Figured it’s time for a check-in post. How’s this all working out? Is traveling full time all it was cracked up to be? Have you and Pam sworn to kill each other yet? Is Crayton about ready to put himself up for adoption? Well… frankly, things are better than expected.
One thing I tend to do is obsess on stuff. Whether it’s hobby, a book series, a tv series, a technical topic at work, or .. you know … ‘alternative’ lifestyles … I tend to read a lot on a subject prior to doing anything. That was true of our decision to travel full time. We had only a few months to figure everything out and get on the road, so I was amazed at how much information is out there, most of it good, some of it questionable, all of it helpful in one way of another. I was still nervous about doing a lot of things, especially the first time, but in most cases I’d read up on it, watch YouTube videos or talk with friends who had done them before. and that would help prepare me for the first time actually doing it. On the purely logistical front, things like dumping the black tank, taking the rig on the freeway, backing into a campsite with it, making reservations and dealing with lack of availability in an area, staying flexible, or even simple things like how to get propane tanks refilled. All of these were firsts and a chance for me to freak out a little. But none of them were real obstacles with enough research. Just had to get over the hump of doing them the first time.
The hardest part, really, is the softer, less logistical things. Things like family, marriage, friendships and keeping these things working well and relationships healthy.
Pam and I have a great relationship and understand each other pretty well. We’re not without our problems, no couple is, but we both knew this would test our relationship in new and unexpected ways. It had the potential to bring us closer together or tear us apart. I’m happy, very happy, to report that we’re closer than ever and I’m surprised to find that I love her more now than I did before this adventure started. I’ve always known she was something special. That’s why I asked her to spend her life with me, but this test has brought out the best in her and she's growing and adapting to this new life in ways I hope I am too. A big fear is that we wouldn’t have our traditional work days to separate us on a regular basis. Since we’d be living in a (much) smaller space, we’d be spending a lot more time together. Would we find the time we had apart was necessary for us to function as a couple or would spending virtually every waking moment together cause us to fracture in some way? I was intensely worried about this question, but I’ve found that after a few rough patches, we’ve figured it out and can mostly tell when the other needs some time alone, and it doesn't have to be for long. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to get myself together, a quick walk or 10 minutes in the “office” or lying down in the bedroom is all it takes and all is well with the world again. Likewise if Pam is getting overwhelmed, I do my best to notice and offer respite from Crayton during the workday or some time to herself. That’s pretty much all the adjustment we’ve had to make and it’s not that much different from life before this adventure.
We were both worried about Crayton and how he’d adjust to life on the road. The first couple of weeks were a grand adventure for him and the novelty of everything kept him going. For a while after that there was some talk about missing his daycare friends and teachers, about missing grandma or our old house or our old foster kids, but he never seemed overly upset about it and kept looking forward to the next adventure. That has diminished with time and he seems more and more comfortable with our new life as time goes on. He often says things like “This is our camper. I love our camper” or “We’re a family. Mommy, daddy, me and Truman” or “I want to go in the truck, let’s go!”. He's flown back to Wisconsin to visit family once now and for a week or so after he got back there was some more talk about missing Grandma and referring to Wisconsin and Neenah/Oshkosh as 'home', but that has also diminished as we've talking it over with him and he's back to calling the camper 'home'. We’re learning to adapt to his moods and patterns. He does much better in the morning when it comes to day trips and adventures. Even with a nap in the truck, he’s more likely to get grumpy in the afternoon. So we plan our trips around this, doing the more challenging things in the morning. He finds time in the camper recharges him, so we try not to do too many intense days of sightseeing in a row and if we have lots we want to do, we make sure to have at least the occasional half day or day in there where the only priority is hanging out at ‘home’.
As for our relationship, I know my son 100% better than I did 6 months ago. I’m witness to his every move, mood and word. Instead of hearing about milestones reached from his daycare teachers, I get to see them first hand. Even on the days I’m working, unless he and Pam are out and about, I can still keep tabs on much of what is going on in the rest of the camper. The walls are pretty thin, after all. I wouldn’t trade this closeness for anything. The hugs, the “I love you Daddy’s”, the moments where I can see something ‘click’ in his head and he understands something for the first time. It’s all priceless. One of the things I most looked forward to about this trip was getting to experience the places we go through his eyes and it’s true, that’s been great, but really, it’s the mundane day-to-day things that I treasure the most. These are the things I thought I was experiencing in our old life but really wasn’t due to work, school, etc. At least ... not fully. As the old saying goes, you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. The converse is also true, you don’t often realize that you don’t have until you have it! I feel truly honored to witness the real Crayton, to see him grow up so intimately. He’s a pretty cool kid. We’re blessed.
In talking with Pam, one of her greatest concerns about me was how I’d adapt to the constant change. It’s a valid fear. I’m a creature of habit. I’m generally not averse to changing those habits, but always in a measured and predictable way. This new life had the potential to throw me curve-balls on a daily basis. She feared I’d fall apart or lash out in other ways. I think, though, that doing this from an RV has helped mitigate that problem. If we were living out of suitcases, going from hotel to hostel, to Air BnB to whatever, I think it may well been a problem, but we’re bringing a comfortable, safe place with us wherever we go. A place we can, and do, call home. That has made all the difference. We still talk about doing grander adventures overseas without the comforts of a 41’ 5th wheel RV, but this has been a great way to psychologically ease myself into the potential for that much change on a daily basis. In many ways, this lifestyle has suited me perfectly. I always have a list of projects to do to improve or upgrade our home, routes to plan and reservations to make. I love being busy and there’s always something to do. But the things I’m busy doing are helping us stay on the road and build lasting memories. Rather than having to spend two hours a week mowing the lawn and many weekends a year maintaining a huge home, we can accomplish most of those tasks more quickly and get back to adventuring.
And that brings me to one last point. The traveling part itself. We’ve seen and done a lot in the last 28 weeks. We’ve covered 5000 miles in the camper and another 10000 on day-trips. We’ve camped in 31 different RV parks, visited at least 10 national parks (I need to recount) and dozens of state and local parks. We’ve been in big cities and tiny towns. We’ve met people from all walks of life and made new friends. This HAS been an amazing adventure, but we’re just getting started. At that, though, I still feel like we’ve had to rush. For every town we we happy to stay just a few days in, there was another I felt like we could spend months exploring. I feel rushed and at the mercy of our ability to get reservations at different RV parks. I’m not really complaining, this is a pretty amazing way to live, but for every new place we see, we have to leave another amazing place behind. It’s bitter-sweet sometimes.
So, we started this adventure with a year as a minimum. Do we feel like we’re going to stop at the year or keep going? I always felt like a year wouldn’t be long enough, but it was a good compromise for Pam to limit the commitment to a year in case things weren’t going so well for her. I’ll let her post about her own thoughts, but I will say that staying on the road longer seems likely. And that makes me very happy.