Five days a week, I enter my children’s bedrooms to wake them for school. It seems that every day, I pause just a little longer. I watch them as they sleep and I wonder how and when did her legs get so long? And will he have those beautiful eyelashes forever? My heart aches when I notice the baby sleeping in child’s pose, with his diapered bum high up in the air. I know from experience that this will not last for much longer.
As a working mom, I find myself wishing for the workday to end. I am counting the hours until I can see my family again. On the weekends I love to just be with them. But we are also active – adventures we call them – opportunities to share the world with my children and to relish in their delight as they experience something brand new. I want to give them more adventures. I have never seen the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore…and when I do, I hope my family is by my side.
Recently, my husband and I purchased an old coach and we are working to renovate it into an RV for our family of six. We have no idea what we are doing! But, we are learning as we go and continuing to work toward the goal of this adventure – the family trip of a lifetime. We want to adventure. We want to take the kids to all the places they have learned about and let them see it and experience it for themselves. We want to spend entire days hiking and admiring the wildlife, without worrying about bedtimes and tomorrow’s commute. Or perhaps, a day at the beach, chasing sand crabs and learning about the tides. Our dream is to take a year off from life; a year off from work and yardwork and carpooling and bedtimes. A year spent traveling the US and Canada while living in our RV. A year showing our kids all the wonders of the world. And being by their sides while they learn and experience, and adventure.
We are trying to make the necessary sacrifices so that this dream can become a reality. Can you imagine a family of 6 living out of a 40-foot diesel pusher for a full year? The thought of selling our house is frightening. Quitting jobs and withdrawing children from schools is terrifying. But we think it will be worth it to see the kids’ faces when they dip a toe into the Pacific Ocean for the first time. I want my kids to experience the Canadian prairies where their great-grandparents grew up and visit the Yukon, where my parents first met. I want to hold my husband’s hand when we see Denali, Yosemite, and the Everglades for the first time. We are hoping that our RV adventure will be the opportunity to really live. My husband and I have been working since we were teenagers. We have always been responsible; with jobs, mortgages, and graduate studies. We need to stop. We need to breathe. We need to relish the moment and see the majesty that is all around us. To breathe in the mountain air and wonder at the beauty of the outdoors. And I cannot wait until retirement–I need to do this with my kids, while they are still kids. Because this is my attempt to freeze them in this moment. To stop them from growing. To not blink and miss it all.
I know it won’t work. My kids will grow up and change and mature and start their own lives. But maybe, just maybe, this adventure will slow the process. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to hold on to the memories we create…even as I lose my grip on the babies.
And so, we made the leap. My husband and I decided to make unpopular choices and sacrifices to make this dream a reality for us. We gave up the retirement plan at work for a chance at living the dream now, with our four young children. The transition period is bizarre. I’m of two minds about the whole thing. The transactional portion of what I called “blowing up my life” is actually incredibly easy. How do you quit a job? Well, you type a letter and meet with your boss. Boom–done. How do you pull the kids out of school? In our state, we filled out homeschool paperwork and notified their teachers. Easy peasy. The challenge comes in the mental game. That’s where we risk getting stuck. It’s like “how do you just quit your job?!” That’s the hard part. For me, there was major cognitive load…constant second guessing and struggling with the decision. What if I just killed my hard-earned career? What if the children fail at life because of this crazy decision we’ve made? What if we live in our beautiful bus, in a lovely destination, but have to eat cat food? The spiral is real and paralyzing, and yet, we pushed through. Once we made the choice, the mechanics were fairly easy.
I imagine this looks different for everyone. For us, it was a slow and gradual transition, imperceptible to our friends and family, though very real and tangible for us. We bought a bus, and converted it into a tiny home. Did we actually think we would live in it at that time? To be honest, I’m not sure. I can’t remember if we truly had an actionable plan or if we were just dreaming. I do know that the ache to be with my children, to experience life with my husband for more than a few hours a day, kept me focused on this possibility. Next, we researched remote jobs and homeschooling. The plan began to take form. Even now, I realize that while we were intentional about our plan, we really weren’t transparent about it. I still tell people “since I’m working remote, we figured we’d travel.” It’s not true y’all! Because we wanted to travel, I intentionally sought out a remote position. Because we wanted to prioritize family and embark on this adventure together, we figured out how to roadschool.
What does this life look like for our family? It’s not what I expected, and yet, it is. Today is Day 45 on the road. We have traveled through five states and seen incredible sights. We visited Selma and Montgomery, Alabama and my kids now know more about the Civil Rights Movement than most adults. We’ve hiked canyons and visited alpaca farms. The kids have learned about solar power and how to candle a fresh egg.
It’s not all roses though. Personally, I’ve struggled with structure. How do I work and teach the kids, while still exploring and sightseeing? My day isn’t carved up as precisely and neatly as it was when I left home for 12 hours, Monday through Friday. Now, I might work on Sunday morning or during naptime. Our routine of work and carpool and household chores has imploded and we have to, NO – we get to build a new routine together.
It’s hard and it’s messy and it’s wonderful. It’s living.