Chapter 1: I Hear A Banjo Playing
Hey, welcome! This is chapter 1 of my book, The Road Less Traveled, that I wrote a few years ago and never put the effort into marketing because I was having too much fun traveling with my family. Sign up for our email list to be notified each time I release a new chapter or download the entire book here.
April Fools Day 2015…
“I can’t believe you pulled this off,” were the exact words Victor said to me the morning we moved out of a huge, spacious, three-bedroom house overlooking the ocean into our thirty-foot Class C motorhome.
I let my ego bask in the compliment and thought about all the work that went into that exact moment.
Imagine filling all the stuff you own into shopping carts. How many carts could you fill? Now imagine only getting to keep three of those carts.
It wasn’t easy detaching from most of our belongings. It would have been easier to perform a mock fire drill and just tell myself to grab whatever I can find in one minute, which would have been my computer and photo albums. The only problem is that the albums were spread all over the house so I wouldn’t have been able to find them in one minute anyway, so in the end, I would have just grabbed my kids and gotten the hell out.
Stuff is all replaceable and the amount of brain power and emotion it requires to detach from your belongings or to evaluate the necessity and importance of every item you own isn’t worth the effort.
In retrospect, I’d try to convince myself to leave it all, but who could actually walk away from all their stuff? (It would be freeing though!)
Victor was really attached to his high school medals and yearbooks, but after moving them from one corner of a garage to another in a half dozen houses and never looking at them, I encouraged him to throw them away (in all fairness I had already tossed all of mine). His knee-jerk reaction was “Hell no!”, but after reflecting on it for a few days he agreed that What was the point?
We expend tons of money and countless hours of our lives preparing for what ifs. What if I need this one day? What if I want to look at it one day? We think that we need to hang onto these sentimental objects in order to protect and sustain their memory, but often forget we are the sum total of all these great moments in life and if we spend more time “maintaining” ourselves these sentiments will live on. Imagine how spacious your house could be if you removed the what ifs?
My kids got so tired of me asking, “Do you really need that?” They were good sports about it and we’re already beginning to understand the big picture…that having stuff is nice, but it’s not as important as having the time to do things you love with the people you enjoy being around.
Related Blog: What Travel Teaches Kids
Like all siblings, they bicker, but they still found a lot of joy and friendship in each other’s presence. My kids are the only kids I know who have been around their siblings practically every minute of their lives. We took them to work with us almost every day of their lives and we are those weird people who homeschool their kids. I realize that my kids are doomed to be seen as abnormal for the rest of their childhood, but at least they are getting to see the world while they develop their unconventional personalities.
Related Blog: Why I’m Raising My Kids To Be Dirtbags
I’m sure I will be 80 years old and still be able to vividly remember the surreal feeling as we pulled out of the driveway.
In some ways it felt normal because we had taken many road trips from this house and part of me felt as if it was just another quick escape from reality for a few weeks until you returned home, invigorated from your adventures, yet yearning for the comfort of a hot shower, soft bed, and the security and familiarity that walking into your own home brings after being away from it for some time.
It’s not like we were leaving the ghetto behind.
For the last two years, we had been renting a beautiful home that overlooked the Pacific Ocean in one of the most expensive areas in the world, Coronado, California. We spent evenings sitting on our balcony watching the most gorgeous sunsets. We spent mornings surfing in front of our house. We enjoyed life while living in this house.
My kids brought my thoughts back to reality as they said, “We won’t ever live here again.”
I’m a huge believer in change, living outside your comfort zone, dreaming big, and moving forward without fear or guilt, but I’ll admit a little fear that this was a bad idea and a little guilt that I may be traumatizing my children, did creep in. My kids were slightly emotional, no tears, just reminiscent-type feelings.
I too would miss that stage of our life, but I didn’t give myself a chance to dwell on it.
1 | I was probably too exhausted from packing up to be sad.
2 | It was a rental so I knew we would eventually have to move on (even though some part of me hoped the landlady would sell it to us, but then we’d have to win the lottery to afford it).
3 | I had already mentally gone through what I thought it was going to feel like for me months before it actually happened, which really helped me work through all the fears I did feel ahead of time.
4 | Because we were about to start a new adventure, a new chapter in our lives, and who doesn’t like that?!
We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies as we pulled into the campground. As much as I planned what was being stored, what was going to be kept at work, what was going in the RV, and what was just being thrown away, there was still so much junk to be accounted for.
You don’t realize how much last-minute crap you have until you are standing surrounded by your misfit belongings. The items that aren’t good enough to deserve their own spot in a labeled box, but not bad enough to abandon.
My neighbors in the campground eyed me curiously as I organized, reorganized, and repacked the plastic bins over and over until I could get the essentials to fit.
It was nice that we had the option of storing some things at our business since all that really fit in the motorhome was a box of clothes twelve inches wide, eighteen inches deep, and fifteen inches high for each of the kids.
We had two small wardrobes in the master bedroom (if you can call a queen size bed with one of those paper dividers a bedroom) for Victor’s and my clothes and a decent collection of our favorite board games that I hoped we’d finally have time to play (we didn’t!).
Related Blog: 50 RV Essentials
There wasn’t much storage for kitchen stuff inside so I filled three big plastic bins with our kitchen essentials, which at first included a standing mixer (because how was I going to bake?), extra pots and pans (that I thought I’d need but quickly realized wasn’t worth the little valuable space), a juicer, a blender, a crockpot, a toaster, an electric skillet, and a food processor.
We eventually got rid of the toaster because let’s admit it, pan tostado (you know toast made on a pan on the stove) tastes way better anyway (especially with some real grass-fed butter), but kept the rest hoping we’d find ways to use them.
Food, especially good sourced, organic food is really important to my family so keeping that many kitchen appliances may seem excessive considering the limited space, but it was important to us.
We gave ourselves ten days in local campgrounds to sift through our belongings and figure out a system that worked. During this time we were camping at the Silver Strand State Beach, which had water and electricity hook ups, but not sewer, and San Elijo State Beach, which is dry camping, no hook ups at all.
Experiment one, holding tanks.
If you are unfamiliar with RV plumbing, let me give you an overview of how it works. All your gray water, basically the dirty dishwater, and black water, the toilet, is contained in two separate tanks in your RV. You always try to conserve how much is going into the gray and black tanks so that you don’t have to unhook and move everything just to drive over to the dump station, especially not every day.
Not being very aware of how quickly these tanks can fill up, we all showered the first day and I did the dishes inside like I normally would in a house. By the next morning, we had managed to fill the grey water so much it was coming out of the shower drain! After that, no one got to shower inside unless it was an emergency and I started doing all the dishes outside.
The thought of doing dishes in this fashion might seem appalling, but if everyone did dishes this way we might be able to do something about the water shortage we are having in Southern California.
Basically to do dishes I’d fill two big plastic containers with hot water and use one for washing and one for rinsing. Sounds pretty simple if we were just eating camping foods like hot dogs and hamburgers, but we were eating full meals of pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns, salads, smoothies, hummus, tri-tip, sautéed veggies (see why I kept so many kitchen appliances), which meant lots of pans and at least seven dishes per meal.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said this was easy, however, there was still a part of it that was very enjoyable.
For one, you can’t beat the view and the fresh air while you are doing chores.
Two, it was very good for my body to be sitting in a squat doing dishes instead of standing on the tile floor in a kitchen.
Don’t believe me? Try it for a week and you’ll see your back feel better and you will have an amazing malasańa when you go to yoga next time.
Third, we were doing something helpful for the Earth by conserving water. It might be a very small step, but it’s still a step in the right direction.
So is this book about saving the Earth and selling your possessions so you can do dishes in a squat? Not at all. In fact, this is my story of why you should keep doing dishes in a kitchen like a normal person.
If you are looking for ways to get healthier, stronger, leaner, or for inspiration on how to create a larger picture of happiness, wellness, and an overall zest for life, that is all in my other book, A Playful Life: Think, Move, & Eat Your Way To More Fun.
No, in this book, I wanted to share what it’s really like when you abandon your fears, rock the boat, find out if the grass is really greener, take the road less traveled, break all rules of conformity, and do it with gusto.
Related Blog: Lessons Learned Living in an RV
My husband, Victor, is the most logical, grounded, and kind person you will ever meet. We met when I was still in high school and have been inseparable ever since. We are a perfect match for each other, our souls’ ideal counterparts.
While we fit together like yin and yang, the way we look and interact with the world is completely different. Victor is agreeable and self-sacrificing. He gets tremendous joy out of seeing others, mostly me, happy and could care less if we woke up in the same city, in the same house, with the same stuff for our entire life. I wish I could be so simple.
I am a questioner. A big-time questioner.
I don’t mean to be so difficult!
For my husband’s sanity alone, I wish I could find contentment with a slower, more conventional lifestyle, but every time I try to abate my insistent curiosity (that borders on a sick addiction) it never lasts long.
It’s not that I have attention deficit disorder. Honestly, it’s quite the opposite. It’s more like I’m compelled to see how many bizarre experiences I can create under the hashtag #yolo because no one sends their kids to school, goes to a job for eight hours, then posts #yolo next to a picture of them watching their kids soccer practice for the umpteenth time.
There’s nothing wrong with that lifestyle, it’s just not what I picture when I think about my bucket list of dreams.
For me, it might start innocently with an early morning surf session with my daughter. We split a few waves, her going right, me going left, and then sitting on the outside staring out into the horizon waiting for the next set to roll in while my mind bounces around random thoughts as the sun’s rays reflect off the glassy surface of the ocean until all of a sudden one idea sparks a tiny fire.
It could be something as simple as, “We should go get sandwiches at Whole Foods after this.” My daughter nodding in agreement, since she is never one to turn down a Whole Foods sandwich.
But on one particular day that tiny flame was, “Let’s live in our RV for five months. It would be really fun. We could do some longer road trips and come back for a few weeks in between to check on our business and make money. We could go to visit friends in Colorado, go rock climbing in Utah, visit more national parks, and drive Highway One up to Big Sur.” She smiles and nods again, always eager to entertain my crazy ideas, and just like that, I’m consumed.
It’s rarely just an idea being tossed around.
No, not for me. It becomes an obsession.
I feed the blaze with research, analysis, and contemplation until I have come up with a specific intention.
Only once I’ve let all the potential energy of the idea chemically transform into a concise plan can I let it settle into a pile of ashes.
It’s exhausting to be like this.
It’s frigging awesome, but exhausting.
I mean it. It is really hard.
I would never choose a different path. I don’t regret any of my decisions because I truly believe at any one moment in my life I am exactly where I am meant to be, but that means a lot of lows to offset the highs and more persistence than most sane people would want to exert. Trust me, you don’t want to constantly be questioning the status quo and demanding more out of your life.
People ask me all the time, “I don’t know how you do it?”
Maybe it’s more of a statement because they usually don’t want the answer, which is good because no one wants to hear my answer.
I tend to sound a bit jaded even though I love every part of the life I’ve chosen. I just know how hard it is to pull it off and no one wants to intentionally put themselves through so much work.
It’s much better to sit on your comfy couch or bed, let your kids entertain themselves with their electronic devices, order the same old take-out dinner, and live vicariously through the idiosyncratic adventure I call my life.