I’m writing this post from my dining room table while looking out the front window of our coach at a giant Organ Pipe cactus. A cool breeze wafts gently through our open windows on its way through the hall and back out our open screen door. Outside the screen door, our patio opens to more incredible views, and amongst them, the company of our good friends and fellow RVers, Tales from the Mutiny, with whom we’ve been crossing paths throughout the western half of North America for the past 8+ months.
If you ask me if Beth and I are “living the dream,” I can answer with an emphatic “YES!” — though the truth is actually much more complicated.
Life on the road is often incredible, beautiful, exciting, inspirational, almost never boring and, sometimes, it’s even cheap.
On the other hand, life on the road can also be tiresome (even grueling), expensive, wet, noisy, smelly, aggravating and, even though Beth and I love each other madly and travel with our two best friends, Hamilton and Sedona, it can also be incredibly lonely.
When you move around constantly, it can be very difficult to have and maintain a sense of community. Although we still do our best to keep in touch with friends and family, we seldom use FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts to video chat, so we actually “see” them very rarely. In fact, we may go months at a time without physically seeing anyone that we’ve known for longer than a few days.
It was just shy of a year ago when Beth and I first met Lynn and Clark Bonelli in Tucson, Arizona. I’d seen them check-in to a nearby park on RVillage and decided to reach out to see if we could meet for coffee. As it turned out, they liked coffee just as much as we did and an instant friendship was born. Turns out, they’d been full-timing for a year or so longer than us, but we quickly discovered that we were only a few weeks behind them as we raced from the east coast to South Dakota and then down to Arizona where we ultimately crossed paths.
Lucky for us, several other nomadic bloggers happened to be passing through Tucson around the same time, and our new friends from The Mutiny brought us into the fold and introduced us around over drinks, snacks and dinner on subsequent evenings. After more than a year on the road, in just a few short weeks in Tucson, we had the opportunity to eat, drink and commune with Tales from The Mutiny, Horton’s Travels, The Scenic Route, Aluminarium, LIve, Breathe, Move, The Snowmads, Technomadia, Imperfect Destiny, and 2 Wander Away, as well as our new friend Susan Harrigan. They would in turn introduce us to Jill Sessa (Jerome’s mom) and Marshall Wendler, Drive, Dive, Devour, Watsons’ Wander, Small House Big World and fellow hackers and makers, Lucie deLaBruere and Craig Lyndes.
For me, where before we felt alone in our travels, a real sense of community and belonging was developing.
Following those fateful meetings, Jason and Kristin Snow, and Lynn and Clark Bonelli would urge and encourage us to follow them up to Alaska for the summer, and along the way, we
dragged recruited Josh and Marie of Ardent Camper to join our trailing caravan into the wild.
While in Alaska, we got to net-fish and chill with Ardent Camper, smoke cigars with The Snows and The Mutiny, cavort about on glaciers, raft rapids in Gakona and catch salmon from the shore with The Mutiny and our new friends Jason and Nikki of Gone With the Wynns and Jeanette and Eric of JenEric Ramblings.
Fast forward to today. It’s 77ºF in Ajo, AZ. There’s a gentle breeze, and not a cloud in the sky.
Beth and I have been boondocking in the Sonoran Desert around Quartzsite, Yuma and Ajo, Arizona for the past six weeks in the company some of the most amazing people on this planet. Tomorrow, we’re moving to Phoenix to spend a week visiting with my mom, who we only get to see once or twice a year, then we’ll resume our travels around the southwest until it gets just warm enough for us to start our journey northeastwardly, with a rough destination of New England sometime around late summer.
Up until six weeks ago, however, “living the dream” was proving to be more of the grueling and expensive and less of the inspirational and fulfilling. Our trip to Alaska was completely amazing in every way, but it took a lot of time, a lot of money, and it definitely put some hard miles on our rig.
The weeks and months following our return took a pretty hefty toll on our emotional states as well. Although it was an absolutely incredible trip, and certainly some of the most fun I’ve had in my life, the last 6 months have involved many long, tough driving days on surfaces barely deserving of being called roads, which cost us a fortune at 5mpg and $8/gallon.
After breaking down hours from civilization in Yukon Territory on our way back through Canada, we limped our way back to the US, spent a bunch of money on repairs in Washington, then raced through Oregon towards Southern California to avoid the rain and cold weather that we knew would quickly follow. Although Beth and I love each other unconditionally, long driving days in nonstop rain with cold weather while hemorrhaging money can really put a strain on any relationship.
#Broken down. #Rainy day, alternator replaced, back on the #road… made it 15 miles before the engine shut off and we lost acceleration, power steering and power brakes. #Stuck straddling our lane, no shoulder, on the #AlaskaHighway south of #Whitehorse, YT. 🙁 #FML The good news? We still have Internet, so we can look at #catpics while waiting on the #cops and a #tow. #oyvey
A photo posted by Taylor Banks (@fuckyeahtaylor) on
By the time we’d made it as far as Orange County, I was feeling a bit beaten down, even broken, and although I was hopeful that some downtime in the desert would prove helpful, I wasn’t optimistic that it would be enough to pull me out of my funk.
Fortunately for us, we knew several of our new RVer friends would also be passing through the California and Arizona desert around the same time as us, and we planned to get together with as many of those friends as we could during our time there to try to reconnect with our newfound “community.”
The reality, however, was so much better than I could have expected, and what began as a sense of community with fellow RVers has evolved into what I can only describe as my extended nomadic family.
It’s hard to recount the camaraderie that’s transpired across the course of the past six weeks. We cooked, ate, drank, smoked, did yoga, hiked, played music and danced around the most epic campfires you’ve ever seen, and went off-roading to a solar powered bar in the middle of the desert that’s only open for a couple months each year.
We talked about all things arbitrary, we played Cards Against Humanity, we learned to make glass jewelry, play guitar and cook amazing gluten free and vegan food, we learned new ways to get into Bakasana and Astavakrasana, and we taught friends how to pick locks and start online businesses. We watched sportsball games and sci-fi movies, we started new business ventures, we traded books and electronics and kitchen gadgets and tasted a dozen varieties of gourmet coffee.
Although most of our crew have packed up and headed on their respective ways, looking back, I needed every single moment of our time together here. I needed every fireside chat, every yoga practice, every potluck dinner, every hike and every sunset. I hadn’t realized how much I’d unspooled as a result of our frantic dash across the country without our friends and family, and I didn’t know I was so close to the end of my rope until I started to try to reel it all back in.
I’m not really sure I can say I’m back to “normal” now, as I’m not sure “normal” is a good baseline for me. 🙂 However, I can say, without reservation, that the time spent with new friends these past several weeks was exactly the reset that I needed to keep from imploding.
Although too numerous (and perhaps, too shy or private) to mention each of you by name, you all know who you are. Our time together these past few weeks has made me whole again, refilled my reserves of gratitude, joy and inspiration, and given me the desire to go back out into the world and share in the experiences that started this journey in the first place.
Thank you for being you, and thanks for helping me find myself again.