A quick catch-up for those of you who are new here:
We moved out of our house in the suburbs of Chicago in April, put the contents of our life (other than what fits in our car) into storage, and set off for a year living as nomads around the U.S. We left at the end of April for southern California, and spent May, June, and July living in CA, OR, and WA. You can read more about the trip and where we’ve been so far here.
We just spent the last three weeks in August back “home” in Chicagoland (staying at Havarti’s parents’ house, which is the closest thing to a home that we have right now), and tomorrow we leave for Michigan.
The big burning question people have at this point is “How are you all doing?” I think people picture how fun but exhausting a two-week-long family vacation can be, and wonder how we’re all staying sane traveling for months. People also wonder how we’re handling not having our own home, the frequent major changes in living situations, and the constant togetherness.
All totally legit questions. I’ll try to take each one individually:
How are you all doing?
Generally speaking, we’re doing great. Like all families, we have our better and worse moments, but overall, everyone is happy about the trip. Even the girls, who were more reticent in the beginning, have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and say they’re really glad we’re doing it.
Are you exhausted?
Surprisingly, not really. The hardest days are the packing days. Those are exhausting. I’m a little wiped out right now, since we leave tomorrow.
As far as travel weariness, the roughest patch I personally had was in Seattle. That had nothing to do with Seattle itself, which was awesome and gorgeous. It was because our schedule thus far had looked like this:
Driving to CA – 3 days
Dana Point, CA – 4 weeks
Bakersfield, CA – 2 days
San Francisco, CA – 5 days
Oregon Coast – 3 weeks
Baha’i Camp – 1 week
Then Seattle. By that point, I was just done with the packing and unpacking and repacking and reorganizing. Packing to go stay someplace for a month is pretty easy. The short trips in between the longer stays were what got to me. By the time we got to Seattle, I had no motivation left to set up a “home.” Our routine went to pot, everyone seemed crankier than usual (not helped by the fact that two kids got sick during that time), and I was just in a not-great head space.
All things considered, it wasn’t that bad. I’m generally a very even-keel person, so my not-great is probably not that big of a deal to everyone else. It was more internal than anything. But the kids tend to reflect where I am emotionally, and the fact that I let any semblance of routine we’d had fall by the wayside resulted in a whole lot of whining (and way too much screen time).
For the rest of the family, the roughest patch was probably the Oregon Coast. We’d been visiting a lot of family in CA, and Oregon was the first place where we didn’t know anyone. Not only that, but there really wasn’t anyone around to even get to know. It was pretty lonely, and the girls started getting homesick. I was surprised it actually took that long (about six weeks after we left). They got past it pretty quickly, though.
BoyWonder’s rough patch was Seattle. Holy whiny four-year-old, Batman. He’s been ALL ABOUT this trip, and has handled the changing landscape beautifully, but Seattle was rough. I was trying to figure out if he was just out of sorts or growing or what, but then I remembered our kids’ pattern. Our kids don’t have the terrible twos. And the threes are generally delightful as well. All of our kids’ fit-throwing, mega-whining, etc. hits at four years old. They’re all so different, but that they have all had in common. Four is rough for us.
Thankfully, these three weeks back at Grandma and Grandpa’s seems to have helped quell some of that. I’m hoping we’re leaving the phase. It ain’t pretty.
How are you handling not having a home?
Surprisingly well, actually. Our kitchen in the Seattle condo was missing a lot of basics, so I had some daydreams about our own kitchen while we were there, but otherwise, it’s been alright. And the kids have transitioned beautifully from place to place. Much better than I anticipated.
I know a lot of people have said they’d like to do a trip like this, but they’d want to have a home base. I think there are some advantages to doing that, but for us, knowing we don’t have a home to go home to has made it easier to make a home on the road. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Think of it this way: If we still had our house in Grayslake, the girls would have been missing their room, their bed, their stuff, etc. But since all that stuff is in storage, and they don’t have a room, they don’t miss it. I mean, they might miss it in a past-tense kind of way, as always happens when you move, but they don’t miss it in the present. I feel the same way.
It’s also very freeing to not have a house to think about. We go into these vacation condos that are already clean and organized, and all we have to do is insert ourselves there with our limited amount of “stuff.” It’s quite liberating, actually. I mean, I’ll love having a house again when the time comes, but it’s nice to have a break from that responsibility.
How about the frequent changes?
I’m personally a big fan of change, so for the most part it’s been fine for me. It’s a little harder for Havarti, who is not as much of a fan of change. He does fine once we arrive someplace, but the packing up days really bug him. The kids have done well. The younger two in particular seem to not mind the frequent changes. Our eldest goes back and forth between liking the changes and not liking it. She’s got a little of both of her parents in her, I think. 🙂
I thought there would actually be more issues with this aspect of the trip, but it’s turned out to be kind of an exciting element for the most part. We’re all looking forward to our eastern places, so that’s a good sign.
And the constant togetherness?
Yeah, that’s been tough sometimes. Especially for the kids, when we were places without other kids to play with. Luckily, we had family and friends in most of the areas we went, but the Oregon Coast was hard. That’s also why Seattle was hard.
Thankfully, the places we’re renting for the next few months are much larger than where we stayed on the west coast, so being able to get some physical space from one another when needed will be helpful. We’re also staying for longer stretches, so we can get in touch with the local homeschooling communities to meet some other kids. We won’t know as many people on the eastern stretch, so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.
How about the long drives?
The long drives aren’t much fun. Especially with a whiny four-year-old. But who likes to drive for ten hours with three children, anyway? It’s like a slow and evil torture, no matter how many tricks you have to keep everyone happy. That’s part of the price we pay for these amazing experiences. 🙂
Really, one of the hardest things for me on the long drives is passing by all the cool things I want to do. We’ve come within an hour or two’s driving distance of at least a dozen major historical and natural wonders (Zion National Park! Bryce Canyon! Yosemite! Little Bighorn!) that we just couldn’t squeeze into the itinerary. That’s one disadvantage to the working-while-traveling thing. We have to coordinate the timing of the actual travel itself such that we can keep up our work schedules, which means we can’t do everything.
But it’s also so clear to me now that you can’t do everything anyway. Just California alone would take months and months to explore and do all the amazing things it offers. So we’re happy with what we’ve gotten to see and do. The other stuff will have to wait.
What’s cool is that our drive to Michigan tomorrow is only two hours. We’re not even going to know what to do with ourselves with that short of a drive!
So that’s how we’re doing. If you have any other questions about our travels thus far or forthcoming (or about anything at all, really), I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments. And thanks for being here, truly. It’s fun for me to think of you all traveling along with us.