Samanthar Olmsted Was Born on April 26, 1991 in Poland. and Back when She Was Younger, It Was Frowned Upon to Live Like a Nomad. but She Would Dream About Escaping the City Life and Told Her Father That She Would One Day Live in a van.
I Quit My Job As A Flight Attendant. In Everything I Do, I Seek the Experience of Being Alive. I Look for That Beautiful Confluence of Fear, Excitement, and Wonder.
My Greatest Passion, Pushing Past My Comfort Zone to Tell the Stories of People and Places You Would Never Otherwise See.
1. The Beginning of Mobile Life
I Had Always Dreamt of Eventually Ditching Airplanes, Rejecting the Idea of “flying Over” Places, and Travelling More Slowly, Gradually, Deeply. Some People Do It in Vans, Calling It Vanlife. Some Do It in Special Rigs, Calling It Expeditions. but the Idea is the Same: to Take Your Time. No Rush. Work, Rest, Travel, Explore - and Repeat.
The Seed Had Been Planted a Long Time Ago, but It Was on My 30th Birthday, As I Hiked Through the Zagros Mountains of Iran with the Bakhtiari Nomads, That I Sealed the Deal in My Head: It Was Time to Change the Way I Travel. It Was Time to Go Overlanding. and So, the New Goal Became Clear Very Quickly. to Get a van, Equip It, and Set off on a Free, Undefined Journey. Just Go.
2. My Dream Van - (odyssey)
Hello from My New Travel Companion, the Subject of My Secret Project over the Last Weeks, My Dream Van - 1999 Chevy Express. Odyssey - That’s Her New Name ❤️ She’s Named After the Mythical Journey of Greek Hero Odysseus Back to His Homeland of Ithaca.
Over the Next Few Weeks, I Will Be Converting Her into an Overland Expedition Vehicle and Documenting the Whole Journey. You Can Expect Elements of Vanlife, Plus a Lot of Off-roading Action.
Once the Conversion is Finished, the Two of Us Will Be Setting off on a Grand Odyssey to the Ends of the World... 😉
3. Overlander Build
There’s a Lot More Coming, but I Really Wanted to Share Our Progress So Far! My Tiny Home on Wheels is Finally Starting to Take Shape.
I Find It Amazing How You Can Build a Liveable Space Using Under 50kg of Materials, Fewer Than 50 Screws, and within a Matter of Days.
4. the Fresh Exterior
I’d Say She’s Almost Ready to Go, Wouldn’t You? 😉 After 5 Weeks of Work on the Interior, the Mechanics and the Electronics, It Was Finally Time to Crown Odyssey with a New Roof Kit.
When Everything is Set Up, Odyssey Feels Like an Actual 2-floor Tiny Home 😂
5. First Days Living on the Road
I Drive Everywhere with a Smile on My Face, That’s the First Thing. I Feel Free, Knowing That I Could Stop and Stay Just About Anywhere. There’s No Pressure to Do Anything or Go Anywhere Specific.
My Main Concerns of Each Day So Far Have Been: Where Do I Go? when Should I Eat Something? Where Shall I Spend the Night? There’s Something So Very Liberating About Focusing on These Basic Things As a Matter of Priority. Everything else Comes Second.
That’s It. Full Freedom from the System Might Not Be an Option, but I Think This is Getting Pretty Close to It. Simple Things.
3 Years Ago, I Couldn’t Drive. Today, I Live and Travel in My Van. Contrary to What a Lot of Experienced Drivers Would Have You Believe, Driving Isn’t a Skill You’re Born With. to Become a Driver, Everyone Has to Go Through the Same Process.
It Took Me a Very Long Time to Get My Driving License: I Told Myself I Wasn’t Cut out to Be a Driver and I Could Probably Just Get by Without It. a Lot of People Teased Me That I Would Make a Bad Driver, Which Put Me off Even More.
But the Collapse of My “old Life” Made Me Rethink a Lot of Things, and I Realized That a Driving License is Really a Ticket to Independence.
Over the Last Week, I Crossed Several Country Borders on My Way to Southern Europe. As Always, Border Checks Went Smoothly, Immigration Officials Joked Around, Checked My Documents and Wished Me a Safe Trip.
I Never Get Questioned at Border Crossings. Even My Visas from Countries That Might Raise Suspicion - Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan - Don’t. and I Know Exactly Why: I Have a Standard European Name, Look “normal” and Approachable by Conventional European Standards And, Importantly, I Have an Eu Passport.
These Are All Powerful Privileges. Many of Us Take Them for Granted, and It Takes Seeing “the Other Side” to Truly Understand How Much Power They Give Us to Move Around the World Freely.
Solo Overnight Hike in the Wild Mountains of Croatia 🏔🏕
Very Excited to Have Partnered Up with Friend for This One, As Part of Their Sayyes Campaign. Their Shell Backpack Has Been in My Essentials Kit for the Last 2 Months, Performs Super Well in Everyday Settings and It’s Just the Perfect Size for a Quick Overnight Adventure.
My Favorite Thing About It - It’s Expandable and You Can “build It Out” Using the Matching Add-on Accessories. That Means You Can Use One Single Backpack for Lots of Occasions - a Big Win 💪
9. Montenegro. Attacked by a Cow
This Morning, I Made My Coffee at a Lovely, Peaceful Campsite in Montenegro. Next to Me, a Big Cow Was Picking Leaves off a Tree, and the Campsite Dog Was Running Around Her Barking.
I Love Cows! I Walked Past Her, and Passed Her a Twig, on My Way to the Restrooms. Before I Knew It, the Cow Rammed into Me with Her Full Force and Knocked Me Over. I Think It Was at This Point That Her Horn Cut a Hole in My Forehead (contrary to What I Said in Stories - Memory is a Bit Foggy).
Soon After, I Went to the Hospital in Podgorica with a Very Kind Taxi Driver, Got a Few Stitches from a Hilarious Doctor, Amused a Bunch of People with My Cow Story... All in All, It’s Been an Interesting Day Here in Montenegro 😂. Some Stories Are Made to Be Told! This is One of Those, for Sure. Stay Safe out There and Beware of Cows 🐮
10. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
I Was Born Here, I Was Baptized Here. and I Will Die Here. Baba Gania Has No Doubts About Where Her Home Is. She Has Lived in the Same House, in the Same Village, for 88 Years - Apart from One Brief, Almost Negligible Period...
That Time when the Nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Exploded and Gania Was Evacuated from Her Home, Alongside 100,000+ Other People.
She is One of the “self-settlers” Who Had Lived in the Villages Around Chernobyl Before the Nuclear Disaster, Who Were Evacuated from the Area, but Who Subsequently Came Back to Their Homes. Despite the Obvious Threats That Come with Contamination.
11. the Dogs of Chernobyl
You Don’t Get the Perfect Shot Every Time. Sometimes, You Simply Don’t Feel Like Taking Photos. Other Times, Your Co-model Would Much Rather Play with an Old Mattress Than Pose for a Picture. This Puppy Lives in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Alongside Hundreds More Stray Dogs.
Immediately Following the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986, Most Domestic Animals Were Shot to Prevent Them from Carrying Contaminated Waste Outside of the Zone. but Some Survived, Others Wandered In, and Now the Canine Community Thrives in Chernobyl.
Nobody Knows Whether They Actually Pose a Real Risk to Humans Right Now, but the General Consensus Suggests Not. Most Guards Working in Chernobyl Feed Them, Take Care of Them, Even Vaccinate Them.
12. Zagros Mountains
I’m Going to Be Honest with You: I Am in Awe of Shepherds. I Find So Much Rawness, Poetry and Honesty in Their Work, and Feel a Deep Sense of Nostalgia for Their Disappearing Craft.
But I Know That by Doing That, I Run the Risk of Romanticizing Their Lives: Seeing Values That Aren’t Really There, Interpreting Their Lives Through the Prism of My Own Biases, Imagining a Fairytale Where There Isn’t One.
When You Over-romanticize Someone’s Life, You Run the Risk of Stripping Them of Their Humanity and Authenticity, Just So Your Romantic Idea Can Thrive.
Raw Travellers Don’t Seek the Comforts of Home on the Other Side of the Globe. Instead, They Dive Deep into Other People’s Cultures to Grow Their Understanding of the World Around Them.
They Know That in Order to Learn, They Must Go into the World with Open Minds, Prepared to Be Proven Wrong, Ready to Change.
Raw Travellers Are Aware That They Know Very Little About the World. Their Strong Suit is Not the Knowledge They Possess, but the Openness and Flexibility They Use to Navigate the World Around Them.
14. Kas, Turkey
“alive” Feels So Much Better Than “important”, “rich” or “successful”.
It’s That Sense of Becoming a Gust of Wind As You Run Down a Forested Trail. It’s Standing on a Mountain Peak After Hours of Climbing, and Taking in the World Around You. It Happens when Our Senses Sharpen. Our Souls Tune into the Secret Song of the World. Our Body Stands Tall and Proud: the Statue of You, of Mankind.
At That Moment, Your Thirst for Life Awakens, and You No Longer Feel Like a Shadow of Yourself. You Are No Longer Indifferent to Your Own Existence. No. at That Moment, You Want to Drink from the Spring of Life, Intoxicated on the Purity and Joy of Something As Simple As Feeling Alive.
I Know Now That Whatever Happens in My Life, My Greatest Mission is to Seek the Experience of Being Alive.
How I Gave Myself a New Job... Or, How to Take Your Personal Goals More Seriously.
A Few Months Ago, I Decided That in 2021, I Would Run an Ultra Marathon. I Like Running, but Despite Having Done Two Normal Marathons, I Had Never Put in Any Disciplined Training. Somehow, I Could Rely on a Mix of Fitness and Natural Athleticism to Get Me Through 42km (but Barely Just).
But I No Longer Wanted to Just “wing It”. I Wanted to Develop a Discipline That Would Help Me Get Truly Stronger. an Ultra Marathon Was a Perfect Choice, Because There Was Simply No Way I Could Run 250km Without Challenging Myself and Putting in the Work.
16. Band-e Amir National Park
It’s Not Your Typical Destination. Most Travellers Would Probably Avoid It - and I Can Totally See Why. Truth Be Told, I Didn’t Even Tell My Family I Was Going Until I Came Back Safe and Sound.
I Experienced a Very Privileged and Temporary Perspective, and It Blew My Mind: Skiing, Hiking, Staying in Local Guest Houses, Roaming Through Ancient Ruins, Buying Local Handicrafts, Meeting Amazing People... All Things That, Despite Being Accessible to All Tourists, Should Also Be Accessible to All Afghans.
What else Can I Say? So Much, and So Little. It’s a Damn Beautiful Place.
17. Buddhas of Bamiyan
Twenty Years Ago, Two Giant Buddha Statues Stood in the Niches You See Behind Me. in 2001, the Taliban Blew Both of Them Up, Leaving Only Traces.
All Those Centuries Ago, This Part of the World Was Buddhist - Which May Seem Surprising Given That Afghanistan is Now Strictly Islamic. All Those Centuries Ago, the Famed Silk Route (or Rather, One of Its Main Arteries) Passed Through Here.
When I Think About Travelling Back in Time, I Picture Myself As a Merchant on the Silk Route, Crossing Asia in a Caravan. I Imagine Meeting People Whose Languages I Had Never Heard Before, Hiding Away from Snow Storms in Caravanserais and Encountering Sights Like This in Remote Mountain Valleys: Gigantic Stone Sculptures and Cities More Impressive Than Anything I’d Ever Seen Before.
The First and Second Time Around, My Trip to Afghanistan Got Cancelled. the Third Time Around, They Said It Would Be Difficult to Get a Visa Because I’m a “woman Travelling Alone”. but This Time, I Wasn’t Gonna Give Up.
Thanks to My Dear Friend and Guide Gull, I Finally Made It to Afghanistan, a Country I’d Been Dreaming of Visiting for Well over Two Years.
I Want to See with My Own Eyes the Peaks of Those Endless Afghan Mountain Ranges. Taste with My Lips the Green Tea So Symbolic of Afghan Hospitality. Experience, on My Own Skin, Traditions That Might Vanish within a Generation. Meet the Change-makers Fighting Peacefully for a Different Kind of Afghanistan, and Share Their Stories with You.
19. What's Next?
I’m Not Sure Where I See Myself in Five Years, but I Feel Like Sometime I Might Want to Put Down More Solid Roots—i’d Love to Buy Property Somewhere and Have a Dog and an Art Studio, but Continue Traveling. I Can See Those Things for Myself; I’m Just Not Sure when It’ll Happen.
I’m Calming Down the Travel for the Winter Months but Will Still Be in the Van. I Am Currently in Colorado, and Between November and December, I'll Be Near Joshua Tree, California.
Go Up and Down and Around and Backward and Sideways. Start Again. Let People Think You’re Nuts. Yes. Create That Precious, Beautiful (perhaps Non-linear) Life You Love!