The Gift of the Huacachina Dunes
In vast, open spaces the wind hums across the sand, singing to the heavens above. The grains leap into the air and swirl around his toes, fingers, cheeks, and finally the curls of his hair.
His face sparkles with tiny reflections as the glittering sand grasps the last hints of daylight. I strain my ears to capture the tiny, whispers that drift from his lips.
“My favorite part of Christmas is this. The sun, the sand, the outdoors.”
He doesn’t know I heard him. He wasn’t speaking to me. I stole his secret and stored away his poetry in the brightest corners of my heart.
I thought history wasn’t for kids. I thought it wasn’t for me either. Even my husband will say how much he loathed history classes in school.The Inca Palace ruins in Peru teach us something different. History is more than a faded photograph, or a story in a book. History is alive. It is all around us and it is beautiful. History is tangible and touchable, and dare I say lovable. History is a lot like art. It is about perspectives and interpretations, even imagination and creativity.
Colors of yellow and orange drift through the sky reaching out their stems to clutch one last ray of glistening warmth. Daylight seeps from the heavens through the growing stretch between the sky bound branches. Beneath our feet, crackle the fallen pigment-free remnants of a bygone summer. Forever discarded like crumbled brown paper bags after the final lunch bell rings.
These are my memories of autumn, the thoughts in my mind of a place I’ve called home for most of the years of my life. The days I missed most when I lived as a singleton for 8 years in California. The only time I have yearned for Iowa during our time in Ecuador.
Autumn is also the season of birthdays. Not just my own, but for three quarters of my family. Over three weeks, three of us count one year more between September and October. And this season we will complete the first cycle of all our birthdays on the road.
Birthdays, just like holidays, are a strange phenomenon while living abroad. The oddity is only exaggerated as nomads. I suppose this is just a growing pain and in time we will find the rhythm of how to celebrate these sacred days of our lives. For Carlos and I there is no big tragedy. We are one year older, hopefully one year wiser, and gleefully one year better traveled. Festivities and presents have long since ranked high on our list of priorities.
But, when you are 5, the story is written a bit differently. Or so we thought. Our daughter didn’t ask for much this year, she usually doesn’t. We instilled in her from very young that celebrations are not about gifts. But, in the same stroke we have taught her that these precious moments are about people and experiences. Even after just 6 months of travel, all of us have more friends than we have ever had. Friends from more corners of the world than we could ever imagine. Friends that we have made in just one day, one week, or even over a month. Friends that we will carry in our hearts near and far, even if we never see them again. Yet, they are friends that are everywhere but here.
We moved into a small cabin at our hostel the night before our daughter’s birthday. The place is charming and homey with more space to jump around for our little ones. We filled the rooms with balloons and piñatas, and ordered a special pink cake. Our daughter proudly wore a hand embroidered, indigenous blouse made by a good friend of ours. A couple of local kids came to play and celebrate. But, the mood was strange and her obvious discomfort hung thick in the air. After an hour she retreated from the festivities, saying she’d had enough.
Not sure what to make of it, we let her be. Allowing her to spend the rest of the day lost in her sketchbook. In the evening, she spoke to me. In Spanish, actually. As if this special language was the safest way to package her disdain. She quite literally told me that she did not like her birthday. I swallowed my tears and bravely asked her what it could have been, what would have made for a birthday that she loved?
What came next, I never saw coming. She calmly and quietly whispered the words of her wishes. She said that she wanted a house, one with her very own room in it. One that was close enough to walk to her Grandpa’s. My stomach sank to the floor. Dread filled my heart and my mind raced in circles wondering what mistake we had made. Had we misread her, misjudged her, misunderstood the flourishing accomplishments she gained through travel?
Blinking back my concerns, I quickly reached out and pulled her into my arms. We talked that night about her old room, about Iowa, about all her old friends, her cousins, and her Grandpa, too. We reminisced on her favorite library and her favorite park, too. We talked about the pumpkin patch and trick or treating, which we don’t celebrate here. We laughed about how the Spring season here does not make it feel like birthday time at all. Then we ate a bowl of fruit loops in bed…a food we virtually never eat anymore…and watched Christmas movies in October while listening to a hail storm that sounded like an April tornado.
Just before we said our good nights, I saw the wanderlust twinkle in her eyes. She asked me about the place in the travel magazine on my nightstand. A foreign and unimaginable destination called Athens. She said that she would like to visit the place where people use real chopsticks. Then, she asked me if the lands in “The Sound of Music” were a real location, and could we visit there? I told her that we will see all of them one day, and I truly believe we will.
I laid awake all night, thinking about birthdays and nostalgia, symbolism and expectations. Why do we put so much stress on ourselves to make a birthday just right? When was it that as a society, we started planning festivities and stopped asking our children about thoughts on their lives? Even at the innocent age of five, a child can reflect on times gone by. She can dream of the future. She can live in the moment. She can tell you exactly how she would like her day to be.
Maybe we did not give her a house with her own room. Maybe she didn’t really want that at all. But, perhaps she did need permission to remember and to miss the past. It could be that she has been afraid to forget it. Maybe we are wrong to dismiss our prior life in lieu of the excitement of our new one. Perhaps this day was a hint that it’s okay to be homesick. An important reminder to remember where we came from. And a heavy reality check on our views of a so-called birthday culture.
Are We Nomads??
Are we nomads? Are we hippies? Vegabonds? Gypsies? Travellers? Worldschoolers? Maybe a little bit of some, less of others, and not enough of any to be defined by a single one. This is the point of this existence: to reach beyond the scope of ordinary labels. To be UNDEFINED. To reach a level of personal understanding when the branches of our existence can no longer fit into a box.
Only Kindness Matters: Hospitals and Hospitality in Ecuador.
Kindness. By definition: character marked by ethical characteristics, pleasant disposition, and a concern for others. Compassion, generosity, hospitality, tolerance, understanding, philanthropy, unselfishness.
Only Kindness Matters
There is a song that was a favorite of mine, many years ago when I was a much younger girl. A song that echoes through my mind today. And it is a song that I know was meant for me to remember on a day like this. “In the end only kindness matters. In the end only kindness matters”, “If I could tell the world just one thing, it would be that we are all okay”,”For light does the darkness most fear”. While the lyrics to this song by Jewel has resonated with me for a long time, it is now when I understand the profound implications of the words.
Kindness is not a matter of simply not being bad. To not be bad, does not make one good. And to be good, does not necessarily make one kind. Kindness is more than a smile, congeniality, or even friendliness. Kindness is something that I do not believe I have truly witnessed until the passing week. In a place of total unfamiliarity and in moments of shock and despair.
It is a long story, of one that shouldn’t not have twisted into the chaos that it did. Of ocean breezes and sticky sand, frozen treats and seafood. Bare toes in the surf and wild hair tangling in the mist. And then, restless nights of intense discomfort and utter confusion. Our baby fell sick, the victim of a mindless intruder that invaded his tiny soles on a quick barefoot jaunt into the village center. It took the better part of a week for us to discover an alien creature crusading through the crevices beneath his skin.
It was utter horror to comprehend. A living parasite who had claimed a new home in our youngest one. Like an angry red vein, it tormented him all moments of the day and night. And then, finally the tolerance of his little body screamed outrage at the unimaginable. In the middle of the night, his foot puffed up like a little balloon and erupted into tiny bubbling blisters and seeping ulcers.
We quickly understood that this situation had turned serious and needed more aggressive attention. Long after midnight on a Saturday night, we shuffled through the sand to load our sleeping children into the back of our caravan. Nowhere near modern treatment, we had no choice but to start a dark journey to the nearest city for emergency care. And then, just 10 minutes into what should have been a two- hour drive…the car stalled out and betrayed us in the middle of the night. This is why we never drive at after dark. Because things like this happen. Broken down trucks in unfamiliar rural areas with two small children are exactly what we hope to never encounter. Scary enough to have a sick child in a foreign country. Nerve racking to have a car failure in the night hours. Total derailment for them to happen together.
The Cycle Begins
This where the chain of kindness began. The one that set a fire of protection that would guide and cradle us through the next five days of disruption. With no one else to call, nowhere to turn, my husband called the only real contact we had in the area. The owners of our campground. It was immediate, no hesitation whatsoever. As if we were one of their own, they pulled themselves from their slumber at 2 am to rescue us from our roadside failure. There was nothing to, nowhere to go, no other solution to be had. We collected all our valuables from the vehicles, huddled our kids into another car and returned to our tent to wait for morning. We had to leave our car, our home, the vital organ of our adventures. We tried not to make a scene of it, not entirely sure that we would ever see it again. We imagined it would disappear somewhere into the Colombian jungle just a few hours beyond the border.
We really didn’t sleep that night, but instead counted the minutes until sunrise. We scrapped up a few snacks, kissed our dogs goodbye, and loaded ourselves onto the first bus out of town. It was a two-hour drive at least, before we made it to the nearest suitable hospital. We passed by our car, still on the side of the road. Carlos hopped out to grab the registration papers and crossed his fingers that it would still be there later that afternoon.
Half way into the drive, a phone call came in. It was a favor to us, from an acquaintance of my mother in law. A little help from the fire department in Esmeraldas, the city we were headed to. I thought perhaps a quick entry at the emergency room. We were all grateful to not bear an extended stay in the waiting room. But, it was much more than that. There was an ambulance enroute, to pick us up off the bus and shuttle us to the hospital. It was quite the spectacle and our children found great amusement in the adventure. Our son was quiet and wide-eyed as he lain in the stretcher getting examined.
Arrival at the hospital was a bit unnerving from the start. I couldn’t understand what was being said, decisions being made, conversations between medics about our son. It was all happening too fast for my husband to translate. And in a moment, I was swept off with our daughter, in the opposite direction. I was in absolute panic trying to cope with my son being rolled away without me next to him.
My daughter and I fidgeted in the waiting area for what seemed like eternity. I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying to me. My brain couldn’t focus on language. I just wanted to know what was happening with my baby.
After about 30 minutes, my husband poked his head out from behind the restricted doorways. He quickly mumbled something about our son being admitted for 7-10 days. I could hear a child screaming in the background. I couldn’t distinguish if it was our baby or not. I thought Carlos was joking, trying to relieve the tension. But, then the doors slammed close again and it all sunk in.
7-10 days? What in the world was going on? I still didn’t have an information about what the diagnosis was or the treatment plan.
Awhile later I was able to get into the ER where Nico was being held until his bed order was completed. It was then that I understood he was being kept for treatment of Cellutis, a bacterial skin infection. I was also told that our daughter would not be allowed to enter or stay in the Pediatric Unit. My head swirled, trying to figure out how our family was going to function through this mess. If Mabelle couldn’t be there, one of us parents couldn’t be either. Where would the half that wasn’t admitted go? What were we supposed to do without each other? I had never spent a night away from either of my children. EVER. What about our dogs, who were a 2-hour bus drive away? What was going to happen to our car? It was all very overwhelming and seemed like an impossible scenario. A total nightmare.
Eventually a nurse came through, who could help us get Mabelle at least upstairs while we completed the admission process. We got to the nurse’s station and were pretty devastated by the news. Carlos would need to stay overnight with Nico, as my Spanish was just not up to par for decent communication. Mabelle and I would need to find somewhere to stay the night. At this point, I thought I might have a panic attack. We don’t know this city, don’t speak the language well. Don’t have a car or a clue about safe a neighborhoods or bus routes. How in the world was I going to manage this without my husband?
A Safe Haven
A few moments of chatter ensued at the Nurses station. Several quick exchanges of eye contact. Sounds of sympathy. And then my husband told me what was happening. One of the Nurses was asking if we would accept an invitation to stay at her house, for the night until we could figure out the rest. My husband’s eyes teared up and I burst into sobs. Both for the sadness of separation and for the shock of such hospitality.
This was a woman we had only met just five minutes earlier. She didn’t offer to show us a good hotel, to give a ride to the bus station, or even to join her family for a casual meal. She provided us with the option of a safe, comfortable place to stay and sleep.
And so we did. Mabelle and I joined the woman, and her family, in their home. It was truly a saving grace, so much so that I can’t even allow myself to imagine what might have happened if she hadn’t. Carlos stayed that night in the hospital, and my son the first night in his life without his Mama.
Angels Times Two
The next day my husband had a meeting with the chief of the fire department, to discuss what to do about the broken-down car. They made arrangements for the car to be moved off the street where we left it, and to schedule a time for repairs with the Fire Department’s own mechanic. They talked a bit with my husband about our unique situation; the awkwardness of our family being separated.
By the end of the morning, the Chief had all but insisted that Carlos and Mabelle should stay the night at his house, until the predicament was over. Yes, another complete stranger, opening the doors to his own home to shelter our family in our time of need. Of course, we accepted. And for the next several nights, I stayed at the hospital with Nico and our other half safely slept at the house of the Chief.
Another Helping Hand
As if two angels weren’t enough, on the second day after admittance to the hospital, a woman brought us a sack full clothing for our entire family. We only had what we were wearing on the day of our arrival. And we were quite honestly freezing, walking around a frigid hospital in shorts, tank tops, and flip flops.
The woman was the grandmother of a boy who shared the room with Nico. She has no incentive to do so, but she had gone home and scoured her closets for clothing that would fit all of us. I still can’t figure out she managed to know our perfect sizes…I guess that was just the grandmother in her. But, to have warm and clean clothing was one of the greatest comforts we could have received for our extended stay.
After just 5 days in the hospital, we were approved for discharge. Our son had recovered remarkably well and in faster time than expected. We were overjoyed to escape the hospital and move on with our normal daily life. We found it quite interesting that more than once doctors gave credit to his strong immune system, as a direct result of being unvaccinated.
We stopped vaccinating Nico after 18 months of age. We declined the recommended (but not required) vaccines for entering Ecuador. We don’t talk about it much, due to public controversy. We believe the choice is a personal one and tolerance for all views is important for a peaceful society. But, for us, it was fascinating tidbit, to hear doctors openly talk about the pros of being vaccine free. It was a total win that offers validation to our decision.
Returning to Camp
The day we were set to check out, the firemen kept true on their promise. They took Carlos (and Mabelle) on the long trek back to the car. They helped him get to their mechanic and completely repairs within the same day. Incredibly, they refused to accept any payment from him whatsoever. He was able to return, with the car in running order, just about an hour before Nico was released.
By the time we reached our campsite, it had been almost 6 days since we had left our doggies behind and our stuff all in a mess. We were stunned to discover that all of our belongings had been collected and placed with care inside of our tent. All of our valuables, like the fancy camera and our laptop, had been stored with a neighbor for safekeeping.
The campground hosts and campers, had all taken care of our distressed dogs together. Fed them, watered them, comforted them, even went for walks with them. Despite that, Dante was coughing from some sort of dog bronchitis. And Joey was dehydrated and exhausted from the trauma of our separation. We were agonized to learn that he had literally walked the town day and night, every day, in search for us.
Our son has since completed treatment for the parasite and has fully recovered from the Cellutis. We are still learning how to live with and adapt to his post-recovery diagnosis of Ponfolix (a rare form of blistering eczema). We will soon be changing our coastal route, to help him heal. Dante was given antibiotics to recover from his cough. Joey had a few rough days that we wondered might be his last. But, after lots of love and water, he too has made a full recovery. He never lets us out of his sights.
So many times, we have asked ourselves, how could we have still been so lucky when everything was going so wrong? Why were so many people so willing to offer such generous displays of kindness? How did it happen that we were swept up in this realm of positive energy and protection, when we needed it the most? How can it be, that this place in Ecuador, was the very place we were warned most about? The very place, where is seems we found the best people in the world.
I personally, have wondered to myself: would I have been so kind? Would I have helped others the way that helped me and my family? Am I willing to protect the innocent: even when they do not speak my language, share my skin color, or belong to my culture? Not being a bad person, does not necessarily make us a good one. And being a good person, does not automatically makes us kind. Kindness is something much bigger than my previous concept of it.
The truth is that I don’t know if I would have been as kind as others have been to us. I don’t know, if in this situation, where helping was probably both difficult and inconvenient…that I would have done the same. I cannot honestly state that I am as good as these people are. But, my eyes, my heart, and my perceptions of the world have been permanently altered. I have learned a valuable lesson about what it means to be human. To always treat others as you hope to be treated. To always love, to always hope, to always believe in good things. To always give a lot because it is impossible to have nothing to give.
In regards to this situation, my mother-in-law said something that has really stuck with me.
“Those that give, do so because they want not because they have.” These words of wisdom, I know must be the truth. These people were the epitome of what kindness means. They gave us everything they had, with zero expectations. They gave, not to impress, but for the pure desire to help. They rescued us because they wanted to.
I hope that from this day forward, we can find the courage to live our lives in the same way.
After 90 Days of #Vanlife
Have we really been on the road for 3 months?! There is so much to see, do and experience in Ecuador! I think we easily could have made the first country on our indefinite road trip, a half year stretch. Mountains, highlands, volcanoes, lakes, rain forests, and beaches! It is mind boggling that Ecuador is not bigger on the radar for international travel.
Most of the places, villages, festivals, and people have impressed us. We have come to appreciate with the culture, creativity, and friendliness. So glad that we chose Ecuador as the place to begin our #vanlife.
Adjusting to a new life of full time travel has certainly come with a load of its own lessons! We have learned a lot about ourselves and our travel preferences.
A New Routine
Incredibly, we have a stronger routine with #vanlife than we ever did living in a house. In both our homeland and our expat land, we never had strict rules about bed times, bath times or meal times. We still don’t have “rules” but we have quickly fallen into a well-oiled routine. What is interesting about this routine is that it has nothing to do with a clock!
We are awed by the short amount of time that it took our bodies to find a legit circadian rhythm. Our entire life has now completely adapted to the cycle of the sun. When you spend virtually all your time outdoors, it is easy to see how this is the healthiest and most natural way to allot time.
All of us enjoy so much more of our day when we relish in every minute of the 12 hours of sunlight we are granted. There is so much time to explore, relax, converse, play, and digest. With the setting sun, the yawns sneak in and we nod off barely before the stars are twinkling in the sky.
Food for Thought
I have always loved to cook, and I had these wild dreams of wowing my family with spectacular gourmet, campfire meals. My imagination suggested that we would come with all sorts of incredible and creative ways to prepare meals.
Fast forward one month. It was obvious that campfire cooking in rain, high altitude, and cold were a bit more complicated than I thought. We struggled to get water boiling or fully cooked meats on our tiny, coal burning grill. We ate many under-cooked pancakes. The dogs ate countless pots of undesirable rice. Not to mention, more than a few nights (and mornings) with grouchy kids that were hungry for longer than a reasonable amount of time! We ate a LOT of fried eggs.
A Surprise Solution
Our saving grace was the day we went to Saturday market in a neat village called Alausi. My husband caught sight of man selling gas stove tops. These are typically seen on the streets and are used by street food vendors.
It is are a very primitive stove top, with two burners and a rack that sit on legs about 6 inches high. The industrial-grade burners are attached with a tube to a propane tank. Normally, on the street they are attached to a waist high cart that people either set up or pull to their desired location. We didn’t need the cart, just the top to set on the ground or on a picnic table when available. The whole kit and caboodle came at the mere price of $30!!
The stove is so incredible, that it boils water in just a few shorts minutes. I have no problem making a roast, soup, pancakes, or pretty much anything. The stove was a total game changer and it works better than any modern stove I have ever used in my life! Now, I am back to cooking exactly the same way I always did before our #vanlife began (when we had a house and an actual kitchen). We carry both the stove and the propane tank on top of the truck with a couple of bungee cords.
Setting the Pace
1500 miles over 90 days seemed like a reasonably slow pace to us. We never rush through areas that we love, and we usually avoid spending more than 3 hours in the car every day. This is not the Amazing Race, nor do we wish it to be. We are fine with staying somewhere for a week more or even a month longer than we planned.
Originally, we estimated that our journey through South America might take us somewhere between 2.5-3.5 years. This was calculated by spending 2-3 months in each of the 12 countries and 3 territories on the continent. So far, we are looking at over 4 months just in Ecuador before we complete the country. At this pace, if we spend 4 months in each country/territory…this trip will take us more like 5 years! We are okay with that. As slow as we have been going, we are exhausted.
It has been difficult to learn what a reasonable daily pace is. I mentioned earlier, that we go from sun up to sun down. Even without any set time frame or itinerary, we find it quite difficult to just sit still for a day. We are just so eager to see and experience each place for all that it’s worth!
Sometimes, t can be hard to accept that we simply cannot do and see everything that we want to, and we are still inclined to try. With nothing to get in our way, like jobs or school, we have no real reason to stop exploring on any given day. Down time seems like a waste of time, but I imagine eventually we will find more ways to cherish quiet moments at the camp site.
Wild and free camping has not been as accessible as we once hoped it would be. Remote roads are often both unreliable and un-mapped. This makes it a little difficult to just go off on any old dirt road to set up camp.
When we have asked for maps, people look at us like we are asking for the original ten commandments. They just are not common here in Ecuador. We have still managed to squeeze some awesome 4X4 experiences, but usually at the guidance of someone who had trodden there before.
So, instead of winging it like we hoped, we have come to rely on an awesome phone app called iOverlander. It is a bit like searching for a good restaurant by the reviews and a map of the checked in location. But, instead of restaurants, it is a compilation of locations added by other overlanders.
App Over Maps!
This means that other people traveling by road, pin locations and detailed information about where they have been able to either park their rig or camp. Normally the information includes stuff like if the place has wifi, running toilets, hot showers, or potable water. It also includes recommendations for the size of vehicle you have, if the place is dog friendly, and if 4 X 4 is necessary.
Often, there is also an expected price range. Sometimes the places are parks, parking lots, schools, or restaurants. Other times, they are private residences or hostels (small hotels with shared bathrooms and communal kitchens, almost like a Bed’n’breakfast, but without any services beyond check out cleaning).
The adjustments we’ve had to make have all been reasonable. Most of them had to do with inexperience and a small learning curve that we had not been exposed to yet. While, they may not be quite what we had in mind; we have adapted. A big part of full time travel is exactly that. Being adaptable.
There are not too many things that are “familiar” in this lifestyle. It is super important that things like food, pace, and accommodations are somewhat predictable, when nothing else is. Our car and our tent are our home, that is what #vanlife means. So long as we are together, we know we can lay our head to rest, seek shelter from a storm, and find solace in a hot cup of tea; we can create a home life anywhere our wheels lead us.
It has now been one month since we left behind our house and committed to a life as nomads. What has happened in this short time frame is astounding. The first days gone by seem to be a positive premonition for what the future holds.
We travel not to seek the greatest number of stamps in our passports, but to gain the greatest amount of knowledge from our experiences in the world. This month has been the first tiny step in the revelations of what the power of the world holds. The personal growth that has ignited in each of us is evidence of knowledge untold.
This month has revolved around a strong emphasis on empowering our family to be self-sufficient. These are tools that will not only prove beneficial to our personal travel style, but also towards an independent lifestyle in general. We are drawn to rural life and to destinations that are lesser known and off the beaten path. We want to understand life outside of modern society and to connect with the practices from the ancestors of each culture. We have a strong desire to go back in time and capture the essence of a simpler, happier existence.
Before this trip began, we were already a close-knit family. As in, a family that spent copious amounts of time together. We feel that we have always encouraged deep, personal relationships both with and between our children. The experiences of the past months have certainly strengthened that bond, but in new ways that we had not discovered previously. We had the opportunity to practice numerous activities that many would consider “team building” drills. Experiences that required the participation of each family member and highlighted the strengths in each of us. We have learned a lot about claiming achievements as a unit, rather than as individuals. Yet, in the process we have had many unique opportunities to cherish the attributes of the others.
We have learned that both of our children have a very strong interest in food prep and “kitchen” duties. They are fascinated by the processes of how our food gets to the table. They are equally interested in gathering the food, preparing it, and eating it. At ages 3 and 4, they are much more capable of participating in meal prep that we had realized before. In just one month we have learned to make bread, cheese, ketchup, marmalade, and panela syrup. We also took hands on classes for preparing long term pre-made dry storage meals. Our vehicle is now stocked for at least 5 weeks of quick-prep breakfast with whole, unprocessed foods and the best ingredients in the world! Think steel-cut oats and whole wheat pancakes.
My husband has gained a ton of knowledge about how to make modifications to our car that support the vagabond lifestyle. We now have over-head storage, a 20-gallon water storage system with shower fixtures, two spare tire racks, a mattress and bed platform, under bed storage, and privacy curtains…all of which were designed by my husband and were custom made to fit our vehicle. He has also learned an impressive amount about how to diagnose and correct basic to major car complications. He even charged the car battery with a solar panel and learned how to create an adapter to charge our laptop while we are driving!
Our daughter discovered a huge interest in animal care and fully immersed herself in learning how to care for both goats and rabbits. She has never had an opportunity to care for animals before and her passion for it trumped all other activities of our daily life. Milking, herding, feeding, and pen care were the highlights of her days. Her ability to be solely responsible for what the animals needed was completely inspiring. Her desire to teach her knowledge to other people was also incredibly intriguing. Her confidence and independence blossomed ten-fold during our farm stay. We could recognize strong leadership skills and an obvious preference for animals over humans.
Our son impressed us with his athleticism and physical abilities, hiking through meadows and mountains, likely several miles a day. Usually in lieu of nap time, too! We never imagined that a three year could be capable of such intense physical exertion. He also shows a clear strength in his social ability, to connect with just about any person in his presence. We have always known him to be sweet natured, but had not previously witnessed him reaching out to others with such eloquence. Always eager to include everyone, through sharing, eye contact, or body language gestures; he is quite the social butterfly! We really came to appreciate his adventurous spirit.
Personally, I learned a lot about homesteading and off-the-grid life. It is a strong interest of mine to learn how to live and provide necessities without refrigeration and with very little to no electricity. Each year I try to learn more about living an unprocessed life. We buy less processed goods all the time, so understanding how to purchase and prepare homemade goods has been a very beneficial part of my experience. Gaining knowledge of appropriate family portions and the “shelf life” of a prepared meal are important to waste reduction and efficiency. I also felt very fortunate to have numerous experiences to learn about natural plant remedies for minor ailments like cuts, bee stings, seasonal allergies, iron deficiency, fevers, stomach ache, indigestion, and a lingering cough.
As a family, we learned to identify numerous trees and plants that we were previously unaware of. We harvested all sorts of edibles including oranges, guayaba, aloe, coffee, and macadamia nuts. We genuinely learned how to plan our day around the sun and routine, not by a clock. We learned about compost toilets, mountain water systems, and solar energy.
We spent more time nature than we have in 7 years. We learned more about living the kind of life we want to live, than we have in our entire lives. Imagine the potential of 30 weeks, 30 months, or even 30 years? We understand that there is more information to be gained from the world, than we can possibly absorb in one life. We are more inspired than ever to claim as much of the knowledge as possible in whatever time we are allotted.
Why do you want to live in your car? Won’t you miss your home? Where will your kids sleep? What will you eat? What about school? Don’t you need a job? What about a doctor? Where will you get your mail? Is this safe? Is this healthy? Wait- You have dogs, too?! Are you crazy?
These are just a tiny fraction of the questions we were asked when we decided to start this journey. That is, to move into our Landcruiser and travel fulltime as a nomadic family. As we travel, the same questions in many variations resurface over and over again. We enjoy the conversation most of the time, encourage the questions, are even pleased to share our viewpoints. Occasionally there are people that we must laugh at or simply walk away from. But, overall, it is fun to let people in on the big mystery.
Yes, we have thought this over. Talked it over. Analyzed it, reanalyzed it. It was not a light decision that we just woke up one morning and decided to move into our “van”. We have carefully scrutinized every tiny detail, imagined the worse possible scenarios, recognized the scrutiny we will receive, AND decided to do it anyway.
The Last Drop of Ordinary
The final moments of this life close in on us like the last curtain. Heavily collapsing through the air with a murky cloud of dust left hanging in the air. Our obligations to this life linger for a moment in the aftermath. But, ultimately they break apart and dissolve into infinity; as if they were never there.
The world is quiet and our audience holds their applause, stunned by the closing act. In the far back of the theatre of our life; one significant pair of hands applauds in a delayed yet firm approval. And then one more supporter surfaces, a gray-haired soul seated at the corner of the first row. She smiles sweetly at me as tears streak the soft, peach apples of her powdered cheeks.