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My Journey: Penelope the VW Van


















Eleven year old Berkeley is still in disbelief…

I have officially owned, Penelope the Volkswagon Van for a year now!

I like to think back to the moment when I started looking for a van, and how I kept repeating during this "buying/searching" process; “if it’s meant to be it’ll be.”


When you were younger..was there something you told yourself you would have one day?


Whens the last time you made a remark.. a statement about something and then you it actually happened? (who cares about the timeframe)

What were the things & places you would dream about?

Did you pack in those dreams, or wants that you had growing up because you didn’t think they would ever happen?


My journey with this Van...

I can say this.. there are only a handful of individuals who know this story, and I have absolutely loved keeping it that way;

mainly because I loved hearing other people reactions .. and thoughts ..

for example the.. “that’s so California of you”.. (many other things were said too)..

when little to they know there was always background context to it.

I figure hey what a great next topic.. its officially been a year of owning her, what a great time to get into the actual story.. on why I would want to own a Volkswagen Van.

When I was around eleven, my mom looked at me, at the dinner table, and asked “where do you see yourself living when you grow up?”

(I am sure this question wasn’t random.. it must have come up after I gave her some attitude about the rules in our house)

My response was quick and it was simple..

“I am going to live in a box on the beach!” My explanation to this was that I refused to pay property tax.. and that I would just casually be able to move the box wherever I wished

(Considering I grew up in the Northeast, we get weather .. rain, snow, cold, etc.. it isn’t always beach weather).

She laughed obviously.. and said a Box on the beach? What happens when it rains don’t you think the box would get ruined?

I thought about that.. what a good question.. so I simply said I would live in a place that it was always warm, and rain was rare.

Not even a week went by..when she walked into the room I was in and threw something to me. I picked up a “matchbox” small toy Van, with a little camper attached to it.

She said, “I figured you might want something mobile that would protect you from the rain. You know aim a little bigger.” We always use to joke about it and I even held onto that toy van for years and years.

Now.. 20 years later.. I finally own that Van.

This past year with Penelope.. or as I like to call her P has been filled with adventures as I like to call each and every one of them.

My goal last year when I bought her.. was to drive her across the country back east .. and then of course back out west where I am currently living.

The adventures with Penelope started down in San Diego where I bought her and the first full day of owning her was eventful. This very first adventure was to drive her from San Diego up to Ventura, CA. The first part of the drive, she started smoking up.. and I was only in Laguna Beach.


...So parked in a populated lot on a Monday, I opened up the trunk and looked at what may be causing the issue. Mind you .. when I went to unlock the trunk the only key I had to start the van snap in half in the lock… and the spare key.. was back in San Diego (because I forgot to get it). A quick phone call to my dad, help from a random young man, and a few pictures later I solved the issue of what was causing the smoking. Although that was solved, I was still “stranded” until I got the spare key. My cousin, who lives in San Diego and a couple of her friends saved the day by grabbing the spare and meeting me. With a dead phone and a long drive, I convinced my cousin to hang out for the rest of the day and we met up with one of my friends and enjoyed a beach day in Laguna!


The next adventure I would have with P was driving her around town a few days out of the week, and to get her all checked out .. in preparation for the December cross country drive.

After five days in Hawaii, I flew back to California, and picked Amanda (I say cousin, but you know the family friends.. who become family) up from the airport, she volunteered to join me on this adventure (Thankfully). After only being back in California for 24 hours, we packed up the van and got on the road (also be mindful this adventure started seven days before Christmas).

(One thing I knew about P when I bought her was that she needed a new alternator.. and the guy at the shop checked it and said everything was good)

Obviously I was hopeful that if anything, we would make it through the desert safely and prayed that if she was going to break down.. that it was going to happen during the daytime.

We were able to make a handful of stops along the way at a few national parks, caught some sunsets, and sunrises, even had a few scares when it came to gas (from some overtired paranoia on my end). The only major stop in our travels was when we stopped in Arkansas.. for gas .. and at the pump P wouldn’t start back up.. and we were stuck. All I have to say is thank goodness for AAA!


Lets just say everyone we met in Arkansas was super nice and I am grateful for their kindness and help; from the AAA guys, to the guys at the auto Shop, to our new friend at the front desk of the Inn we stayed at, the ladies at the Waffle House, and to the kid at the coffee shop I chatted with about different hikes in NH he should check out.

Long story short, after two-three days in Arkansas P was up and running and we had 20 hours left in our drive. We successfully made it back to CT.. sleep deprived and freezing.. first thing I did was log into work.. and in the middle of catching up on work.. I passed out.


My goal was to drive her across the country from CA to CT and I did. No matter how long it took us.. or what obstacles we may have ran into.. I was grateful and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! I mean we both were thinking we would eventually be cast.. in a Hallmark holiday Movie with the way things were going.. but no luck! Hahah

Some other adventures I have taken P on this past year include:

  • Random day trip: Connecticut, to Rhode Island, to New Hampshire, to Maine

  • cross country return trip: CT back to Ventura, CA

  • PCH drives to different beaches

  • Santa Barbara & around town

This past year all I have thought about was how I couldn’t even imagine this actually happening after all these years. I talked about having a van (a box haha) as a kid.. and after twenty years, something I didn’t think it would ever happen.. finally did.

It is beautiful to me to have a project like this.. something that challenges me.. where I continue to learn something new every day. I am beyond grateful for each and every adventure/experience so far.. and to what is next to come.


One thing I would say from this.. is don’t ever think the life you want isn’t obtainable.. those goals.. those dreams.. those wants.


You are capable of anything you set your mind too.


What are you passionate about?

What are your goals?

Whats stopping you?


If its fear.. when do you stop letting those fears, keep you from living the life you truly want for yourself?


Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. & Follow your heart.



...as always Love your Journey


..heres to the next adventure.




P.s. can't believe I forgot to mention.. I am beyond thankful and grateful for one of my cousins and her hubby for their help during the Van search process.. I messaged them so much with so many questions!!

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