Carolyn's Wanderlust Story

Today on the blog we are sharing the Wanderlust Story of our featured traveler, Carolyn Monke. To give you a little background, Moth Oddities recently released a Wanderlust Collection consisting of 60+ travel-inspired items - all recycled and many vintage. This collection was inspired by our four adventurous friends, Megan Cline, Anna Vaughan, Carolyn Monke, and Kimberly Stabenow. These ladies have embarked on life-changing travels and have been sharing their stories on the Moth Oddities blog. Carolyn is currently working her way up the West Coast by car and has let us in on some of the adventures she's had so far...including her top five tips to be frugal while on the road AND a crazy near-death experience that occurred, ironically, in Death Valley. Read on to learn more!

Tell us about your personal Wanderlust story

CarolynI’m traveling with my boyfriend, Matt, through the Western United States including Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Wyoming. I'm experiencing this part of the country for the first time, visiting as many states and National Parks as I can. After traveling to a number of other countries I realized how wrong I felt about not seeing much of my own country so I decided I needed to explore America before I could leave it again. For the most part we're camping in National Parks, State Parks, and National Forests. We stayed in a trailer on an Alpaca ranch in Colorado for a month. When we're lucky we get to stay with friends on couches, futons, and air mattresses. When we do backcountry camping we usually go out for 2-4 days. We stayed at the Grand Canyon for a week. It’s nice to stop in big cities and see them but we can't afford to stay very long unless we have friends to put us up. We don't really have to be anywhere at anytime so we just stay for as long as it feels right.

Why is travel so important to you?

Carolyn: Besides the wonderful people in my life, traveling is my number one interest. It is one of the few things that I can say I am truly passionate about, and at this point, I think I'm getting pretty good at! As to why it's important, there are a lot of reasons... I grew up hearing about the adventures that my parents took at young ages - my Mom living in Brazil as a foreign exchange student and my Dad spending a year hitchhiking all around the country in his early twenties - I was born with the travel bug. I’m the happiest and most inspired when I travel. I know with every new place I go, new food I try, new landscape I see, new person I meet, the bigger my perspective grows. As a graphic designer, this growing perspective is vital to understanding the world around me and those living among me. I think of all the experiences I've had as my "lens", as a designer I work through this lens, and every time I travel it opens a little bit more. As a person, it's helping me understand others and myself more.

Carolyn is pictured wearing the Terracotta Beanie from the Wanderlust Collection. Shop all items HERE.

How have your travels impacted your life?

Carolyn: This trip in particular has made me realize how much I value living simply and living outdoors. Less is more when you're living out of your car, tent, or pack. And spending time outside is healthy! It's where we're meant to be! Breathing fresh air feels good. The designs made in nature are mind blowing. Visiting our National Parks has made me realize that we are guests in these places and we need to treat them with care and respect.

What is something you have done during your travels that is outside your comfort-zone?

Carolyn: I think one of the main reasons I wanted to go on this trip was to get out of my comfort zone. It's out of the ordinary not to know where we'll be sleeping at night, when we will shower next, or how exactly our day will play out. But this uncertainty is great.

The event where I felt the most out of my comfort zone occurred just the other day in Death Valley National Park. One morning we were hiking out of our camp site. I was waiting for Matt to help me climb down a rock wall when all of a sudden he was knocked over with a shooting pain that had him screaming and bent over on the ground. I managed to climb down the wall by myself to find out that Matt couldn't walk on his own. I then had to run three miles to get help. If you know me, you know that I don't usually climb rock walls or run, much less at a full sprint. The rest of the story is that poor Matt had a kidney stone and had to get carried out by the park rangers.

Wow! That is crazy. We're glad Matt is okay. It sounds like those park rangers were pretty helpful...

Carolyn: Yes they were! We have met some seriously helpful park rangers along the way. When backcountry camping, it is protocol to get a permit from a park ranger beforehand. When meeting with the park rangers, we always consult them about our trip plans, like a travel agent, because they know everything that is going on in the park - trail conditions, weather conditions, water sources, wildlife, etc. An extra special shout out to the fabulous rangers who carried Matt out of Death Valley, he appreciated their shitty jokes.

What is the most rewarding experience you have had during your travels?

Carolyn: It was really rewarding to complete a 30+ mile backpacking trip in Big Bend National Park in Texas. We hiked for four days straight. It was my first time doing anything like it and I'm going to be honest, it was hard! Walking up to the car at the end and getting to say “I did that!” was incredibly rewarding.

Have you found ways to be frugal while traveling? What tips do you have for our readers?

Carolyn: Yes! I am always frugal but especially on this trip because we have a limited amount of funds to last us four months. Below I have listed my top five tips to be frugal while traveling. Check them out!

It's really beneficial to road trip with someone else to split cost of gas, campgrounds, and the occasional hotel room.

Luckily we both love camping because it has made this trip possible. 90% of the time we camp for free. Most of the National Parks issue free backcountry permits. You can usually find free dispersed camping in National Forests. RV campgrounds cost a little bit but are nice when we need to use shower and laundry facilities.

Before our trip I made backpacking meals for us by dehydrating food and vacuum sealing them into packages. When we are hungry, we just add boiling water to mix and the food heats up quickly and easily. This has saved us a ton of money because these meals can run about $6-$10 at stores like REI but cost a little over $1 serving both of us, if prepared beforehand. And may I say, they are delicious. We’ve also perfected Poor Man's Pad Thai which is Chicken Ramen Noodles, Sriracha, and peanut butter.  

This $80 annual pass allows you entrance and free parking at all National Parks, and the occasional camping discount. It covers one car and all of the people in it. This paid itself off after visiting about four parks.

My final tip is, don't let money stop you from traveling. Being poor has kind of shaped this trip for us. It wouldn't be the adventure it has been if we had endless amounts of money to stay at nice hotels and buy all the food we're constantly craving. Money comes and goes, I will have about $0 to my name when I get home, but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I hope to just get a job and start saving for my next trip. (Thinking Europe 2017!!)

Carolyn is pictured wearing the Boyfriend Jeans from the Wanderlust Collection. Shop all items HERE.

Hope you enjoyed Carolyn's Wanderlust Story! Gosh, the photos of her trip are beautiful. I find it very inspiring that Carolyn is so determined to learn more about our land in the United States. This has definitely sparked some interesting thoughts for me... How well do I know the place that I call home? Are there things that I could do to gain a better understanding of this place? 

What about you? Have you ever done something to learn more about the nature that surrounds you or the territory that you inhabit everyday? If so, share in a comment below. I would love to hear your ideas!

Check back next week for the highlights of Anna's experience in India during her 200 hour yoga teacher training program. In the meantime, learn more about our Featured Travelers from the Wanderlust Intro blog post and stop over at the Shop to grab your favorite items for your next adventure! 

Peace out,

XO - Yana, Moth Oddities