Life Untethered. Phase II: Friends + Family {Summary}

It’s hard to believe that Harry, Moby and I left Portland three months ago! We had an incredible Phase I of our trip: three weeks touring and camping around the southwest, visiting national parks and sleeping in our van as much as possible.

For the past ten weeks we’ve been fully engaged in Phase II of our adventure, which has been all about friends + family. It’s pretty amazing to think about the number of people we’ve seen and stayed with along the way. I am grateful that so many doors were wide open for us.

Here’s a summary of our ten-week Friends + Family road trip from October 17 – January 12, 2015

# of days on the road: 87
# of day on the road TOTAL since we left Oregon on Sept 27: 105

# of miles driven: 2,500
# of miles driven TOTAL since we left Oregon on Sept 27: 9,000

# of states + provinces: 15
{Michigan, Canada, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida}
# of states and provinces TOTAL since we left Oregon on Sept 27: 26

# of different homes we spent the night in: 15
{Mom + Dad Connolly: 14 nights; Michael + Christine Connolly: 1 night; Ellen + Terry Crosby: 1 night; Marilyn + Larry Miller: 3 nights; Marcy Appel, 1 night; Aparna Kamath: 1 night; Tracy + Dave Sheerin 2 nights; Lisa + Tom Kemler: 3 nights; Dad Bondareff: 27 nights; Karen + Danny Kalika: 7 nights; David Connolly: 2 nights; Michael Turk: 1 night; Nancy Miller: 8 nights; Suzie + Bill Moya: 3 nights; Sarah + Steve Hedges: 3 nights}

# of hotels we stayed in: 7
{northern Michigan: 2 nights; upstate New York: 1 night; coast of Maine: 1 night; Georgia: 1 night; St Pete Beach, Florida: 5 nights; middle of Florida: 1 night}

# of speeding tickets: 0
# of parking tickets: 1 {darn you, Portland Maine!}

# of national parks: 1 {Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan}
# of moose sightings: 0
# of crocodile sightings: 23 {Gainesville, Florida}
Biggest waterfall: Niagara Falls {Canadian side}
# of dog sitting gigs: 1 {Juneau, Karen + Danny’s dog, four days}
# of ferry rides: 1 {Peak’s Island off the coast of Maine}
# of colleges: 7 {Hope College MI; Michigan State; Harvard; Wesleyan CT; Yale; Flagler College FL; University of Florida… totally random that we went to so many colleges}
Dirtiest hotel: Rockland, Maine
# of boat rides: 1 {Palm Coast, Florida}
Most stressful toll booth experience: Albany, New York
# of houses sold: 1 {this was exciting! and a little sad}


Thank you!

Again, we have been so fortunate to have connected with so many people on our journey. We feel so blessed, supported and loved. While there are too many stories and photos to share, here are some highlights of the time we spent with our parents.

Michigan Snapshot 

We had two fantastic weeks at my parent’s house in Holland, Michigan. The mid-to-late October weather was beautiful and we spent a lot of time outside. Long walks on the beach and hiking on the dunes happened almost daily. My mom, dad, Harry and I took a three-day road trip “up north”, and my twin brother Michael and his wife Christine joined us by way of Royal Oak. We had a lot of fun visiting small towns and checking out local breweries. The colors were beautiful and we were surrounded by bright and crunchy leaves. A highlight was visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park (the 13th national park on our trip).

Michigan is truly a natural beauty! Unless you’ve been to MI and traveled around its beaches, lakes, dunes, and woods, you are really missing out on a pretty special place.

20141022_14444320141025_14473020141026_133356KR Dune Dancing

Virginia / DC Area Snapshot

Our time on the east coast was full of good meals and great conversations. Harry’s father, his three sisters and my brother all live in the DC metro area. Additionally, we both have a number of cousins and good friends living in the area. We kept busy socializing, walking along the Potomac River, and working on our upcoming trip to South America. It was really special to spend Thanksgiving for the first time with my east coast family.

We spent the majority of five weeks staying with my father-in-law in Alexandria. He graciously shared his condo with us to use as our research library and home base. A world traveler himself, we appreciated his advice and insights. Best of all we really enjoyed spending so much quality time with him. 20141122_195427_LLS20141123_151719bikesBondareff

ThanksgivingHarry and Kerry

Thanks again, everyone! Please keep in touch. Good-bye for now!




Introducing Moby, Our Big White Van

Many of you have been asking us how our van is working out. I’m excited to report that Moby is like a dream come true! But before I continue to gush about how awesome the van is I feel like I should publicly give a cheer to all mini van owners because until a few months ago I thought mini vans were LAME. Soooo here it goes… hooray for mini vans!

Honda Odyssey Named Moby 

My neighbor Gail deserves all the credit on the decision to purchase a mini van because she was the one who brought up the idea of us buying one in the first place. When I laughed in her face she went as far as to poll her mini van-owning FB friends and the Honda Odyssey was the winner as far as performance and internal space available (translate: room enough to sleep inside). Gail was also the one who thought up the name Moby, so she definitely deserves a huge shout-out (even though she’s a UofM fan).

It was a good sign when our other wonderful neighbors Debbie and Kathy hooked us up with their friend who happened to be selling her Odyssey. One test drive was all it took for us to become the owners of a 2004 white mini van with a tape deck, cd player, electric seat adjusters and lots of room.

Building the Sleeping Platform

Researching different ways to sleep in our van was really fun and interesting and for a few days I literally obsessed on ways to creatively and affordably turn Moby into a camping machine. We didn’t have a lot of time (or expertise, or tools) to build anything but the universe works in mysterious ways because our friends Tara and Troy actually had a platform sitting idle in their garage. We went to their house on a Saturday morning and left with a 4 foot x 4 foot platform in our van! Troy had built the platform for his Odyssey but hadn’t used it in a while so he was more than happy hand it over to us (after he did some fine-tuning so it would fit in our ’04).

The only issue was that we are both taller than 4 feet… so how were we going to sleep on it? We went over to our friend’s house and Justin whipped up a 2 foot extension piece for our feet. He attached it to the 4 foot platform with hinges and BAM! Room for our legs. When we sleep we fold the 2 foot piece down and when we drive we fold it back up so we have room behind our seats to access important things like food, etc.

We had to buy a few things to complete the platform (like the metal plumbing pipes for the back legs and wooden legs to brace the extension piece when it’s folded down). I tacked an old sheet over all the wood to keep splinters away. Perfect.

unnamed (1)unnamed (4)unnamed (3)

The Most Comfortable Bed Ever

Since the bed itself has become an item of curiosity for many I’ll break it down for you, layer by layer:

1. Wooden platform covered with a purple flat sheet tacked on to keep splinters at bay
2. Two yoga mats laying side by side
3. Two Thermarest inflatable backpacking sleep pads (held in place by the yoga mats), one for each of us
4. Two-inch memory foam mattress that our friend Karl gave us
5. All layers are held in place with a fitted flannel sheet
6. Two sleeping bags
7. One super cute quilt that my SUN kids made for me with help from the volunteer instructors Sharron and Joy


Things Fitting Perfectly Into Other Things

I’m pretty obsessed with making this happen! I’ve always loved how boats and RVs employ the smartest use of small spaces. Fold up, pull down, fill it, stack it, yes! I’ve pretty much taken over the van management because I really enjoy transitioning everything from daytime to nighttime and back to daytime again. Everything has its place and being organized means quick access to anything at any time. Systems.

No Peeking

Covering our windows with towels for privacy is still how we “tuck ourselves in at night”, but our windshield is big — too big for towels. We were in Cedar City Utah when a light bulb went off in my head… I remembered that my friend Jenni used a reflector shade in her car on hot days… so we made a trip to the store-which-shall-not-be-named to purchase one for Moby. Who knew we’d end up with such fancy sun shades?


If you’re crazy enough to be interested in all the smaller details just let me know and we’ll drive over to give you a tour.

Good-bye Portland * Hello Van

It’s hard to believe that we left Portland eleven days ago! We are having such an incredible time that the memories of our stressful last week in town have long slipped away. What an emotional roller coaster ride that week was for us! Between our ever growing to-do list, saying good-bye to dear friends, and eating a lot of good P-town food, we weren’t sure if we were ever going to be able to leave. But we did! And we are forever grateful for all the love and support we received along the way. Our community of friends, family and neighbors truly helped us out in so many ways — Gracious!

The Beginning

We drove out of Portland on Saturday, September 26 at 10:30 am. Our goal was to make it to Ashland (in southern OR) by late afternoon to catch the wedding reception of a dear family friend. Three hundred miles later we arrived on Mt. Ashland to celebrate Natalie and Ryan. It was wonderful to see our “adopted Oregon family” and to share big hugs before we parted ways.
Since we were in Ashland we made a game time decision to spend the night with Harry‘s grad school friend, Andy Fischer. It was fun to see him and hear his thoughts about how we should spend the next few days. We weren’t even on the road for 12 hours before our plans changed! But we really liked his suggestions and local knowledge is exactly what we’re counting on to shape our travels.

The First Night

The Top 10 Reasons Sleeping in our Van on the First Night was so Memorable:

10. Andy lives in a city neighborhood and we were parked in his side yard next to his Subaru with the tail end of our van hanging over the sidewalk.
9. We realized that when we turned our head lamps on people could see right inside the van (so much for tinted windows).
8. Several people walked by with their dogs and curiously watched as we got ready for bed.
7. When we finally got up on the platform in our sleeping bags we did a happy dance!
6. When our happy dance ended I realized that although we had a lot of head room, and plenty of room to roll over, I felt kinda claustrophobic.
5. I manged to work through my pending psychological meltdown by taking some deep breaths.
4. We were actually sleeping in our van!
3. We both slept incredibly well because our bed is seriously comfortable and also because we were both exhausted from the previous week’s emotional and stressful task of packing up our lives and leaving Portland.
2. When we rolled out of bed (well, we actually have to slide out of bed) the next morning Andy‘s neighbor stopped to chat about traveling, etc — and this happened even before I’d gone inside to use the bathroom.
1. We actually slept in our van!
Andy Van