As we’ve moved into the holiday season and are re-connecting with family and friends this is the phrase/question we hear a lot: “So, it must be good to be home?” It’s often not even posed as a question, just sort of an assumption with the speaker saying it while nodding their head in anticipation of our agreeing with it.
Except, we don’t.
Yes, it’s been nice to catch up and see people in person that we didn’t see for a year. But overall it’s been - and continues to be - tough to be back in a stationary house especially with winter setting in here in Michigan. There hasn’t been much snow yet so outdoors has been a depressing brown and cold environment with nothing to point a camera at. Affordable entertainment options (especially for a family without many wintertime outdoor enthusiasts… middle-aged female ones anyway) are few during a Michigan winter. Many evenings I am physically restless, tired of being online, not wanting to look at screens any longer, eyes too tired to read a book, no projects to go noodle around with in the garage, and reluctant to bundle up to go outside and walk around the neighborhood I’ve lived in for 15 years. Before and during our travels we read the blogs of other traveling families with great interest - both in hopes of meeting up with them and as research for interesting places to visit. Now it’s hard to keep reading those blogs as reading about their explorations and adventure only reminds us of how stationary we are.
Make no mistake; if you are planning a similar adventure for your family one outcome may be the inability to return to life as you knew it. While we’ve seen some families be done and ready to be off the road after a period of travel, for us the trip was life changing. We are no longer as happy if not traveling and want to get back into that mode as soon as we can.
So - what have we been doing since becoming stationary suburbanites?
- We cleaned out the trailer and managed to still find inside storage for it at a nearby farm. The barn had paved floors and the owners kept mice traps set and attended to so we felt good about getting it tucked away out of the snow (and out of the driveway) while we’re off the road.
- We’ve done some precursory research into the housing market to see if selling the house was feasible or if we would need to consider renting it out instead. At this point we intend to try and sell - mainly to be done with the mental load of home ownership.
- We’ve paid down a bit of the debt we incurred while on the road and continue to do so with a goal of being debt-free the next time we hitch up.
- My work laptop needed replacement after 4 years, and since I’ll be getting rid of my desktop as part of our ultimate move to full-time travel I wanted the best and most mobile laptop I could get. I ended up jumping from the PC world to the Mac world with the purchase of a MacBook Air. It’s been several weeks and I’m finally feeling like I know how to get around it. I’m loving the lack of weight and heat and how small my “office” can be now.
- I spent a week in New York City for a work-related conference.
- I just returned from 5 days in Chicago on a business trip. I missed having the family along but it was refreshing to be back in exploratory mode for a little while.
- I have a client project almost set to launch, after that’s done I need to revise my book as that will be much easier to do on the bigger desktop screens.
- We moved my main office desk and desktop PC up from my basement (cave) office and found room for it in the corner of the living room.
- Continuing in the vein of “let’s use this floor space differently” we put both the kids beds in the smallest of our three bedrooms. It’s like our bunkhouse fifth wheel trailer, just bigger.
- By having the kids sleep in the same room it freed up the middle bedroom to become a “teen room”. We repainted it and moved another desk, their schoolwork, instruments and games in there. Now when they have friends over they have a place to hang out that isn’t someone’s bedroom. While quick to describe this project took several weeks (and help from family) to accomplish.
- We’ve done an initial pass through our “stuff” and hauled a large load of clothes, household items and bit of furniture to Goodwill.
- The kids are getting a lot of “friend time” reconnecting with their local friends.
- The kids are getting caught up on their orthodontia. Data is close to getting his braces off. Storybird isn’t and we’re not sure yet how she’ll work out of hers once we’re traveling again.
- We’ve all gotten caught up with Doctors appointments.
- We’ve met with another local family thinking about a similar trip and talked about our experiences.
- We’ve attended several family holiday events - taking along the laptop with a slideshow of about 200 images from our year.
- We’ve found local high-school plays and free college concerts to attend. We’ll be watching for more of these.
- MsBoyink is prepping for a couple days away helping her Mom after some surgery - knowing in the future being able to do so might be difficult.
- MsBoyink has gone on a “learn how to cook better” mission in hopes of keeping us healthier and breaking the boredom of eating the same meals all of the time. She’s checked out cookbooks, watched YouTube videos on knife usage, and has instructed me to find my whetstone.
- We’ve tried to keep our Christmas very modest, using just our tree-topper and buy small gifts of either consumables or experiences so there isn’t more stuff to get rid of in the spring.
I write this list as much for us as anyone - it’s good to read through it and remind ourselves that we have made valuable use of our downtime. It’s too easy to feel like we’ve simply returned to life as we knew it and feel like we’ve done nothing significant to prep ourselves for getting back on the road.
I won’t say it’s been good to be home. I’d rather just have pretended all of this…baggage….didn’t exist and just hitched the trailer up and headed south & west again. We’re still hoping that will be the case come late April / early May.