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Today, I’m excited to share the story of an amazing person in our community: Jeremy James Conte, or Roam4Wild. Jeremy was kind enough to share his story about how he discovered bus conversions, building his ’99 Chevy Express van (his bus he calls the white elephant), and all of his travels with his dog, Everest. I hope you enjoy his story as much as we did!
I grew up in Maine and went to college for 2 years for graphic design before realizing it just wasn’t for me. I followed in my father’s footsteps for 4-5 years working for the New Jersey Devils as a scout in New England when I got my 1st house to renovate. After new owners and management – my father, myself and much of the staff were let go from the team. I decided I didn’t want to go back to the hockey world and sold my 1st house, a 1 bedroom rental property I had in Boston and went full time renovating houses. I finished 2 more houses before I decided to buy a short bus and hit the road following my passion – wildlife and nature photography.
Sometime during the lay off from the Devils I watched “Twenty Eight feet” a short doc about living alone on a sailboat. It was very inspiring. I took sailing lessons right away and thought that that might be a life for me. But my dog was the biggest part of my life.. and a sailboat would be hard on him. 2 years later I submitted for a photography trip to Africa on Instagram that was put on by two photographers Donal Boyd and Jarrad Seng. I was invited and a group of people who didn’t know each other met up in Africa, It was the best trip of my life. I got home and Jarrad happened to be the photographer/videographer to the band Passenger. There was a concert in Boston 2 weeks after getting back and he invited me to come shoot it. A song came on called – “Life’s for the Living” and it definitely spoke to me. I knew I wanted to take off but with my dog…I didn’t know how. A year later I was researching buses & vans. I went to a hockey and told a friend… I want to buy a short bus, renovate it and live with my dog traveling the country. He said “You’ll never do that, everyone says they will and never do”. A week later I bought a short bus.
The bus took 6 weeks for the basic build and I took it to Newfoundland. After getting back, a few days for a roof deck, staining the interior ceiling, and a few days building/changing the inside for more storage after the trip to Newfoundland taught me what I needed and didn’t need in the bus. With tons of photography equipment to charge – solar and extra deep cycle batteries were going to be important, so I added more of those. I made a pull out dog bowl/storage drawer which I felt was unique – Making the bus comfortable with him in mind was very important. Luckily after house renovations and having a very nice carpenter with all the tools to offered to help…building the bus outside his shop made things very easy.
Hitting the Road
The hardest part was actually leaving. Before leaving in the bus I was in a relationship were we both planned to take off. Then my house wasn’t selling, my mother had a heart attack and my dog not doing well. I was feeling shut down and felt like the trip would never happen. I brought my down enough that the relationship ended and I felt like it was my fault. Then days later…my mother, my dog were both feeling better, my house, car and all my furniture sold on the same day…1 more week and my dog Everest and me hit the road.
We left from Newburyport, MA – went to South Carolina and continued on to Florida/Key West – looped around Florida and traveled across the country – Texas, NM, AZ, and over to San Diego. We traveled back to Arizona, up to Utah, and back over to California to visit more of the national parks. We went up to Oregon, Washington, crossed into BC, over to Alberta and then made our way down to Yellowstone.
Its hard to point out a real favorite place – but Yellowstone/Yosemite was up there. Mainly the favorites were the moment with my dog Everest…that time with him I’ll cherish forever. More specifically, watching movies on a projector with a sheet against against the bus for the screen with a bunch of people living on the road under the stars in Sedona was a great memory. Sleeping in a hammock on Secret Beach Oregon, a hammock on the top of a mountain in Washington, and hiking to the highest peak in Texas. Honestly the memories are endless…everyday a memory was created.
My hope is to finish up a film I’m working on that documented that life – to inspire people to follow their passion. I imagine it will be about an hour long and called – Roam4wild.
We loved getting to know Jeremy and his story. Look out for his upcoming film! You can find him online at the spots below: