This 2011 year has been both really slow at times and a whirlwind of changes. We resolved to sweep any excuses that remained, not wait for a perfect time and finally start doing the things that we are excited and passionate about. We don’t have any answers. Who are we kidding, we have no idea what we are doing! We just know that for the first time in a long time we are happy. We haven’t accomplished everything we set out to accomplish in 2011, yet we accomplished so much more than sitting on our asses in our condo would ever have allotted us. Our blog is totally not up to date, we are way behind on editing photos and videos, and have no idea who is winning the republican primary. Yet in the last 5 months we have had some amazing experiences, learned to live with less and live more, faced challenges and overcame obstacles, both physical and emotional. We have made many new friends in some unexpected places, grew as photographers and most importantly stayed more true to being ourselves then maybe ever before in our adult lives. You can read a short summary of our adventures below and keep in touch with us in 2012. We are excited about what the next year will bring!
View large google map of our route >>
SUMMARY OF OUR 2011 ADVENTURES
We started travelling on August 6th, 2011 (Read why we started traveling this time.)
Headed North: Having sold most of our possessions, we rented out our condo in Washington DC suburbs, crammed everything else into our Highlander and headed North on an indefinite camping trip across America. Our first destination was Montreal, where we spent 3 weeks at Natalia’s mom’s house planning our trip and enjoying the city. We attended the incredibly fun Gay Pride parade and a number of techno festival events, all while consuming large amounts of wine and cheese. We had to kick ourselves in gear to start the trip, since we love Montreal so much.
Headed West: From Montreal we drove west to visit Toronto. We liked the city from that start and enjoyed a few days exploring the various neighborhoods by foot and bike, and partaking in some gastronomical extravagances. That was some of the best food we ate in the next 4 months.
Back to the USA: Crossing the border on our way to Chicago the border guard told us to roll down our window and asked if we always travel with so much stuff. No, not always! Only when we have no other home. On the way to Chicago we make a pitstop in Indiana Dunes – a beautiful state park on the shores of Lake Michigan. From the dunes you can see a silhouette of downtown Chicago across the water. At the campground we met a nice retired couple in an RV who were fellow photographers. We spent the afternoon talking travel, photography and following your dreams. After we got to the city we explored Chicago – photographing old signs, not photographing the BEAN, and being threatened with arrest for taking pictures of L Train tracks on 9/11.
First National Park: We drove 845 miles in one day from Chicago to visit our first national park – Badlands National Park, South Dakota. We get our first glimpse into the immensity of the mid-west, the vastness of the planes, the hundreds of miles of corn fields. We see our first wild American Buffalo and are blown away by the rugged landscape of the Badlands. While in South Dakota we stop at Mt. Rushmore for a photo op.
Experienced first challenges: Another 900 miles takes us to Glacier National Park in Northern Montana. We sleep in the car for the first time at a rest area. The disappearing glaciers of the park make quite an impression, but the amazing beauty of the mountains and alpine forests and possible encounters with grizzly bears distract us from sad thoughts. We face nasty cold weather of oncoming winter for the first time and celebrate Roma’s birthday outside under the stars. On the last day the road over the mountain range is open we drive the “Going to the Sun Road” to the other side of the Rocky Mountain Range escaping the miserable cold and winds.
Got back to nature and tried to be famous: A major highlight on our camping trip, Yellowstone was just an amazing park. Full of wildlife at every turn, beautiful nature and unique geothermal features, the park kept us exploring and driving around for 10 days. We essentially had to be kicked out of the campground on the very last day it closed, and had to scramble to Grand Tetons park before the roads were snowed in. Around the same time we tried to apply to be on a Rick Sammon Creative live class by submitting a video about why we want to be photographers, but we were rejected. At least we got a funny bloopers video out of it.
And then it got REALLY cold: When we got to Grand Tetons National park from Yellowstone, we got 2 days of nice weather on the lake, but then the temperatures dropped, it got really cold and we couldn’t camp in our tent overnight. This is where we first started hunting for resources – warmth, wifi and electricity for Francis (our espresso maker). We were miserable, but because it was cold, by accident we crashed a wildlife documentary festival at the Lodge. It was attended by BBC, National Geographic and independent photographers, directors, cinematographers who shoot wildlife documentaries. We met some passionate and creative people, who love what they do everyday.
Colorado: We stopped by Occupy Denver, warmed up in Boulder and chilled for a week in the most amazing Wholefoods. This wholefoods has the largest selection of any we had visited, infused oil pours like in Italy, and an attached liquor store with a HUGE beer selection. On our way through the mountains we stopped at some abandoned mining towns and spent a night feeling poor in Aspen drinking wine on a park bench.
Lots of rocks, offroading and 3% beer: We got to Utah and Moab to visit Arches and Canyonlands Parks and try the “wonderfully weak” beer. We had our profile added to a list of travelers on DriveTheAmericas.com with a photo taken in Arches. We took The Highlander offroading on the canyon rim, went looking for resources (wifi and electricity) every day, hiked 13 miles and got lost in the dark in Needles area of Canyonlands park.
More rocks, rocks, rocks: We visited the iconic Monument Valley shown in many western movies and saw homeless horses walking around a shopping center, got snowed in Natural Bridges park, drove through a canyon in Capitol Reef, got snowed in motel in Cedar City, UT with shady truckers drinking outside and a 17 year old girl in pink tights and hooker make-up nervously smoking two doors down. The snow brought cold but also made our visit to Zion and Bryce parks unique with snow contrasting with the red rocks. We had to hang over a cliff to take a picture of horseshoe bend near Page, Arizona and celebrated our 100 days of travelling. We risked a flash flood walking through Antelope canyon deep under ground, and hiked down into Grand Canyon on slippery and frozen switchback paths. On our way to Vegas we spent a night in the Valley of Fire to wake up to fiery red formations lit up glowing red by the morning sun.
Vegas – $20 a night deal at hooters got us to Vegas and a room with a view of New York.
Death Valley – The reason for our mad rush west away from Moab, Utah wasn’t just the weak beer, it was a huge photowalk of 50 photographers organized by Thomas Hawk through Google+, that was held in Death Valley national park. It turned out to be an experience that altered our trip and our sleep patters. For 4 days we dashed around Death Valley at impossible speeds, took thousands of photos, got only hours of sleep, froze in the dark, drank the cold away and set shit on fire. All the photos can be seen on Google+ under hashtag #dv2011
Final destination: California After everyone else left Death Valley, we slowly worked our way towards the Pacific Ocean. We drove around Death Valley for a few more days, took photos of Francis on the racetrack, on our way to see the HUGE Eureka Dunes we got a flat tire, and then we headed to Monolake and Bodie Ghost town. Finally we reached the coast near Santa Cruz. The beautiful rugged coast was a breath of fresh air, we spent days having breakfast at the beach, camping, working on our photos and contemplating our coast to coast adventure. We also attended a photowalk with some friends from Death Valley and photographers who live in Santa Cruz.
More photo walks: We hung out in San Francisco and went to a photowalk in Golden Gate park and Treasure Island, and a few days later we went to a photowalk in San Jose organized by Thomas Hawk. After a week in the area we dashed 1000 miles to New Mexico for a photo trip with some friends from San Francisco area. New Mexico was a crazy week of driving around through the desert, getting snowed in, and photographing each other doing crazy shenanigans fueled by Chili Beer.
Driving up and down the coast: On the way back to San Francisco we visited the desolate and dying Salton Sea and cartoonish Joshua Trees. Although technically we visited San Diego we spent most of the time there on Coronado Island, walking along the beach and watching amazing sunsets. Another colorful sunset near Laguna Beach on the way to LA, then couple days exploring around the city were mostly spent walking around Venice Beach. We stayed in an amazing hostel in Koreatown, Stay on Beverly, its managed by a fellow photographer we met in Death Valley. Highlight of trip to LA was definitely visiting the Google Campus on Venice Beach, a building designed by Frank Gehry, eating lunch in the Google Cafeteria, and touring the offices, all courtesy of our fellow photographer Tony Payne. Driving up the coast we had dinner on the beach in Santa Barbara and returned back to San Francisco just in time to hang out with friends in the city, go wine tasting in Sonoma on the last day of 2011 and meet the new year with friends in a dive bar in Marin.
Happy new year! We can’t wait to see what chances we will take and where we will end up a year from now.
Roma and Natalia are world travelers, photographers, and an all around fun couple. When they are not travelling far away continents or driving around USA in their trusted Highlander, they can be found in San Francisco, California.