Four years ago today, we left our home in San Francisco with two backpacks and our best friend Holly. And just a few weeks ago, we unceremoniously returned our minivan camper Red Delicious back into a regular ol’ minivan and moved to Santa Barbara.
We transitioned hard and fast into “normal” life: we have a “real” bed and “real” kitchen now. A lot of people have been curious to know, how are we handling it?
I’ll tell you in a moment. But first, I wanted to make something super clear: hitting the road is the best decision we’ve ever made! (We may even do it again one day.) Here are five reasons why…
1. We’ve learned new things
The old adage is true: if you keep learning, you’ll always feel young. Traveling has given us the space and opportunity to learn things we never thought we could. For example, we learned how to:
- Speak Spanish
- Play ukulele (Tamara)
- Whittle (Chris)
- Maintain a garden
- Drive a tractor
- Operate a chainsaw
- Self-publish a book (Tamara)
- Milk goats
- Care for chickens
- Build revenue-generating websites (Chris)
- Pull a proper pint of Guinness
- Find a campsite anywhere
- Start our own businesses
We also learned how to get work done anywhere. A colleague of mine jokingly suggested that my next book should be titled: 10 Client Tasks You Can Totally Do From a Campsite Bathroom.
2. We’ve become more adaptable and embraced uncertainty
Where do we go when the place we planned to camp is closed? Will there be a coffee shop where I can have a video conference tomorrow? What if we show up for a work exchange and its not a good fit?
Full-time travel has taught us how to adapt in all kinds of situations. It has made us worry less about the things we can’t control and figure out new situations, logistical hurdles and new cultures calmly. It’s like we got our 10,000 hours of being in over our heads. Now, it doesn’t bother us.
Stationary life gives the illusion of control. But stationary life and nomadic life have just as much uncertainty — just fewer day-to-day logistics, e.g. where to sleep or where to buy groceries.
3. We’ve experienced life outside our bubble
It is shocking to us how sheltered we used to be. To be clear, there is still a lot we don’t know and haven’t seen. But when you’ve had a chance to see how lots of different people live, it’s humbling.
We’ve met people who don’t “call somebody” — they fix things themselves. We’ve met people who have guns — because they live out in the country and consider them tools…and entertainment. We’ve met people who treat strangers like family — and people who would rather pretend they’re alone even when surrounded by a sea of people. And we’ve met people who don’t have much at all — but are still happy.
We always knew there was more than one way to live and many perspectives out there. But it’s a whole other thing to venture outside our bubble and live there, even if it’s just for a few days.
4. We’ve seen the good in people
It’s easy to think the worst of this world. But I cannot think of a single time during our four years when we didn’t feel welcome. In Chile, many strangers made us feel like we were part of their family — we cooked together and hung out with their kids and coworkers. We were welcomed into existing groups of friends, like a service sorority in Texas, a 4th of July celebration in Idaho, and a Friday-evening get together in Virginia.
When we get depressed about the staggering proliferation of assholes, we remember the goodness we’ve experienced.
5. We’ve turned what we thought was impossible into reality
I remember exactly where we were when traveling was just an idea for us: walking on a trail in San Francisco’s Presidio — complaining that there’s no way we could travel full time like the other people we’d read about. We thought it was impossible.
But then we asked ourselves, what if it’s not impossible? Let’s say it’s possible; how would we do it? We researched. We made plans. We set savings goals. We made checklists. We broke it down and figured it out. And we actually followed through and did it.
How many people say, “Oh, I wish I could do that someday…” and never do it? We actually did it. We fought inertia and expectations and lived how we wanted to.
As for how we’re handling the transition back into “normal” life, the funny thing is we don’t miss the van at all. Not because we were sick of it, but because it was never really about the van: it’s about being deliberate about how we’re living our lives.
Now we’re doing all the things we weren’t able to do while traveling: taking a woodworking class, planting a garden, homebrewing beer. We’re still self-employed, so our schedules are flexible, and we’re giving back to the travel community by hosting other travelers on Airbnb. And we’re excited for whatever comes next.
We plan to leave our blog up for other aspiring van-dwellers, but this will be our last post. Thanks to everyone who has followed along on this journey; we hope we’ve given you the information and the courage you needed to take a leap in life.
Be bold, friends! You only live once.
Keep on traveling,
Tamara & Chris