Throughout 2020 and 2021, my partner and I did a 12-month road trip through the US. We drove a total of 20k miles, crossed 35 states and visited 23 National Parks.
In this post, I won’t share a whole lot of details about the trip, since hearing about others’ trips is boring! I’ll just share how we prepared for it, and fun facts of some places we stayed. We did it all while working remotely for our companies, Google and ClassPass. For us, it was a great testament that great work can be done from any location.
What we had with us
- Volkswagen Tiguan
- Two big suitcases
- Two small (and empty) suitcases to fill with presents for our loved ones
- One big grocery bag, which always had a big bottle of olive oil
- Two backpacks
- Two laptops
- One yoga mat
- Three dumbbells and two kettlebells
- One DJ tripod as a standing desk
How we worked
We worked primarily out of Airbnbs. We didn’t count them all, but we stayed in 20 to 30 different ones. We had two requirements:
- Two rooms separated by a wall so we could take meetings.
- A decent internet connection
I spent most of my working hours on Zoom calls, and I had my laptop on my lap for about half of our trip. I would be sitting in couches, random chairs, and sometimes on the floor. A couple of times I used an ironing board as my desk. Many people asked me about neck, back or wrist pain; I never had any. This was probably due to a combination of luck, energy from the amazing experience of the trip itself, and proper deadlifts as a prevention mechanism.
Some Fridays after checking out and before hitting the road, we worked from the car. I apologized to the few folks I had to interview from the car! Although I also used it as a selling point: “Look how cool this company is that I’m allowed to travel the country while I work.”
Since we did about 20k miles, I'll add 20 interesting facts and 20 photos.
20 fun facts
- In a Perkins in Rapid City, South Dakota, the waitress picked up our accent and asked us, "Are you from foreign lands? Welcome to America!" She genuinely seemed surprised to find a different accent, so we didn't find it offensive at all. Although that same day, South Dakota's governor tweeted this, and it was an interesting contrast.
- Driving through Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio is an intense exercise of self-reflection. There is literally nothing to look at, so you end up looking within.
- The amount of random and warm hellos we got on the streets was inversely proportional to the size of the city. People were the friendliest in Saint George, Utah, and Livingston, Montana.
- You think you're outdoorsy until you spend time in Colorado and learn what outdoorsy really means. The Island Lake hike in the San Juan National Forest was our favorite.
- The I95 in South Florida has the most chaotic traffic in the whole country.
- In Montana, one day you wake up to chickens at your door, and the next day you have horses or maybe a bunch of deer. And then, one random day your neighbor is cleaning outside because a fox cut a chicken's head off overnight.
- The west side of the US is incredibly more beautiful than the east. It's also a more chill pace of life, less neurotic and potentially less fun (at least in a hedonistic sense).
- A 10-minute power nap, when sleepy on the road, gives you more sustainable energy than any energy drink, including coffee.
- A 10-mile hike in Death Valley, in 47 °C weather at 11:30am, was my most brilliant idea. It got more interesting when closer to the end, already somewhat exhausted, we got lost. We inadvertently trespassed a sign of "Do not trespass, potential mine bombs leftover." When we reverted back and realized where we had gotten, my partner had a small panic attack. She survived, and our relationship did too!
- I took cold showers in all the places we stayed. Portland, Maine; Dillon, Colorado; and Chicago, Illinois were the coldest, like sharp diamonds in your skin.
- I saw gas prices ranging from $1.64 in Kansas City to $4.98 in California.
- Thanks to two snowstorms, we didn't have to move the car due to street cleaning during our 3 weeks in the West Village.
- On the first day in Brooklyn, I got a ticket for turning right on a red light. The police officer explained to me how to come out clean since my plate was from California, where turning right on a red light is allowed.
- We hit the highest altitude in Ice Lake, Colorado, at ~4200 meters, and the lowest altitude in Death Valley at 50 meters below sea level. The coldest was Dillon, Colorado, with -22 C
- It was sunny during our two weeks in Washington and Oregon in May. You won't see brighter trees than the ones in the Northwest under a sunny day right after 9 months of rain.
- We got our first COVID shot in a Safeway in Rapid City, South Dakota, while we were grocery shopping. "We have excess vaccines that will expire if nobody gets them. If anyone wants to get vaccinated, come by the pharmacy." When we got to the pharmacy, there was an astonishing number of zero people interested in getting the vaccine.
- It's not a great idea to drive for 6 hours straight after getting the second COVID shot. I didn't have any symptoms while I was focused on the road, but the second I arrived at the Airbnb and relaxed a bit, a million body pains suddenly attacked me.
- "Do not leave the house" was the text message I got from our Airbnb host in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. We were a 5-minute walk from the Capitol right when it was being attacked.
- Cracker Barrel is the best breakfast chain, clearly ahead of others like Perkins, Denny’s or IHOP.
- My partner and I had known each other for just 5 months before embarking on this trip. Sometimes you just have to YOLO it. 😎
We started in San Francisco and did most of the Southwest Grand Circle: Nevada, Utah Colorado and Arizona. Then, we started our route west through New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, where we spent Christmas Day of 2020. From there, we traveled up north all the way to Maine through Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We spent New Year’s Eve in Maine. From there, we started our route south through Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia all the way to Miami. From Miami, we went back up northwest through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, where we stayed in Chicago. Then we started our way back west through Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington State. Then from there, we traveled south through Oregon all the way back to San Francisco.