Tuesday, August 25, 2015

First Homework Assignment

The first homework assignment for the girls was to write their own blog posts and share what they were thinking about the upcoming trip. These are their thoughts... 

From Nadia (age 8)... 

I am excited to travel for 9 months! I can‘t wait to go to Florida. It is the time of my birthday.
9 months is a long time. I’ll be with my family and I’ll have so much fun we’ll see new places go to new towns and we did a three week trip a while ago to get ready. Everybody is so exited about the year trip. I am mostly exited for San Diego and Florida, because we are going to Key West and Disney World. 

From Siena (age 11)... 

I am going on a trip for nine months in a camper. Yesterday (8-24-15) we finished packing the legos and play mobile to take on the trip. I am very exited to go to Alaska because I have never been there and I think it would be fun to go somewhere I have never been. I will do more posts when we are on the trip.

The Girls at one of our favorite spots in Taos, NM 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Final Countdown

We're leaving together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?

With the Nordic Heritage Museum celebrating Viking Days across the street, I couldn’t resist a reference to that wonderfully horrible song by the Swedish 80s hard rock hair band, Europe.

We’re down to the final countdown, and to be honest I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to get to this point. I’m mentally fried from spending every moment available trying figuring out what the bare minimum of items we can comfortably take with us, determining what is of enough value to put into storage, what stays with our renters, what gets given away, and what gets tossed.

Now it’s just about time to go. The house is rented, the car is sold, camper is being loaded, and the truck’s tank is full of diesel.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This is it…this is all I am taking

I have mentioned in previous posts that packing is the biggest challenge for me for this trip. Clearing the house is tough, but figuring out what I want to wear for the next 9 months is REALLY tough. As I put together the wardrobe that I will be wearing during our trip, the song “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins is on repeat in my head, it’s probably because we started digging up Kenny Loggins hits yesterday when we heard he was playing at the zoo, but also because I am still pretty amazed that this is all I plan to take on our yearlong adventure.

For the last few months I have been paring down and donating a lot of clothes that I don’t need any more. From what was left, I had to determine what I loved and wanted to store and which clothes were going to be durable and versatile enough to come on the trip with us. And this is what I have ended up with:

All my clothes for 9 months - still too many
Unfortunately, this is still too many clothes  and I have to narrow it down even more. The challenge is trying to figure out what I will be comfortable in, warm enough in and (let’s be honest) look semi cute in, all at the same time. I don’t want to be a complete slob, but I also need to embrace wearing the same thing a couple days in a row – which I imagine my friends have noticed already, since I have been down to the camper wardrobe for most of the summer.The next step was to figure out how to get all these clothes into this small bin and bag. 

My "drawers" for the trip. 
Andrew wasn’t exactly on board with the extra bag, but we will need that when we do our short ventures away from the camper, so might as well fill it. Plus, he hasn't started putting his clothes into his packing bins yet, and he might need an extra bag too. Finding the spot in the camper for them is the tough part. 

But after I took out a few unnecessary items, I am all packed up and almost ready to go… in my opinion I think this pretty good for a girl that started this year out with 2 dressers and a walk–in closet full of clothes! This is it... 

All packed up - this might change a bit, but for now, this is it! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

On Becoming a Transient

Kathy posted her initial post, now I need to post mine. You are going to have to bear with me, this is the first time I’ve written a blog post since April 24, 2013, so I’m a little out of practice.

So we have chosen to become transients and homeless (at least for a little while). Why? For me at least, it’s because the standard 2 week vacation is just not long enough, neither is 3 week vacation. There are just too many places to see, and too many things to do, too many far off family and friends to visit, and the traditional vacation is just not long enough. But more importantly, as I was very much made aware of this last year, life is far too short. More specifically for me at least, life is too short to only spend dinners, weekends, and a couple 2 week vacations with your wife and children. As my daughters grow older I see them becoming more independent, the days where they want to spend time with just mommy and daddy have quickly disappearing. My oldest daughter is starting middle school in the fall, and my youngest daughter already has plans to leave us and become a world famous pop star. The unorthodox  solution to this problem that my wife and I have come up with is to put our family of four in a little truck camper and head off to explore North America. Hopefully giving my daughters memories to treasure for a lifetime or at least a very interesting topic for expensive sessions with a therapist later in life.

I think the idea to spend a year travelling (or 291 days to be exact) came from an article I read years ago (that I wish I could find it again) that profiled 3 families that were travelling while homeschooling their kids. One family was travelling all around the world, spending months at a given location before moving on (this idea would required more airline miles than we have), another family was biking around the United States with their children being pulled behind them (too strenuous for us), the third family which I believe was one of the Whittaker’s of local mountain climbing fame, was sailing around the world with their family. I liked this idea of sailing around the world with my family, but I don’t have a sailboat, and I am pretty sure I would sink any sailboat I was captain of once I untied the boat from the dock. So my wife and I came up with the idea of travelling North America in a converted Sprinter van, ultimately that Sprinter van eventually ended up being a pickup truck with a camper on the back.

For sometime we have been preparing for this trip, and getting rid of so many of the meaningless belonging that we have acquire over the years together. Now comes the part of figuring out where we would want to go, figuring out how to become school teachers to our daughters, figuring out what few items we will need for 9 months. All the details have not yet been nailed down, but that’s okay. A lot of this is going to require us to figure it out while on the go.

So in less than 4 weeks, the grand adventure and experiment begins. Can my family learn to live in a tiny camper with a limited number of belongings? Can my wife and I successfully home school (or road school) our children? Can we all put up with each other in such a tiny space? Will I manage to blog more than once on this adventure? We will have to see.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Year Trip. 25 Days Until Go Time!

We are leaving for our Year Trip in 25 days. Twenty-five days is less than a month and I still feel like we have so much to do. It is funny because we have been planning this trip on and off for years, but for the last 5 years it has really started to take shape. It always seemed like such a far off dream and we have had plenty of setbacks and issues that have made it seem like it was never going to happen, but every time we made a different decision or made a new change that get us a little closer to the trip, it feels a little more real. This past week we made a big move towards getting ready, we delivered all our winter and ski gear to the family cabin in New Mexico, where we will start our ski season next winter. We are getting closer to our goal, which has been a long time in the works.

The idea of traveling the world started when Andrew, my husband, and I met while
Andrew and I in front of Notre Dame, Paris - first date. 
backpacking through Europe. We were at different parts of our trips, he was going home and I was just beginning, but we spent 3 days in Paris together, seeing the sights, eating great food and enjoying the simplicity and love of travel. When Andrew headed back to Seattle, he wrote a letter to my parents’ home while I was still traveling, I made my mom read the letter when I check in with her and Andrew and I chatted on the phone when I was able to make a collect call in whatever random hostel I was staying in (this was 1996 – way before we even knew about cell phones or considered having a personal email address). Our conversations were always about traveling, whether we were going to head over to WSU (where we both graduated from) for Apple Cup, or when we would come back to Europe or maybe when we would visit somewhere new like Australia or New Zealand. We met so many travelers from Down Under, we figured we could easily find a cheap place to stay. Our love of travel continued while we were dating and during our marriage. We love long weekends away, exploring new places and knew this was something we needed to do more often. For our honeymoon we traveled back to Europe and explored France, Spain and Portugal. But sadly, we haven’t been back together since then. Before we had our first child, we had plans to spend some time in Italy, but our first child came before we had a chance to pack our bags. Instead of traveling to Italy, we named our daughter Siena, with the hope that we could visit with her one day. We are so happy and blessed with our two beautiful daughters, and we have done some amazing trips with our girls, but we also have started to get sucked into the day-to-day business that comes with school, work, after school activities, friends, family commitments, home projects, and the list goes on and on. It feels like we are hamsters on a wheel, moving through the same steps, just on a different day. And finally, my husband and I realized this was not how we wanted to spend our family time, because we never really had family time at home, if we were at home we are usually being stretched in 20 different directions, and that is when we made the decision to buy our camper. 

Trip to watch WSU in the Rose Bowl 
The idea came when we saw others camping near our favorite ski area at Alpental Ski Area near Snoqualmie Pass, we loved the idea of coming up for the entire weekend to ski and be together. Once we got the camper our weekends became ours again. We could head out on a Friday night after school and spend Saturday and Sunday with no commitments or plans, just playing, skiing and being a family. Our weekends became week long trips and the longest trip was last summer when we took 3 weeks to travel around the 11 Western states. After this trip, we knew we were ready. We knew it was going to be tough, but we also knew it was the kind of challenge we wanted. And that is when we made our decision official. We vowed last summer that the 2015-2016 school year was going to be the year we pulled the girls out of their traditional school settings and home school them on the road while we travel around Canada and the United States. We have been saving our money, we have been setting our itinerary, we have been purging everything in our home and we are getting ready to go. Our girls have gone through each stage of the grieving process. They were definitely not on board when the idea of this trip came up. They did not believe we would actual be going, this was the first stop at the Denial stage. Then they were really mad at us too, this was the Anger stage. How could we do this to them! Take them on an amazing adventure they will never forget – I know, the cruelty! But in reality, they really don’t want to leave their friends and transitions are never easy for kids, especially a change this big. We are not just moving to another city, we are packing our entire family and only a few possessions into a very small camper and traveling to a new location every few days or weeks. 

They have tried to negotiate with us, the Bargaining stage, trying to figure out what could go wrong so that we might have to stay home. We have had plenty of setbacks and challenges trying to make this trip happen. Probably the biggest challenge we have faced this year was Andrew’s prostate cancer diagnosis. Cancer is scary and nothing to take lightly, but luckily Andrew had amazing doctors, the cancer was small and slow growing, so he made the decision to have surgery to remove the prostate. His recovery is an ongoing process, but his doctors have given him the go ahead for the trip. His GP doctor has even tried to help plan parts of the trip! One thing cancer will teach you real quick is that life is short and now is the time to live.

The girls have also gone through the Depression stage. We have had many nights with tears and long conversations about why we have to go, and they get sad when they think about the things they will miss out on at home. But as we are getting closer to leaving they have moved on to Acceptance. They are excited about all the cool things they will get to see and do. They are looking forward to home schooling, or road schooling as we like to refer to it, especially when we tell them they get to be in charge of some of the lesson plans. They understand that 9 months to a year is really not that long of a time in the big scheme of things and they also realize that with as much technology we have available, their friends will only be a phone call, text or video chat away. Although, we are going to still make them send letters and postcards – because that is one of the best parts of traveling. We also plan on visiting friends and family that we don’t see very often because they live in other parts of the country. Cousins in Virginia, Florida and Texas, Uncle in Montana, Aunts, Uncles and more cousins in California and hopefully friends in various parts of the country for meets ups during their school breaks. We have a packed schedule and now I keep hoping one year is going to be enough time!

Recent family trip to The Gorge to see The Zac Brown Band
And now with 25 days left to go we have a lot more to get done. We need to find qualified tenants to rent our home, we didn’t think it would be so tough to find renters for our Ballard home, but when we try and rent it furnished, for 9 months and no pets we cut out a big population of renters. We may have to give in a little on our requirements, which is something to think about. We also have to figure out what we are going to take on the trip and what we don’t need anymore. One of my biggest struggles is trying to pack an entire year’s worth of clothes – for a variety of seasons and climates into a 19" x 14" x 7" H box (yep, this is what I am storing all my clothes in for the year – I will sneak in coats and shoes in other spots in the camper, but that’s it – this could be a whole blog post on its own). Not to mention packing the girls' clothes, moving items we want to keep, but can’t take on the trip into storage, setting up our road schooling curriculum, and seeing all of our friends and family before we go. We have been spending this summer planning, packing and preparing – with a few short camper adventures thrown in, but for the next 25 days, we have to finish packing and final preparations, getting the camper organized and making sure we have everything we need. 

Thank goodness we are going to be in Canada and the United States, we know that if we need anything there are lots of stores along the way that we can probably get what we need, so for now, we are just counting the days and filling the boxes and hoping someone else wants to live in our house so we can live out our dream!