Our Cross Country Camping Journey (MAP included!)

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Why this trip? To reflect, recharge, and restart. To begin a new chapter that includes a lot less stuff, a lot more space, a much shorter to-do list, and a lot more “ta-da!” lists. 

The best and worst part of leading a creative life is knowing when to shift even when you don’t know where that new direction will lead. 

No matter how big or how small, our choices should always lead us closer to our deepest desires, and our intentional creative goals for our life. And if you aren’t sure what those are yet, then your choices should reflect your desire to find those answers, always. 

Thus, one of the many reasons why my husband and I just made the biggest change in our lives. We sold our home and moved into a camper, downsizing from 3500 sq ft to 120 sq ft! All so we can travel, and capture the beauty of this country at our leisure.

Why? Because the opportunity presented itself in more ways than we could imagine. So the real question is, Why NOT?

Many people say that ‘we always wanted to do that. What they’re really saying is ‘I feel stuck and I’m too afraid to want that more than what I have right now. We cling to our safe, secure, beautiful bubbles of life because it is so goddamn good… no other reason is needed.

Look at all we have to be grateful for in our lives- in this day and age of tech and endless information, convenience, and entertainment. But we all know this isn’t real life right? It’s incredible…

It is all incredible and yet, it’s all designed to keep us stuck. It’s designed to lay us down and keep us feeling tied to this “need” or “desire” to enjoy all of these modern conveniences that make life so “great”.

The truth is none of these things have anything to do with our actual desires.

We’ve lost focus on our true desires for generations- all in the name of “progress”. 

This idea of taking creative control of your life isn’t about finding a one size fits all formula. It’s about diving into who you are as an individual. It’s about questioning your beliefs and allowing yourself to be pushed by the challenges that are natural to human growth. 

Ask yourself now, is there anything in your life that is physically challenging you?

Or have you made choices that have made every aspect of your life fairly easy on your physical body? I’m not asking about your couple hours a week in the gym, or your yoga and Pilates classes. I’ve got those too, and I feel great when I’ve accomplished physical activity. But what feels even better is getting outside every single day, digging my hands into the dirt, walking barefoot in the grass, and smelling a beautiful flower. 

How much of our physical reality is now empty of movement because of modern convenience?

Too much. At the very least this trip is meant to challenge our codependence on convenience. And at the most, it will open my eyes to bigger dreams, more possibilities, and better opportunities. Because I am out in the physical world forcing my mind, body, and soul to interact with the use of my five senses in every aspect of my life. 

From feeling safe and secure with a roof over my head, enjoying natural healthy local foods, exploring local communities, and learning about history and possibilities for the future through others, to simply enjoying the breathtaking natural beautiful views that I’ll have the opportunity to witness and capture. 

Planning this trip in itself is a challenge. And I know this is the true reason why so many don’t choose to change their everyday lives so abruptly. I know Jim and I have both (together and individually) planned long adventures before, and this is different in many ways. 

But let me first tell you how it’s the same because I bet it’s not what you think. 

First of all, it’s not like planning a vacation. Not even close. When you plan a vacation, you choose the best location at the best time of the year, you pick the best hotels, you take time off from work and you buy that sexy new bathing suit and travel-size toiletries. 

We plan vacations for some R&R. For a quick recharge and reboot of our mental batteries. And I’m sure if you’re an American millennial like me, you don’t even plan enough of those in your life. But when we do, our vacations can all pretty much be planned in a month or less. Maybe even in an hour. Another great convenience of our modern life. 

What’s different is that this trip has been planned for years. 

And when you plan a trip like this- whether it’s a six-month cross-country camping road trip or a one-way ticket to the other side of the world- you have to plan for the unexpected. You have to take the time to consider why you want to immerse yourself in an adventure like this. You have to want to learn from your experience. 

And you don’t just take time to plan logistics, you take time to imagine, envision, dream and feel what life will be like during this extended vacation. 

The point of this experience is not just to go see the national parks and take great photos (though of course, that will be a huge part of how and why we document our trip). That’s such a tiny aspect of our purpose. And those of you who love travel photography or have experienced life on the road with a camera, know that that final image takes so much more than just having a great camera and knowing how to use it. 

Planning this trip is about deciding how I want to explore, and not just where I want to go but why I want to go there. There has to be an intention. The intention might be completely unplanned spontaneous and in the moment, that may in fact be the most important intention of all. React of living in wonder, being present to any given moment and allowing it to show you how you can create what you want in that moment. 

I remember one magical moment on a trip years ago when I was first exploring Europe by rail with two girlfriends. This was before social media, and we were still using a lonely planet book to decide where to go and what to see. One of the places I looked forward to visiting most was Munich Germany. This is because my maiden name is Werner. A very popular German name (similar to Smith in America). I wanted to get a feel for my European roots. As soon as we arrived we went straight to the beer garden near our hostel.

As three 21-year-old cute (but very obvious American) blondes, it didn’t take long for a few gentlemen to offer us drinks and a tour of the city. Any mom reading this right now is probably clenching her teeth thinking I made “the wrong choice” to go. 

But go, we did! 

In the back of a BMW coupe, we spontaneously chose to spend the evening with human beings who didn’t speak our language.

Yet we knew we had control not only over the situation but over ourselves and our sovereignty even in their presence.

You know when you meet wonderful people.

You know when you’re just giving someone the benefit of the doubt, and covering up your gut feeling. Versus holding up a fearful state of being which attracts and invites unintentional consequences.

They showed us around the city, and we ended the evening in one of their family restaurants. The restaurant was already closed. But with the dim bar lights on, we enjoyed playing charades for what felt like hours, trying to learn the differences between our cultures. Then they drove us back to our hostel, we said “Gute Nacht”, and never saw them again. 

Judge me if you will. But know this: no one can take that experience away from me. And only I can trust myself to create it. At any point from beginning to the very end, we could’ve made different choices. Safer choices. But those aren’t always smarter choices. Or the choices that will lead to wonderful, magic experiences.

That night is just one example of hundreds, if not thousands, of incredible encounters I’ve had with complete strangers all around the world who have nothing but incredible intentions for connection and human connection. Which is what we all want. 

That is why the smarter choice is to:
Find control of your present reality and feel into your intention for what you want to create at that moment. Then, and only then, act on that creation with so much complete confidence that you know you are the Director, the screenwriter, the producer, and the actor of your movie: Your Life. 

I share this story to emphasize the idea of unplanned plans. In the state of planning that we are in right now prior to leaving on this trip, sure we are planning the logistics. The physical actions that we must take to make this possible. We are planning our route, we are planning the additional gear we will have to pack, we are planning not just where we will go and how we will get there, but why and what our intention is and what we want to create when we choose these destinations along our journey. 

Being intentional takes a lot of energy, but it also gives it back tenfold. We are planning this trip to allow for a return to intention in every aspect of our life, to take responsibility to hold ourselves and each other accountable for our deepest truths and desires. 

I have been ebbing and flowing in the mantra of what it means to Live Wonderful for almost 10 years now. And this brand, concept, lifestyle, whatever you wanna call it… has morphed and evolved in so many incredible ways. But it also hasn’t even begun to reach its highest potential yet.  

You may know me as a photographer, you may know me as a storyteller, a teacher. You may know me as a friend or family member. You may see all those things…

What is not yet known is how the Live Wonderful legacy will live on and grow naturally and sustainably through the combination of all these things being shared with you right here on this site. Though I have been doing that for years, it has not been consistent. Because I have been focused on creating my own experiences in learning and growing a business and a life that I want. I’m still doing that, we all are. 

So I share this to declare that this is what we are bringing back to the Live Wonderful community: 


Stories of sustainability 

Stories of hope and beauty, natural beauty 

Stories of Conservation 

Stories of education and new ways of seeing

Stories of how we can all lead a creative beautiful life together. 

To have the opportunity to take this much time to go explore our country, the people, and the places that make it so unique is a blessing in itself. 

What I need from you is the accountability to show up here. To share what I have learned through this experience with you. 

I will continue to balance just being in the moment and documenting it to share with you, too. I will do my best to give as much detail as possible, including our travel plans and places we plan to visit as well as maybe some questions or challenges that we feel we are going to have along the way. 

If you’ve always wanted to do something like this, but haven’t yet taken the leap, I hope our stories inspired you to just jump. This isn’t going to be easy. But as my hubby always reminds me, “Nothing, nothing great in life is ever easy.”

We’re not settling for easy. We’re taking backroads, boondocking our way across America and we’d love to have you join along for the ride!

Here’s a list of all the places we hope to visit in the next 4+ months. Scroll down for a map of our route too! 

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Nashville, TN
  • Chicago, IL
  • Madison, WI
  • Sioux Falls, SD
  • Badlands, SD
  • Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • Cluster State Park, SD
  • Devil’s Tower
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Tetons National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Spokane, WA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Olympic National Park
  • Mt. Rainer National Park
  • Oregon Coast
  • Portland, OR
  • Crater Lake, OR
  • Redwoods National Park
  • Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Great Basin National ParkZion National Park
  • Bryce National Park
  • The Wave
  • Lake Powell, UT
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Aspen, CO
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Joshua Tree, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Baja California (Mexico)
  • Austin, TX
  • Tilghman Is, Maryland (Danielle’s Home Town)
  • Belmar, New Jersey (Jim’s Home Town)
  • New York City (To Ring in the New Year!)

Cross Country Road Trip Route

Check out the map below that includes our planned destinations and routes! Use the icon in the top left corner to turn on and off different layers on the map.

Look out for more coming soon, give us your best camping advice and road trip tips in the comments below. And share this story with others you know who want to live in wonder always. 

See you on the road soon!


Do you know of an epic photo destination? Tell us in the comments and maybe we’ll add it to our journey.

To kick off this trip, and give you the inspiration to live life on your terms, here’s a summer sale:

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sue Freyser

    Danielle, I highly recommend Needles Highway Scenic Route and Sylvan Lake for some outrageously beautiful country. It is close to Rapid City. My friends and I just got back from spending 10 days in the area and that and the Badlands were the highlights! Happy Trails, Sue

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