The Mountain and the Sky

The Mountain and the Sky

(Check out our Instagram @otter_mayhem for some video of the vast landscape!)


The first weekend of Vanlife has been very relaxing. As you read in the prior post it’s been a rough start with personal health and sudden changes in our finances, but we’ve made it through to the other side.

Up until this point it’s been really hard to grasp what is so contagious about Vanlife. To be truthful I was losing morale before the project really started. With life changes you hope to discover the challenge, grapple with it, and then move forward successfully. It’s just like when we watch TV shows and movies, we always think of ourselves in some light as similar to the hero. I’m sad to say that I’m not as optimistic as I used to be, but I’m improving. 


Vanlife is the craze that’s taken over the world by storm but there is another part of my life that I think is exceptionally beneficial and that’s my Peace Corps life. Peace Corps is one of the greatest life experiences I’ve ever had. The requirements for getting into the Peace Corps has shifted in the last few years to be more selective for the general pubic ,and I disagree with that, but I understand why they did it. You can see what available countries there are and then apply. If you don’t get it, no harm no foul.

I think you lose something in altruism if you make it conditional.


The way it worked when I joined is that you apply, you go through a year long recruitment process, and then you are given a location that is to be your home for the next two years. If you don’t like the location, you start the application process over again. Peace Corps isn’t about just traveling and getting some stamps in your passport, it’s a calling that you follow anywhere you go and shouldn’t be conditional based on location. It’s about helping people that need it at the cost of your own time and energy.

But I know that sometimes people have strict restrictions and those need to be considered before such a big adventure. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is just about the greatest thing you can do with your life and this is a plug and recommendation for everyone to join! Or at least look into the program more to learn about it!

I ended up serving my time in Ukraine. I didn’t know anything about Ukraine, didn’t even know where it was on the map. All my prep and language training had me convinced that I was going somewhere in Africa. It was a huge surprise when I opened that gray envelope at my door and saw the destination. When I got my service location and I talked to everyone else in Peace Corps I was told Ukraine was the Posh Corps because it was in Eastern Europe.

My experience can tell you that there was nothing easy about it. No water, no power – these were frequent occurrences. And then everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine while I was teaching at-risk-youth about HIV, STDs, and the benefits of higher education. I lived in Southeast Ukraine so my location became an area of contestation. I was evacuated out, my service was deemed complete due to the circumstances, and I was sent along my way. That’s when I lost a lot of my optimism that I am hoping to get back now.

So, after a rough start, I see the wisdom and the balance in Vanlife. We’ve been on a mountain top over 6 thousand feet up with the Green Meanie (tentative van name) giving us one of the most spectacular views of the night sky. We are so far out and so high up I am seeing a sky full of stars I’ve never seen before. There are tendrils floating across the speckled ink canvas that make up the the Milky Way Galaxy. I feel at peace.

So, optimism restored. 

This free roaming cow wanted to investigate our campsite

With the top popped up, our little rug and outdoor lounge area set up, we are just two souls away from the confines of stealth street parking and peeing into a bottle.

Let’s see where tomorrow takes us on this journey.

Follow us on Twitter @NarrativeRoots or on Instagram @otter_mayhem

#ottermayhem #vanlife #vanagon #greenmeanie #westy #westfalia #teamcap #jc #jcandkarp #karpandjc #karp #notacat #tinyhome #livefree #rentsucks #nature #natureisfreesom #rpcv #pcv #peacecorps #peacecorpsukraine #americandream 

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