Thoughts From the Road

September 2, 2016

Thoughts From the Road

Hello, friends! It feels so good to finally have a few moments to sit down, gather my thoughts and write my first update since leaving on my road trip. I’ve already been on the road for 19 days, and it simultaneously feels like the longest and shortest 19 days of my life. Long because my first week of driving to Minnesota seems like a distant memory now, and short because it’s wild to think the people I’ve seen and places I’ve been to are, realistically, only a few hours away in all directions.

Before I left, this trip felt BIG. I estimated that I would drive at least 10,000km in 17+ states. Not even three weeks in, I’ve already driven more than 6,000km in 14 states – and there are at least four more that I’m going to drive through (five if we include Washington, which I need to drive through a second time to get home). Because of the fast pace I’ve been moving at, and the long driving days, I haven’t had time to write a full post yet. But I did piece together a list of thoughts I’ve had so far on the road.

Some are silly, some are serious and some are incomplete – and the more time I spend alone, the more confident I am about saying that this is how my thought process works on a daily basis.

  1. According to the yard signs I saw in Washington, 91.67% of farmers are voting for Trump.
  2. Conversely, people in Montana and Minnesota still seem to be supporting Bernie. People love Bernie. (Poor Bernie.)
  3. The above two points don’t align with what this says. I just had fun counting yard signs in the first week of the trip.
  4. I hate driving at night. I’ve only driven in the dark twice, and I can already tell you I never want to do it again. Going forward, I’m getting out of the car before 8pm.
  5. Snoqualmie, Washington reminds me of Squamish (my favourite city in Canada). I want to go back and spend more time there.
  6. I’m pretty sure there are 20+ different license plate designs in Montana.
  7. The further I drive, the more often I wonder if there are any other cars with British Columbia license plates on them in the state I’m in.
  8. The Badlands are indescribable. Pictures don’t do it justice.
  9. A storm in South Dakota reminded me that rough patches don’t last forever. In my case, two hours was all it took for the sun to come back out. (Waiting inside a Subway restaurant with amazing wi-fi made this more comfortable.)
  10. No matter what state you’re in, you can look at the sky and tell when you’re about to drive into a storm. The dark clouds aren’t exactly inviting, but it’s nice to feel prepared for what’s coming.
  11. Have I ever mentioned how much I love thunder and lightning? I could stay up and watch/listen to it all night.
  12. As soon as you cross the border into Minnesota, you can’t help but notice how GREEN it is.
  13. Homeowners in the Midwest mow their lawns once/week. I already knew this about people in Ohio, but apparently it’s a thing in all of those states. This is NOT a thing in BC.
  14. Anthony and I made a video! I had to share this because I’m still amazed there was any usable footage. We spent three hours laughing, while trying to get this done. And if we lived closer, I think we would seriously consider starting “The Cait and Anthony Show”.
  15. My favourite restaurants so far have been: The Notorious P.I.G. in Missoula, Josiah’s Coffeehouse in Sioux Falls, Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis and Turtle Bread Company in Minneapolis. I also had a lemon vanilla latte at Indaba Coffee in Spokane that was delicious, and no trip to Ohio is complete without a stop at Jeni’s.
  16. Coffee from Tim Hortons in Ohio tastes different from Tim Hortons in Canada. I don’t know if it’s better or worse… it’s just different.
  17. Catcalling is (unfortunately) alive and well in Southern Ohio.
  18. To counter that, I must tell you that men in the Midwest have some serious manners. The men who were shocked to hear how many times I’ve been catcalled are the type of people who open doors for everyone, say “thank you” often and provide genuine hospitality. I will miss that.
  19. Frozen custard tastes even better than it sounds. I probably didn’t need to eat two scoops of it, but I also regret nothing about that decision.
  20. Nate St. Pierre is my new favourite person. I’m so glad we finally met.
  21. No matter what crop a state is known for, they all seem to grow corn – a lot of it. (And sunflowers! Sunflower fields are mesmerizing.)
  22. There are wild turkeys everywhere. I don’t think I saw my first one until I hit Minnesota, but now I see them everywhere – and they fly! For some reason, this always makes me laugh.
  23. I also saw my first wild armadillo in Missouri. It was roadkill. :*(
  24. Gas is $1.99/gallon in parts of Missouri and Kansas. That’s only $0.52/litre!
  25. When I meet new people, most of them say they know what Vancouver is because of the shows on HGTV. The Olympics didn’t put us on the map, but Love It or List It did.
  26. Minimalism is a privilege. I don’t know how to write about this yet, but I can’t stop thinking about the fact that a “minimalist lifestyle” is something that is typically only chased by people who have money (or access to credit). I’m going to continue to gather my thoughts on this, before I say more… but it’s on my mind every day.
  27. Small problems feel huge when you’re alone on the road. I thought the opposite would be true: that the small things would seem even smaller, when you’re out on a grand adventure. As it turns out, when the small problems are all you have, they seem monumental.
  28. I’ve let go of the concern that crying is a sign of weakness. It’s a release of emotion.
  29. Road trips offer the best environment to practice living in the moment.
  30. I have loved my visits with friends in various states in the Midwest, but I do have to admit that driving towards the mountains made me feel like I was going home – and it felt good.

There are so many more things I could share, but I’ll stop there and maybe do another round-up in a couple weeks. As you can probably imagine, the road has helped me come up with a long list of blog post ideas… I just need to find the time to write them! Until my next update, I also wanted to share the best blog post I’ve read in the past few weeks. I’ll leave you with this quote from it, and we will talk more soon, friends! Miss you!

We can’t afford to act like it’s okay that “Girls can do anything!” got translated somewhere along the line into “Women must do everything.”



  • Reply Matt @ Optimize Your Life September 2, 2016 at 5:47 am

    Snoqualmie and Squamish also share the distinction of having two of the best possible names for towns.

    Regarding minimalism as a privilege, may I recommend this thoughtful piece from Penny at She Picks Up Pennies:

    • Reply Cait Flanders September 2, 2016 at 5:51 am

      Yes, I’ve had this bookmarked to include as related reading, whenever I can finally gather my thoughts on this! Thank you!

  • Reply Millennial Moola September 2, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Fascinating thought on minimalism and credit access being joined together. I’ve been seeing marketers for apartment complexes catch onto the trend even in midwest cities like St. Louis and they’ll advertise a 400 sq ft studio as “minimalist living.” We saw roadkill too on our last roadtrip, except it was in Maine and it was beaver.

  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach September 2, 2016 at 6:52 am

    I love Snoqualmie and miss the green from the PNW! And people in the Midwest are incredibly nice. I am very surprised by the Trump signs in Washington. Maybe it was Eastern WA? The rest of the state is so liberal!

  • Reply Janelle September 2, 2016 at 6:54 am

    I also am struck by minimalism is a privilege. I think the minimalism of The Minimalists tends to that end (which is by no means me throwing shade!) whereas the Non-Consumerism of Katy Wolk-Stanley seems to be more where more “average” people could fall. I can’t afford to just dump all my stuff I want to get rid of – financially I need to try to make a buck. BUT by not buying what I don’t need, I can have both minimalism and a realistic bottom line.

  • Reply Tara September 2, 2016 at 7:04 am

    I don’t think you went south enough but Montana near Yellowstone is also so beautiful. I love Bozeman and wish I could move there.

    Everyone is different in each state with yard care. I grew up in North Texas (Dallas) and in most of the non-arid portion of Texas (most of state) people water their yards to keep them green. I spent years in NYC where people rarely had yards in front so I never thought about it until I moved to the Philadelphia area where I became a homeowner and I noticed people just let their yards go brown and let nature take it’s course (most people at least). We do get enough rain here where yards never turn 100% brown so perhaps that’s why.

    I agree about crying… I recently saw Kyle Craft live… his last song on the album, Three Candles, will make me cry if I need to let it out. It’s important to feel emotions and express them– don’t be afraid to let it out! If you have Spotify, I recommend listening to his whole album.

  • Reply Renee September 2, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Funny that you noticed the license plates in Montana. We actually have a little over 300 plate designs! If there were ever a place for our state to embrace minimalism, it would be the license plates. It has definitely gotten out of control.

  • Reply Kate September 2, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Glad you’re enjoying your trip so far Cait!

    Midwestern men are the best in my opinion — heck I married one! And the people are so friendly in the Midwest, no wonder I moved here from Pennsylvania as soon as I was old enough to leave home. Oh and yes, you are right about frozen custard. It is THE MOST DELICIOUS dessert ever invented. Make sure to go to Kopps Frozen Custard if you are in the Milwaukee, WI area. :)

  • Reply Jo September 2, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Great to hear your list of thoughts. Youre sounding much more upbeat that you were the other day. Keep on truckin :o) Jo (aka Witcheypugh) xx

  • Reply Kate @ Cashville Skyline September 2, 2016 at 8:37 am

    I’m so happy to experienced Jeni’s in Columbus! Best ice cream of all time? Maybe. I’m not a fan of driving at night either, but I love starting a long drive at sunrise. There are so many beautiful things to see here! I’m so glad you’ve got the time to soak it all in. See you in a couple of weeks! :)

  • Reply TJ September 2, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I’ve always hated driving at night, even around town in well lit urban areas. It’s unfortunate because I know the roads tend to be less crowded when it’s dark out, and there are some people who even prefer it, but that’s just one of those weird TJ traits. Also hate driving when the sun is setting or rising.

    I LOVE Midwesterners. My favorite California transplants are absolutely those from the Midwest. They are SO NICE They remind me of the down to earth friendly folks I’ve met in Canada and New Zealand among other places. Hence the idea of spending some time in the actual Midwest, where that personality type is the majority rather than the rarity, is a bit appealing. :)

    I totally agree with you about the connection between the privilege of minimalism and wealth or access to credit. It’s very hard to gather my thoughts on that. I essentially just wrote as part of my second blog post, “Privilege is a very tough topic to write about when it’s something that you have, and I know that statement is entirely a first world problem.” I

    Frozen custard in California is pretty meh. There’s a chain called Ritas. But I guess what they call frozen custard is actually really something else. I’ve been told that it’s way better in Missouri in particular. Something to look forward to.

    So fun to read this succinct list of thoughts from the road. Thanks for sharing and I can’t wait to read the next one. :)

  • Reply Chris @ MindfulExplorer September 2, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I enjoyed point 26 through 28 the most Cait.
    As for the minimalism point I think it is more about opportunity and seems to be more of a single person situation. Hard to make that comment when we all look up to Joshua as a leading proponent but then every other twitter, instagram or blog personality I find is single. Much easier to make the lifestyle choice when it doesn’t affect others. On the point of privilege maybe it aligns with education or awareness rather than financial status but quite possibly that is a reflection on the state of things in the US with education and soci0-economic standing.

    I think the observation on HGTV is pretty comical :)

    Thanks for sharing all these observations and personally I badly want to be on the road with you right now, I can’t stop thinking of my journey last year.

    Time to cut the ties is close at hand, as soon as I can end the just another day syndrome or fear of a steady paycheque disappearing .

  • Reply Tawcan September 2, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Haven’t been to Snoqualmie but Squamish is a great town, especially if you love the great outdoor. So many outdoor activities you can do in Squamish.

  • Reply Shelly Seward September 2, 2016 at 10:48 am

    WOW!! You’ve been on the road for over two weeks already?! Time flies when you’re having fun right! I’m glad to know you stopped and relaxed long enough to write a blog post. :) I’ve been following you along on Twitter and Instagram and I have a feeling you will have a lot of laughs in Colorado. ;) Take care friend and drive safe.

  • Reply Jennifer September 2, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Minimalism being linked to privilege is real and too unexplored. My husband and I make a very good living, particularly for our ages. We have chosen to live in an impoverished area in the midst of urban renewal, buying a duplex that will serve as a good source of income in the future. As we pursue minimalism, irony is always close at hand. I get rid of things regularly that I know our neighbors wouldn’t be able to afford in a pinch. Last year our neighborhood became a food desert and we didn’t even notice for a full six months. Sure, our local grocery store wasn’t accessible anymore, but we never shopped there for real groceries in the first place. You know who did notice? Our tenant who doesn’t have a car.
    Minimalism is a luxury because it assumes that we will have access to quality resources at a moment’s notice, no matter the cost.

  • Reply Maggie September 2, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    What a nice check-in. Glad you are having such a wonderful trip, tears and all!
    I am excited for the post about minimalism and privilege. Though I am not a minimalist, the deep intentionality and what sometimes reads as navel gazing from it’s proponents intrigues me and irks me at the same time. There is lots of material there… Can’t wait for your take!

  • Reply Ms. Montana September 2, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    I felt the same way on our trip. It’s so much information to take in. And so much time in the car to think and observe. I wish I would have had more time for writing. Montana does have a lot of license plates! Almost every organization I know has a custom one. The fee you pay to get that plate goes to the cause. And you are right about not letting things go easily. I still saw Ron Paul stickers 6 years later. They had a hard time letting that one go. =)

  • Reply Finance Solver September 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Sounds like a great trip! I also love #29. With all of technology these days, it’s so hard to look up and actually realize what’s going on in your environment. Being cognizant is a surefire way to know that you are living!

  • Reply Julie@ChooseBetterLife September 2, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    I second your thoughts on midwestern men–my hubby is a Kansan :)
    So glad your trip is going well. You’re a seasoned road warrior now!
    I can’t wait to see your reaction to rock “lawns” and saguaros… but it will come with the best Mexican food you’ve ever had. Maybe you’ll get a glimpse of our owl and bobcat.

  • Reply giulia September 3, 2016 at 1:47 am

    Women can and must do everything, glad to know your adventure is going well and The Cait and Anthony show sounds really well:P

  • Reply Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless September 3, 2016 at 5:45 am

    Man, you are covering a lot of ground! I should take a road trip sometime — I haven’t even been to most of these places, and they’re part of my own country.

    Have you read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma? There’s a huge part in it about how most fast foods and processed foods in the U.S. are actually made largely out of corn products (like, a typical McDonalds meal can mostly be traced back to corn: the cow was raised on a diet of corn, the milkshake is full of corn syrup, etc.). Corn is apparently really cheap to grow and can be used in a lot of different ways. Oh, and also I believe the ethanol in gasoline is made from corn. It makes sense that you’re seeing a lot of it!

    Boo to driving at night. I hate it too.

    Safe travels!

  • Reply Teresa September 3, 2016 at 7:32 am

    I enjoyed this post so much! I live in the midwest and am surprised to hear so many comment on how polite midwesterners are. I thought that was just a “people” thing. Instead of feeling sad I live where some complain about how boring it is and try to leave I will choose to be grateful.

  • Reply Michelle Bunt September 4, 2016 at 4:15 am

    Hi Cait,
    I agree that minimalism can be a privilege. One of the oft quoted sayings of minimalists if “if you can buy it for $20 or less in 20 minutes or less” get rid of it. Though, I love the concept of minimalism, this statement always bothered me. You see for the majority of my life $20 was quite a large sum of money. I generally didn’t even have a spare $20 left over at the end of a week. Up until 18 months ago, this was still the case for me. I used to make approximately $14,000-$18,000NZD a year (the equivalent of $10,000-$13,000USD per annum). Under those conditions, giving away possessions which I might later need and which would be very costly to my budget to acquire again was ludicrous. And to be honest, it made me a little mad that these people had so little insight into the realities of how many people live. I am happy to be able to say that my income level has since improved considerably but it is still a time in my life that I will never forget. It is such a blessing now to be in a position where I can have an appreciation for money, and the ability to spend my money to bless someone in some way if I choose, not live in an enormous state of fear and anxiety about money. This is something I think the people who teach about minimalism need to better understand. In my opinion, minimalism has something to offer everyone at every income level and stage of life, as more than anything else its about mindfulness, freedom and redefining value. But to someone on a low income level, the notion of giving up stuff doesn’t resonate. People in that stage need more, not less. No stuff necessarily, but they need more abundance, more equality, more opportunities, more security, more safety and more compassion and giving up the little possessions they have won’t help them achieve any of the above-mentioned mores they seek.

  • Reply Pamela September 4, 2016 at 5:08 am

    I watched your video on Break the Twitch an your approach to minimiliasm is great. I think the road trip is a fantastic idea and you and I bet you will treasure the good and bad memories from this experience for a long time to come.

  • Reply Eric Bowlin September 4, 2016 at 5:18 am

    Sounds like your having a good time.

    In New England, where I’m from, people usually mow every week, maybe two depending on the time of year.

    As you move south it definitely becomes a bigger thing as the grass gets greener and grows faster.

    In my part of Texas I swear everyone hires someone to take care of the lawn because it’s drier than the east coast. People who do it themselves seem to just kill their lawn.

  • Reply Our Next Life September 4, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Glad you had a moment to sit down and write this out! I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the lessons of travel, because I seem to be having more bad travel luck lately than I usually do (usually things go remarkably smoothly for how much I fly)… and I think the reason that travel magnifies the small problems is that it introduces a major element of powerlessness. Sure, you’re driving yourself and aren’t powerless the same way you are if you’re waiting for a broken plane to get fixed, but you can’t control the weather. Things can go wrong with your car. The sun sets when it wants to set, not when you want it to set. Etcetera. And it’s hard to reconcile that powerlessness with an itinerary and a vision for a trip. Last week I had a flight misconnect and got stuck spending the night at an airport hotel instead of my own bed. At first when I found out, I was fine with it, but by the time I finally got to the hotel, I was in near meltdown and definitely cried a bit, just because I so wanted to be home and had pictured myself being home that night. When things didn’t go to plan, I tried my best to stay flexible about it in my mind, but I was just too tired to deal with it, and had that emotion to let out. And then, to come full circle, I watched a late-night rerun of Love It or List It to make myself feel better so I could fall asleep. (But I love Vancouver even without HGTV.) Haha.

  • Reply Scott @ Couple of Sense September 5, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks for keeping us in the loop Cait, great to hear you are having a great adventure. #16 – Tim Hortons does taste different in the States in general. It is due to the water – that took me several large regulars to identify on both sides of the border.

  • Reply Tiffany @ HappyThankfulHopeful September 11, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    The “Minimalism is a privilege” comment is spot on.

    I realized this when I was notified of a young family in dire need of donations and felt only too happy to round up our excess. It made me feel kinda sick that my eagerness to give stuff away was matched by their eagerness to receive it….still makes me feel sick.

    Continue to enjoy your trip – stay safe and enjoy the sights. I absolutely understand the frustrations of working while on the trip – but prioritize your wish list, remember that the additional income earned will help fund this & other trips, and know that you’ve learned the lesson really well this time, so your next vacay will be even sweeter.


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