I knew the “end goal” a full year before we sold our house, took our son out of traditional school, and lit a match on life as we knew it. I didn’t know all the ins and outs of it. Nor did I see the beauty in the mess when it was blowing up right in front of me. But I had faith we’d get there. The moment we started selling “stuff”, put the treasures into storage, and packed our car with essentials (our dog, naturally 🥰), I knew we made the right decision. Here are three massive life lessons we learned from taking a two-month family roadtrip (and designing a life to be able to do it more often):
Like many people, we made a big move in 2020, selling our home in Chicago and purchasing the next one sight-unseen in a state we’d never stepped foot in. It was one of the best decisions for our family, and also helped us to hone in on that little whisper that starts quietly at first and grows louder and more incessant when it’s time to make a change. It happened again, but this whisper was a little different. It wasn’t necessarily the urge for another home, though that wouldn’t surprise any of us at house #9. It was more an urgency to get back to our core family ethos. Less “stuff”, more quality: quality time, quality experiences, quality of life.
And so, we started questioning what that would look like. Did we need a Texas-sized house? Absolutely not. Was public school the best environment for Grey to learn and grow? He didn’t fit in the box and we weren’t going to force him to squeeze into it. Were we spending our days in a meaningful, fulfilling capacity? Not the majority of them. The list keeps going, but we won’t bore you with them. The point was, we felt like time was slipping away, and we were the only ones who could take control of the wheel, change direction, and set a new course.
Two months and a few thousand miles later, here’s what we learned:
We all live in a bubble.
I really loved this lesson, and perhaps I needed this one most of all. We traveled to big cities, tiny towns, and places and spaces in between. We visited local libraries at every stop, went to an abundance of mom & pop grocery stores, exquisite farmers markets, daily hikes, spectacular museums, local non-profits, and tried to live like locals as much as possible. We found that no matter who we were talking to in whatever state we were in, we all have so much more in common than we think we do.
As a wellness counselor and a firm believer of food as medicine, I think about the quality of our food quite often. I have read a lot regarding food accessibility, inequity and inequality, and it has always tugged at my heart. But to see it first hand is a whole other ballgame. The smaller spots we stayed in were the biggest wakeup call. As a family with food intolerance issues and food allergies, it was wildly difficult in some areas to source fresh produce, vegan protein options, and healthy swaps for meals. If we were lucky enough to track down one of these items, they were grossly overpriced, or expired. We were just passing through, but what about the people who live in those remote locations full time? It gave me a new lens of gratitude and perspective for clients I work with throughout the country, and for worthy causes to support in the future.
My biggest growth mindset shift came when I was having a conversation with a beekeeper in Arizona. I realized that on this trip I had taken off my protective introvert hat, and replaced it with my old reporter hat. I went from autopilot robot to being a student of life seeking every nugget of wisdom anyone was kind enough to share with me. I relished in the delight of asking questions, and the joy of learning from the people whom we met along the way. It was the most awe-inspiring experience to see so many different walks of life. We made meaningful connections with an elderly woman at the used book store who told Grey about her experience as a nurse in WWII, unschooling families, local farmers and makers, a husband and wife small business duo, and a family of fruitarians (yes, they eat only fruit! 🤯). I made a promise to continue stepping outside my comfort bubble no matter which season we find ourselves in, travel or nesting or something in between.
We don’t have the power to stop time, but we can slow it down.
Have you ever felt like weeks are just flying past you, and you don’t know where they’ve gone or even how you spent them? Same. I read a research study a while back about the ability to slow (the feeling) of time. And all it takes is breaking your usual routine and trying something new. I put it to the test on this trip and it absolutely worked. New places and people and experiences made eight weeks feel like a year, but in the best possible way. It also heightened my memory center to capture every second, forcing me to be present in each moment to take in all of the delicious sights, sounds and smells. I can still hear the seals (and smell them 😅). That stretch of time was one of my greatest gifts, especially at this age with Grey, and Jon and me being healthy and strong enough to savor it all.
We don’t need that much stuff.
We left with 5 suitcases filled with coats and clothes for all seasons, a dog crate, vitamins, 15 pairs of shoes, pickle ball paddles, weights, cooking staples, an absurd amount of (heavy 😅) hardcover books and the most random assortment of odds and ends. This is what it looked like every time we loaded in and out of an airbnb.
The reality was, in two months we used about 10% of what we brought. We were lucky enough to stay at homes with a washer & dryer and the three of us fell into a rhythm of rotating 3-4 outfits. We had the option to change more often, but for whatever reason, we didn’t. We reached for a hiking go-to, a day-to-day uniform, a dinner dress, and a bathing suit. Why did I bring so many shoes?! (the entire frunk was filled with them) Who packed 4 sets of pajamas for Grey? What did Jon need with several polos? That was just the stuff we brought. What about all of the stuff we “need” in all of the boxes we packed up for the next house? If we were living well with only the items we could fit in a car, what did we need out of 2 storage units besides a few family heirlooms? Spoiler alert: re-entry was quite difficult, and we have already made several trips to the donation center.
Amazon has us in a choke-hold and we need to kung-fu our way out of it. As someone who didn’t buy a single item for almost three months, I’m here to tell you – we are so heavily influenced and programmed to think we need all the things, and the reality is (at least to us), we don’t. My intention moving forward for anything non-essential is to “add to cart” and let it sit. If I don’t miss it by the time it would have arrived via prime delivery, I don’t need it.
And the last nugget that we all know but may need to hear again: don’t cry over spilled (golden) milk. This trip was filled with high highs and low lows and they each hold lessons and gifts and gratitude. I realize how deeply fortunate we are to do this, and how hard we’ve worked to get here. One thing I know for sure, we are in charge of our life. No one is coming to map it out for us. We get to design it with a series of both tiny and massive decisions. I hope today you make one small shift in the direction of your well + joyful whispers. Thank you for being on this journey with us!