, then you should probably meet Gale Straub. In May 2014, Gale gave her two weeks notice in order to travel the U.S. for one year with her boyfriend, Jon Gaffney, in a Dodge Sprinter van.
Around the same time, she created a blog called She-Explores.com, which has quickly grown into a community of inspiring women who share a similar passion for the outdoors.
Experience the road from Gale’s perspective in the photos above and read about her journey in the interview below.
Tell us about yourself!
Up until 4 months ago, I was working an accounting job in Cambridge, MA. In late May, I quit said job and spent the summer in Maine building out a Dodge Sprinter van into a camper with my boyfriend, Jon. We hit the road for a year to travel North America in late August, 2014. I’m simultaneously sentimental and rational. I’m always shy. I feel comfortable with a camera in front of my face, as long as the lens is pointed outward. I love how endlessly changing landscape is, and I don’t think you have to travel the country to see something new every single day.
When did you decide to give up your desk job for life on the road?
The definitive decision was made in March 2013. I knew, leading up to that time, that I wanted to make a change but I wasn’t sure what it would be yet. I had always wanted to take a long road trip, and when my boyfriend (of then one year) asked me if I would ever want to travel the US in a van, I answered with an unequivocal yes. From there, I started a savings plan and dreamed from my cubicle about what would be next.
How did you choose your itinerary?
For us, it’s all been about timing. With (hopefully) a full year on the road, we can’t create a true itinerary. It’s more about choosing a general area and making it up as we go. The end of the summer and the start of the trip took us West.
Coming from New England, we both had a draw for change: open sky and drastic landscape.
What inspired you to create She-Explores.com?
The inspiration to start the website was in response to a number of questions I had (and am still answering): 1) Why are there not more websites for women who love the outdoors (and appreciate its beauty)? 2) What is it like to live a life on the road? and 3) In the social media age of quick “likes” and thoughtless “reblogs” how is it possible to share art/photography in a meaningful way? I’m hoping to build a community of curious, like-minded women who want to share their experiences with others on She-Explores.
What is your favorite place you’ve visited so far?
Olympic National Park. Cheesy, but this park has it all – mountains, ocean, rainforest, lakes. Incredible atmosphere and variety. It made me want to build a little house by the entrance and spend the rest of my weekends wandering it.
What does a day in the life of Gale look like?
Pre-trip, in Boston, a day was fairly predictable: Commute via subway, 8.5 hours of work, run/climb/dinner with friends, night walk. Post trip is more varied, but here are some constants: Wake up, break down camp, take a van view, make/find coffee, find a hike/beach/town/lake to explore, drive, maybe find wifi, discuss if there is any free camping nearby, drive to National Forest to camp, cook a simple meal, play cribbage, bed.
Can you share any lessons you’ve learned on the road?
It’s fairly early on in the trip for us, but if you’re traveling in a camper van or with a tent, definitely seek out National Forest for free camping. You can stay up to 14 days, mostly no questions asked. Also, it helps to keep a mental inventory of food on hand – we’ve had veggies and meat spoil and that kind of waste really bothers me!
Do you have any advice for other adventurers looking to give up the daily grind for life on the road?
I’ll give the same advice for any major life change – make a decision and stick with it. When you have a solid goal, you can come up with ways to work towards it.
Dreams are fantastic and vital, but fruitless without commitment.
What is one thing you can’t live without?
Save certain people in my life, a camera of any kind. Film or DSLR preferably. I’d be a sadder person without that outlet!
The perfect s’more:
I’ll keep this simple: graham cracker, dark chocolate, marshmallow (toasted, not burned), natural peanut butter. Almond and peanut butter aren’t safe in our van.
Where to next?
Right now we’re on the middle of the Oregon Coast, next is (hopefully) Bend, Oregon then to Portland for a time.
Photos © 2014 Gale Straub
Photos of Gale © 2014 Jon Gaffney