I first met this Travel Hussy in the mystical space that is the attic apartment above Caffe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz, California. Not many people know that it exists, but for those who have been welcomed into its dusty depths, it is a forever home.
Kate was dressed as a petite, yet fierce, Deadpool for Halloween (years before the movie). Sporting two samurai swords, she offered everyone Fireball whiskey. Needless to say, I could tell this was one brazen hussy.
Later she would move into the apartment and I would have the pleasure of getting to know her not just as a comic book enthusiast, but also as an animal bone collector, trash crafter and indomitably free spirit. After living above the Caffe for a year, Kate committed herself to a life on the road and is still going strong two years later.
In between travels around the united states and to Japan, Kate took some time to talk with Travel Hussies about open caravan travel, hippies and raccoons!
You were living in a white 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan named Migaloo for how long? What inspired you to live in a traveling home?
I was in Migaloo for about 2 years, and it was a long strange journey. I’ve been traveling in fits and starts ever since I was 18, and even though I was living in a perfectly stable job/apartment/social situation, I was finally overcome by wanderlust and flipped everything on its head so that I could move freely without paying rent or having deadlines. I was spending less time at home, and I was always in my car constantly visiting friends, so one day I decided to just go with that and see where it took me. I went broke, gave up stability, and it changed my relationships with a lot of people in interesting ways…but the regrets are overshadowed by the amazing adventure this decision is continuing to take me on. I do miss Caffe Pergolesi though!
I’ve been traveling in fits and starts ever since I was 18, and even though I was living in a perfectly stable job/apartment/social situation, I was finally overcome by wanderlust and flipped everything on its head so that I could move freely without paying rent or having deadlines.
In your Craiglist ad you write, “I’ve driven it hundreds of miles in a day. I’ve posted up in SF, Chico, Arcata, Shasta, Santa Cruz, Oakland, hell I drove her through wildfires last year.” What will you miss most about Migaloo?
Definitely accessibility. I won’t be able to take my new vehicle on the mountain roads that I was previously traveling on, and there’s going to be a lot of compromising and adjusting to that. In fact I may end up renting or borrowing a “mountain car” just so I can get in and out of some of the rougher places. Migaloo is a beast on rough roads, she handled it all so well, even when I was barreling up “The Wildcat” in the middle of the night—a 2-hour stretch of steep switchbacks made of gravel, potholes, fog, and cows between Arcata and the Lost Coast. I asked things of her that should never be asked of a minivan, but she never faltered.
You bought a school bus! What “schoolie” adventures do you hope to have with this new mobile home?
I did buy a school bus, in Phoenix. It’s a 1999 Bluebird short bus. I still can’t even believe it myself. I’ve been dreaming of joining the bus community for years. Ironically, the bus will actually slow down my adventures quite a bit. It’s a home, and I need to wander a little more gently so that I can work and grow as a person instead of changing my zip code every 10 days. I, like many others I’ve met on my journey, am at the point where I realize I’m never going to stop traveling, but want to work toward a home to come back to, to build something that will grow with me. The bus is the first step towards that home base. I hope to be more self-sustaining, and use it as a platform to support travelers, art, and alternative housing.
It’s a home, and I need to wander a little more gently so that I can work and grow as a person instead of changing my zip code every 10 days.
You just returned to California from Arizona where you were painting at Pink Taco Ranch. How did you end up there and where to next?
The Pink Taco Ranch is a vision of an elder-centric art community on the outskirts of Tucson. I knew the founder, Kimberley Zoe Wade-Gould, from another community in the mountains east of Chico, since disbanded. Zoe is a professional artist and she used to clown in the 60’s and 70’s. She, her partner Just Mark, and another fantastic lady Debbie, moved onto what used to be a 12-acre ranch, and have started cultivating it as their own living art project. Bus people, musicians, travelers, anyone who is willing to help out and be respectful is (by invitation), welcome to come manifest some dreams in the middle of the desert, while taking care of each other. After our seasonal job in the Bay Area ended, my partner Ian and I were invited to come paint up a storm, because we had done several pieces at the other mountain community, and lucky for us they liked the cut of our jib. We had known Zoe and Just Mark for a while by then, and we were so happy to go spend time with them. They are amazing people, with incredible stories.
…it’s definitely hard to stop moving once you have momentum
I don’t really plan much these days it sorta plans me. Let’s see, in April I’m going up to the Lost Coast to see friends, then Mendocino to house/dogsit for some friends who are going to Nepal. I may visit Santa Cruz at the tail end of April if I can manage it. Then in May my mom is taking me to Japan which will be the first time ever for me being out of the country (except for mexico). That’s definitely her trip — I’d never be able to afford that right now. Then in June, my partner Ian and I are going to be in Santa Cruz working on our buses. a nice quiet summer, which for me means probably only a few trips up North to the mountains and maybe one little jaunt to Oregon. Peaceful. We actually talked about flipping my bus, working the tourist season in Hawaii, and then from there going to Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and Thailand, and beyond…but decided we both wanted a “sit-down” year before then.
I’ll probably be in the Humboldt area in the fall, there are some research labs up there I’ve been dying to learn more about, but who really knows! Some weird unicorn thing could happen and I could end up in Kentucky. That’s kind of how it is, I’m amazed I finished school to be honest. I’m trying to get better at not being so recklessly aimless, but it’s definitely hard to stop moving once you have momentum. If I weren’t selling my van I’m sure I’d run her into the ground in Alaska or something like that. Better I slow down now than burn out completely, even though it sounds fun.
Can you explain what an “open caravan” is and how it is different from any other kind of travel?
Haha! Open caravan just means anyone is welcome to come along for the adventure, in their own vehicle or however. We tried to get a caravan going for the first part of our recent trip, which was Joshua Tree and Slab City out of San Diego. Not so successful that time, but in my couchsurfing days I remember traveling with a group of 20-odd people all in different vehicles and timelines, all rolling into city after city and getting into shenanigans together, maybe parting ways and meeting up again after a state or two. It’s like having a wandering family, but everyone is free to go their own way.
What is the most important lesson you have learned while “living on the fringe”?
Lots of lessons, too many and all equally important, so I better pick one that I believe people should hear. Mostly that, in America at least, people are struggling to be self-sufficient. The struggle comes not from the difficulty of learning how to be sustainable, but from the police and corporations actively thwarting alternative lifestyles, even if they are beneficial to people and the planet. It’s illegal to sleep in a car that you own outright, it’s illegal to live in the woods and grow your own food. The media has fed mainstream society the idea that houseless people or travelers are akin to the devil, alternative lifestyles something to be feared and controlled. This generates resentment from the wandering community, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m not saying there aren’t terrible people out there, but it sure doesn’t have anything to do with how they live, just who they are. Mainstream society and wanderers, they could help each other so much, but fear each other instead. It’s misunderstanding that we all want the same thing, to be free on this beautiful earth, and we’ve been pitted against each other by external forces who are motivated by money and power, while none of us are truly free. If it sounds too generic of a statement, I apologize, but dammit it’s true. And it’s a hard lesson to live.
Mainstream society and wanderers, they could help each other so much, but fear each other instead.
You say that you do not think your gender has affected your travels, do you think this is because of the network of support you have established? If so, please explain.
Well, I had some time to think about that after I said it, and I concede that it has. For example, even now I would probably be wary of hitchhiking without a dog, and I did used to travel exclusively with past boyfriends, even if it ended up going sour. I’m not sure if that’s because I had never traveled alone, and was unsure of how to start, or because I thought my small size and/or gender would make me a target. I know a lot of wonderful people who would be upset that I would say such a thing, and I support their views, though feeling strongly is one thing and standing alone in an alley in Chicago with nary a knife to your name is another. I’m glad I had some time to travel by myself, because I feel a lot more capable now, and of course I’ve met badass women who travel alone all the time, that inspire me further. And yes, my support network, which I am insanely grateful for, makes me feel like I always have somewhere safe to go to, people to reach out to. So I suppose it did used to affect my travels, but maybe not so much anymore, now that I’ve had time to learn how to go solo, and experience things as a soul regardless of gender. Also, I sleep with a hammer.
… feeling strongly is one thing and standing alone in an alley in Chicago with nary a knife to your name is another.
Can you explain the kinship you feel towards raccoons?
You mean my spirit animal? Raccoons are adapters. No matter what environment they’re in, they turn it to their advantage. I admire that. They have a reputation for cleverness, but their main motivation in all their trickery is food, and they live on the fringe too. Using scrap materials to build things, taking clothes and supplies off the street, I like to raccoon my way through life. Not everyone enjoys raccoons, but they’re living their lives in a changing world, like me, like lots of people I know. I also have this warning to people that if you offer me food I will never politely refuse.
Using scrap materials to build things, taking clothes and supplies off the street, I like to raccoon my way through life.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about hippies?
That it’s like saying “artists.” It means something different to every single person. No two hippies are alike, that’s where all the unique snowflake talk comes from. If you’re going to pick a broad trait, let it be that it is people who are constantly floored by how beautiful the world is.
What advice would you give to aspiring Travel Hussies?
Follow your heart, your mind will catch up.
To follow Kate’s travels check out her Instagram @vanarky.
Travel on, Hussies!