As I begin writing this post we’re just over the two-week mark in our proposed year-long trip. We’ve posted a number of entries about where we’ve been and what we’ve done, but that’s only part of the whole picture of what we’re experiencing.
And while I want to communicate more about the experience, I’m having trouble finding the words. But I’ll try anyway…
It’s Been a Lot Like Vacation
Being together as a family, seeing some touristy spots, being in campgrounds - these have all historically been hallmarks of vacation time for us. And rightfully so. The last few weeks…the whole summer really….before departing were filled with some long days of preparations. I’ve needed some lighter days just as a mental break because I’ve never felt so overwhelmed with work and life. The last few days especially we (MsBoyink and I) were just exhausted from making decisions about anything (what clothes to take, how to organize the trailer, what meals should we prep for, how will work get done and billed) that we just pretty much stopped making decisions at all if they weren’t life-threatening. There’s only so much prep you can do for a trip like this and the rest will have to get puzzled out on the road anyway so no sense spending the mental energy trying to figure it out.
The First Week Wasn’t Much Fun
We had a good time in Columbus - meeting up with friends from the ExpressionEngine world, the Jeep world, and the Christian Web-head world. And there were a couple of nice days in there. But then came the rain - I lost track of how many days we had serious rain. The campgrounds we chose at the time didn’t help - they were private affairs filled with depressing ramshackle trailer/cottage/shack things that I seriously hope I never end up in. They also had no paved drives and quickly became muddy sinkholes. The truck & trailer got filthy and we were stuck inside a rig that we hadn’t planned on being inside for so long at a stretch. Add in issues with the truck (the mystery Service Engine light), and the trailer (leaking slideout roof and fridge issue) and I was starting to wonder if I could find the resources (either my time or available credit card balance) to keep us going.
We also had to (and are still having to) figure out a bunch of new tech, a new schedule/rhythm for grocery shopping & laundry, teach kids how to live in and use the trailer, our best times and durations for travel, the advantages & disadvantages of private vs. public parks, etc. And I know - this is the adventure. It’s what we signed up for. We knew it would be hard, but that doesn’t make experiencing it any easier. And I’m not whining - I feel like the first week was a test of our resolve to stay on this course. And we suffered through it to some amazing days and scenery as a reward.
Compressing Puberty Is No Joke
Before we left I had joked that we were taking puberty (with kids aged 12 & 13) and compressing it into a small box on wheels. It was funny at the time, but in reality is no joke. There have been moments of tension, anger, and frustration on both sides of the parent/child relationship. But the root causes of these tensions are not all specific to the trip. By being all together in a small space we have uncovered issues that most likely would not have been found in bigger space where escape can happen more easily. And to be fair, we have literally pulled the carpet out from under the kid’s feet - removing almost everything familiar in their world. To expect that to happen without fallout is unrealistic.
So Many Details
I know some of this will feel natural after a while, but during this first two weeks it has felt like every single thing I use to take for granted I now have to worry about. Like..
- Turning on a light? Are we plugged in or on battery?
- Getting some water? Are we running on tanks or do we have a water hookup?
- Going online? Do we have wi-fi to use or our we consuming the bandwidth on our air card?
- Too cold and want heat? Are we paying for electric so can use the electric heater or do we burn propane to run the trailer furnace?
You get the idea - living this way it’s feeling like every need, every service, every input to my body or the trailer is more measured and metered than ever before. MsBoyink and I are getting the hang of it but I feel bad for the kids (Don’t waste water! Don’t worry about water. Don’t waste water!).
Constant Moving of Things
We have enough storage in the trailer - we aren’t even using it all. And, while everything (more or less) has a home, counter and floor space is limited. This means there is no space for anything not being currently used to be out, which means almost continual getting out and putting away of things. At this point I’m not yet tired of it - quite the contrary. One of my frustrations with our suburban life was having to take time to go specifically work out or get some form of exercise. It always seemed like such a waste. Actually, it seems quite ridiculous that we’ve worked ourselves into such sedentary lives that we now need to pay a business for the privilege of lifting their weights to break a sweat. I can’t imagine how my Grandparents or older generations would react to that. I haven’t been counting calories, but I do know I’ve been going to bed way more tired and ready for sleep than when we were in the stick home, and that’s a good thing.
Private and Public are Both Good
So far we’ve stayed at a mix of private campgrounds and state parks. I greatly appreciate the generally cleaner bathrooms, paved roads, and scenery of the state parks, but they haven’t had wi-fi at the campsite (Ohio was supposed to). The private campgrounds have all been a mix of “permanent” tenants and spaces where others rotate in and out. The permanent tenants in the parks we’ve been in have - so far - been a mix of brand-new looking rigs to decades-old falling down rigs half-attached to ramshackle porches and decks, and the bathrooms have been anything from unbelievably gross to not bad. But - at a private park I’m sitting in my trailer with a pretty fast wi-fi connection, on a site with electric, water, and sewer hookups for less money than the state parks have charged per night.
We’ve already been asked a fair number of times how much planning we do in advance. The answer is “as little as possible”. MsBoyink generally has been looking ahead to the next place the night before we want to pull out, researching available options in the direction we want to go. We decide based both on price and proximity to where we want to be. We’ve also run into parks closing up for the season, and with one night already at the freezing mark have changed our loose plans for more time out east and are heading south to find warmer weather. MsBoyink isn’t a fan of being cold, but the cold just makes things even more complex with additional heat needs, possibility of freezing water hoses, more clothes required, etc. We’d like to try boondocking more, but fear not having available electric at the freezing mark. I’ve got some changes in mind for the trailer electrical system that might help some of that, but overall we’ve already found that low temps in the 40’s are much more tolerable than those in the 30’s.
I feel like I’m starting to ramble - so will close this entry with this thought: Just the past couple of days I’ve started to have this nagging feeling that someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me it’s time to quit playing and go home now. I do know I need to dig into some work again to get keep the income stream rolling in yet, but overall I’m still fascinated by the idea that we can get out the map at night to decide where we want to be the next few days. Today while at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center I saw some literature on the Liberty Bell and just made the decision right there that we will go see it. We hadn’t talked of it before, but we’ll be in the area so why not?