A Zero-Itinerary Van Trip to Nova Scotia 

Words by Parker Hilton & Photos by Parker & Jenelle Kappe

Nova Scotia

We’re all familiar with the kid who gets back from a short trip to some resort-ish location and rattles off ten stories in a row like, “Oh man, I’ve gotta tell you about that time when I was in (insert exotic far-off location that sounds like it isn’t a Sandals Resort), and we met this (local fisherman, Brazilian girl, friendly mom in a food market, or trust worthy guy who sold us weed) and he/she showed us this (hush-hush surf spot, underground orgy, back ally restaurant, or opium den) that was absolutly unreal!.” Hell, maybe you’ve been that kid. I know I’ve been there, there’s no shame in wanting to share your tales of adventure.

Nova Scotia

There are trips that are different though. Trips that defy the cocktail party script. Those are the trips whose stories are earned through time spent meditating on an experience and how it effected your core being. They don’t build to an oratory flash in the pan but to a slow burn that sticks with you, ultimately becoming a part of who you are.

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Nova Scotia, to me, was one of those trips. It dabbled in varying degrees of complex emotional intrigue but on the surface it was a series of enchantingly purposeless days and lingering sensations not fully appreciated until days later. The trip that my wife, photographer Jenelle Kappe and myself, took to Nova Scotia was free of any real "plans." Trademarked with the telltale sign of any aimless adventure: waking up every morning and pondering aloud “where are we going to sleep tonight?” 


"It was sharing stories we thought we’d forgotten from our childhood over an open campfire and the lingering smell that welcomed us the next day as we got dressed"


This trip was encapsulated by a series of sensory bursts, rather than an isolated story. The trip was hours in our van, a 1987 Chevy G20, that invites the question “is our engine on fire?” every time we smell something questionable on the road. It was bites of flawlessly cooked halibut and sips of Nova Scotian sparkling wine, something I admittedly didn’t expect much of but now regularly crave. It was the call of the north Atlantic and the chill on our hands as we kayaked through it. 

Nova Scotia

It was 3 AM Celtic jam sessions, primal chanting, and staying in town a little while longer because something was shaken loose in our hearts. It was sharing stories we thought we’d forgotten from our childhood over an open campfire and the lingering smell that welcomed us the next day as we got dressed, warming us in an olfactory sense, reminding us of who we’ve become today. This trip, and Nova Scotia, to us, was asking for directions out of genuine intrigue only to walk away from the conversation hours later with a new friend and a good beat on an entirely changed itinerary—because the world is in fact a beautiful place full of beautiful people.

Nova Scotia

We didn’t come back with any good opium den stories but we did come back with a van full of clothes that smell like campfire, some surprisingly good sparkling wine, and a newoutlook on what a good journey actually amounts too…oh, and a rebuilt intake valve, because our engine did catch on fire.


Enjoy a good ole' American road trip? Then check out another piece by Parker, Van Life, Tiny Homes & Handgliding in Georgia & North Carolina, or our profile of the photographers who bought a white school bus, and took One, Very Sexy Road Trip.

Thanks to Parker and Jenelle for sharing their trip with us, and congrats on getting married! Love is tight.

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Parker Hilton

Parker is a photographer, writer, traveler and adventurer based out of NJ and wherever his van, Scarlet, takes him and, his fiancee Jenelle, and his pup, Emma.