NEWS - Single mom Jayla Hardimon was adamant that she and her son's lives were meant for something great. So she sought to let her little one see the world, and she was going to do it in a van.
The Beginning Of A Grand Adventure
Hardimon’s daily routine typically consisted of waking up, going to school and work, going home, sleeping, and doing everything again tomorrow. Thinking of her son, she knew that she wanted her child to see the best the world has to offer.
But Hardimon’s dreams were bigger than a simple 2-week vacation. In an interview with TODAY.com, she said the following when asked what she wanted for herself and her son:
“Financial freedom and the ability to be gone for longer than a few weeks.”
Despite having the money saved up from her jobs, she’s not a seasoned traveler. Also, she doesn't have experience driving a van or motorhome alone or with a toddler. Nonetheless, she braved her fears and decided to pursue this adventure, regardless of the potential dangers ahead.
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Preparing For The Trip
2 years ago, in February 2021, Hardimon bought an old 1998 Dodge Ram 3500 from a friend. The van was going to the scrap yard, but Hardimon took it anyway and called the acquisition “fate.”
Determination pushed Hardimon to renovate the van into a livable mobile home. It took 6 months, $5,000 months, and several trial-and-error attempts to give the vehicle a new look. She also documented her progress on her TikTok account This Travel Mom.
@thistravelmom A day in the life living in a van with a toddler! #vanlife #singlemom #solofemalevanlife #solofemaletraveler #vanlifewithkids #skooliepalooza #vantour #wintervanlife ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim
Hardimon equipped the van with the essentials needed for life on the road with her son. For instance, out came the banged-up floor as she installed new vinyl-coated floorboards. She also installed a portable refrigerator and freezer, a stove, a toilet, and a full-sized mattress.
Life On The Road
With everything set up, it was time to hit the road. It was in the fall of 2021 when Hardimon and her son said goodbye to her hometown as they pursued the open road with enthusiasm and vigor.
Even with the van equipped with basic amenities and features, Hardimon still found it quite challenging to fulfill certain life needs. So she and her son would bathe in different locations, such as community centers and campgrounds.
Also, she would drive to different laundromats to wash her and her son’s clothes. To make the drive more colorful than looking at a dreary driver’s seat, she also decorated the van with lively décor and upholsteries. These items include cute rugs and wall frames, along with a colorful steering wheel cover.
At the time of writing, Hardimon and her son, Kareem, already went to many different spots around California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. She balances her driving time by staying at pit stops to stretch her legs.
Hardimon also makes sure that she won’t drive for more than 2 or 3 hours. Once night falls and it’s time to sleep, the duo would find a safe parking lot to call it a day.
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Receiving Support From The Community
Thanks to social media and local van communities, Hardimon was able to make her new van life with her son more enjoyable than before. It’s also this experience of being constantly on the road that she was able to meet her best friend in Oregon, which is also a single mom.
Hardimon also takes a portion of the day to homeschool Kareem. She would teach him how to read, write, and enhance his fine motor skills. “Recess” comes with trips to local playgrounds or the duo would go on quick nature walks.
Despite Hardimon and her son being continuously on the road, she still values the importance of staying in touch with friends and family. In particular, her family knows her location all the time through texts and Apple AirTags.
Hardimon also installed CCTVs outside her van, which she connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot. At night, the windows on her van have their covers drawn, and she keeps a can of pepper spray nearby just in case.
This mother-and-son team is continuing their lives on the road. Hardimon also feels empowered to continue her journey with her son as it’s like she’s breaking racial and gender stereotypes.