The morning I woke up to leave my house, I didn’t even know what to say. This has been a year long (+) journey coming to this point and this moment in time. When I look back I am not sure how everything even came together, and I know it had everything to do with my subconscious brain forcing me into buying my van way ahead of schedule in Sonoma, California, before I even knew what the next 6 months had in store for me.

The first time I found out I could potentially be getting out of the military, it was 1.5 year before it actually happened. Then, I started school at the Defense Language Institute learning Indonesian. There was a red light near my house near Monterey, CA and every time I passed through there in my Toyota Camry I would imagine it being for the last time, and I would be leaving the town to drive across country back to Pennsylvania. I had imagined it dozens of times, preparing for this moment in time, probably to ad nauseum. When I got my van, I imagined the same scenario, leaving Monterey in Nancy Mulligan, my 1990 Volkswagen Westfalia, and I was certainly more excited about that prospect. Then… fate had other plans.

Earlier in the year, I was told I would be moving to Hawaii and to pack my things. So I did. I packed my house up, shipped it out. My final time leaving Monterey was not via that red light, it was on my way down highway 1 to Big Sur, to cross the infamous bridge and drive to L.A. to ship my car out from there. I was home in Pennsylvania and found out less than a week later that I would in fact still be getting out of the military, albeit from Hawaii, in 6 months time.

Fast forward those 6 months and my last day was uneventful comparatively and involved a much different scene then the one in Monterey. I turned in all of my badges, signed the paperwork, stopped in at the admin building to turn in my ID and pick up the last bit of paperwork, then went on my way. I had already been living in a hotel in downtown Waikiki for 10 days until that point. There I was, in downtown Waikiki, officially unemployed sitting at the pool of a Marriott, surrounded by honeymooners, tourists, and vacationers all looking for a good time. It was very surreal.

Since being home the past 3 months, I had gotten off social media. I didn’t write any posts here, didn’t post vlogs, didn’t upload on instagram. Just lived at my sisters house and spent time with my nephew and family. It was my own haven, helping my sister fix up our grandma’s house for her to buy, watching my nephew everyday while my sister and her husband were working. For the first time since I have been doing this (10 years), it was actually very hard to say goodbye. I know this trip is the path for me but holding my nephew one last time and having him drum his little fingers on my back and ask me to twirl him around one last time, was kind of making me tear up. I also had to say goodbye to Nix (my dove) for the interim. She gets motion sick and even in third world countries it is hard to bring avians while crossing borders. She is safely at my moms house for the time being.

I will be back in 6 months! Which is never something I could have promised before, when extensions and living abroad were the norm for me.

For whatever reason my soul drives me to go on this trip, I am here holding on for the ride. On the first night, I met my friend Megan in Shenandoah Valley at Loft Mountain Campground. We met another Westy couple immediately and exchanged tips and tricks about living out of a VW Van. Well actually, he told me most of the tips and I wrote them all down. haha. There is something exciting about rearranging everything in the van for an extended stay and setting up camp and then easily fitting everything into it’s place and heading out.

Megan and I went to a winery the next morning near Shenandoah Valley because this was a Tuesday and she had to get back to DC for work. I guess we all cannot be unemployed ;). After the winery it finally sunk in that I literally could go anywhere. Any direction. To any place. I have opted for the smoky mountains. I want to climb Mount Le Conte, so I drove halfway there last night and am planning to drive the rest of the way this morning so I can climb tomorrow. Being on the road and in the National Parks just makes me feel so settled. More Soon!

This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.