Launching a Traveling Teen Into His Solo Life

I’ve been putting this post off for a while, but it’s time.

And I’m not even quite sure what to say.

Do I paint a picture of what it’s been like to raise this boy?  Do I dig through the deep archives and find photos of him as a baby sleeping on my stomach? Photos of him as a toddler, holding his newborn baby sister? As a tween, helping me work on projects in the garage?  As a teen, his age our reason for a major lifestyle change and hitting the road?

My emotions are still too raw to go there.

The past few days have been busy with projects and broken laptops and route planning and other family…and I just haven’t had (or taken) the time to sit and let the moment flow through me.

I haven’t processed what it means to be less one kid. To be the “three of us” after 17 years of being “the four of us”.

And I know - he’s not dead. He’s a text away, a phone call away, a Skype session away.

But things are different. And we’re figuring out what that difference looks like.

Setting aside the emotional part of things - we know that most suburbia-ditching families have younger kids, and wonder (or worry) about what those kids will do when they want to move out on their own.

So let’s fill you in on that first.

What Harrison is Doing

Harrison took a fulltime job with HermanMiller, a West Michigan-based Fortune 500 manufacturer of office furniture (including the coveted Aeron chair). He’s working on an assembly line, one of a team that assembles the Setu chair.

The job market here in West Michigan is crazy - every large company is hiring. HermanMiller was doing open interviews for direct-hire jobs, so once Harrison made it through the interview process he started on day one with a nice benefits package.

Where Harrison is Going to Live

An active job market means a tough housing market - we were worried about getting him a place to live that didn’t eat up most of his income.

God was so good in this regard - we tapped our existing network in Holland and found him a room to rent with a young family in town. He’ll have kitchen, laundry, and wifi available for less than half what an apartment would cost.

He’ll be around people who are keeping an eye out for him, including him in some family meals, inviting him out for different things, and just generally including him in their worlds.

Parents at Peace

MsBoyink and I are so much more at peace with this situation than some alternatives we were looking at earlier this year.

At peace…but still a bit amused that Harrison’s post-travel life looks a lot like what people come to Ditching Suburbia to learn to get out of.

House in the ‘burbs and working for the man.

We joked that he could become an undercover agent for Ditching Suburbia…launched there secretly to learn what people are doing and subversively suggesting there are other lifestyles out there.

Yea, no.

Harrison is determined to figure out his life on his own terms and we’re OK with the fact that the results will likely not look like our lives.


We know - the American formula calls for kids to go to college right away after high school.

We think that’s crazy.

It’s a good way to flounder around for a couple of years while you figure out what you want to do or who you want to be.

And rack up a bunch of debt in the process.

Harrison didn’t really have a direction for college yet so chose to start working. One of the benefits of his new job is that after 6 months his employer will cover 100% of college tuiton and books.

When Harrison decides to go to college he basically has a version of a full-ride scholarship - he just has to stretch out the college process a bit while he keeps working.

That’s the basics of how to launch a traveling teen with a minimum of roadrash. One way anyway.

Plans for Parting

What’s it like to say goodbye to your oldest and drive away?

I had kinda scripted the whole event out in my head. I knew the kind of photos I wanted to take and which camera I wanted to use to take them.

The timing was all set. We’d work as a family to finish a project we’ve been wanting to get to all summer (washing and waxing the RV), do some grocery shopping for Harrison, then bring the groceries and the last of his stuff over to his new room. We’d say our goodbyes and be done with this emotional moment we had all been sort of dreading.

The Wrench That Was Thrown

During this time my laptop started having issues. We had to add an hour-long drive to our day to get it to an Apple store so that we could hope to get it back before we wanted to leave.

It was too much.

We did the RV work, the grocery shopping and got Harrison and his stuff over to his room. But we were all exhausted, tense, and still on a schedule to get my laptop dealt with.

Attitudes weren’t right and it just wasn’t the note we wanted to end on. We scheduled another night for a ‘final goodbye’.

Another Night, Another Shift

When that night came our plans were again shifted so the night didn’t play out according to my “script”. I ended up without my good camera so the photos aren’t what I had envisioned.

I still tried to capture the emotions being felt (and yes, I hugged Harrison as well but the camera didn’t change hands fast enough to capture that….again, shifted plans).

A moment of growth for both of them.

A moment of growth for both of them.

Miranda saying goodbye to her big brother and roommate of 5 years.

Miranda saying goodbye to her big brother and roommate of 5 years.

A bit of sillyness to break the tension.

A bit of sillyness to break the tension.

I think she is claiming his right arm as hers to keep.

I think she is claiming his right arm as hers to keep.

Mom hugging her boy goodbye.

Mom hugging her boy goodbye.

A last Boyinks 4 Adventure picture as the family transitions.

A last Boyinks 4 Adventure picture as the family transitions.

It Hasn’t Been a Week

It hasn’t been quite a week since we said our goodbyes. We packed up the RV for a move and felt Harrison’s absence as we had to take over tasks he used to handle. The girls are stepping it up…but I still have moments where I feel the loss of my right-hand man.

We’ve realized we need to establish some new norms for how to communicate with Harrison, and how often to do that. We’ve texted a bit, traded Facebook messages, and had a strange-feeling phone call.

He’s already busy with some after-work events, some church-related events, and establishing some friendships in town.

It’s all so new yet - but we see Harrison enjoying his new-found adulthood and independence, taking it seriously, and being responsible (while at the same time commenting on how strange it all seems).

And we’re proud of that.

10 Comments Launching a Traveling Teen Into His Solo Life

  1. Picture of Sue Sue October 02, 2015

    It was so good to see Harrison at church and later at the Danny Reyes fund raiser.  Adjusting to life in a home with a busy family and small children may have it’s challenges.  I’m glad he is able to bike around town, we live in a great area for biking.  Praying for his safety and strength at this new job as well as for you all in this adjustment process.  Adult children are such a blessing but parting is difficult.  Mine are 33, 30, 28 and 26 and sometimes I STILL want them to all move back in with me!!

  2. Picture of Nico Veenkamp Nico Veenkamp October 02, 2015

    Great writing on the changes going on right now with you and with Harrison.

    [insert geek reference]
    I loved his T-shirt BTW. It was good tho that it wasn’t a Star Trek Red T-shirt, otherwise I would be worried about him on his away mission.
    [end geek reference]

    Take care


  3. Picture of Crissa Boyink Crissa Boyink October 02, 2015


    I had to look up what a red shirt meant for Star Trek.

    {non-geek definition}
    Redshirt is a term used by fans and staff of Star Trek to refer partially to the characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms, and mainly to refer to those characters who are expendable, and quite often killed, sometimes in great numbers, often security guards, or an engineer.

    Well, Harrison is leaving the “show.” ;)

  4. Picture of Hannah Hannah October 02, 2015

    Wow what a big change you are all going through.  My kids are just 5 & 2 so we are years away, although I fear they will whiz by too quick. I completely agree with you about college; while if my kids choose to do college straight away I’ll support them I would also love it if they decided to travel, work, get a little experience before deciding what it is they want to do.  All the best, I’m sure it will take a little adjustment!

  5. Picture of AJP AJP October 03, 2015 :sobs:

  6. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink October 03, 2015

    @Hannah - we’re with you. If he knew exactly what he wanted to go to school for and didn’t want to waste any time getting there we would have figured that out too.

    What we read is that 50% – 70% of students change their majors at least once, and most will change majors at least 3 times before they graduate.

    We attribute this to college kids just not having the experience or awareness of the big world out there and being forced to choose a major too soon.  The downside is each change comes at an additional cost often in the form of debt.

    @AJ yea.

  7. Picture of Jenn Sutherland-Miller Jenn Sutherland-Miller October 03, 2015

    Solidarity. We launched two this summer. Down to half staff around here. Weird. Wonderful.

  8. Picture of kay ~ the barefoot minimalist kay ~ the barefoot minimalist October 11, 2015

    Ow, that hurt so much.  We’ll probably be leaving our son in Florida when we take off on our RV adventures.  He may be an adult, but he’ll always be my baby.  Always and forever.  I felt your pain in that post.  And just about cried like a baby!  Tell me it gets better.

  9. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink October 11, 2015

    @kay - It does. While we do miss the boy and it is odd re-structuring our world as a 3-some, we also knew it was time for him to launch and are enjoying seeing him fully engage as an adult.

  10. Picture of kay ~ the barefoot minimalist kay ~ the barefoot minimalist October 12, 2015

    Thank you.  I needed that.  My best to all of you.  :)

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