“MARIE WE ARE SO SORRY… I’m losing emails, my keys and even lost my car the other day but somehow the dog’s still alive (thank God).”
Direct, spontaneous and hilarious: Jill and Kyla’s apology for taking ages answering my questions about the whirlwind adventure that has been taking them far and wide across the U.S. since last August is true to the lively and witty tone they’ve been displaying on ourwildabandon.com, the online diary of their odyssey.
The delay is quite understandable, as the two Canadians have mostly been relying on strangers’ front and backyards for shelter and catching wifi on Walmart car parks for the past nine months — since they quit their jobs, sold all their stuff, left their homes in Vancouver and hit the road in a freshly re-pimped trailer named Bobby Jean to live the Great American Adventure.
So far their journey has taken them across 8 States and over 20,000 kilometres, and they’ve abundantly been documenting it on an Instagram account (@ourwildabandon) that has generated a lot of enthusiasm due to its irresistible combination of stunning images, improbable photo props and brilliant hashtags.
Here is what they have to say about giving it all up to travel the world, tips for long-term road-tripping, and how travel might make you undatable.
How did you know you were right for each other — travel-wise?
One afternoon, a couple months after we first came up with the idea of the big trip, we were going to take our dogs for a walk just outside of the city. I was about to go pick Jill up when I noticed a jar of salt from the Salt Flats in Utah that I had collected on a trip a few years ago. I hadn’t realized I missed that place so much. So, I sent Jill a text that just read: “Actually, do you want to go Salt Lake city? If we left now, we could watch the sun rise on the salt flats. Please say yes.”
Twenty minutes later we were in the car, hurling towards the border with a really poorly packed trunk. Over the next 48 hours we realized that our lives COULD, and should be this exciting, effortless and free and most importantly, we could do it together. We could travel with little order, plan or clean clothes. We didn’t complain, we didn’t stress, we can handle each other incredibly well.
That’s when the wheels really started turning. We went back to Vancouver, relieved by our little test run, put our heads down and saved every penny we could. In the summer we bought our trailer, Bobby Jean (named after the Springsteen song), and gave notice at our jobs.
Did you set an itinerary, or are you going where Bobby Jean takes you?
We learned a while ago making plans is a great way to ensure their failure. We don’t plan much further than a couple days on the road. The plan changes every time we meet someone new, get pointed in a different direction or fall in love with a city, state or place. Even now everything is very loose, we like to keep things open because you never know what’s going to come up.
Where are you off to now?
We just crossed back into Canada for a minute so we could take advantage of some opportunities that came up to travel to Dominica, Italy and we are about to head North to Alaska. We are going to wait out the weather before we head South again. We are not about to slow down.
Wildest adventure so far. (Also, can you tell me about that night in prison?)
Yeah, jail was a blast actually! It was over a huge misunderstanding and we ended up being totally free to go after a few hours but we still had to go through the motions. The detective was an ex-roadie for Phish and a biker. He gave us back our phones and we proceeded to spend the next few hours sending jail cell selfies to our parents and giving them a good scare. Jill’s throwing the peace sign in her mug shot.
I guess that could be considered the wildest… That or the crazy storm we got stuck in on our way back to Salt Lake City from Arches National Park. This storm rolled in and it was like we were a metal plate in a microwave. Flashes were coming down too fast to count and the thunder was shaking the car. We had to pull over and just watch for a while even though that was probably the worst thing we could do in that situation… We ended up running through this field and you could feel the electricity in the air, hair standing up on end, huge flashes of blinding light in your path and the ground shaking at your feet. The photos from that day are our favorites so far.
Oh and there was this one time a goat stole Jill’s hat and we got a free monster truck ride. That was cool too.
How do you stay sane on the road? (Or do you not?)
We don’t. After days and days spent not seeing another soul you start to melt into each other and away from reality. You learn to communicate via nonsensical noises and completely forget how to function in public. We are horrible dinner guests and even worse dates.
Favourite road-tripping tune?
We initially bonded over a love of terrible pop-punk/post-punk etc. Jawbreaker and Bruce Springsteen were always our favorites but lots of bands were on heavy rotation: Two Gallants, Middle Brother, Deer Tick, The Replacements, Chuck Ragan, Cheap Girls, The Mountain Goats, Silver Jews, Ladyhawk, Johnny Hobo, Father John Misty. We’re big on lyrics and always drawn to songs about travel, the open road and running away.
As far as specific songs go, Meet You in the Middle by Chuck Ragan became somewhat of an anthem. You know when you listen to a song and you imagine it to be about you? Love songs became friendship songs and that song really nailed it for us.
“A one-way ticket is a recipe for sorrow
If you’re counting down miles in the eave of a long haul.
We’re running on empty on numbers borrowed
With heavy eyes tripping between the lines and the dashboard.
Bless your heart, bless your soul
I’m proud to buckle up with you to grow old.”
Lessons learnt (or mystical revelations had) so far?
If there’s something you want to do, you need to do it. If not now, when? We complained a lot about how unsatisfied we were with everything at home before we left. We found ourselves so caught up in our lives in Vancouver—jobs, relationships, social circles—, and it was very comfortable but lacking in some intangible way.
We wanted to remove ourselves from all that, peel all the exterior forces away and see what was left when we stood on our own. Now we like what we see and that is invaluable.
Any tips for aspiring long-term road-trippers?
We’ve actually been working on a “rules of the road” post for our blog so we’ve been thinking about this a lot. Mostly these tips are money related because we live extremely poor, that’s how we stretch this whole thing out without working (we can’t in the ole USA) and living off the money we saved before we left.
Never pay for water. This rule is bigger than just water, what we mean is, don’t pay for stuff you can get for free. We rarely eat out; we cook for ourselves and buy groceries. This also keeps you from gaining crazy weight, fast food is gross and we try not to eat it. We don’t shop and thrift clothes if we need them. We never pay for a place to stay. This is easier for us because we do have the trailer but keep in mind our trailer has no water, bathroom, standalone power etc. We’ve stayed with other people most of the trip, front yards, back yards, couches, and national parks.
Be a good houseguest, make friends and ask about their friends. You’d be surprised how easy it is to network yourself across the country.
Also, no souvenirs, take only photos.
On a personal level, travelling as best friends has been incredibly rewarding, we learn more about each other everyday and as the days and locations bleed into each other, that other person is your only constant. They become the closest thing to a home you have, so make sure you pick the right person to travel with.
In the end, I think what’s so compelling about Jill and Kyla’s portrayal of the open road is that it reflects two things:
First, travel done right will make for the best damn time of your life.
Second, like everything that really matters, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
“Home is where you park it, after all.”
All pictures from ourwildabandon.com
Marie Colinet was part of the Travelettes team from 2013 to 2015. Originally from Toulouse, France, two years lived in Australia left her speaking English with an awkward Fraussie accent. In September 2015, Marie is starting the epic 6-month-or-who-knows-how-long road-trip along the Panamerican Highway that she’s been dreaming of since her teenage years — all the way from the U.S. to the very tip of South-America. You can follow her on Instagram @mariecolinet!Tweet