And just like that…it’s been half a year.
Since I last wrote, we sold our beloved 5th wheel, Stumbo, to a sweet couple from Cashmere and sold our truck to a contractor in Western WA. We bought 2 Subarus and got library cards with our real address. Brad started his full time Occupational Therapy Program in an intense summer session not unlike a grad school boot-camp. I got a job completely in line with my career path in Parks & Recreation. And the girls transitioned from spending 24/7 in 281 square feet with just their own family, to spending 10 hours a day at a camp program hosted by the Girl Scouts. Sadly, we lost our sweet adventure kitty Ginger to a dark stretch of roadway that lay between our Spokane campground and the enticing woods on the other side, on the very same day we got keys to our new house.
Oh yeah, we bought a house. And that was all within the first month.
So far we have really loved being here in Spokane and getting settled into our new home. There are so many things to appreciate about this phase of our lives:
Brad has thrown himself fully and successfully into his full time studies, and is cherishing his new community of classmates from his cohort.
Sunny and Coral walk to school each morning, as it’s located just around the corner from our new home. They’ve made friends, charmed their teachers, and Coral wondered aloud why “all these kids don’t just get homeschooled like normal kids?”
I am working as a Recreation Program Manager for Spokane County Parks & Recreation, mainly tasked with managing two large aquatics facilities, and loving the challenges that come along with being a leader of people again.
Moving back into a “sticks & bricks” house has been wonderful. The girls have their own bedrooms for the first time ever, and Brad & I even have our own bathroom!
We have a large appliance that washes dishes for us, but our sink is so large it almost feels unnecessary. I have a laundromat inside my house and the machines are FREE. I don’t have to wear flip flops in the shower, or walk across a cold parking lot to get to it. The hot water is nearly endless. When nighttime temps are lower than 35 degrees, I don’t have to tuck my phone under my pillow to keep the battery from dying or sleep back-to-back with Brad for warmth. When the girls run around, the house only shakes the tiniest bit, and we can have dance parties where our feet leave the ground without knocking things off the kitchen counter.
And best of all…we have an enormous finished basement where our children spend most of the their time playing Barbies with neighbor friends. They can leave toys out down there, all over the floor, and there’s no need for me to sweep them up before we can cook dinner.
Oh, and did I mention UNLIMITED INTERNET?!
We kept a few pieces of furniture in storage while we traveled, but even after we brought those items into this space, there were still several rooms in our new home that were completely empty. This large open carpeted floor space invited us all in our way to wallow around, wrestle, or just lay down and spread-out, limbs sprawled in every direction as far as you can reach. I came to refer to this body formation as “star-fishing”, and we all found ourselves doing this pretty frequently. Being able to stretch out again, literally and metaphorically, has been greatly appreciated by all of us. I do have to admit, however, that it’s incredible how quickly we’ve gone back to taking all of these luxuries for granted again.
There are also plenty of things about our life on the road that I truly miss.
I miss all of the 1-on-1 time with my sweet husband, but I’m forever grateful for how much closer the traveling brought us as a couple.
I miss meeting wonderful and strange people everywhere we went – many of whom were the same brand of crazy as us, and so we connected instantly.
When you cross paths with someone for only a day or two, knowing you’ll likely never see them again, there is so little fear into throwing yourself into connection with them. It really didn’t matter if they were the biggest weirdo I’d ever met, the fact that there was no expectation to ever meet again allowed me to just appreciate people for who they were, to learn about them and from them, and then move on.
I feel like I saw people and experienced people in a way I never had before. And for those who were super fantastic and really hit it off with us, we’ve been able to maintain relationships that I know we will cherish for years to come.
These short-term interactions also allowed for much more intentionality – when we didn’t spend time with other people for weeks at a time, and then crossed paths with someone we truly connected with – there was no time to chit-chat about weather and siblings. It was straight to things like:
“Why did you choose to travel?”
“How have you been changed by these experiences?”
“What role has spirituality had in your life?”
My radar was up for connecting with people everywhere I went – from campground neighbors to Starbucks baristas – and my capacity for doing so was at an all-time high. The knob on this character feature was at max volume, and suddenly amazing people were all around me. The anonymity afforded to me by being “the stranger” made me feel bold and brave. Incognito and safely in touch with people at the same time.
I could approach any stranger, often turning the smallest spark into a conversation, then a connection, then a shared experience. It was wildly invigorating.
I miss the exhaustion of travel – the ownership of my days – the tiredness of pushing myself to my own limits. (for example, “This is our ONE DAY in this national park, so we are going to see every site here and APPRECIATE IT whether you like it or not!”) That kind of exhaustion feels very different than the tiredness imposed by a drudgery of external expectations like work and other commitments.
Coral lamented one day that she missed being able to play outside in Spokane the way she did on the road. “We have a great back yard, ” we reminded her. “What did you have while we traveled that our backyard doesn’t have?”
“All 48 states,” she replied, glumly.
But at the moment, routine also offers a kind of rest that I am desperate for.
The wildly intentional lifestyle of full-time travel is rich with endless gifts, but let’s be honest – it was also exhausting. So I’m currently taking advantage of my cozy house, it’s warm blankets and fireplaces and closets full of puzzles, and did I mention UNLIMITED WIFI, and soaking myself in a season of intentional rest. I’ve always loved winter – needed the season of darkness, reflection, rest. And I haven’t really had a winter of that type for 3 years. So this fall/winter 2019 season has felt like intentional hibernation – reveling in the memories of what just happened, listening to the whispers of Road Lessons as they come, and resting. Resting.
It feels like we just arrived in Spokane, snapped our fingers, and instantly arrived here, 6 months later.
While routine is somewhat of a needed relief, it also feels like going back to sleep. Days whiz by without much attention, many of them looking very much like the days that preceded it. Weeks fall off the calendar in a blink, and now here we are… half a year later in what feels like no time at all.
I recently listened to an audio recording of Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind” and this quote from his introduction really struck a chord with me:
“Over time we tend to optimize and conventionalize our responses to whatever life brings. Each of us develops our shorthand ways of slotting & processing everyday experiences and solving problems. And while this is no doubt adaptive, it helps us get the job done with a minimum of fuss, eventually it becomes rote, it dulls us. The muscles of attention atrophy.
Habits are undeniably useful tools, relieving us of the need to run a complex mental operation every time we’re confronted with a new task or situation, yet they also relieve us of the need to stay awake to the world, to attend, feel, think, and then act in a deliberate manner that is from freedom rather than compulsion. If you need to be reminded how completely mental habit blinds us to experience, just take a trip to an unfamiliar country. Suddenly, you wake up. And the algorithms of every day life all but start over as if from scratch.
The efficiencies of the adult mind, useful as they are, blind us to the present moment. We’re constantly jumping ahead to the next thing. We approach experience much as an artificial intelligence program does, with our brains continually translating the data of the present into the terms of the past, reaching back in time for the relevant experience, and then using that to make its best guess as to how to predict and navigate the future. One of the things that commends travel, art, nature, your work, and certain drugs to us is the way these experiences at their best block every mental path forward and back, immersing us in the flow of a present that is literally wonderful.“
Perhaps also exhausting and unsustainable for the long-term; but wonderful. I’m basking in the glow of achieving a dream I never actually thought would be a reality, in knowing that we began it and ended it with intention, on our own terms, and nobody died.
What was I even worried about?!
We did it…
We did it…
But pardon me, my unlimited wifi is calling.