Reflection: Three Years On The Road

We are coming up here on our third anniversary of life on the road. We have spent many nights lately discussing and reflecting on it all. And I am left completely speechless.

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It’s no lie to say that this idea to live life on the road was a crazy one! But I gladly jumped into the whirlwind. It’s been nearly three years and I could have never imagined all that we have experienced and all the lessons we have learned and continue to learn. Here are a few of my favorite lessons so far….

1. HUMILITY: 

This has been one of the most humbling experiences of my lifetime thus far.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and we had no one to give us guidance, as it was a path untraveled by family and friends. It only took us two weeks to run into our first “speed bump” as our fridge broke. It would take over $1000 to get it fixed so we figured that we would temporarily turn it into an ice box. That temporary fix lasted the next two years. I spent my days searching for ice, draining the water throughout the day and figuring out how to keep our food from spoiling. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a fridge. I would have freaked out if I was living in a house or apartment, but something about the motor home made it do-able. Not convenient but do-able. And to think that was just a starting point of my journey into a “smaller life”.

It was hard at first to wrap my head around this new life. No running water most of the time, no fridge, no air conditioning, no oven, a shower that you have to crouch down in, and a closet smaller than most cupboards….. I spent so many years after high school working towards a life where I wouldn’t have to deal with all of these things. I worked so hard to move upwards and onwards, to make my own dreams come true, chasing everything that American culture told me I should. And here I was, almost 25 and taking ten steps backwards. It was crazy and confusing because somehow without all these conveniences I was still experiencing a lot of joy. We had so much time….. time was something I never thought of before because I never had enough of it. I didn’t really know what to do with this time. But Jordan slowly showed me everything it allowed. Like spending time with people. Truly, being there, without any rush. He also took me to places I had only dreamed of going on my “2 weeks” of vacation a year. But now I didn’t have to wait for someone to tell me I could go…. he just took me and we were there…. in awe and reverence. I was starting to feel this joy well up within me.

But amidst the joy there was also a deep-rooted frustration and confusion. This lifestyle is contrary to everything I had ever known. I guess the only thing I knew how to do with life is work. I love working. I love being good at it. I love feeling confident there. But on the road we don’t work…… well we do, but not 40-60 hours a week all year long. And if I don’t work, then I don’t know who I am. And I began to question my worth. What is life without work? What do you do during the day? Yes, I was having these moments of joy throughout our beginning times, but it was also hidden by deep frustrations and questioning. I didn’t know I was signing up for a soul-searching journey here. I thought we were just going to do some traveling. After all, I thought I had this life thing sort of figured out.

It didn’t really get easier for a while because I just kept going backwards on the “path of life” I thought I was on. It was three weeks into our journey when we spent some time with dear friends. They were as tight on money as we were. We spent our time being creative to entertain ourselves for free and cooking food on a budget. It was nice to be with someone like us, broke! But the thing that got me is when we left, they gave us some fishing stuff and a digital SLR camera. They have close to nothing but offered us these precious gifts after letting us stay with them for a week or two. How can someone who has so little give us gifts and do it with such joy? It was starting to really mess with the way I think. How we can take gifts without giving or working? Without earning it. But there is that thing again, why is it so hard for me to accept things….is it my pride?  And then a few months later after our time at Amazon, we were bumming because Destiny had some major issues with her plumbing, we barely had enough money to make ends meet and we were just kind of frustrated. But then we heard a knock on our door and our neighbor was standing there with a grocery bag with beer (we didn’t have anymore), shampoo (I had just run out of), some canned goods as well as a gift card to the grocery store. She just handed it to us… and I nearly cried. It was hard for me to accept another gift. I wanted to be independent and self-sufficient. I didn’t want to rely on anybody.

Over the next two years we have experienced this time after time with people’s generosity. I have learned to humbly accept them with a grateful heart. Each time I am filled with a little more joy and a little less frustration. Because each time I realize more and more it is not really about the gift but the acts of giving and receiving. It is how we can all serve each other. It’s community, all of us together. It was just a such a new concept for me. And extremely humbling as I gave up my pride and desire for control, independence, and self-reliance.

Because when we let go of our own desires and plans for life, it finally makes room for God to take over. When you strip away the excess and take away our busyness, when all the going, doing, and rushing stops we are left with a silence. It is deafening. We are alone God and our thoughts. There is now room in our lives to get real….. and your priorities in life suddenly become very apparent. It’s a scary place to be.

Because I have no control (and that freaks me out completely).

Because this lifestyle has completely wrecked everything I thought I knew about life.

But everyday I realize there is no place I would rather be. Because here, I can humbly lay myself at the feet of my Creator and seek his provision and his plans.  And here, I have come to learn that just as the lilies of the fields and the sparrows of the earth I am loved and I am taken care of, without finding my identity in work, without having lots of money, which brings more peace than I have ever had.

I have no idea what is to come…. but I needn’t worry about that because right now I get time. Time to love, time to learn, time to invest in eternal things, time to explore, and time to grow.

2. THANKFULNESS:  “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” Philippians 4:11-12

Jordan has been telling me from day one that we need to celebrate the small things and be thankful for every little thing. It’s hard to think like that when our minds are so cluttered with day-to-day life. At least it was for me. And who has time to reflect on things and be grateful when you’re so busy just trying to make it through one day of life.

Through the first years of living life on the road it felt like there were many things to grumble about…. we struggled with the many inconveniences of an old motor home and everything falling apart and breaking, the loneliness we felt when friends and family seemed so far away, or times when we didn’t know what was next and our funds, food, and spirits were running low. But in the midst of these things we chose to look at the even the smallest things, count them as blessings and give thanks. Because when we have less, the more we can truly see all things that we are given on a daily basis. Whether it be a dry place to sleep, running water, warm coats to keep away the winter chill, food on our table, gas to get to our next destination, people who open their homes to us, friendships that reach across the world to bring us encouragement, a breath-taking view, or even the way a small flower can light up a field. When we simplified our life, we opened up room for appreciation and thankful hearts. And each month we live our life this way and rid ourselves from the distractions of this world we are only filled more with gratefulness which leads to more joy and contentment.

In our three-year mark, we feel so undeserving of the life we have. We have learned there will always be hiccups, financial struggles, and hard seasons but the more we live without, the more full our lives become. The more love we pour out and the less time we spend worrying about life, the more free we become. The more we give thanks for everything, the more joy that comes.

Sarah Ban Breathnauch says it best, “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

Not that we have perfected it yet but over the past three years I can see it daily transforming our lives and our hearts. Whether we have nothing or everything… we can choose thankfulness.

Simplify.
Thankfulness.
Contentment.
Joy.

3. COMMUNITY: “They devoted themselves to the the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Acts 2:42-47

Three years ago I didn’t really have clue what community meant. I mean sure I saw it small glimpses. As child you live through you parents community and then as a young adult you have the choice to make up your own. Sure I had friends but I spent a good five years on my own trying not to get too involved or too connected. I guess I was afraid of letting people in and getting hurt. I wanted to be selfish and only worry about myself. Granted, I did have my people (friends and family) from my childhood but that was enough, I thought.

Jordan, on the other hand spent many of his young adult years in Africa. He went six times in five years spending time in villages who lived out community in a very real daily basis kind of way. It changed him, completely. He’s always been a lover of ALL people but this truly changed the way he wanted to do life back in the States. He came up with the dream of living in an RV six years before we even started our journey. He wanted a simple life where people and nature were the priority, not the chase of the illusive American dream. He always told me he wanted people to be excited to see him anywhere he went. It took me a few years to understand what he meant. But now I am starting to see.

We started this journey of community together in Kauai six years ago. It was my first experience of the whole thing, he was so patient with me. But on that small island it broke down the walls of my isolation, as we started doing life with people. We lived in a two bedroom apartment in a complex with four other families. There was a huge lawn out front that was the “common grounds.” It was here the kids would run around together and laugh, we would share coffee as we talked about life each morning before the days hustle and bustle, we had BBQ’s where everyone would bring a different part of the meal, and here we would all unwind after a long day’s work. Sure we each had our own “homes” to sleep and shower in but we did life together out on the lawn. This way of life was all over the island, with friends we would do “family dinners” together, because if we each had a little, then together we had a lot. We would car pool and do beach days together, or go on adventures together. Everything was always together. It was strange to me at first and some times hard. I wasn’t used to doing life with other people. But something about it was so captivating. Kind of like those verses in Acts I read. The early church did life together. They loved each other, broke bread together, had people in their homes, and no one was in need. That became our goal, the theme for our lives….. do life with people and love them so that none of us would be in need.

After that we moved to Tucson to get ready for our grand adventures of life on the road. We needed to pay off debt and get our stuff in order. Jordan and I moved out there not knowing anyone. It was a brand new chapter in our lives and we desperately craved that community feel we had in Kauai. It didn’t take long to find, as we opened our home many nights of the week and had dinners with friends. It’s here where we built life long relationships and fell even more in love with people. And I really began to understand all the things Jordan has been trying to teach me about this kind of life.

Shane Claiborne says it like this, “Once we get past the rebellious or reactive counter-cultural paradigm and muster up the courage to try living in new ways, most of us find that community is very natural and makes a lot of sense, and that it is not as foreign to most of the world’s population as it is to us. Community is what we were created for.” And he’s absolutely right that it takes a little bit of courage. You have to let people in, let them see you at your worst and your best, you have to let them taste your cooking (bless all of you who have eaten some of those meals I have prepared, can’t win ’em all!), you have to be vulnerable. But let me tell you, it is a beautiful thing. We all have to live this life, why not do it together?! Share the burdens and celebrate together.

After the year in Tucson we sold almost everything we owned, took a little vacation back to Kauai, and began our life on the road. I guess I never really expected to find all that we have. Like I said above, it’s definitely been a learning and growing experience. But after three years I can tell you this, I fall in love with it more and more everyday. Maybe I am crazy or it’s truly changing me from the inside out, either way, I’ll take it because our community stretches from coast to coast with people from every walk of life and I couldn’t love it any more!

Every place we have been thus far has brought us at least one person, if not more, to build a lasting relationship with and love on. It is by far the greatest blessing of choosing a lifestyle that is simplified and offers us more free time. We get to invest in people. Our family is no longer limited to Southern California but states all across our country. And our family is full of all kinds of individuals from all walks of life. If we were all in a picture together it would be quite the eclectic group, but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In my old way of life and thinking I would have never imagined this kind of community. I was too afraid to talk to anyone who thought differently, let alone have them over for dinner. I was afraid of so many things, even things that would cause nightmares night after night. I lived in fear of people for so long. Three years down the road I am truly blessed to have had the healing and peace given to me to love all people. There are so many wonderful people in this world and we all can offer each other something, even if we are all very different.

There have been a few times this summer where I am standing at my stove preparing dinner and I look over to my tiny living room packed full of people. I giggle a little bit as I survey the room and the group of people in it. How is this my life? I would have never talked to some of these people five years ago, but tonight they are in my house, eating dinner at our table?! It’s amazing… because honestly I have learned more about life and love from the people I have met in the past three years than I have in my entire lifetime.

Jordan and I stay up late a lot of nights just overwhelmed by how blessed we are to have this opportunity in life. To go from state to state and share life with so many people. We get to tell stories of the amazing things we have seen, or of the “angels” of the road, or of other ways people are doing life. We get to share the burden of heart aches and we get to join in the celebrations. We get to live with life with people with less of the stress and pressures our culture and traditional lifestyles can have.

A community doesn’t have to be in one physical location. It can stretch state lines, even country borders. Because love has no boundaries and no restrictions.

“The world tries to pull us away from community, pushes us to choose ourselves over others, to choose independence over interdependence, to choose great things over small things, to choose going fast alone over going far together.” Claiborne

We choose interdependence, we choose others, we choose going far together…. because isn’t that what we were designed for anyways?

THREE YEARS OF FREEDOM: With all of that being said, our hearts are truly full and grow more and more excited for all that is to come in our future. We aren’t sure it will always look like it does now but we sure are enjoying this groove. Sure we may not have the big house, the latest fashions, or newest toys but who needs that when you have what we do! The opportunities are endless, the joy is insurmountable, and the rewards are eternal.


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