Well, 2013 has certainly been a good year for our family. We have reconnected, we have traveled, we have learned, and we have embraced change. As Christmas approaches and the year draws to an end, I, like many of you, am reflecting on all that has happened. Just about a year ago is when Ron returned home from a year in Korea and we went into action making our dream of traveling in an RV become a reality. We planned to travel for one year, and even thought at times that we might travel longer.
As it turned out, our renters fell in love with our town (it is a great place) and decided to make it their home for an extended time. With the news that they purchased a house, we had some decisions to make…and much sooner than we had anticipated. We ultimately decided the best thing was to end our travels and move back in to the house.
When we had moved out, we really thought we wouldn’t be moving back and we were excited about the possibilities of what our life would look like in the next chapter. We pictured having more land, growing more food, maybe being near family, being more “green,” possibly having a strawbale home, etc. Those things may still happen one day, but it isn’t now. So instead of dwelling on what isn’t, I’d like to take a look at our goals that we set for our journey and how much we accomplished because a lot of really good things happened and we are thankful for the time we were on the road! (P.S. I’m skipping over the rest of our time in Oregon but I’ll get back to that in another post.)
Goal 1. Experience. We homeschool, or should I say campschool? Specific to this trip, we want the girls to have more experience, in nature, in travel, in life. We do have a small amount of curriculum we will work through but most of our learning will be through experience, supported by reading and activities related to where we are and what is available around us. There’s as much for Ron and me to learn as there is for the girls!
Results: Wow, did we ever do this! We all learned so much and did so many things that we wouldn’t have had the opportunity for if we had not gone on this journey. Our blog has highlighted our many experiences but it hardly does it justice. This was the ultimate field trip!
Goal 2. Routine. I’ll be the first to admit we have found having a schedule to be difficult. I am schedule oriented, or at least thought I was until I had kids, but now we have more of a flow. I actually believe in the midst of what may appear spontaneous and varied, we can develop better routines. We have downsized and the amount of things “to do” has been reduced, so, being pulled in fewer directions, I think we can focus more clearly.
Results: Eh, we made slight improvements. We fell into some routines, particularly related to the daily chores of RV life and preparations before and after moving the trailer to a new site. Ron took care of most of the outside chores while I did the inside, and it went smoothly every time. We also worked together well when it came to meal preparations and cleanup. It was a small space and we had limited dishes and cookware, so it was critical to wash everything right after eating. We had routines that went along with that, too, like heating water, drying and putting away dishes, etc. I’m not sure if things were any more routine for the girls though. Meals were, but activities varied depending on where we were and the weather.
Goal 3. Fun! We want to have fun. We have been working hard and haven’t allowed ourselves much fun and relaxation since having children. The girls are turning 5 and 7 next month and this feels like the perfect time to let our hair down a little and relax!
Results: Absolutely! It was fun. Nuff said.
Goal 4. Sun! We love the Pacific Northwest but we are seeking a little more sunshine and warmth this next year! The summers here are amazing, which is why we are staying until the beginning of August, but then we are heading South. Our minds and bodies like it but it is also more practical with this lifestyle: less propane running heat, less bulky clothes (for storage and laundry purposes), less to carry with us on outings (or am I fooling myself on this one? Aren’t we really just trading coats, hats, gloves, and boots for sunblock, towels, and a beach mat? Oh well, sounds like a good trade!)
Results: We couldn’t have botched this one up any better. Come August, when we were “heading South,” we actually ended up squatting near our hometown trying to figure out what we were going to do…move in our house, keep traveling, move somewhere else completely…oh, the options. We did enjoy the Washington summer immensely, but we just didn’t follow the sun. Oh well, we will see it again in June…or maybe July.
Goal 5. A home? Perhaps while traveling, we may fall in love with a new place. It could become home. We love our community and our home in Washington but it took a lot out of us to have that life. Ron worked hard to pay for it while I spent most of my time maintaining it. Someplace smaller and more affordable would give us more family time and, in our opinion, better quality of life.
Results: Well, we did stay a while in each location to really get the feel for it and to assess it in terms of a potential new home. Along the way, we narrowed our choices down to two real options: either the house we own or the town we moved from when we came to Washington. There, we would have been just outside of St. Louis, with family nearby in Missouri and Illinois. Neither of these more realistic options were the homestead vision we had once had but they were options we could actualize. As it turns out, overhauling your life is quite expensive even when you’re trying to make it more simple. And now you know which one we chose when crunch time came. And despite a lifetime of moving, this move (back into our own home) has been the most difficult (at least for me).
Goal 6. Sustainability. We can all make contributions to the Earth and future generations by living in more sustainable ways. We recycled, used reusable water bottles, drove a Prius, etc, but we can do more. We are now very aware of every bit of energy we use as we monitor our propane levels, battery life, water, and electric. We have to be very conservative in our usage, and we think this is a great lesson now and in the future, when we live in a house again, where all of those things can easily be taken for granted. We have a great deal of curiosity about living off the grid, using more solar energy, growing and preserving our own food, and we hope to learn much more as this year continues.
Results: This is another area where we didn’t make drastic changes, but we learned along the way and we are definitely more aware of our energy usage, our waste, and our effect on the planet. Even though we are back in our house, we are composting, reducing our waste and packaging, eating far more plant-based meals than meals containing animal products, keeping our heat on a low setting, limiting our driving, etc. Spending any amount of time with limited amounts of water and power generates a lot of awareness and appreciation. It was actually a little odd moving back home and being able to light up a room with a flip of a switch or have hot water come out of the faucet!
Goal 7. Healthy eating. We give a lot of effort to feeding ourselves. Sometimes it feels excessive really, with the meal planning, shopping, preparation, cooking, and cleanup. It consumes probably more of my time than anything else. Additionally, we struggle to truly understand what healthy eating is as there are so many varying theories. We have Zoned, reduced processed food, learned about Paleo, been vegan, you name it. Right now, our focus is simply on improving the quality of our food. When we have meat, I want to seek out free range chicken, grass fed beef, etc. Over the last couple years, I have been gluten free, and for much of that, I was also vegan, so we have already greatly increased the amount of vegetables, fruits, and legumes we eat. We cannot always find or afford organic, but we do as much as we can. We will continue to reduce sugar and processed foods, which are pretty minimal anyway.
Results: We found wonderful beautiful fresh food at many places along the way (Whidbey Island had roadside grassfed beef and free range eggs and Sequim was a fresh local organic paradise!). We never lost our excitement and dedication to eating healthy, but we did enjoy more treats than we normally would have. Who can resist roasting hot dogs (nitrate free, of course) and roasty toasty marshmallows over the fire!?! We made some very good friends sitting around fires eating S’mores. But…we are back on the wagon, eating a mostly plant-based diet once again with a little quality chicken and fish. My body seriously screams “thank you” when I feed it well!
Goal 8. Budget. With Ron’s recent retirement, we are learning to follow a budget. Our past idea of a budget has really been more of an analysis. We always tracked what we spent by category then projected a like amount into the future as our “budget”. Now, we have to set an amount based on having substantially less income and needing to stick to that amount for each category or we risk running out of money. We haven’t loss sight of the fact that we are fortunate to have retirement income, but we do now better appreciate money management!
Results: The good news is we didn’t run out of money. Whew. The bad news is this adventure ended prematurely so a lot of the money we spent to make it happen doesn’t necessarily seem reasonable now. Had we known we’d only be out there six months, there are some things we would have done differently. Or maybe we wouldn’t have done it at all. So, my thoughts on that are thank goodness we didn’t know! It would have been nice to not make a few of the purchases we made, and to not get rid of our Prius, but we were preparing to be on the road for a year and those things seemed like the best decisions. It was the trip of a lifetime so, in hindsight, it was all worth it and I’m glad we did it, even if just for six months!
Goal 9. Fitness. We live an active lifestyle anyway but it is still a goal of ours to enhance our lives with more hiking. And for the girls, we’d like them to build some endurance on nature walks and hikes as well as have more opportunities for bike riding. The girls are gymnasts by nature, love rock climbing, and essentially never stop moving so fitness is an easy box to check, but one we don’t want to let slip by the wayside either.
Results: We hiked often, I practiced yoga outdoors regularly, the girls rode their bikes (Orange Hippie even ditched her training wheels at Pacific Beach), and, on occasion, we even swam and went rockclimbing. I’m not sure if any endurance was built but nothing was lost, and we had a lot of quality active family time!
Goal 10. Blog! Just when I was going to wrap this post up, it occurred to me I’m actually doing something right now that is a goal of ours: blogging! We hope to grow this little blog of ours into something people enjoy reading and keep up with because we have something to offer, something interesting, something helpful. Our direction right now includes tips and stories about our traveling, our homeschooling, and even our cooking, but we are open and wondering, too, what is it you’d like to know?
Results: Our blog was an important part of our journey. It didn’t take off with a life of its own but it was a place to journal and share our experiences with you, our friends and family. I didn’t share a single recipe or any lesson plans, but I shared our hearts and lives with you, and a little about the beautiful Pacific Northwest, our home. As far as I’m concerned, success!
Okay, clearly I neglected to list what was perhaps our most important goal of all! When I got to number ten and I didn’t see “family bonding” anywhere in my list, I thought there must be some mistake! It was our greatest achievement so I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t tell you how that turned out! Our family had been worn down by the military life. It’s an honorable life, one we have always been proud of, but it makes high demands on your inner strength and family relationships.
Ron left for Korea when Orange Hippie was just three years old. He and Heart Love had a well established bond that no distance could break but it was much more delicate for Orange Hippie. Daddy became a face on the iPad that we talked to everyday at 4:00 pm and we could carry him around, showing him different projects or just to find a comfy spot to sit and talk while he ate his oatmeal and drank coffee. We certainly know talking to him almost daily was a treat. Ron and I would go weeks without communication of any sort when he was in Afghanistan, but that was before having children. The girls needed their daddy, and we did the best we could to have him a part of our daily lives. But there was no doubt that not having him actually here was difficult.
It was also a big adjustment to have him come home, and to be there ALL the time. He didn’t even leave to go to work! All four of us all the time. It was great, and challenging at the same time. So, here we were a family that had finally adapted to being apart now adapting to being together, and hands down, being together is the better of the two but there was work to be done. Ron really had to be sensitive in reestablishing a real relationship with Orange Hippie. She was reserved with him and it took some time. Going on this journey as a family was perfect. We had minimal responsibilities, lots of time, freedom, enjoyment, laughs, reading, art, walks, and adventures together. It didn’t take long for Orange Hippie to reopen her heart to her daddy, for me to share parenting with him, and for Heart Love to start dressing like him (well, it’s true).
Us moving back home actually ended up being good timing because Heart Love was intent on “going to school.” She had never been to public school; her curiosity and the desire to be around friends were strong. Although we believe in homeschooling, we also believe in respecting our children and letting them learn through experience. In this case, she wanted to experience school. So far, it has been a great success. We do still homeschool Orange Hippie. She initially loved having us to herself all day and she particularly enjoys solitude so being the only child at home during the day has been good for her. And Ron, well, he gets to work from home now! And he loves it.
So, was it worth it? Yes! Was it a success? Yes! Will I ever finish blogging about the rest of the journey? Well, I hope so.