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The Modern Day Equivalent of Honeymooning in a Teepee

We just got back from our 10-day honeymoon after our wedding on May 2nd. Our wedding was a “typical” Covid-19 wedding, where we maintained social distancing and only had immediate family at the little ceremony. Kalem’s big family however, just barely surpassed the group size prescribed by the CDC, but we thought we’d let it slide. Even though it was an unprecedented wedding day, it turned out to be everything we ever wanted. Greta phrased it beautifully by saying,

“Last weekend was the weekend I’d dreamed with the boy I have dreamed about. I now can’t imagine a day different than the perfect little day we had hanging out with our parents and siblings, committing to keep loving each other. It definitely was not the weekend we have been planning since we got engaged. It was hard to watch our hard work planning go down the drain as circumstances shifted. It was difficult to know it was better to be far from many friends and family when all we wanted to be was close and all we wanted to do was celebrate. While I am more grateful than ever to have Kalem close through this all, I’ve also learned love knows no distance and can’t be more grateful for the joy and love we’ve received from afar. Here’s to Love.”

On May third, we jumped in our newly renovated van and headed south for the van’s maiden voyage to Arizona. Originally, we planned to go up to British Columbia for our honeymoon, but since the borders, and all the national parks were still closed, we decided to go to an area slightly off the beaten path, but the trails still wide and open. Kalem’s dad helped him plan, and they spent hours together scouring Google Maps looking at different areas that he had hiked himself when he was a teenager.

We did some mountain biking in ponderosa pine forests around Flagstaff, then we dropped down into the valley of Sedona to climb and bike over the red sandstone. Each night we would find a new place on BLM land to park our van, enjoy a home cooked meal together and watch the sunset with a magnificent view. We then headed further south and back up into the mountains where it got a little colder at night.

We spent a day hiking and exploring the West Clear Creek canyon with all its splendor and ruggedness. We continued south and drove the entirety of the of the Mogollon Rim finding old cabins and forest meadows, all the while overlooking the valley that stretched before us. We dropped down off the rim and swam in Tonto creek and continued south so Greta could see her first Saguaro Cacti forest.

The trip wasn’t void of its own little mishaps which bonded us and helped us work together. Sometimes it was hard to find a place to park for the night. The latches on the kitchen draws loosened and they came flying out around a corner. Our blender works, but we came to realize through repeatedly tripping the breaker that we have to add the frozen bananas and kale into our smoothie separately in order to not overload the electrical system. And lastly, Kalem learned that if you don’t hydrate the peat moss in the composting toilet, it doesn’t compost right and after a few days starts smelling and back venting into the van as soon as you hit 60 mph. Luckily we were able to solve and fix every little mishap during the trip and loved how much we learned from every one.

Throughout the trip we continued to muse at how crazy we were for deciding to live in a van and how grateful we were for the opportunities that allowed us to do such a thing. It reminded Kalem of stories he had heard of his grandparents who had a similar experience. Kalem’s Grandpa, Larry Dean Olsen had a fascination with the outdoors, and especially with Native Americans. All through his childhood he traversed the Southern Idaho desert looking for arrowheads and other ancient artifacts. When Larry met his future wife Sharrel Eslinger, many of their dates consisted of going into the sagebrush in search of ancient people’s past. When they got married, they spent their honeymoon in the desert, in a Native American style teepee, that they built together.

Even though our experience differed from theirs, especially in that we had the option to go splurge on fancy foods at Whole Foods and stay a night at an Airbnb along the way to shower, we still felt a connection with them and their story. We laughed at some of the looks of surprise people gave us when hearing about our plans for living in the van, and imagined people giving the Olsen’s quite similar looks of surprise hearing about their adventures in a teepee. In a way, honeymooning in a van truly is the modern-day equivalent of honeymooning in a teepee.

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