Brendan and I (Kelly) were living and working in a shiny, dirty metropolis. A big, busy, mind-sparking, career-making, concentration of the most motivated and fresh-air-poor people in the world. In two miraculous strokes of the most gosh-darned good sense decision-making this side of thirty years old, we decided that we should date only each other and fall in love in the midst of documentary dates and foosball tournaments at the bar on the corner.
Brendan was working in film and television as a freelancer since college and was paving his way in a creative industry. His Brooklyn office had exposed brick, a plethora of creatives, windows with views, and enough space to throw a football. I wanted a slice of that. I could see no shred of daylight from my cubicle, kept 6” heels underneath my desk for meetings, would wake from dreams about deadlines at 1 am to check emails, and wouldn’t have time to eat lunch till 4. In a year of monumental change, I left my very secure, very taxing corporate job. Brendan and I would sit on a blanket in Transmitter Park in Greenpoint on Saturdays and talk and talk and talk about what I wanted out of work, what I didn’t want, where I wanted to be in 10 years, and soon enough, I took action. I left 1,000-email-per-weekend life to work as a freelance prop stylist/set designer and hands-on visual creator. Sometimes we got to work together on projects, which was the absolute best. But the ideas were not ours, and we were executing someone else’s vision.
On a weekend trip to Rhode Island to see the family, Brendan and I took a pit-stop for some fish, chips, and bloody marys at one of my most beloved seaside dive bars. It was February. It was 20 degrees without windchill. Our noses had not smelled clean, salt-tinged air in months and there was no way that the cold was keeping us off the beach. The sand looked snow white next to the deep blue water that mirrored the blue blue sky. The breeze went straight through our knit hats, piercing our heads and seemingly injecting some of its own thoughts. It wanted us to stay. The cold wind jolted thoughts in our minds that we had let hibernate, but now began to percolate. We had begun our lunch with talk of moving in together, with the thought of living together in a tiny New York apartment weighing heavy. But as our feet soldiered steadily over the sand, our walk began with talk of something very different – the idea of building something that was our own, something that we could mold and craft and whole-heartedly agree in.
And all at once, we agreed that it would not happen in New York City.
Perhaps it was the remote location, removed and breathtaking, that allowed the clarity to come forth.
It was more than just a thought experiment. We both wanted to build something and we both wanted to leave the city.
What that was we didn’t know yet.
Brendan knocked on my apartment door a week later – no warning, no text, no nothing – and said, “Let’s get out of here, let’s buy a van and see the country and tell stories that we are proud of.”
Without hesitation, I said, “Yea, let’s do it.”
Within two weeks, we were driving back from Maine in the snow with a 30-year-old Volkswagen van and the feeling of “We are actually doing this and how and where are we going to park this thing in Brooklyn the doors don’t even lock and the curtains just fell apart in my hands.” In early May, we moved out of two Brooklyn apartments and into Brendan’s parents house in New Jersey. We spent a month tearing out every inch of the van interior in its brown shag glory and completely re-imagining what would be our home for the coming months. We re-wired, sewed, sawed, carpeted, and cleaned the van from totally disgusting to clean and cool.
Our goal was to be inspired by places unfamiliar, to trace each day out over a fresh piece of map, to become closer to each other, to nature, and to our work. To work with brands who designed and made products thoughtfully and who created gear that urged us to get outside and explore.
And that was what we did. We connected with the owners, designers, and creators of our favorite brands. We camped out in the Wasatch Mountains with them, we sailed in San Francisco Bay with them, we helped them move apartments, we slept on their air mattresses and learned to fly fish with them. We found an incredible community of risk-takers who have become our friends, pen pals, and travel guides.
This year, we’ve become soakers, floaters, fly fishers, and rock climbers; better communicators, anticipators, breakfast makers and tent stakers. We know when to set bear bags and how forests replenish after a fire. We’ve come to terms with leading a slower-paced life—we had no choice, really, considering that our ’84 Westfalia can’t go over 65 MPH. The road has taken us from Acadia’s rocky coast to tornado-watching nights in the Badlands to the Tetons’ snowy peaks. But above all, we’ve grown as story tellers.
Over the past year, we’ve explored many nooks and crannies of the United States and have gathered many stories for the telling. We’ve learned to create, share, and collaborate while on the road and are now continuing the adventure in New England. We traveled 15,000 miles of the country but chose Rhode Island as the place to dig our roots in for a while – the place that sparked this journey in the first place. From our porch, we can hear the swell when it gets really big and we can pop up to the nearby mountains of Vermont. We wanted to pause in a place that gives us new, natural inspiration each day, that allows us freedom to be outside, that encourages us to engage in the local creative community and really only has one or two places to grab drinks on a Friday night – and that’s exactly what we’ve found.