1 Week in a van with your family of 5 and scarce technology will teach you a lot. I booked a last minute family trip (within 2 weeks) to the California coast. I am not giving you a specific destination because truth be told, we did not have one! I booked 5 plane tickets to San Francisco leaving 7:10pm Christmas day 12/25/2017 arriving in San Francisco at 12am (3am Eastern Time). I reserved a room for the night and a camper van for the week! No destination(s) in mind, just the idea of being with my family without life's distractions in close quarters for as long as our current life will allow. We were due back in NJ New Year's Eve landing at 11:08pm! Crazy I know but SO amazing!
Yes, just like you I have "obligations" especially around the holidays. More of a reason to get out! I am what you call the ultimate scrooge this time of year. I was watching the Grinch and laughed because he quoted me "Commercialism, Materialism, blah blah blah..." Ha!!! Have I really become the Grinch? I started to question what the holidays are really about. For me every year it started to become a crazy race. Crazier then the daily rat race I am already living. I NEEDED AN OUT! And guess what, I freakin took it!!!
Life lesson 1: DO IT!!! When you feel the itch and have the energy that comes with inspiration, ACT ON IT! NOW, not maybe someday. I know what you are thinking, "it must be nice" or "if I could only pick up and leave" or "money" "time" "I have to be here" blah blah blah! All thoughts I had. You know what... If you want it that badly.... YOU WILL FIGURE IT OUT! So DO IT! Whatever "IT" is.. What are you waiting for? More time, more debt. more obligations? Let life lead you to what inspires you.
So after doing it and letting the road unfold before us without plans, reservations, destinations, and hardly any service or wifi what did I learn?
Life lesson 2: All I need is LOVE! Cliche right? But so freaking important and valid. The love that grabbed us and held us in that van is all we needed to get by. And some blankets for the cold nights and snacks. But the real lesson is, all I needed to do that week, that moment, was hold my growing boys tight and I was HAPPY! I mean really happy! I was freezing at times, dirty yes, hungry sometimes but it didn't matter... My happiness kept me alive and I was thriving!!!
Life lesson 2: Be in nature often. This is so important. Especially for us Urban/Suburban types. Our world is a beautiful magical place. We are nature and not separate. Sometimes our tiny boxes make us feel superior or give us the "walls" we desire to keep the "scary" stuff out, but man it is so important that you get out there and witness the beauty mamma earth presents first hand. Which brings me to my next discovery.
Life lesson 3: The Sun is something that should be worshiped! I rejoiced when that sun rose in the early hours of the morning, braving the 30 degree night temperatures. But also I could see again! Holy crap how we forget about how electricity supports our manic schedules. While on the road camping, we let the sun dictate our schedule. When he was up, we were up. When he was extra warm, we basked in it. When he went back over the horizon we went to bed shorty after. The SUN!! AHH thank you!!! I honor you!! For real!!!
Life Lesson 4: Make the stop. If you see something beautiful on the side of the road take the time to stop and enjoy it. I learned this lesson the hard way. Did we stop? Yes. Did we always stop? No. Do I regret not stopping... YES! I will never be back to that exact moment in my life looking over the cliff at the ocean. This lesson isn't just a literal one. Yes there are moments I regret not stopping and enjoying on our drive or hikes, but the real lesson is... where do you find the time to stop in your everyday life? What have you missed along your journey? Who knows! All I know is listen to your gut. If it calls you to stop DO IT!
Life Lesson 5: I do not need as much shit as I own to survive! I think this one explains itself. What can you unload and make your trip a little less heavy?
Life Lesson 6: Never wash our hair unless it is completely necessary in 30 degree weather while camping. Just saying. Life changer for me. WTF was I thinking?!
Lie Lesson 7: Let experiences be your gifts to your kids, not (just) material objects. My kids do not remember what presents they received any Christmases past! For real!!! I asked them. They can maybe remember 1 or 2 things, maybe, not clearly.. CRAZY! This trip is something that they will remember forever. Best Christmas present ever to the our family. I cried in the airport when we were leaving because I was so touched by the entire experience. My boys, instinctively gave me a group hug. They really are amazing!!
Life Lesson 8: Kids will adapt to any environment you put them in. Adults too for the most part, but my kids were like naturals. Every destination, every new environment: hot, cold, dark, windy, sunny, bathrooms, no bathrooms, cooking on the fire, snacks in the van, hiking, climbing, anything... they adapted! No questions, reservations, whining.. they just took our lead. I guess it seemed like we knew what we were doing. We just winged it and they followed along no questions asked.
Life Lesson 9: All families would truly appreciate and know each other fully if they slept together in 1 bed for a few nights. (Especially when body heat was essential for survival). We all have our rooms and walls and beds to keep us separate, which I highly value and adore, but man nothing like getting to cuddle every single one of your kids and husband all at once for a few nights to truly feel the collective love that your family shares. Yes I need space just like everyone else, and I am not recommending this to be a daily practice, but I never had the opportunity to spend the entire night for 5 nights in the same bed with my entire family. It was a beautiful experience.
Life Lesson 10: Keep seeking and experiencing adventures! Let your eyes stay wide like a kid in a candy store. Don't let the daily "stuff" trip you up. You can find adventures anywhere and everywhere. You don't have to shove your family in a van for a week, but I would totally suggest it! Adventures can find you in your own backyard. So go for it! Seek the adventures in your life that will bring you joy and excitement and take your kids along for the ride. It's so much fun and worth every second!