Life is not meant to be lived in one place. Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. That’s the life motto of California couple Justin and Cady Majeczky and they urge everyone to take any opportunity life presents you with. Their opportunity came over the summer of 2016.
We always had the urge to travel, and we daydreamed a lot about the places we’d love to visit some day, both domestic and international. We had also casually chatted several times about the idea of rebuilding the interior of a VW camper van as a fun travel vehicle. However, with Cady in school, it simply wasn’t feasible.
After four long years of hard work while Cady attended veterinary school, the couple decided it was time to take a break from the normal grind, to postpone work life and to spend time traveling instead. So they purchased a 1995 VW Eurovan spent months renovating the van’s interior and embarked on their journey shortly after Cady’s graduation in May.
Accompanied by their two canine companions, Siberian huskies Nico and Taj, Justin and Cady visited many of North America’s most photogenic National Parks, including Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Banff. But their itinerary also included other popular spots such as Antelope Canyon, Hamilton Pool Preserve, White Sands National Monument, and Burning Man.
Justin, a professional photographer, videographer and founder of founded Varient3 Productions, eagerly took to the project of documenting their travels with Cady’s assistance. The couple released the film “Moments” as the final result of their creative vision, reminding us all that life is not only about getting to the destination – it’s about all the special little moments along the way, which often become larger when reflected upon.
I simplified my gear significantly since we were tight on storage space. I brought a Sony a7s to shoot video, and a Sony a7r to shoot stills. For lenses, I brought all my Zeiss Contax primes (35, 50, and 85), as well as a Canon 16-35 l II, 70-200 L 2.8, and a Rokinon 14mm 2.8. I also brought my eMotimo Spectrum motion controller for timelapse.
After giving the couple some time to digest their experiences, Resource Travel sat down with Justin, curious if there had been any pivotal moment that paved the way for their travel dreams to become reality.
In the fall of 2015, Cady was asked to be a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding in July 2016 in Pennsylvania, where we’re originally from. This really got the wheels turning – pun intended – for a fun trip after Cady’s graduation. Vet school was incredibly intense for her and I was feeling burnt out career wise, so a break to unplug and get away for a while was exactly what we needed. As Cady was forming an itinerary, she did hours of planning and researching, while we were both keeping an eye open for the perfect van. After purchasing one in December 2015, we worked tirelessly on renovating the interior all the way up until the week prior to when we departed.
Do you feel that shooting so many photos and video clips distracted from enjoying the actual travel experience?
That’s a tough one to answer. As a professional photographer and videographer, I’m likely to have a camera around my neck at all times regardless. I don’t feel as though taking a quick photo or shooting a couple seconds of video footage was a hindrance to thoroughly enjoying our trip. It’s all about doing what feels right in the moment, and there were certainly many times I never even shot a single image or video. However, when I did, I always made sure to also take the time to enjoy the moment in the present. If anything, it may have enhanced the experience, simply because we both knew we’d have such a great collection of memories to look back upon once it was all over.
Asked about the biggest influence the trip had on their personalities, Justin tells us that the trip ignited their thirst to travel much more in the future. But because they now covered a significant portion of their “domestic travel bucket list,” they hope that many of their future travels will be international, ideally one international trip a year. The first countries on the couple’s “international travel bucket list” include Iceland, Tonga, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, and many more.
It was really eye opening to how beautiful our country truly is, and humbling to be afforded the unique opportunity to explore and experience it the way we did.
How did the solitude and having to live in a few square foot for months affect your relationship?
Cady and I have been married for 4 years and have been a couple for almost 10. We’ve been through a lot together, including moving across country from Pennsylvania to California. We consider each other as our best friend, so we really embraced the idea of doing something together and we didn’t anticipate many problems. By going into it with a positive attitude alongside having an open and honest relationship, we thoroughly enjoyed our time together. I believe it brought us closer as a couple and provided us with so many memories to share.
Another thing that had to be anticipated, was traveling with two huskies in the back of the van – not exactly the laziest breed of dogs. Therefore, we gladly believe Justin when he says that traveling with dogs “can definitely be viewed as both a blessing and a curse.” But never did he and Cady have a single doubt that Nico and Taj were coming with them.
They were always curious and happy, and they made for endless entertainment along the way. We stopped for gas every few hours and we’d always ensure bathroom breaks at those times, so we really didn’t have many unforeseen stops. Additionally, they’re a relatively quiet pair and reserve their howling for when we sing with them, so they weren’t a bother in that regard to us or neighboring campers/travelers.
However, the biggest downfall Justin thinks everyone should know upfront, is that, unfortunately, America’s National Park system isn’t very dog-friendly. As such, the dogs did prevent them from experiencing quite a few trails within the parks. This contrasts with the couple’s experiences in Canada, where they were perfectly able to take their pups on many trails at Banff.
While we can understand the reasoning for this, it’s also a huge disappointment to people like us who responsibly travel with our furry companions. We made compromise by doing trails they could go on with us, or we’d find a local kennel that provided daycare services while we did trails they couldn’t.
What was your favorite stop along the way?
With Cady’s great itinerary, we had high hopes of seeing a lot of beautiful places and cool things. But the place that blew my mind the most, was Glacier National Park. We were there during the summer wild flower bloom, and the added coloration to the landscape was absolutely stunning. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been: enormous 3,000 ft towering peaks capped in low level clouds with huge waterfalls cascading all the way down to the valley. The park’s “Going to the Sun Highway” is touted as the most beautiful drive in America, and I have seen why. We look forward to visiting it again in the future.
Any advice for those who are considering a similar journey?
Most importantly: have fun! Learn to disconnect from society. You’ll often not have service and you’ll be forced to do it anyway, but really try to put the phone down. Get off of social media, and truly enjoy the present. Other than that… plan well ahead – campgrounds fill up fast, making it difficult to keep an itinerary without having made reservations ahead of time. Save more than you think you’ll need – as you can guess, it’s not cheap to take time off work and travel for months at a time. If you’re taking dogs, research ahead of time to ensure any rules for pets at each spot and have an idea of daycare facilities in the area, in case you want to drop them off. And be flexible – sometimes things come up and you’ll have to rearrange plans. Just go with the flow!