Why Did We Decide to Travel Full-Time?
We’ve gotten a lot of resistance to the idea of living our lives on the road with our two kids. From friends, family and random people on the internet who think that we’re making a poor choice, or those who just don’t understand why we don’t want to settle down again. Why do we travel full time with our two kids and how did we decide?
For 12 years, we had made our home in a cute little two-story Sears House in the small town of Montross, VA (pop. 315). We had babies in this house, converted our guest room into a nursery, changed all the diapers, stayed up late and wiped baby-soft bottoms. We built gardens, a huge outdoor patio and play structures for the kids. We’d painted their rooms with lifesize murals adding new details on each birthday. We built huge bookcases and then filled them up with books and art and photos and games: the stuff of a family and a life. We spent time at the local state park hiking the trails, and Saturday mornings at the local coffeshop and the library for story hour. We homeschooled our kids and took them to 4H camp in the summer. We built our business in the office and watched the trees grow through the windows of the sunroom. We never thought we’d leave. We’d built our lives in this one house, in this one small town.
But sometimes things change, out of your control. In September 2011, in the wake of Hurricane Irene and in anticipation of a simple roof replacement, we left our home with a week’s worth of clothes, some toys, books, our cats and our computers. Then…an unmitigated disaster took place that left our home completely uninhabitable for well over a year and then some. We lost most of our stuff – not just our consumer goods, furniture, bedding, etc., but all of our food stores, our household paperwork, files and other important documents, wedding photos, the Austrian lace my since-deceased brother had given to me – all destroyed. We were devastated. Our kids were devastated. All of our past memories and all of our future dreams seemed to just…vanish. We lost most everything we had in our home, and what was salvaged was then later infested with mice. Our children were afraid and refused to get out of the car in the driveway. We felt like we’d lost our lives.
When your kids are really little there is no limit to the number of times people tell you how “time flies” and how you should “learn to appreciate what you have, when you have it.” That “your kids will grow up too fast” and “soon enough you’ll be wishing you could wrap them up in your arms again and hold them like you did when they were little” – when they needed that from you. And I swear I tried. I tried to take a moment to pause during the late nights, to enjoy the warmth of endless laundry, the squeals of laughter from up the stairs well after bedtime, to savor the less than tasty kitchen experiments and the delicious abandon with which kids take on every new experience, shredding the house in their wake. We tried to breathe it in early in the mornings…to enjoy the potential joy of the day despite the endless and inevitable chaos of chores and bills and life. Funny thing though, life? Especially when faced with financial hardships, medical concerns, or other major changes or let’s face it – just trying to keep your head above water…well, life can creep up and suck that joy right out of you.
And you, like me, might forget that time is flying. When we finally took possession of our nearly empty home a couple of years ago, we sat on the steps and cried. Like a really ugly cry, guys – an embarrassing, unloading kind of cry. We cried for the sweet memories of a time that we would never have back again, and we cried for the future times that we’d imagined for ourselves and our children in this one house, in this one small town. We talked about planting bulbs in the fall, playing on the swings with the kids in the summer, parading around the yard with cherry blossoms in the spring … all the things. Bittersweet memories. And we mourned not just for the things and the financially devastating aspect of this unwanted change, but for the wasted years of our lives spent dealing with this mess that was not our fault, not our making. What did we have left?
And then it hit us square in the face. All we had left was time. Time together – that was it. And we didn’t have that much time left, being parents of newly minted teens. We realized that we had the opportunity to spend the rest of the time that we do have to show them the rest of the world: outside this one house, outside this small town. We want to teach them how to travel, how to meet great people and to learn about and appreciate other cultures, places and even times. We want them to experience cuisines and architecture and music from all over before deciding where to settle. To smell the air, enjoy the flowers and climb the mountains before they try to make their way on their own in this world.
And as the inimitable Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” We want to broaden their horizons and give them experiences, not things. And for them to learn that the memories live in our minds, not in our stuff and that their one small experience is not the experience of everyone, everywhere.
We realized that we had the ability to take what was left of our lives and our time and create a whole new life, different from the past, but with just the most important things – the four of us and the time we have left together. And, tomorrow is no guarantee.
P.S. Anyone want to buy a house?