Celebrating 1 Year On the Road

Today we celebrate our 1-year “nomad-iversary”!

I thought it fitting to re-post something I wrote for Mad Rock climbing two weeks ago about our decision to hit the road and what it’s meant to our family. Enjoy!

The World Beyond Your Doorstep

My first trip to Joshua Tree National Park was in 2003. I didn’t camp much growing up, so I felt unprepared and nervous on my first outing. I didn’t own a tent so I decided to sleep in my car that night. A brief rain shower woke me up at 5am and I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I climbed to the top of a nearby rock formation and watched the sun come up.

I’d never seen anything like it before. And I was hooked.

The next day, my friend took me for some sport climbing nearby and I decided I needed to buy my own shoes and harness. Fast-forward a few years and I was climbing v7 and making frequent trips to Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Bishop.

Then along came the little ones.

My wife and I had our first kid in 2008 and I remember telling my wife that I didn’t want our outdoor life to change. So we dragged along our newborn on every adventure we could. But with the addition of kids 2 and 3, getting outside felt harder and harder. Throw in a work-related move to Oklahoma (the land of crazy weather and few rocks) and my climbing shoes started gathering dust quickly.

Fast-forward 4 years. We owned our own home, a mini-van, and a pool. But laying hold of the American Dream didn’t bring the satisfaction it had promised. We still longed to see the world and to show it to our kids. That feeling of wonderment I first experienced in Joshua Tree still burned inside me and I needed more.

We knew we could make a few changes here and there: take more vacation time, longer trips on the weekend. But we knew it wouldn’t be enough. We had to start from scratch.

So we sold the house. Everything. The new furtniture we had just purchased a year before. The lawn mower. The mini-van. And we bought a pickup truck and a 5th wheel trailer. After 9 months of planning, we set out for the trip of a lifetime. Destination? Unknown. How long would we be gone? Not sure.

We’ve been on the road almost a year now. We’ve been to New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona. This year, we’ll add Utah and Idaho to that list. In order to venture out into more remote places, we sold the big 5th wheel for a smaller travel trailer. We added solar and a composting toilet.

Yesterday at Saguaro National Park, my kids earned their 13th “Junior Ranger” badges. They’ve seen more of America than most people will see in their entire lifetime. I added RMNP, Wyoming, and Squamish to my “places I’ve bouldered” list.

But most importantly, my family is a family again.

Back in Suburbia, our lives had become too busy to spend time with each other. Try as we might, we saw the time we had together as a family dwindling as soccer practice and dance lessons began to fill the voids in the calendar. We’d hear from other families with older kids about how rarely they saw their kids. It was like seeing an oncoming train. So we got off the track.

Now, don’t get me wrong – living on the road isn’t for everyone. But everyone can do something. If you feel like your calendar is running your family, you’re not alone. It’s an epidemic, but it’s curable.

A good friend told me once that the secret was needing to “say no to good things, so you can say yes to the best thing.” Soccer practice, ballet, gymnastics – they’re not bad things. But (as you know), it’s easy for of these good things to eat up any margin your family has.

Maybe it’s time to step back and reevaluate where you are and how you got there. Whatever time you have left with your kids before they move out – it’s time enough. Cut back and get outside. Take a long road trip with your son. Take your daughter to the top of a mountain and let her see the world beyond your neighborhood. Sure, she may squirm at the notion of having to sit there – or worse yet, not having cell reception. Your kids may not be asking for your attention verbally, but they’re begging for it.

A life of adventure doesn’t end with kids. Instead, they give you a chance to see the world through a new set of eyes.

Hi there, I'm Jon.

Writer. Musician. Adventurer. Nerd.

Purveyor of GIFs and dad jokes.