“You guys have guts.”
“You’re pretty brave.”
“That takes some big ____’s”
“It’s a bit risky, isn’t it?”
Over the past 11 months we’ve had dozens of conversations about this big adventure we’re on. People have stopped us at rest areas and grocery stores, walked into our campsites at campgrounds, and sent us email after following us through small rural towns - all after seeing the “Family of four on the road for a year” tagline on the truck and trailer decals.
Throughout all of those conversations I can’t recall a single negative comment - save one via email that thought our kids would be “cloistered” (I’m convinced the author didn’t know the meaning of the word).
There have been two common comments in those conversations; one is how great the trip is for the kids (which is true but it’s pretty danged cool for the parents too) and the other is how brave/courageous/adventurous we are. And while it is an adventure when compared to living the typical US suburban lifestyle, we don’t really see ourselves as brave, courageous, living off the land, bare-chested warrior types. MsBoyink often comments that she considers herself a “homebody”, and I’m certainly more of an introverted writer/geek than hunter/fisher/outdoorsman. I’d say Data and Miranda tend to be indoors types as well - there have often been times where I have to kick them out of the trailer to get their noses out of books and out enjoying the weather and surroundings.
So if a brave courageous spirit isn’t required to pack your family into a small box for an extended period of time, what is required?
For us it’s been two things: flexibility and the ability to be inconvenienced.
There have been a number of times where we’ve needed to be flexible for negative reasons:
- Camping spots we liked got reserved for others.
- Direct routes were under construction.
- The museum was closed the day we made time to go.
- The weather is unexpectedly hot on the day we planned a long hike or bike ride.
- The weather is unexpectedly cold on the day we planned a long hike or bike ride.
- The street we needed to turn on is closed for a Christmas parade. And we couldn’t back up.
- The campground we booked had no wi-fi as expected and our backup air card didn’t get a signal.
- A client set a launch date, I worked furiously to get my tasks done by then, then they moved the date.
There were a number of times we took advantage of being flexible for positive reasons:
- The campsite/campground was nicer than expected.
- We found local people to meet & do things with.
- A nice family pulled into the campsite next to ours.
- We wanted to experience something new - like camp-hosting.
- We heard about an attraction or park from others and wanted to visit it.
- The weather was nice.
- A laundry was close by.
- We just felt like it.
MsBoyink talks about how her ability to flex and adapt in a dynamic manner has grown significantly since leaving on this trip. I’ve noticed that our family has a new motto/catch-phrase: “We’ll figure it out.”. From food-gathering to finding the next stop to getting somewhere on public transit when questions come up someone invariably says “we’ll figure it out”. Situations that used to cause fear and mad scrambling research are now met in a mostly nonplussed fashion - we’ve done it before, we can do it again.
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I’ve rarely felt at risk on this trip. There have been few times where we were more than an hour from help. The United States has an incredible support network for RV’ers. We’ve needed service work a few times and have yet to feel like it took much effort to get done. When our fridge stopped working in New York an RV service shop was literally 5 minutes away and had us on the road in 45 minutes total. When we had toilet issues in Virginia we called a mobile repairman who came to the campground that day. When we needed a roof in Utah a service shop was right in town and worked on the weekend to get us back on the road on schedule. When we thought our AC had gone out in Washington a repair shop got us right in, found no issue, and didn’t charge for the inspection.
The safety net is there, so overall it’s less about being brave that it is about being inconvenienced. It strikes me that your tolerance level for being inconvenienced will determine the type of adventures you can have:
- Can you tolerate sleeping on a hard surface or do you need a bed?
- Can you tolerate walking or biking for transportation or do you need a vehicle?
- Can you go a day or two without a shower or do you always need to feel totally fresh?
- Can you prepare food without an oven? Without a stove? Without a microwave?
- Can you do without a fresh pot of coffee every morning?
- Can you be productive working on laptop? In an RV? In a coffee shop?
- Can you tolerate living in a room that shakes when people walk through?
- Can you deal with a small wardrobe or do you need a great variety of clothes?
- Can you deal with being “closer to the weather” in a less insulated environment?
We’ve had our oven go on the fritz, had unseasonable weather in both directions, had to wear clothes longer than before, had to go longer without showers than before, been in loud & cramped private RV parks, and spent more on gas & camping than we’d like. But really? Those are just inconveniences. They’re the currency that we use to pay for the fun parts of the adventure. Because we’ve tolerated the inconveniences we’ve seen the Niagara Falls, the Outer Banks, the Florida coastline, the expanse of Texas, the Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, so very much more.
It strikes me while writing this that maybe the “essentials for successful family travel” is really just one thing - and that’s being flexible and knowing that while being flexible you will be inconvenienced. But - at least so far as we’ve experienced - only inconvenienced and never at true risk.
At least not any more risk than a so-called “safe” suburban lifestyle would have.