And just like that…it’s been a year since we arrived in Spokane. A year since the whirlwind of arriving in our new city, making an offer on a house 5 days later, and starting my new full time job the day after that.
The most shocking thing about this one year mark is just how quickly it came. With so little to differentiate each week from any of the others, time just melts away, with little to no distinction.
Quarantine Life vs. RV Life
Before I share more about the milestone of 1 year in Spokane, I want to take a moment to note that currently as I write this we are still under Washington Governor Inslee’s #StayHomeStayHealthy order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When people have asked how our family is doing, I cannot help but relay how similar some parts of quarantine life feel to fulltime RV life. For example:
- constant family time
- it doesn’t really matter what day it is, so structuring our time is solely up to us
- Sunny & Coral are each other’s only playmates
- physical separation from our friends
- working/schooling is all remote
- homeschooling the girls
- the inability to get any little thing we need right when we want it
- a mindset of conservation of resources
- backdrop of constant change/unpredictability
- it occasionally occurs to me that I could just run out of my front door and never come back
While a global-pandemic shutdown is completely unprecedented for us all, I am very grateful that some elements of this season of life felt so familiar. The girls were so equipped to step back into a homeschooling routine.
Brad and I were already so familiar with the tools available to make remote work/school successful. And Sunny said she had no problem using less toilet paper, because “that’s what I did when we were boondocking, anyway.”
Ok, back to that 1 year milestone…
I wanted to do something significant or celebratory to mark the occasion of our 1 year anniversary in Spokane, but my creativity has largely been thwarted by the current pandemic-induced quarantine, as well as the general family lethargy perpetuated by said quarantine. I suggested that maybe at the very least we could visit Spokane Falls downtown as a family, as we did on our first weekend here. Even that seemed like too much work. “Let’s just go see the waterfalls – I want to do something to mark the occasion!” I pleaded.
“Let’s just reorganize our rooms,” Sunny countered.
However, I was able to convince each of my family members to be interviewed for the occasion. I asked them to look back a year later and reflect about the best and worst parts of traveling, as well as share how the experience continues to affect their daily life. Here’s some of what was shared:
What do we miss about being on the road?
Coral misses homeschool and being somewhere new everyday. Both girls said that they missed getting to visit friends and family all over the country. Sunny also noted missing our adventure kitty Ginger, and getting to eat snacks all day during homeschool.
Brad misses seeing new things constantly, and especially getting to explore new running trails everywhere we went. He misses the frequent outdoor time, hiking experiences, and the “tourist mentality” that pushed us to explore the top sites in each location in the time allotted. He also misses all the time we spent driving, experiencing so many of America’s landscapes through the windows of our Ford.
I also miss the road trips – they were physical, mental, and emotional transition moments between each location. When you move to a new location so frequently, no single location has the pressure to “have it all”. It’s very different to choose the best spot to park for a week than to choose the city you want to call home permanently. Were the neighbors loud? Oh well, we’ll have different ones next week. Is the view obstructed by ugly buildings, or the ambiance broken by a nearby train? No big deal, we will be on to the next place soon. It gave us patience to deal with the negative things we encountered, and capacity to soak up every minute of the glorious, favorite places when we came upon them. And then, we would pack up our things, wipe the dust from our hands, and drive down the road. The spaces in between the destinations were largely underappreciated, but I realize now that the road trips from place to place allowed all of us to mentally digest what we had just experienced and become prepared for the next stop. Real life doesn’t often give you these transition moments in between massive change. Often life change feels like too much, because it was so drastic or unexpected. Or sometimes it feels underappreciated, because life feels different to you but everyone else is acting exactly the same. I can now look back and appreciate the pattern we created of constant change, punctuated by these transition road trips, lasting anywhere from 90 minutes to 9 hours.
I would say, though, that what I miss most from our travels is the sky. It was always so enormous, and I felt included, or at the very least invited to witness, all of the clouds and colors and events happening across it. Now I hardly ever see the sunset, or cloud patterns, or an incoming storm, and I can almost never see stars.
What was the hardest part of living on the road?
For Coral it was the fact that they were always underfoot when trying to play with LEGO on the floor. She also thought living in such a small house, where the only bathroom was in Mom & Dad’s room was difficult.
Sunny commiserates that she had to go to Utah so much, even though she didn’t like it. She also hated getting stung by hornets (she insists it was beetles) in Idaho. She also thought it was difficult to go on so many hikes and have so much together time. “It was just too much family time,” she told me. “I mean, it was just…always.”
For Brad the biggest challenge was that we had no consistent schedule – every day was different. We constantly had to alter our plans based on so many moving pieces, and that was exhausting for him. Oh, and also the constant family time.
For me the biggest challenge was homeschooling the girls. In fact, I feel like we might still be parked in the desert in Utah if homeschooling (or just general child-schedule management) wasn’t part of the equation. And of course, if Sunny didn’t hate Utah so much…
What’s been the best part about settling down again?
Coral loves living in a “big house” again – having her own room, having more space to play, and being able to own large things like a trampoline and a piano.
Sunny loves going to public school and seeing more people “besides just Coral”. She loves getting to develop relationships with friends at school that she can continue to interact with, and she also noted the trampoline and having her own room.
Brad loves being able to take long hot showers everyday. He appreciates having a schedule, wifi, and soft wonderful toilet paper. He’s grateful that the girls get to invest in activities like gymnastics, piano lessons, attend birthday parties, and spend time with friends.
But perhaps the BEST part of being in Spokane for him has been his OT school cohort. He has really loved this tight-knit group of students to experience school with.
For me the best part has been getting back to a leadership role in a professional setting. Without the external commitments and deadlines and expectations of work, I begin to lose motivation and eventually assume full-on blob form. On the road I struggled with losing part of my identity when I walked away from my job and other leadership roles. While I think it was a very worthwhile exercise for a time, I’m grateful for a renewed strength, confidence, and enthusiasm in my new role at work.
What was the hardest part of moving back into a community? What was challenging about that transition?
For Coral, coronavirus stands out as a major challenge. And secondly, homework.
Sunny thought long and hard before sharing that it was cold when we were looking at different houses to buy in Spokane. “There’s nothing hard, except…no, there’s nothing.”
Brad feels like all of the days now blend and blur together. It’s a challenge that we can no longer go wherever we want, and do whatever we want, whenever we want.
For me a challenge is being satisfied with the new routine of staying in one place, when I know there are so many beautiful places out there to explore.
Are there habits or skills that you learned on the road that are still part of your life now?
Coral struggled to think of any, but Sunny noted that its much easier for her to make friends now.
Brad had multiple skills that he developed on the road, including a new-found confidence in himself to learn new things and handle any challenge, a hard earned confidence developed by being forced to learn all sorts of new things about trucks/RVs/mechanical issues as issues presented themselves. This has translated into being less intimidated to try his hand at home repair and improvement projects. Also the concept that “everyone is weird” was one that was crystallized for Brad during our travels. He feels like he’s a better person and friend for internalizing this idea. By realizing that he often doesn’t know where people are coming from, he has become more gracious in his interactions with people. Lastly, he shared that he has become ONE MILLION TIMES better at dealing with spontaneity and flexing his plans.
I also find that I feel more capable in many situations after our time on the road. For example, I had a flat tire this spring when I was driving alone, and at first I was really panicked. But then I thought back to all of the times things went wrong on the road – the blowout in Idaho, the broken slide mechanism, the dead hydraulic lift motor, the window broken by a bike handle – and how every time we swallowed our stress and just fixed it. I dug deep, channeled the strength and wherewithal of my full-time traveling self, and started putting on the spare.
What elements of RV life do you find yourself reminiscing about the most?
Coral loves to remember being in fun and famous places like giant playgrounds, Washington D.C., and Lone Rock, Utah.
Sunny reminisces about our camper. She also thinks about how she didn’t want to go on hikes and how she didn’t want to go to Utah.
Brad doesn’t reminisce.
My favorite moments to remember tend to be evenings in really remote boondocking spots – out in the red gold desert of Moab, or in the swaying grasses of Wyoming free range country, the spectacular moonrises in the middle-of-nowhere Nevada, or the serenity of the landscapes in Sedona. I found such a deep peace in those places, often toward the end of day. I felt so small and connected to nature and happy – content in my own insignificance and grateful to soak up the magnificence around me.
How has your experience on the road for 3 years shaped the way your experiencing life now?
Coral shared, “People at school like me a lot and ask me questions about school work, and I already know how because of homeschool.”
Sunny feels like the trip now means that she has “a story to tell”.
For Brad the travel experience helps him appreciate the conveniences of daily life – an espresso machine, hot/cold water, etc. But more than that, it’s helped him to appreciate the cyclical routines of daily life that had become frustrating before breaking out of the mold to take the trip. Doing the same thing every day was driving him crazy in 2015, but now he actually appreciates the stability it provides.
For me I think my perspective on “normal” daily life has shifted. I love my day job very much, but it still feels a little bit like we’re playing “office”. I’m less judgmental of people who choose or are forced to live in their vehicles. I feel more open to new possibilities, and less “stuck in a rut”. I’m less afraid of things changing.
Would you do it again?
Coral: Yes, cuz it’s fun.
Sunny: No, unless I was paid to do it. But I don’t want to go to Utah.
Sarah: Yes. Count on it.