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September

2015

Inside a Traveler’s Walls: Jen Sotolongo

INSIDE A TRAVELER'S WALLS

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Hola friends! I cannot believe that in less than two weeks I will be writing to all of you from Ecuador. We have had a fabulous year in Costa Rica, but my wanderlust heart aches for a new adventure. Even the kiddos are getting antsy. Anyone want to help us pack?

If you are new here I would like to introduce you to our weekly series “Inside a Traveler’s Walls” where we feature families living in less traditional, unique homes. If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled please contact me for details.

You know what day it is. ARE YOU READY!!!

INSPIRATION!!! 3. 2. 1….

As we love being outside, we are comfortable sleeping under the stars. ~ Jen

Today I am over the top excited to share the life and home of our first cycling family. They have traded in their unfulfilling corporate jobs for a cycle tour of the great outdoors. Cool, right? And wait until you feel the outpouring of love they have for their dog Sora. If your pet is holding you back from traveling don’t despair. I would say that half of the families I have shared with you travel with pets. It is so doable.

Having Sora along is the highlight of our journey. We couldn’t imagine this trip without her. ~ Jen

Remember last week when we had a family who customized their bus to their personal needs? This “customizing” thing comes in all forms and this week it comes in the form of a bike. Jen knew what she needed in a bike and she had it made for her. Brilliant. I know I would need a comfy seat, back massager and my hot latino feeding me grapes, is that possible? All joking aside, if someone is going to spend all day on their bike I think customizing it is a great option. What would you need on your bike?

I thought cycle touring would be easy! Turns out that it’s really difficult. ~ Jen

Any foodies out there? Can you believe those delicious meals in the photos were made by Jen while biking (well, not literally while she was biking). Now you can take the dog, the chia seeds, the coconut oil and travel the world. Anything is possible if you have a dream you are prepared to bring to reality.

Jen and Dave saved for a year to bring their dream to fruition. Like many of our other families they don’t believe they need to follow a particular path in life to be happy and successful. Jen offers lots of great advice to anyone teetering on the edge of an adventure. Make sure you read this post in its entirety to fully appreciate the joy, sacrifices and inspiration this family has to offer.

Enough of my chatting. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

Introduce us to the people you live with?
Dave and I, along with our Australian Shepherd, Sora, are the Long Haul Trekkers and we are Oregonians currently cycle touring through Europe. After Europe, we plan to fly to Patagonia and ride to Portland from there.

I am the storyteller and photographer behind our website, www.longhaultrekkers.com. I also manage our Instagram account, posting photos from our adventures. Originally from the Seattle-area, I’ve always loved spending time in nature, especially the mountains, so living outdoors allows me to get my nature fix on a daily basis. I caught the travel bug at a young age and am always plotting my next adventure. I’m also the Bike Chef.

Dave was the instigator of this trip. After too many years stuck in a unfulfilling job in Corporate America, he planted the seed for cycle touring the world with Sora. A native Virginian, Dave traded the East Coast for the West Coast in search of mountains and old-growth forests. Dave runs the blog behind the scenes, writing occasional posts, and manages our Twitter and Facebook accounts. He’s also our fabulous bike mechanic.

Sora is a 10-year-old adorable Australian Shepherd whom Dave rescued from Family Dogs New Life when she was three. Off to a rough start in life, Dave worked with her and helped her change from an anxious pup who peed submissively and ate drywall into the sweet snuggler we have today. Sora loves bread and has a newly developed taste for falafel. She hates the water and much prefers to roll around anything that smells. Dave tows her behind in her Burley Tail Wagon Trailer.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
We are currently in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia and are making our way to Greece, via Bulgaria and Turkey. Our journey began in Oslo, Norway in May 2015.

Our main home is our Big Agnes UL3 Slater tent, which allows us to camp nearly anywhere we like.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
In order to travel long-term, saving money on overnight lodging is the easiest way to spend very little. We want to continue our travels until we run out of money, and camping, whether at a campground or in the wild is so inexpensive that we can stretch our dollar further.

As we love being outside, we are comfortable sleeping under the stars. Our sleeping bags and air mattresses are more comfortable than many beds we’ve encountered during our journey and they feel like home at this point.

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
There’s not much one can do to personalize a tent, but we made sure to purchase a three-person tent to account for the space Sora takes up. We sacrificed pannier space on quality pillows, as a rolled up puffy coat isn’t quite enough for either one of us.

Perhaps the biggest area I’ve personalized is my camp kitchen. We are vegan and I enjoy cooking and eating well on the road. I carry more food luxury items like chia seeds, homemade muesli, or coconut oil than most cycle tourists, but cooking is a passion that I’m not willing to sacrifice on the road. We have one pot and one pan for cooking, I purchased a wooden spoon and I have a small arsenal of spices I use regularly. I cook nearly every night and have begun to share my camp recipes on our website.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
Does my bike count? I had a friend build my frame and the wheels. It’s a hobby of his and when I learned he built bikes out of his garage, I knew that he would one day build a bike for me. Grete (my bike) is custom-designed to my body, riding style, and cosmetic preferences. I picked out the color and all the components. She rides like a dream.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I thought cycle touring would be easy! Turns out that it’s really difficult. You’re at the mercy of what nature deals, whether that’s rain, shine, thunderstorms, excessive heat, bugs, wild animals – you name it, we live in it.

Our first several weeks in Scandinavia were pretty awful. They still consider May “winter,” and we rode through days of rain and 60mph winds in Sweden. I wanted to quit and never ride my bike again. We aired our tent under tunnels or would dry it on fences during our lunch breaks. We’ve nervously tried to fall asleep during lightning storms in Italy and once had a raccoon break into Sora’s food bag in the middle of the night! (we now keeps Sora’s food inside the tent).

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
A good knife. I have two, one for chopping vegetables that came in our MSR camp kit and another pairing knife that I just adore. It’s a Kuhn Rikon that I bought at Sur La Table, costs $10, and comes in a variety of fun colors.

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
We miss our friends and family, of course and having a regular community. The insecurity of knowing where we will spend each night can bring us some occasional anxiety or not having any sort of escape from the cold, rain, or heat.

This probably comes as no surprise, but I deeply miss my Vitamix, food processor, and oven. As vegans, I rely on these items nearly on a daily basis and I’m a little lost without them!

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
Bringing Sora along was a non-negotiable. From the early days of planning our trip, she was always included. Getting her to Europe required a bit of complication, but after understanding which shots, vet appointments, and approvals we needed for her, it was fairly easy.

Taking a dog cycle touring sounds a bit daunting, but it’s really quite simple. As long as you know your dog well and ensure you don’t put her in any circumstances where she will feel uncomfortable, your journey will be a success. We know that Sora doesn’t like being left alone and is not good with strangers, so we take turns when going to stores or tourist attractions.

We make Sora’s trailer as comfortable as possible. We line the bottom with her bed and use a pillow case to create a shade from the sun to prevent her from overheating.

Having Sora along is the highlight of our journey. We couldn’t imagine this trip without her.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
Since we’re not working while we travel, we needed to save every penny leading up to our trip. To procure the items we needed, we relied on a variety of sources, including: REI of course, MSR, Big Agnes, Burley, Kurgo, Icebreaker, Ibex, and Arkel. We shopped around for the best deals

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Internet! We blog from the road and require Internet to fill our blog with stories from the road. It’s also nice to relax after a long day of riding. We’re so exhausted by the time we finish, that we don’t have energy for much else than mindless activities.

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
I suppose our Vitamix. It’s worth the money because I use it daily and it’s a minimalist tool that does everything I need.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
So far, we haven’t decorated our home in any way.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
Slow travel means spending more time actually seeing a place. While we may only spend a week in one country, we see more of the culture and people than we would if we spent two weeks in the same city. We speak with far more locals than we would on a regular vacation visit.

In large cities, we stay with Warm Showers hosts, and bombard them with questions about their cultures, communist histories, and lifestyles. This is by far, the most rewarding aspect of bicycle travel.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
For us, home is definitely where we make it. That may be on an island in Sweden, in the tiny cabin of a Warm Showers host in Dresden, or at a secret swimming spot on the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. As long as we are enjoying what we’re doing and where we are, we feel at home.

What makes you love the place you live?
Our tent is cozy and there are no surprises with our set up (unless your sleeping pad deflates). We have our packing and unpacking routine down to a science. Everything has its place in our tent and we know where it is in our panniers. Having so little stuff makes life easier.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Find a home that matches your lifestyle. If the though of sleeping in a deluge makes you nervous, there are other options.

Paring down your belongings can seem daunting at first, but once you live with less, you don’t miss what you no longer have, and ultimately realize that you don’t even need it.

Anything else you would like offer?
Just commit to your idea and make it a reality. You can always find a way to make money if you need it. You don’t need the house and kids and white picket fence. You don’t need a career to be a success. These are all defined by societal norms. If this is your dream, then say yes and figure out a way to make it happen.

How do you make a living?
We saved for almost a year before departing on our trip. By limiting dining out and other non-necessities unrelated to our trip, we saved more than we had anticipated without feeling like we were giving up too much of our regular lifestyle.

I’m hoping to start writing at some point during our journey and make some money that way.

Quote to Ponder:
Paring down your belongings can seem daunting at first, but once you live with less, you don’t miss what you no longer have, and ultimately realize that you don’t even need it.

Wow, right? If you want to follow their travels you can find them at www.longhaultrekkers.com.

Ok, is anyone already checking out Jen’s “one pot” camp recipes? We are on the cusp of becoming a vegetarian family so I can’t wait to look through her selection.

Have you heard of Warm Showers before? I just popped over to their website. What a brilliant idea!!! We will definitely be signing up when we get to Quito.

Thank you Jen and Dave. We are inspired!

Go adventure!

Besos,
Jessica

 

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