As of today (March 9th, 2021) it’s been 134 days, 9 hours and 56 minutes since I left this very place I now sit (Post Falls, ID) and headed out on the open road of my #covadical. After having sold/donated/gifted almost all of my belongings and leaving what little was left with my parents, I left feeling a little empty, scared, anxious and uncertain about what lay ahead. And yet I had a deep sense of faith that this was right choice…
Now, after nine States visited, eleven mountains snow boarded, seven pickleball tournaments played, 8000 miles of truckin’ & campin’, and countless laughs, adventures, stories, and memories it’s hard to believe that it all started just four months ago. It feels like four minutes and four years ago… all at the same time. And every once in a while, I feel like I was the recipient of at least four decades of wisdom and perspective.
As I sit here and reflect back on the journey, it’s difficult to put into words all of the experiences and impact of this amazing time. It’s really was won amazing story and experience after another! I’m tempted to follow that statement with, “some of the experiences were good and some of them weren’t” but the reality of each won of them was that it was the perfect experience for that moment in time and exactly what needed to happen to get me to the next step of my journey. Being able to look back and understand that alone provides an amazing and powerful perspective for EVERY day in my life.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a streak in my life where my days were more FULL of experiences than over the last four months. From the moment the alarm went off, to the last moments before my eyes closed, my days were full of life. Here are some of the things that stand out to me as I take this time to reflect.
1 – GRATITUDE: If you know me, hopefully, you would guess that this is the first thing that centers in my mind. The deepest feelings of gratitude and blessing for ALL THINGS – the good days and the challenging days and everything in between. Every. Single. Day. There were so many early mornings of writing in my journal where I was moved to tears for the deep sense of blessing and thankfulness I felt for the moments in life I was in the middle of experiencing.
And those feelings were caused by so many different things. From the new people and strangers full of kindness and wisdom I met along the way, to the long-time friends who welcomed me into their homes, driveways, parking spots, and ultimately their lives (more on this later). And there were also so many events and activities that provided amazing experiences and learnings as well. EVERY DAY was so different and blessed in its own very special and unique way. It was truly humbling and amazing to start my days being so aware and thankful for the people, places, things, activities, and sights I was able to experience and appreciate.
2 – RELATIONSHIPS: In this unique time of Covid and with all of the events politically, socially, environmentally and whatever else you would like to throw into the pot that has been the last 12 months, I believe now more than ever that RELATIONSHIPS ARE EVERYTHING. Hopefully, one of the greatest learnings/remembrances we will all have of this time of social distancing and lockdown will be how much we need and should value the people in our lives. It has been far too easy for me to let life get in the way of maintaining relationships. I was constantly reminded of how much they mean to me and I hope that my life doesn’t end with me regretting making more time for work/busy/tasks at the cost of time spent with those important to me.
With rare exception, every person I stayed/visited, I had known for at least 10 years – and that was the low end! Many had been friends/colleagues/teammates for 15, 20, 25+ years. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have those kinds of relationships in my life. The ability for me to learn WITH and THROUGH friends will forever be one of the greatest gifts in my life. There are so many amazing people in my life and I am thankful for you all!
While I had always planned to use the camper as an easy place to crash while traveling, it ended up providing the unique opportunity to become ‘a next-door neighbor’ which was amazing. I was able to share a much deeper experience of life with friends rather than merely passing through for a few hours and just meeting for dinner or a casual conversation. Instead, I was able to enjoy morning coffee, running errands, spending time with kids, working, laughing and telling stories while preparing/eating/cleaning for meals and creating some of the very best and most meaningful moments that I could never have imagined. While there were countless museums, attractions and activities that were closed due to covid, the very richest and most memorable experiences happened right at home.
While it’s still great to see social posts of people having fun with family/friends/activities, it’s not the same as being there with them. And once you have been there, I now look at my social feed with an entirely different feeling, understanding, and interest and truly pause to take in the moment, hear the sounds and see the expressions. The authenticity and vulnerability that was shared in those moments and places just can’t be replicated in any other way.
3 – UNCERTAINTY: As mentioned earlier, EVERY DAY was different and unique. From the places I would wake up each day to the experiences I would have and the people I would meet. I rarely knew what the day had in store. And on the days when I thought I knew, life would still throw unexpected twists and turns at me.
It was both exhilarating and sometimes terrifying and frustrating. It took some time and practice to let go of ‘always having a plan’ vs. letting the day show up as it will and adjusting as I went. There were several people along the way that had to talk me down off the ‘planning ledge’ and help me relax. It was a great time to practice setting an idea of ‘where’ I wanted to go that day and then letting faith show me ‘how’ I was going to get there. I also learned to get quiet in the mornings and listen to what God was telling me. I definitely don’t have this down, and yet trust that is always there for me. Sometimes I made it to my destination and other times, I found myself in an entirely different spot (physically, mentally, spiritually) but ALWAYS with a lesson/wisdom about how I got there – if I was willing to look for it.
I’ve always been a fan of keeping some type of routine to my life – especially in the mornings and evenings. And I really struggled with this over the last four months. I worked or felt into figuring out what was mandatory vs. what was optional and a ‘nice to have’. I hope that I’m now better at discerning what really provides value vs. what merely keeps me busy and comfortable. Journaling has been the WON HABIT that has meant the most to me.
Being able to adapt and problem solve was also a great practice and key skill that I got to work on. Let’s just say that there is a big difference between RV life at 70 degrees vs. 7 degrees! Learning new skills in new environments under new conditions always made life interesting like backing the big rig down a snowy road for a mile after bad GPS directions – FUN TIMES! I went from ankle tans and beach/sun bum to ski bum in a matter of days and transformed the truck from desert driving to snowcat and ski chalet. There is a reason for the saying, “Variety is the spice of life”… it definitely added tons of flavor and I got to live a very spicy life!
4: WANTS VS. NEEDS: While you could say that this lesson started before I even left Seattle when I sold/donated/gifted all of my belongings that wouldn’t fit in the camper, it was taken to new levels on the road – especially since I had never done anything like living on the road or out of a vehicle for an extended period of time!
Some of the very basic things I took for granted on a daily basis became a great sense of joy and something to look forward to while on the road. From things like a single outlet to hot water and a shower – some basic creature comforts go a long way on the road. Especially when you awake in a Walmart parking lot to a temperature of 3 degrees and frozen water pipes, no internet and no phone! And perhaps what I personally missed the most – a long hot shower! When I could find power and a shower, I was a happy camper! And of course the occasional dance party in Karen the Kamper…
These lessons also showed up in terms of how much space I really needed to be happy (not much), food I needed to eat (not really a foodie), clothes I needed to wear (weather was the key here), activities I needed to participate in, and people I wanted to talk with and/or see. I also found that my greater appreciation for the more basic conveniences of life lead to a greater appreciation and presence for and with ALL THINGS in my life. I’m sure I’ll be forever working on this and I know that it’s a practice that is absolutely worth the time. To everyone that shared deep and personal places with me, thank you.
5: WHO AM I AND WHERE AM I GOING? Speaking of time well spent, there has been so much digging into this topic. The last four weeks provided a unique cadence to connecting with long-time friends and looking into the lives and experiences of others and what they have created and value in their lives… and then I’d get in the truck and magically appear at a new destination. I’d spend several days in a place and get to see into the lives and places of friends and then spend hours on the road driving to the next place where I would have the opportunity to reflect on the previous week’s experiences and insights. I only half-joke that driving really became long hours in a therapy chair and an interesting thought to process the difference between being a passenger in my life vs. the driver – ZOOM ZOOM!
Being able to see into lives, relationships, and family places (single, divorced, married, 0,1,2,3 or 4 kids and ’empty nesters’) and in different places personally, politically, chronologically, professionally, and geographically was fascinating, inspiring, humbling and so valuable. It is one thing to be able to reflect and take stock of your own life but an entirely different exercise to be able to view, share and reflect with people close to you that have been friends for a very long time.
There were so many times where I felt like I was stepping out of the camper and into a parallel/alternate universe of what my life could have been like in some type of an alternate reality. I’m still not exactly sure how to describe those feelings even now as I sit here and think through it.
The last 12 months have been like my own holiday journey (especially Oct – Feb) that can maybe be best represented by the strange combination of the holiday classics Scrooged (complete with hilarity and crazy characters but instead of a crazy taxi ride, I’m in a Dodge Ram 3500 & camper) and It’s A WON-derful Life where both characters get to see their lives from so many different perspectives and possible outcomes.
And very much like both movies and the main characters, I ended with a deep appreciation for not only my life exactly as it is now, but also for the lives of all those I care about and how much they mean to me. Maybe Post Falls and Bedford Falls are closer than I could have imagined through faith, miracles, and the beauty of friends.
Remember, no man is a failure who has friends…Clarence the Angel
And this another day with tears of gratitude for my life and those I share it with. It definitely is a WONDERFUL LIFE!
And there are friends, and then there are best friends!
So maybe the last question might be is what’s next… Well, I can honestly say I don’t know right now. However, I recently ran across this quote from The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by Boyd Varty and I think it beautifully sums up how I’m looking towards my future… “I don’t know where I’m going, but I know exactly how to get there.”
Love, gratitude, joy and wisdom…