Rolling with the flow.
Van life has included so many things. The ups and downs and highs and lows and all the routine stuff in between. Life on wheels is still …..just……. l i f e, an exciting and twisting and stunningly beautiful and God help us, sometimes boring, roller coaster. So, although I’m unemployed and moving around, essentially on an extended vacation (something I’ve never done before, btw), I’m still navigating life as I always have, as myself.
And the thing about being me is it’s not like floating a lazy river on a hot summer day. It’s more like climbing up a cascading waterfall before plunging into an irresistibly deep pool. I stand on the edge wanting to jump but being too scared to do it. I struggle to let go of perfection and just relax and go with the flow. I form attachments quickly and often resist goodbye’s. I hang on.
Sound familiar? A lot of you probably know what I’m talking about, but there’s a voice in my head that says I’m not saying anything original here…. There are a million ways to be awesome and sometimes I forget to write down just one of them and remember it. So I’m stuck telling my stories that all sound the same to me….;)
Living on the road means we’re constantly in a state of transition. It’s a steady stream of both closures, but also beginnings. The only constant is in letting go, with gratitude, and moving on.
You’d think going with the flow was easy for me, considering my decision to move into a 27-year-old van and drive to Mexico then half way across the country and then up to Alaska. But, it’s not always; it takes an effort. Just ask my boyfriend. I deal with anxiety on a regular basis and embracing the unknown doesn’t come naturally or easily to me. Stress does though! It comes and goes like the tides. Predictable, but not always there. I’m a worrier. I worry about getting to the next place. I worry about the depth of the water, the future and little things like a toothbrush out of its place or a wrong turn because we’re following stupid GPS’s on our phones.
So, van life holds valuable lessons for me. I get to struggle through present moment awareness at every turn; an opportunity to choose to embrace each moment, however terrifying or new or sad or awesome, rather than worry about the next. And isn’t half the thrill of going anywhere just to see where you might end up?
The freedom to go where we want when we want has afforded us the time to make the most impressive connections in the most incredible places.
Recently, we hiked into ancient cliff dwellings in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness, drove up steep mountain grades and narrow, winding roads with the most scenic vistas in Arizona, slid down natural rock water slides in Sedona and camped along the way with some of my new favorite people on the face of the planet. Our van started sporadically blowing smoke out the tailpipe, and I definitely wondered sometimes if something would actually break before we got to Texas or even before we made it to see the gritty, alt-country Drive-by Trucker’s show in Flagstaff, but we made it, and I was thankful for that. It’s the small things. Well, actually, that’s pretty huge. And now we’re in Texas and that’s REALLY HUGE!
I also just got to spend two precious weeks with my sister and new nephew, her family and with my mom on the Oregon coast. My family means the world to me and the world feels bigger when they are far away. Living on a tight budget and not knowing how much money we’re going to have to throw at the van before we make it to Alaska for work can be stressful enough. But driving in the opposite direction of my sister and her brand new baby was enough to tear my heart out. We had enough money for me to buy a round-trip ticket home and my almost two-week stay was enough to restore my energy in our travel plans.
On our way to Texas, Michael and I stopped in Albuquerque to visit some of his oldest friends and we ended up staying five days meshed into their busy lives. We ate New Mexican chilies, played soccer with their kids, dropped the youngest one off at school, went to the bookstore and pet store together. Totally ordinary things that were all so exciting with them! We drank black lemon tea from their recent trip to Israel with homemade honey from their backyard bees, swapped travel stories with their children and impressed them with our van. It was definitely sad to go.
It’s hard to move on when we are having such a good time. Luckily, our van is our home, our happy place and packing up to hit the road is comforting too. I’m learning to be more flexible, letting go of the need to be in control of everything, to be more relaxed and roll with the plans whenever they transpire……
The quality of the imagination is to flow and not to freeze. –Ralph Waldo Emerson