Was it Saturday night live that used to do a segment called deep thoughts? I think so, and vaguely remember loving it. This will be far less entertaining for sure, but nevertheless, if you want to hear mama funks deep thoughts then read on:)
Over the past couple months I have had lots of time to think, not always a good thing… haha, but, I have thought a lot about this journey we are on. I’ve thought about what it means to me and about the life lessons we are all learning. Because let’s face it; a four month vacation is a great mid life crisis but I was really going for some bigger meaning to it all. One of the biggest things I wanted was the opportunity to teach my kids things I wasnt teaching them in our middle class every day life. I have to think that this was one of the reasons this crazy scheme fell into place so easily; we have lessons to learn and to share.
My oldest child is a strong willed, confident and determined girl who is funny and charismatic. She has a serious case of big shiny syndrome and can blow through money like a pop star. I was hoping to teach her about money management as a priority but what has come up has been learning about emotions instead. (Bigger plans by the universe?)
She is a teenager and those moods have been even more pronounced inside a 40ft trailer with no where to go. The past month we have spent dozens of hours talking about emotional management and I am proud to say she is learning things that many adults have yet to grasp. We have talked about the emotional wake that each of us make as we impact those around us. She is doing a great job of this the past week in particular and seems to get it that when she mopes around or gets snippy the other three of us feel that. We have also talked about how she has control over her emotional reaction; just because something shitty happens doesnt mean you have to feel shitty. You can choose to be pissed breifly then let it go and move into problem solving mode or whatever is needed. I hope that she will carry this learning with her as she moves into her first years as an independent adult (which she is planning in detail lately).
My youngest child is an Energizer bunny, he is shy in public and doesnt stop talking at home. He does not entertain himself well and that was something we had talked about him learning on this trip… we have not succeeded so far. He is a typical child of the electronics era and struggles to use his imagination to occupy himself.
He has definately gotten a bit more mature so far though and it’s funny to see our previously shy guy run around the trailer in just his boxers. Josh is an ultra sensitive guy and I have struggled in the past with balancing not hurting his feelings while teaching him to toughen up a bit and become more confident. It’s really hard to explain in writing so I’ll trust that those who know me or who are parents understand what I mean by that! The close quarters has been good for this, we can be a bit harsher and push him to not be over sensitive because he is right there and if he is hurt we see it and can talk about it. We can challenge any negative or self deprecating statements he makes because we are intimately involved in exactly what has happened in his day. As I write this I am realizing that teaching him self confidence and how to be assertive is so much more important than how to occupy himself. If we can accomplish this or even plant seeds that will stay with him then this trip will be a success.
The Nitty Gritty
This trip has been amazing, there’s no doubt about it. The things we have gotten to do and see are awesome. I love that we will forever have family memories of so many places; from the Oregon plains to the red rocks of Utah to the sandy desert of Arizona and all that is yet to come. I am proud that we have successfully lived in 350sq ft and that we have pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zones. But, (you knew that was coming) it’s not all greener grass out here on the road and I think it’s good to share the rough stuff too. I think this lifestyle is romanticized lately with all the you tube channels and bloggers, and although seeing the huge movement of families who are “ditching suburbia” encouraged us to do it, I think it’s good to talk about both sides.
One of the hardest things for Rob and I has been the unhappiness of the kids. They both miss their friends and home lives so badly and they are not shy about letting us know they want to go home. It’s not all misery for sure; when we are out exploring they both get excited to see new stuff, but as soon as we have down time they definitely get home sick. We have spent hours talking about how to deal with this; do we push through, knowing that they are learning and experiencing, or do we head home because their attitudes are killing our fun? I know it doesnt hurt them to be unhappy and learn to appreciate the smaller things but it does certainly affect how Rob and I feel on a daily basis. I have met 2 other RVing families and both are also struggling with their older kids not enjoying the experience. One of them is even letting their oldest stay home with family for the rest of the winter cause he’s so difficult in the trailer! (Those of you who were shocked our 17 yr old was willing to do this can say “I told you so” now, lol).
The other big challenge for us has been the cost. I had done research before we left from some RV bloggers cost of living reports. Based on that we should have had enough money for 6 to 8 months… ha… not so much. We calculated our fuel bill based on what we used when Rob had a welding rig since the weight he carried is similar to the trailer, unfortunately we have gotten about half that mileage (guess we should have realised the extra drag the trailer causes). The other thing that has killed us is the exchange rate; at 72c on the dollar our money just doesnt go far down here! Double the vehicle repair bills and a few unexpected things and costs just add up. Needless to say this has forced us to reevaluate and alter our plans. Instead of pulling the trailer to all the different places we are using cheaper parks as a home base and doing more driving in just the vehicle, we are sticking to the west coast only and we are coupon clipping to keep our grocery bill down. Without a US RN liscence and appropriate visa I can’t work down here, something that I do wish I had gotten before we left so that would be an option. While we are disappointed at the expense of the trip we are also still so happy to be going home debt free that we don’t mind making changes to travel within our means. What does this mean for our trip? Well, we have decided to head back to Canada in February instead of April (kids are thrilled about that anyways). That means figuring out how to get the trailer back when the main routes are still in winter weather. We are looking at going back up the California and Oregon coast where the roads wont have snow and may end up in Chilliwack for a bit until the passes clear. I am super excited to drive up the coast anyways so it is still an exciting leg of our journey.
Despite the nitty gritty parts of this journey, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I know we were meant to do this and am glad we are. Many of you will have heard the story of what prompted me to commit to this idea, but it’s worth repeating: We knew we had to sell the house to get out of the debt we were drowning in and we had come up with this crazy idea to travel in an RV with our kids, but that would use up the remaining equity we had. We took a few weeks to decide and both talked to tons of people to get advice. One day I was working in the recovery room looking after an 87 year old lady who had broken her arm. She was the coolest person I had ever met and was one of those people you say “I want to be like that when I’m old”. At the end of my time with her I asked her for her advice and told her our options; do we reinvest, buy another house and carry on with typical Canadian family life or do we buy an RV and travel with our kids for 6 months. She looked at me and without hesitation said “pack up and go”. She advised me that by the time we get to her age we will have made and lost thousands several times over without anything to show for it, but the memories of that trip will bring us joy for the rest of our lives.
She was right.