Musings from the road

Just before Christmas, we stopped at Santispac Beach for a few days, just south of Mulege. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, although the water was cold and the wind relentless, so we decided to return on the way back to enjoy some real swimming and beach time.

View of Santispac Beach from the highway.

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We’re parked here for a few days and enjoying the ebb and flow of life on an “almost-boondocking” beach. While there are no hookups, there is water delivery and a sani-dump at one end of the beach. There is a restaurant when we don’t feel like cooking and a daily delivery of fresh shrimp, fish and vegetables when we do.

We discovered this path above the beach – an old road that is no longer passable by vehicles, but ideal for long walks and chatting about the meaning of life.

I thought this might be a good time to share some of our thoughts about this life of ours, now that we are two and-a-half-years into being “unhoused.”

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When we were shopping for a trailer, we had a great chat with a very funny salesman who warned us that this life would mean, “you’ll be having breakfast with the same person every morning.” More to the point, we would also be together for lunch, dinner and all the time in between. 

That is not a concept one can fully understand until it is put into practice – we don’t have jobs, friends, family or hobbies to separate us so with a few exceptions, we go through our days and nights in tandem. Our trailer is 7’ x 17’, so even our bathroom moments are not that private. But so far, it has not been a problem – we enjoy similar things and have similar warped humour. Most of our days are spent outside. We walk, swim, sightsee, read, socialize with other people and it all seems to work.

All that togetherness means we have had a few snappish moments along the way. We are both bossy first-borns who don’t like to be told and those less-than-endearing traits are magnified on the road. We’ve sorted out what needs “work.” I’m trying not to jump in with my version of the story when Stephen takes his time talking, and Stephen is trying not to correct what he refers to as my “inaccuracies” in front of others.

Here we are, getting along well, even though I appear to be clutching at Stephen’s shirt.

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We cannot say enough good things about the Escape. It operates smoothly and follows behind us, no matter how twisty and bumpy the road.  It is comfortable and cosy and all we need.  However, we occasionally wonder if rather than “leaving ourselves behind”, we are “dragging ourselves behind.”  

When we unhitch and drive around with just our truck, our mood lightens – we’re free!  We can go anywhere!

It is too soon in our journey to come to any conclusions. We finish this trip in May and then after our summer trip to  Alaska and the Yukon, we’ll be in a better position to know how we want to proceed. Sometimes we wonder if a 4×4 truck camper or a rig like this one would suit us better.

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One of the biggest attractions to this life is having freedom to do what we want and when we want to do it. Once the outline of our trip is planned and we have done the groundwork (research, necessary shots and/or visas) our life unfolds as it should, with room left for changes or detours.

While we are not without any responsibilities, our main concerns from day to day are planning what to eat for dinner, where we’ll be a week from now, and finding ways to stay in touch when wifi and cell service are spotty or non-existent.

Being on the road means we run across a huge swath of people and hear their stories; we would have no way of meeting them otherwise.

We love t
he mystery of the open road – trying to anticipate what is next. We are far more engaged in order to deal with the constant change. It slows time down when the tyranny of the week and its routines is gone. When we talk about buying a house again and changing the way we travel, we both react the same way – “Not yet!”

We never know where the bend in the road will take us and that is highly addictive.

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Of course there are downsides to our way of life.  We go through periods where we miss our family and friends so much it feels like a sharp ache. Our friends will still be our friends when we see them again, but we’re no longer part of their lives. I’m more or less off Facebook, but when I dip in from time to time, I discover the changes, big and small, that have happened.

We don’t see our parents or our extended families as much as we would if we were in one place.  We don’t see our kids more than a couple of times a year and now we have big news – along with two other excited sets of grandparents, we are expecting our first grandchild the end of May. In fact, we recently learned we are expecting our first grandson. Aside from a couple of photos of our pregnant daughter-in-law, we feel so removed.

Another downside of nonstop travel is the challenge of maintaining continuity in physical exercise and in pursuing hobbies. Even cooking becomes rudimentary in a small trailer. 

Every way of life has its trade-offs.

After meeting so many young people on the road, we were struck by opportunities we may have missed when we were their age and raising our own family.

This is what our 60-something selves would say to our 30-something selves.

Don’t wait until you are retired – do this now. If you can find a way to put your lives on pause and just go – do it! There are many young people and young families who are on the road for a year, two years and indefinitely. Their backgrounds are varied. Some have left advanced degrees, well-paying jobs and homes to pursue lives that are giving them greater satisfaction. Others have cobbled remote work – writing, farm work, seasonal work, teaching, etc. – to bankroll ongoing travel. We met a couple who travel every winter then return to BC in March to begin their garden for their farm-to-table restaurant. Another young couple from Oregon travel in the winter and return to their seasonal businesses back home – she is a gardener and he has a tile and stone business. A young family from Marin County have rented out their home for a year and hit the road with their seven-year-old son. They home-school him, but he is also learning Spanish and spending his days kayaking. At this point they are not sure if they will go back to their old lives – this may be the beginning of something different.

We had insightful philosophical discussions with these young people about how they are choosing to live their lives. They all share similar traits – they are happy and unstressed and fully engaged. They know that following the well-trod path does not guarantee that your marriage will stay intact, or you will remain healthy, or you will keep your job. With that in mind, it feels far less risky to step off the cliff and see what else might be out there.

We would say – step off that cliff!  If we had it to do over, we would have taken our young sons and lived in another country for a year. We have our children with us for such a short time – maybe we would have done that a couple of times.

We leave you with a question:

What would your 60-something self say to your 30-something self?”

26 thoughts on “Musings from the road

  1. Sharon January 25, 2019 / 12:24 pm

    I would agree with you and do it while young if at all possible. When we sailed off shore at 50 ish we met so many younger people that bit the bullet and with small boats and lots of spirit off they went. I wish we could have done it at a much younger age but esta la vida. Your blogs are amazing, keep having fun and enjoy that grandson when he arrives.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 26, 2019 / 4:02 pm

      Thanks Sharon, but 50-ish is still young! I think the straight path was the way to go when we were young because there was still so much opportunity with jobs, housing, pensions, etc. Not the world our kids have inherited, sadly. We will enjoy our little grandson for sure – thank you.

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  2. Pete January 25, 2019 / 12:28 pm

    Though in 1995 at 48 I did step off that cliff and gave up a civilized Big city East coast lifestyle
    to live off-grid in a remote Northern Alaska cabin today
    as I sit here I believe I would tell myself to….
    step back and take some time to look at what life may be like after 20 years in that new direction.

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  3. jon snipper January 25, 2019 / 12:33 pm

    My suspicion is that the two of you had breakfast with each other every morning BEFORE this adventure. Be surprised to hear that you both frequently had breakfasts with someone else!!! But do get the message. And it’s always a fun question in a group to ask what would the 65 year old you tell the 25 year old you about living the next 40 years differently than you did. I hope we can have that discussion after a few drinks sometime when you are back should our paths cross. Would be such fun. Safe and Happy continued travels.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 26, 2019 / 4:06 pm

      You’re right – if we had breakfast with anyone else, we were certainly also in attendance!
      That was a lawyerly response about what your current self would tell your young self, Mr. Snipper. I will have to wait till we see you to find out what you might have done.

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  4. Danielle January 25, 2019 / 12:58 pm

    We have lived in lots of places with our youngest one, it was fine as long he was in elementary but once in Junior High he hated being with us, he missed Canada and his buddies!!
    Living abroad with young ones yes but try to avoid it with teenagers!!
    We live now in BC, our kids are on the other side, we see one another 3 times a year,they are all very “busy” with their lives, so it does not matter if you live far or close to them , you keep them in your heart and there is always skype, face time etc..to keep in touch.!!
    Congratularions with your new grand son in spe!!Maybe he could join you in your travels around the globe!!
    All the best and enjoy, Mexico seems beautiful!!
    Best regards
    Danielle

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 26, 2019 / 4:14 pm

      That makes sense – to travel with the kids when they’re young – after they’re teens their friends mean more than hanging out with their family.

      We know for sure our new grandson’s parents would travel at the drop of a hat – it wouldn’t take much to get them to pack up and take off.

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  5. Sheila and Jim January 25, 2019 / 3:34 pm

    We can relate to lots of your comments. We have been travelling now for 6 months a year for eleven years and still are really enjoying it. We are together all the time and very rarely snap.
    We really agree that you shouldn’t wait until you are 60 something to hit the road. We too have met many families travelling and always admire their resilience. The world is a wonderful place and the people you meet along the way restores your faith in humanity.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 26, 2019 / 4:17 pm

      You two are our role models for when we settle with a house again – staying in one place with your friends and family, mixed up with lots of travel – it seems ideal.

      We especially appreciate how many wonderful people we are meeting out there in the world during these very confusing times. It is a good reminder to stop giving “a certain someone” so much attention and concentrate on the the positives instead.

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  6. Joan Fisher January 25, 2019 / 4:13 pm

    Good advice but not sure I could have handled the lifestyle with my kids. Some level of bravery is required and pretty sure I’m not there even now. Love the posts and envy your experiences. Hugs for you both. Joan

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 26, 2019 / 4:19 pm

      Joan, your two lovely and spirited daughters are a mirror image of their mother. I could only imagine a van filled with the Fisher family!

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  7. Maggie and Richard January 25, 2019 / 6:37 pm

    Sounds familiar. Living in an RV or backpacking from town to town in local buses and staying in small guesthouses means we’re together 24/7 too. We see quite a few 20 year olds travelling but your’re right, not many that are our age travel for more than a couple of weeks. Great post.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 26, 2019 / 4:20 pm

      Thanks so much. We will be following your travels through Sri Lanka with interest – it is high on our list.

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  8. Vikki Vettese January 26, 2019 / 8:01 am

    Hi guys , good blog this time about freedom .. Your right it’s all about trade offs . When Roy and I traveled in a motor home ,it was small enough to take with us and we could park it just about anywhere .. However ,once we parked for the night and hooked up we were there for the night … The best part about traveling your way is you have the other vehicle so you do have more freedom .. Your right about doing it when your younger as it gets tougher when you’re older ..”keep on trucking” as they say .. see you in May !

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 26, 2019 / 4:26 pm

      I think it might be a bit easier when you’re older actually because we tend to have a bit more of a financial cushion – I remember travelling when I was young and being hungry at times. Also now we appreciate being able to travel so much more – every day we feel lucky.

      I think if you can take a break during your young and mid life and just throw everything up in the air for several months or a year or two, it gives you such perspective and breaks up that 40-year stretch of work, family and responsibilities.

      See you in May!

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  9. Heather Scott January 27, 2019 / 4:09 pm

    Wow, a lot of food for thought in your post! Thank you for sharing the pros and cons of this chapter of your life with us. As for your parting question … I wish I had come across this poem by Rilke when I was 30ish because it has helped me a lot when doubts come calling … “don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 29, 2019 / 2:34 pm

      Heather, thank you for sharing that poem by Rilke – it is so meaningful and beautifully said. Let the universe unfold.

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  10. Linda Whitely January 27, 2019 / 8:47 pm

    Wonderful blog. Really enjoyed it and the pics. It’s going to be 12 years for us this fall and we are still saying…not yet. I love looking at that face across the table! 💕 Good thing we are on the same page. The only worry I have is how sad and lonely it will be if one of us “bites”it when we are so used to being together 24 hours. Like the adventure every day! Probably a down side is being away from the grandchildren….but…..their lives are so busy that visits are not nearly as long or often as you would like. And that probably gets worse the older they get and want to be with their buddies instead of old duddies.

    Definitely easier travelling when you are younger… physically but I think because we did that the first 10 years we were married we kind of knew what to expect. Now it feels quite luxurious.

    Continue enjoying your adventures and each other every day. We just got home from another funeral! Gary’s cousin, same age,died of a heart attack playing hockey. Died doing what he loved, played 3 times a week. Life is so precious it’s important to squeeze every bit of joy out of it, every moment. Take care, stay safe, big hugs.💕

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 29, 2019 / 2:39 pm

      Wow, what a year of loss you two have had – it is hard to imagine, isn’t it?

      Linda, you and Gary are such shining examples of how to live life that even if you were staying in one place, you would know how to make an adventure of it. You also know how lucky you are, and I think that plays such a part in your happiness and outlook. You practiced gratitude before it became popular.

      And yes, we both still feel very happy to be sharing breakfast together every morning. As my dear old dad would say – it beats the alternative.

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  11. Alex Burr January 29, 2019 / 10:44 am

    Congratulations on the incoming grandson!! 😛

    The part about Dad’s slow story-telling and your “inaccuracies” made me laugh. Great post!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind January 29, 2019 / 2:45 pm

      Thanks Alex! You and Alanna have given us lots to talk about, but you may feel comforted by the fact that we have decided to adopt Nanny and Pa’s approach to grandparenthood. We will trust the care and feeding of our grandson to you both, and resolve to say nothing but positives; support you when you need it and disappear when you don’t. 😇

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  12. Alison and Steve February 3, 2019 / 6:25 pm

    What an interesting and insightful post. When we were in our early thirties, we spent two and a half years backpacking around the world. We had planned to travel for a year, but we kept on going for another year and then another half year. We had worked and saved our money and we travelled on $20 US a day for food, accommodation and transportation! Steve quit his job, but fortunately, the school board I worked for kept extending my leave of absence without pay, so I was able to return to my teaching position. We were lucky to be able to travel in places no longer open to tourists and to travel so cheaply. We have never regretted our choice, and we would encourage young people to take some time to explore when youth and health make tough conditions easier to bear. We had, and still have, a single rule of travel: Only one of us is allowed to be hysterical at a time! Keep on enjoying your adventures and please keep on sharing your stories.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind February 4, 2019 / 8:32 pm

      You had the opportunity to see places no longer open to tourists – how very fortunate. I think an addendum to that is you saw many places before they were spoiled and overrun. They may still be open, but they no longer possess the same flavour and appeal.

      We’re finding that now – wondering what will be left for our children to enjoy. We read an article about how we are “loving our national parks to death” – that applies to both Canada and the U.S.

      We spoke to a woman in Anza Borrego who told us the Super Bloom brought over 200,000 visitors to the area – completely unsustainable on all levels.

      I love your caveat – only one hysterical person at a time. Crazily, it seems to be how we are operating, without having articulated it. Steve is only allowed to break down in tears once a week, and I take care of the rest.

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