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United States

Joshua Tree, CA

It’s not necessarily about giving up anything to travel the open road in a van – it’s about getting so much more in return.

Every road trip starts in the same place: at the fuel pump. But it’s the drive within us that sets the course and pushes us out into the world. Amazing state and national parks. Beaches and lakes and city destinations. Over 4 million miles of highways, scenic routes and back roads to explore.

It’s more than just fuel that gets us there. While we’re out there soaking in all that freedom, petroleum products play a unique role in the things we enjoy along the way – from your favorite nylon folding chair to the knobby tires on your mountain bike, your kid’s raincoat to sunscreen. Petroleum products are there to help us find our way, protect us, keep us entertained and informed.

We took a ride with a young family that is fueled by that kind of freedom that only the open road can offer. Whether their next stop is a surf spot or a bike trail, we learned how fuel fuels their adventures.

Meet the Tralka family – a young family that travels the roads of America together in their vintage van: the Freedom Vessel. Just like every road trip, the Tralkas certainly have a destination in mind. But the real destination, for them, is the journey itself, allowing them to grow closer together as a family and share their experiences along every mile.

This is everything I’ve got. I can go anywhere.

The Freedom Vessel is a 1973 Chevy Balboa. Custom made by a boat builder in Southern California, it was constructed with a petroleum-based fiberglass body, keeping it lightweight, durable and leak-proof. The Tralkas bought it from the original owner a couple of years ago and immediately took it out on a road trip to San Diego for some surfing and adventure.

But Paul Tralka’s love for van life started much earlier. As a teenager, right when he first got his driver’s license, he found a vintage Volkswagen in the newspaper and was hooked. He filled it up with gas, packed up his surfboard and some camping gear, then hit the road.

“I remember putting all my stuff in it for the first time, looking and turning around saying, ‘This is everything I’ve got. I can go anywhere.’”

When Paul and Tish met in college, it seemed like a perfect match. Growing up in Hawaii, she also carries a life-long love of vans. “Before I even met Paul, I had a Volkswagen bus too; that’s what fueled our relationship.”

More than 10 years later, they’ve had two kids and several vans. They’ve driven their Freedom Vessels through Oregon and Washington all the way up into British Columbia. They’ve explored the California coast, Colorado and have navigated a handful of road trips all the way across the country. And their journey is all about bonding with each other, whether that’s on the road or in front of a campfire at the end of the day.

“I’d rather just experience, spend time, create memories – have fun, laugh, smile, high-five with my kids and my wife,” Paul says.

That’s what fuels the Tralkas: being together as a family.