Monday, June 9th, 2014
My husband and I had a bad year; one of those where two grandparents die two weeks apart, you become the executor to an estate overnight, you quit your really reliable long-term job for another, and then two months later get an unexpected layoff. It was terribly overwhelming; suffocating. I finally understood what it meant to be at rock bottom and want to give up on everything. I’m starting to recover, but in all of that life and death and transition I realized I wasn’t doing a whole lot of living anyway.
We’d spent the beginning of the year looking for a new house to buy, ready to settle in after renting for several years. By March, it started to feel like a massive commitment and one my fragile state wasn’t ready to make. I wondered what it would be like to just become vagabonds and live on the road. Really live, while getting as far away from my personal nightmare as possible. I presented the idea to my husband in jest, almost as if I were sharing a bizarre dream from the night before. He bought it instantly. I panicked. After a few days, we agreed to take off for the entire summer.
We’re calling it A Summer of Happy and the plan is to spend more time together, see more of our country, break out of our comfort zones, give our four-year-old daughter an education she’s not likely to find in a pre-k room, and simplify our life.
It’s insane, but I’m the only one who’s said that. None of our parents, friends, colleagues, or anyone else has held up a red flag, convinced us not to go, or questioned why we’d do it. Instead, we heard that people were proud of us, envious, jealous, and excited. “I want to pack up the family, get in the car and just follow you!!” wrote Jason Gordon on our blog. “The freedom and excitement of what you’ve decided to do is inspiring,” wrote Josie Maurer. Many supporters have reminded us that many people dream of doing this and that we should appreciate the fact that we’re actually in a position (and gutsy enough) to do it.
Once we both said yes, there was no turning back. By late March we’d set a departure date of May 22, the day after our daughter’s last day of preschool. That gave us roughly eight weeks to get ready. That process started with a massive purging of the house and an impressive moving sale. We took six trips to the local donation center. Friends were invited over to clean out the pantry and refrigerator in our final days. We terminated the lease on our house. We even sold our cars! As each thing left I was able to breathe and trust that we’d made the right decision.
We woke early on May 22, loaded the car with our few belongings, and drove the 526 miles in a borrowed SUV from Wichita, Kansas, to a rented vacation house in Denver, Colorado, that we will call home for 29 days. The entire drive felt like a party. We were in vacation mode, ready to get to our destination and start our adventure together.
When we walked in to this quaint little 1920’s home that we rented off a travel site online, I took the first real deep breath I’d felt in the better part of a year. After struggling with grief for the first time in my life while still being a mom, wife, and editor, trying to keep my head above water, I felt like I’d finally allowed myself to escape all of that and take the first real step toward getting back to me. I fell asleep that night whispering to my husband, “We absolutely made the right choice.”
After we finish our stay in Denver, we’re going to New Orleans, Disney World, Savannah, and ultimately Maine before turning around for Kansas sometime in September. We aren’t planning red-eye, drive-all-night routes because a little kid doesn’t have the capacity to sit for that long. Frankly, neither do we. We planned routes that keep us on the road no more than nine hours at a time. We’ll stay in one place no less than two days and as long as a month. We’re using local tourist guides, Pinterest, friend recommendations, and blogs to help us make this the most kid-friendly adventure we can put together while making sure we don’t miss any of the can’t-miss attractions, restaurants, and local scenes.
There are probably a lot of holes in our plan; I know for a fact there are gaping holes in our schedule. That’s all part of the adventure and what we’re calling “fun-taneous!” We want to figure out a lot of it along the way. I hope to meet more families like ours along the way and share with what we’re learning with friends and family. I want to get home, wherever that ends up being, and feel like myself again. I want to finish this ride feeling like the only fitting conclusion is to start planning the sequel. When our storage container is returned to us, I want to feel detached from most of the items inside. When we roll our final mile, I have no doubt that we’ll call this the best decision of our lives.
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