Hey there friends! And welcome to February of 2021. While I think many of us hoped 2021 would look much much different than 2020, we are so far plugging along in the uncertainty together. This is my first ever recap post, and I hope it answers a lot of your questions -- especially about the van life and travel.
To my Gluten Free Travel-Loving Friends:
> I shared a Gluten Free Weekly Wins & Losses series for a few weeks prior to the start of COVID. I know some of you really loved them. Check them out ifor tips and the realities of living gluten-free on the road.
In this recap you'll find:
- Van Life updates
- My to-do list to get back on the road
- New January recipes
- How I lost 70% of my traffic in a Pinterest snafu
So let’s go ahead and dive in, shall we?
Van Life Updates
Where am I?
I started December 2020 in Valley of Fire, NV, and arrived in Seattle on December 7.
Seattle was my home for 10 years before leaving to travel. And after living on the road for 15 months, there are things that need taking care of.
We spent the first month in Seattle at a friend’s place (between renters) and in the van. We recently signed a lease that will last through the end of June.
Adjusting to indoor life
Major props to anyone living in a house right now -- it’s hard! Adjusting to corners, furniture, and way higher expectations feels tough.
I broke my toe about one week in on the corner of a couch (ouch!). And I feel like the rest is less restful and the productivity has greater expectations.
There’s nothing even close to a vanlife mid-day sun nap indoors. And maybe it’s just me, but constant wifi and a real desk makes me feel like I should be whizzing along at rapid speed… anyone else?
On the positive side, hot showers are literally magic and I am enjoying the oven! We had fresh baked goods just a few times (using the Omnia oven) on the whole trip and no Cottage Fries. Lucas and I are very happy to get them back!
How long I’ll stay in Seattle
I’m hoping for 6 months, absolute max. We even signed a 6 month lease -- whoa commitment! I’ll probably be in and out of Seattle as a Part Time Van Lifer starting in March.
Lucas took a full-time job as a chemist and is therefore chained to the lab bench and something like the 9-5.
Before we came back to Seattle, we had very different plans for our future. I wanted to build a van in my mom’s driveway (don’t worry, she’s cool with it), and Lucas wanted a normal job and normal life.
As a couple, we’ve never had two completely opposite views for our future together. I agreed to come back for a little while with the plan to be in and out… I think you all know how much I love to cruise.
Fortunately, Lucas says he wishes now that he went along with my plan and it seems we are hopefully moving in the same direction. He’ll need to keep his work commitment for a while, but that means we can start hatching big plans together as a couple.
Seattle To do List
Now this is where it gets a little complicated because we didn’t totally dismantle our home life before we left -- we planned for only a year sabbatical.
Would you believe I thought that I would simply come back to my old life again? Maybe it got weird because of the pandemic, or maybe we were just way off base.
Here’s the short list:
Sort out the situation with my house, renter, and furniture.
My renter is now month to month... and has all my furniture. We need to sort out longer term plans with her before moving on.
Sort through a jam-packed storage unit.
As we begin going through our boxes, I can’t imagine using all of these items again!
I love the simplicity of van life and would like to maintain as much of that as I can indoors.
Decide on the next move.
Depending on how the pandemic develops, we’re currently considering a few different options:
- taking off on a cross country road trip
- selling Gertie (our van) and building a new van home from an empty shell
- rewiring Gertie’s electrical system to allow for a heater and in-van Instant Pot use
- selling our home in Seattle and building a tiny home -- location TBD
I have no idea what the future of travel holds, so my plans are flexible and include options to be on the move or stay in one place.
This is the hardest part for me.
As those of you coming from instagram may know, my dog Kaia began having symptoms over the summer. She was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease, and it’s not fully controlled yet.
We want to use this time in Seattle to get her medications sorted and to be realistic about what she can and can’t do with any upcoming travel.
Kaia is a 7 year old Wheaten Terrier. So far, she seems most calm while living in the van, so her symptoms are better on the road.
That’s good news for the van life!
New Recipes & Posts
With all the past month brought, I still managed to write some new recipes and blog posts!
Here’s what’s new in January:
Easy Instant Pot Tomato Soup
This super tasty recipe features red wine and an option to add shrimp and make it a meal (otherwise it’s vegan).
It also uses all your leftover ingredients from the Northwest Beef Stew in the Instant Pot and this Easy Paella Recipe.
Dairy Free Swedish Meatballs
The gravy on this beauty is magic, and I replaced some of the heavier meats with chopped mushrooms for a lighter, healthier version.
I love this one because it’s home and vanlife-friendly! I used an oven for the video but Meatballs can just as easily be pan-fried.
We probably wouldn't cook these often in the van because of the mess, but in a campground with running water or for a holiday, I say game on!
A super simple 3-ingredient recipe for my 10-year-running favorite way to eat a potato!
In the future, you’ll be seeing a lot more easy one-pot dishes.
Plus (hopefully) some Instant Pot meals if I can rewire my van electric to handle the requirements.
Right now, the Instant Pot travels with me and I use it in RV hookups, hotel rooms, and friends’ houses (pre-COVID).
Pinterest blocked my account, along with 70% of my traffic
One of the biggest blogger lessons I learned recently is how important it is to diversify your traffic.
Pinterest is a huuuge portion of my blog traffic. And when I was caught in a spam filter around election time, I saw a devastating drop.
Pinterest traffic has only recently started up again.
To anyone else who gets stuck in this Pinterest rut, I have a few pieces of advice:
- Contact Pinterest multiple times. It took them a long time to get back to me.
- Clear your scheduled queue if you use a scheduler. Also, if using Tailwind, pause any SmartLoops.
- When you start pinning again, pin only new pin images that are notably different from any old ones. I started out with only new content as well.
- Start pinning again, slowly. I’m only pinning 5/day and allowing it to build gradually, with new content and new images for previous content.
- Pin a video or story pin ASAP. My account showed new life right after I posted a video pin for the first time.
- Be patient, and use the time to diversify your traffic and learn SEO.
Blogger friends -- I sincerely hope this does not happen to you. I’m not alone in this, and it’s a good reminder to all of us that search and social media platforms change and disappear.
Diversifying your sources of traffic is so important.
As you noticed, the blog has taken a serious turn towards recipes!
I created VgF to encourage me and others to chase the life we wanted with dietary restrictions.
Now that my life is a sustained adventure, eating well is more important than ever.
I’m working behind the scenes to improve our Recipe Index and website navigation. As well as improved recipe formatting, more videos, and nutrition facts.
Let me know if there’s something you’d like to see!
Maybe a cross country trip to build a van at my mom’s. Maybe a lap around the country… I would love to travel internationally… but COVID.
- One pot meals
- Easy Breakfasts & Chia puddings
- Baked goods (while I have an oven!)
Have a request? Send it my way <3
Predicting the end of the pandemic is the hot topic right now, isn’t it?
Lucas is vaccinated, I am not, and there are strains of the virus that may or may not be fully protected by the vaccine.
I missed out on 3+ months of traveling in Europe this past year because of COVID. I’m sure you’re missing out too.
I hope I can make it back to the East Coast to see my family before the year’s end. Fingers crossed.
How was your January? Tell me one thing you’re thinking about or big event that happened to you in the comments!
Wishing you a lovely month ahead, Jamie
Such a bummer with Pinterest, and a TINY HOUSE!? I am so jealous, excited to hear more about that!
Riiight?? It's been ok though -- I think in the long run having the Pinterest trouble will be more sustainable for the blog since I'm super focused on diversifying traffic.
I'm super excited about the tiny house too! I love living in a small space -- less stress and more time for excursions 🙂
Thank you for reading Tayler 🙂