“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that the best thing about me was I was organized.”― Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
You know how sometimes you are watching a tv show & the main character suddenly turns to the camera & speaks directly to the viewers? I feel like that is this latest post- an interlude or pause where I step out of the story & speak directly to you.
Here we are in December and our year of wandering and wondering has been quite adventurous so far. However, you wouldn’t know that if you were only following this blog. It seems hard for me to believe that I haven’t posted on here in over two months. When I began this blog, I set a goal of writing daily & posting twice a week. Ha!
About a week into our travels, I couldn’t seem to shake this feeling that I
was coming up short, was behind on things, needed to do more. Do you know that feeling? I knew it well. It is the hallmark feeling of the “rat race” that I was hoping to leave behind. Yet, instead, I had invited it along on this journey.
I consider myself a planner. I love to map out my day, weeks months. My iCal is color coded for each family member so I can clearly see who needs to do what, when. Before we left Fort Worth, I had the first leg of our journey mapped out- the distances I would drive each day, routes we would take, sites we would visit, where we would stay each night, fun points of interest along the way, where we would meet up with Tom at the end of the week and a daily lesson plan for Aidan’s schooling.
However, we didn’t even make it out of Fort Worth before the schooling plans hit several glitches. Then the following day we wanted to travel further down the road, but we were already locked into a prepaid hotel. Later that week we had extra time to kill due to rainy weather. Finally, we ended up needing to drive longer than we expected due to torrential rain storms in order to reach Tom in North Dakota. Best laid plans… It was clear that flexibility was going to be my new mantra.
As week one drew to a close, I thought, “that was a fun ride!” “Now what?!” “Where do we go from here?” and “Who is going to plan what’s next?!”
I realized we had been so busy living out the plans I’d made, that I hadn’t allowed any time to schedule what came next. So much for being a good planner…
It was clear that I needed to change a few things. Here are a few of the lessons I learned to apply these last several months:
- Take this journey one day at a time. Woah! This was a radical concept for a type A organizer. I knew we had reservations to be in Yosemite at the end of September and the ultimate date we wished to end this western leg of the journey, but I was now going to just loosely plan a route for the next months to get us there and take it a day at a time to map out our drive and parks we would visit. This was an incredibly freeing concept. I could feel the pressure drop as soon as I accepted this go-with-the-flow approach.
- Enlist help. Since Tom was primarily joining us on the weekends and for a few extended longer trips, I was the only adult most of the time. However, I could not nor should I attempt to make all of the decisions. This year was about Aidan. I realized that he needed to play a larger role in plotting out our days. He quickly mastered the Hotels.com and Roadtrippers apps. Since I am so picky about the hotels we stay in, he learned to sort through the reviews and help to find us a place to stay. We used Tripadvisor to evaluate how to best spend our time in the National Parks and to source the best place for dinner each night. Waze was our go-to navigational app. We became huge fans of crowd-sourcing apps such as these. I also used my Facebook friends to help guide me to the “can’t miss” places as we headed west.
- Stop letting comparison kill my contentment. Although we had prepared for this trip for quite some time and I had read countless travel guides and family blogs, nothing really prepares you for day-to-day long-term travel. I learned to accept that our journey would not look like other families’. First of all, most of the U.S. families on the road were traveling in an RV, stayed in one place for weeks or months at a time, and had both parents full-time on the journey. While I was grateful for the suggestions & help of others, we were on our own adventure and we needed to chart our own direction. I also let the obligation of blogging daily go. I managed to post our latest escapade to Instagram & Facebook, but writing detailed posts would just have to wait until we took an extended break.
- “Don’t let your boy’s schooling interfere with his education”– Mark Twain– I knew we wouldn’t be having a traditional home school experience, in that I never intended to have a set time each day to “do school.” I chose curriculum that we could self pace. I imagined Aidan would work on his formal education while we were on the road and load up on the days we spent longer in the car. In my head, this meant that we would have some days of school & some days where there was no “formal” education. However, I grossly underestimated the cell coverage in the U.S., outside of urban areas. The math curriculum relies on internet or 3G service, which were spotty at best as we traveled west. We also realized that that the science curriculum was just not conducive to travel, due to the items needed for experiments. Lastly, I realized I hadn’t purchased the teachers manual for the Spanish curriculum, so I had no idea if Aidan was answering correctly or not. He assured me he was mastering it! 🙂 Our history & English curriculum were about the Westward Expansion and exploration of the United States, so we had that success going for us. All in all, I wasn’t feeling real confident about the educational path we were on.
Then I took a step back & examined how we were spending our days- interacting with strangers from all walks of life, seeing first hand what good & bad customer service looks like, exploring the geology, history, geography, ecology, & anthropology of our lands, examining the effects of man on the environment, studying the stars in the darkest of skies, seeing first-hand the glories of God each day, watching wildlife in their natural environment, listening to the stories of the Park Rangers and museum curators, persevering when plans fell through, and connecting what we read in our books to the places and people before us. We were both learning- a lot, just not what a typical 8th grade scope & sequence said we should be covering.
- Be Present– I had read Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist early on & planned to apply her advice as often as possible- to love the people I’m with, to celebrate the simple moments, and to say yes to the things that thrill.
“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.”- Shauna Niequist Honestly, the simple things of our days often felt fairytale like and sacred as we went along. We learned to be flexible to new plans each day, allow for the weather to determine our plans, adjust to our energy level, seek adventure, and enjoy the journey, as cliché as that may sound.
- Have fun– Laugh often, sing out loud, don’t sweat the small stuff, be kind to all we meet, tip well, engage strangers in conversations (people have incredible stories), forgive bad service, grasp the teachable moments, literally take the road less traveled and always remain in awe of the wonders we have been privileged to see.
And so it is that I return you back to the original program- sharing the stories of our journey, hopefully in a more timely manner. Thank you for your support and following along. More adventures to come as we wander and wonder…