Our Story

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Exciting News!! We’re Making A Book!!

Orange is Optimism is a novel / photo book featuring our best stories from the road. It is hardcover and 120 pages, featuring prose by Rachel, photos by James, and some illustrations smattered in for fun!

Pre-Order Your Copy Today

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Bigger better and chock full of love!

When you all supported this book we were blown away with love.  You all gave 325% of what we needed to make this a reality. And for that we want to say thank you in the best we know how. 

So we are doubling the book!! Double the word count, double the photos, and double the illustrations!!

Rachel has been in a writing frenzy, pouring out her heart on the page.  We have added quite a bit to the novel we set out to write, adding chapters and expanding on the ones already there.  The book currently has 45,000 words, instead of the 20,000 we started with back in May, and we are refining them meticulously. 

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With all the extra love and content going into the book we may not be able to get the book out by the end of July.  We will update you as it develops and we promise it will be worth the wait. :)

Thank you again for the support during this exciting time. You guys are the best,

much love,

rachel + james

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46 responses to “Our Story”

  1. David says:

    This is an impressively creative, playful, thoughtful website. Both the visual journal and the cartoons provides striking methods for conveying the feel of your journey, your search, and your time together.

    So the combination of what you both contribute to the website begs the question of whether it is work or play. Rachel seems to love the word art that she creates while James seems to fully immerse himself in the photos and videos. Are you each working or playing? If work has an element of joy, does it become play? At what balance point?

    • Rachel says:

      David, It was so awesome to return from our trip to your comment! Thanks so much for checking our blog out! As you know, when you create some sort of art, it is truly fulfilling to have a deep thinker consider your creation. The division between labor and leisure is so oblique that we can never truly figure out whether we’re working or not, just as you said! And that is the beauty of life-that there is never a definite answer. We really enjoyed getting to know you on our short ride down to Ashland. And we’re excited to explore your panama blog! Happy Trails to you! –James and Rachel

  2. David says:

    PS: How did you fare in the smoky mountains above Ashland after I dropped you off?

    • Rachel says:

      Our hike through Oregon was AMAZING. The smoke cleared up about 4 days in, but even those first days were beautiful. Oregon is truly a magical place. We just hiked into Washington via Bridge of the Gods yesterday and are back in our bus. We’ll post some pictures and thoughts pretty soon. Thanks again for the ride and the great conversations down to Ashland. Best to you! -James + Rachel

  3. Rena says:

    Hey Guys!
    We (Rich and Rena… also known as R&R) just finished the Panamint City backpack. Came across your wonderful art and thoughtful commentary on both the wall at “The Castle” and in the comment book. Really appreciated it. And now I appreciate your wonderful and creative website/journal too.

    Just wanted to say “hi”. We also are VW camper owners, so isn’t that funny. But we are “old” and have been doing camper trips (and other trips and trips and trips) for centuries at least.

    So happy trails to you!!!!

  4. taylor + fran says:

    Nice ta meet cha! Have fun on your journey, you two. If you ever need anything in Bozo hit us up!

    T + F

  5. Charlotte says:

    These pictures are amazing and I love the idea behind this. My question is how do you fund these trips?

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Charlotte,

      So Sorry for the late response! Thanks so much for visiting our blog and for reaching out.

      To support ourselves, we do farm work as we need it, everything from butchering chickens to harvesting peaches. We’ve done roofing, dug ditches, and hung Christmas lights. James is a videographer, and creates shorts for nonprofits and small companies. I do some freelance writing. Mostly, we work to need less money, and have lived below the poverty line for the last 5 years. That’s probably the biggest thing; to need less, and then you don’t need to earn much. We work for what we need and no more.

      Hope that was helpful!

      Thanks for the good vibes and for following along on our journey! Hope you end up doing what makes your hearts burst with joy most days; for that is the only way to live.

      Much Love,

      rachel + james

  6. David MacNaughton says:

    I’ve been house less since 1993, you two are enjoying each other and a free life. If ever in the midwest give me a shout. Much love.

  7. Ergun says:

    You left everything and then you lived 3 years in nature and came back to society and you re SELLING your experinces,involved the marketing and monetary system now..!! What a big paradox..you are liars

  8. Brian G says:

    Wow you guys have some great audio visual talent! I didn’t notice any Alaska shots in your film… are you planning on visiting this phenomenal state? Our midnight sun filled summers are amazing! Summer is also full of opportunity for gigs that offer great experiences and can really fill the gas tank while increasing your own awareness of a place’s natural history… we lived the seasonal dream of snow and guiding for 5 years and picked AK over everything else. Keep it up! Feel free to message if you ever need tips on AK sights or jobs too.

  9. I posted this on our VW Facebook club.

    “Tyce Ferwerda Finally watched it. Who would have ever thought that TRUTH could be found while traveling in a VW Bus!!!?”

    Thanks

  10. Fu Chan says:

    I found y’all through your Biolite post. Lovely journey!

    As the child of immigrant migrant laborers, I was curious if your work with them has given you insight into their world. Do you find them to be as spiritually and mindfully fulfilled as you have become? Do you find it strange that some, like my parents, desire the ills of modern life as you put it? Do you preach to them, coming from the other-side, about how destructive modern life it is and you’ve both escaped it to join them as praised hobos?

    Romanticizing the migrant worker is not new. Jack Kerouac did it. He was entirely ignorant to their suffering, joined their ranks, declared to himself that this was the one true way of living, then said “Nothing was going to happen except starvation for Terry and me,” and packed up and left.

    It’s disingenuous for you to claim that your income comes just from farms. Ignoring that fact that you have your blog, Etsy store, promotional ads, and a channel to ask for handouts, you also have your education, connections, savings, and general whiteness on your side while you eat, pray, and love your way around the U.S.

    Your mission stinks of unchecked white privilege. Am I bitter? Sure, this country was built of the backbone of racial suffering and ignoring that fact won’t do anyone any good.

  11. Wasted youth says:

    Thanks for sharing part of your life. I sit here envious. As I get older and continue to maintain several old VWs that bring me joy and pain I think it curious that youth still finds these troublesome traps of a car so endearing. Must have some ingenious design concept built in…

    I eagerly reach out for less to own, less to care for and less to pay for. My career path is envy to many, but it is truly a leech of my soul. Would I be single, I would light a single match to my things and drive away in my bus with towering flames of crap in my rear view mirror. But I chose to raise a family, and that is a commitment that I am proud to come home to. Even with all the stuff that comes with that.

    God willing, should I have the privilege of becoming a cranky old bastard and a burden to my kids, I wonder if the health plan and retirement savings that I sell my soul for will be there. And so I wonder if that even matters… will it?

    What will you two do for your health care as you get older? What will you do for a home when it is difficult to get out of bed, much less hike the Adirondacks? Will it matter?

    In your youth… you have tasted, feared, shaken, breathed and burned yourselves in ways I see only over my shoulder, and not in my hands. When someone shakes their head at your life, ask them to talk to me… and I will tell them with worn eyes that you two are right.

  12. I buy a ‘Clipper 83’… in july i start my trip on south of america… i realy love your history!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Eduardo,

      Sounds like you’re going to have a grand adventure! Are you starting down south in Patagonia?? All the best and enjoy the hell out of it!

      Much Love!

      -rachel

  13. Scott says:

    Congratulations you two, and thanks for sharing. I hope your story inspires many more to create a path with such fulfillment. Thirty two years ago my wife and I, two years into our marriage, did something very similar. We sold nearly all of our possessions, bought bicycles and one way tickets to Europe to begin what became two years of life on the road. We pedaled and camped our way around the planet, working as we were inspired to – in short term gigs from painting a house, or selling flowers for a roadside stand, to busking on street corners, or helping out the people we met along the way in some unexpetant harmonious give and take – living well, below established poverty lines. Your concept of idle time, work time and leisure are well centered and provided, for us, a foundation that has helped us in our attempts to maintain balance along the way through our thirty years since. Granted, our wants have changed along the way, with subsequent homes and careers and children whom we’ve raised into their adulthood. But our needs were always realized to be few and easily attained should we ever need to make our choices accommodate such circumstances. I recommend the first excercise to everyone, young or old at some point in their life, that is to sell everything and set yourself up to live on the road in some suitable and harmonious manner. Our attachments to things and conventions are soon revealed to be figments of imagination. And when our needs are few, our wants are more easily fulfilled. Again thanks and I hope the hint of our story helps corroborate the value in yours. Best wishes.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Scott,

      We really enjoyed reading about your life journey; a truly inspiring testament to the art of living simply and well. Thank you. We understand so well your travels; the stopping for work when necessary and moving on to the next leg of the journey. As you said, once you sever your ties to a luxurious life, you never quite need to live so luxuriously again. It is a practice in restraint, we’ve thought at times, but also, it’s learning to realize other dreams and desires that would never otherwise have been able to happen. So then, it’s also an indulgence.

      It’s hopeful to us to hear that you transitioned to other phases of life with no major conflict. Sometimes we wonder, not saving money, how we’ll move forward should we choose to live a different lifestyle. Thanks for providing some assurance. Though, really, we’re always confident that things will work themselves out.

      Your message is so true and resonates deeply with us. You can live a good quality of life below the set poverty line. “When our needs are few, our wants are more easily fulfilled.” Beautifully said, and we couldn’t agree more.

      Thank you again for sharing and we wish you all the best in your journey.

      With so much love,

      rachel

  14. milesdd says:

    I love the website. The papr maps arrived the other day. The story you tell is great. The written and visual content is excellent.

    Love reading about your trip.

    Cheers

    Miles.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Miles!

      Thanks so much for all of your support and community. It really means the world to us! We are so glad you enjoyed your zine; it has been so cool to share a physical item with others. We want you to know that your support is really what made it possible.

      Look forward to connecting more here and on social media.

      Sending so much love and gratitude.

      -rachel

  15. Kjells says:

    Hi,
    I found your film and website on FB and loved what I could see. What a happy, nice, exploring wonderful life you have.
    Happy journey. Be safe out on your way.

    Kind regards
    Kjellz

  16. Mary says:

    Hi, I’ve just found your site, it’s so uplifting. Thank you. I ordered your books. Could I ask you about your photos…what brand and type of camera do you use for your photos you post, do you have a remote for photos with you both in it and do you have a tripod? What brand? Looking forward to the books coming and I’ve shared your site with many. Keep up you beautiful works and your wording is inspiring.

    • Rachel says:

      Mary,

      So glad to have you here! We are so glad you enjoy our work, and really hope you enjoyed the zine bundle. It is truly our pleasure to share, and we are so blown away that you would invest in our work. Thank you so so much for your support; we couldn’t make our art without you.

      To answer you question, James uses a canon 5d and canon 60d for photos. James uses a contraption with a timer for tripod pictures taken from afar. I forget the name of it, but it’s used for timelapses in general. James had all this gear he had before hitting the road; he worked as a professional photographer and videographer before moving into the bus, and we’ve gotten work that way as well as we’ve traveled.

      Sending love. Thanks so much for being here with us.

      -rachel

  17. vin says:

    I am wistfully watching your videos, beautiful young people traveling the country, taking on new challenges as they come. I think everyone should do that really.

    Now that I’m 56 and ache in places I never knew existed, worried about my daughter and her unborn child, whether we have enough money to help them when things get tough (medical, etc.) I am even more convinced that young people should do this the moment they have the resources to do it…because eventually we all become still….and that is a process in itself.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Vin,

      Thank you for taking the time to write, and for sharing your feelings openly and frankly.

      Your words gave us a lot to ponder and discuss; “eventually we all become still…and that is a process in itself.” Thank you for saying that. I’ve never come into contact with that concept.

      We have spoken with many people over 50 who have told us they wish they had done what we’re doing at a young age. Sometimes we worry about the future, for brief moments, but then we always remember the advice of those older; do it while you can, they say. Thank you for the reminder. Security is an illusion, and none of us know what’s going to happen. We all have to live our dreams when it’s possible for us.

      That being said, many people realize their dreams at older ages! It’s certainly never too late.

      We hope life offers you all it may.

      With love.

      -rachel

  18. Alex says:

    Hi from England!

    I love the fact you’re exploring the concept of work/life balance to the full!

    How do you see this journey developing for the longer term future?

    Stay safe kids :-)

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Alex!

      The work/play balance is one we all struggle with, and we’re happy what we share brings that to light! We haven’t quite figured out a balance, but sure are trying hard!

      It’s hard to say where we’re headed for the future. I think that it’s too soon to tell. We just want to keep learning and living life closely with the patterns of the natural world, learning about food and its production, discovering what’s beautiful right under our own noses.

      Thanks for wishing us well!

      Sending you love,

      -rachel

  19. Carlos Arias says:

    A real pity you have to kill animal to feed yourselves…you’ll get nowhere that way.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Carlos,

      With all due respect, by living, each of us kills animals. There is no way to get around it. Many animals are killed by vehicles and cultivating plants. It is a hard fact of life, if not a pretty one.

      all the best,

      -rachel

  20. Paul Sprawl says:

    Re: Ergun’s comment

    Rachel and James didn’t leave everything behind. They never stopped participating in society. They transformed the way they participated. And they should be given credit for their courage. We don’t have to suddenly become perfect and pure before embarking on an adventure and trying something very different than what we’re used to. Rachel and James aren’t lying any more than you are, Ergun. I think you do have a bit of a point though. It’s tricky business when you sell rebellion. I always thought Rage Against the Machine was hypocritical signing a deal with Sony. Nonetheless, I applaud Rachel and James on their journey and wish them well!

  21. Guuuys!!!! I send you both so much love from Mexico City! You’re such a huge tremendous inspiration for me! My girlfriend showed me your website and I’m so inspired for your story! I will travel this year to Europe so wish me luck! I really appreciate to find stories like yours, they make me feel I’m not alone. I’m sure we are thousands of people around the world who wants more than just a nice job and a lot of stuff… I want something else, LOVE!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Eduardo!

      Man! We can feel all of your love here in the states! Thank you for sending it; it is truly a treasure in our day today! :)

      You are so right; there are many of us who want more out of life than a nice job and lots of stuff, and it is always a pleasure to discuss these topics together and encourage eachother in our search for meaning and joy.

      All of the best in your journey to Europe. May you discover pieces of yourself out there.

      Much Love,

      -rachel

  22. AC says:

    If you ever came to Greece mail us, youre welcome!!

  23. Paul Lemay says:

    Thank you for those wunderful words of wisdom!

    Paul ( 64 )
    From Drummondville, Quebec, Canada

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for reading these words! It is a pleasure to share. Thinking of you up in Quebec! Hope you’re staying warm this winter.

      With love,

      -rachel

  24. Rob says:

    You guys are amazing!!!Seeing your site moves us closer to doing the same as you!!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Rob!

      Thanks so much for the good vibes! We are having a blast for sure 😉

      We wish you all the best in doscovering the life of your dreams.

      Much love,

      -rachel

  25. Lexii says:

    I really love and appreciate what you guys are doing but it takes a lot away from it that you don’t mention the money you get from canon and dickies. That’s part of how you earn money, I feel like you should be including how to get sponsored in your story. Maybe you’re not actually sponsored but I don’t see why you’d include that shot of the dickies label in your video if not.. I’ve always just known those companies to pay for things like that or not let you include them. I’m not trying to come at you guys, I just really aprreciate what you’re doing but it made me sad to see no mention of the money from that. I’d love to hear back from you all, maybe we’ll run into each other on the road. Much love.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Lexii,

      Thanks for writing. We are not sponsored by Dickies or Canon, and would definitely share that if the video was sponsored. We made that video on our own accord, out of passion. We wanted to share with others the life we live to inspire. James wears that mechanic’s outfit when he’s doing work on the bus, so his other clothes don’t get ruined, and we simply liked that shot of him grabbing a tool. We like Canon gear, but have never worked with them or received compensation from them. We apologize for the confusion; we are always open about when a photo of ours is sponsored, and never hide things like that; transparency is best.

      That being said, we would like to continue making art that is supported by our followers instead of sponsored by a company, and are talking about how to make that work. Though we love creating videos and content, it takes a lot of time, and we do need support to continue. We’ll let you know where we get to with these thoughts…

      Thanks for sending the well wishes and for being part of our journey!

      With love,

      -rachel

  26. Ghazi Mir says:

    Wow wonderful you two!! Enjoy and enjoy our birthright…Thanks for the story and pics. And if you come to Spain look me up…Big Hug ,GAz

    • Rachel says:

      Hi GAz,

      Thanks for the love! We are having a wonderful time, and it’s our pleasure to share.

      We’ll let you know if Sunshine gets the ability to sail overseas 😉

      Till then we’ll have to connect through the internets!

      Much Love,

      -rachel

  27. Liviu says:

    Hello. I truly loved your video on youtube. Good luck on your idle time!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi there!

      Thanks so much for checking out our video; we’re so glad you liked it! We think we’ll release more throughout the year, and will keep you updated as we do; there may be ways for you to be involved!

      Thanks for the well wishes and we send them right back to you.

      -rachel

  28. nd says:

    wowww!
    Are you for real?
    I don´t remember how i got to find your blog, but it strikes me with so many questions… It seems so perfect. To redefine normality in a free way, and actually making it work to a point that you can live a happy and fulfilling life ???
    For so many reasons you guys are my heroes. If sunshine for any reason get the ability to sail and you pass trough Portugal…thumbs up! Great seashore to visit.
    Thank you and keep up being an inspiration
    Wope you´re for real :)

    • Rachel says:

      Hi there!

      So glad that our blog strikes up questions! That is exactly the point of it all; to pose questions that we all can reflect on, questions that create a more conscious and purposeful world. It isn’t easy redefining what’s normal, and being happy is one of the most striking and radical things you can do to be an activist, so be on it.

      Thank you for being here with us, for all of your excitement and energy and encouragement. It means a lot, and by perpetuating these ideas, we collectively create joy.

      Much Love in all,

      -rachel

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