Now that we’ve been on the road for a few months, this very strange thing is happening. People keep asking me to stop with the façade that all is well in #VanLife and tell me how things are really going. The other day a friend said, “Ok enough with how everything looks on social media, give me the real dirt.” Another asked, “So are you ready for a break from your husband yet?”. When I think about it, maybe it’s not that strange that people are asking me these things. These people are my friends and I believe they are really giving me an opportunity to vent if needed. Truth be told, it’s not needed. Things are good, honestly. I don’t want to jinx anything, but so far the journey has been smooth. Jon and I really are friends and we truthfully like to hang out and do things together, and that’s what we get to do every day.
A few recurring stressors, if we want to call them that, have resolved themselves. Jon puts things back where they came from, my biggest pet peeve. Jon has become more comfortable with my driving, thanks to his teaching mostly. My husband is one of the best drivers, ever. He’s had to drive for a large part of his career in the world of event marketing, including being a professional 4wheel driver instructor, and he’s wicked good at it. However, much to my dismay, he can’t drive every mile for the entire 14 months of this trip. Therefore, he has to get comfortable with yours truly behind the wheel. While in Alaska, things in the front two seats got a little tense, as the road conditions were unfavorable for many long stretches. After a quick yet heated discussion about how to best communicate his frustrations with me regarding my approach to frost heaves, potholes and washboard dirt roads, the vibe in the van when I’m at the helm has become much more pleasant. And I’m learning at lot, even after 22 years of driving.
We each have our roles in the van and those roles have come about organically (see Routine post). When we get to a place where we are not stealth camping, Jon sets up the awning, mat and other items outside the van (usually in two blinks of an eye). I usually take Penny out and empty trash, etc. When it’s time to ride, he does bike set up and I prep Penny and the cabin as well as fill water bottles. Dinner is usually planned and dictated by me, Jon cooks and I clean. I take Penny out at night and Jon takes her out first thing in the morning as he starts coffee (yes, I’m that lucky).
It’s not that I’m approaching this gift of time and adventure with a certain level of apathy; it’s just that things are chugging along just fine. Some people would greet each day, location, adventure with some amount of expectation or “weight”, for lack of a better word. However, we don’t live in that reality. That would be exhausting! Not everything can be so meaningful at every moment of every day. Rather we tend to greet each day with a certain amount of gratitude for doing what we are doing and being happy with whatever the day brings.
I remember when we were getting married many people kept asking me about my vision for the day. My response was constantly that I didn’t really have one. Again, I wasn’t apathetic, I was simply open to whatever the day brought. There’s a big difference between apathy and openness/flexibility, I think. I knew that getting married was going to be awesome and that as many friends and family who could make it would be there. Anything else was just icing on the cake. As it turned out, my sister, my maid of honor/florist, got extremely sick and was hospitalized and missed our wedding. But it was okay. My sister was recovering beautifully and the day was still good in the end. The flowers looked great even though different than how she would have done them. I had two dear friends pinch-hit as bridesmaids (not at all unhappy that they were up there with me). I was open to whatever the day was going to bring in spite of my sister, brother-in-law and nephews lack of attendence. All was fabulous. My world did not end because my big sister wasn’t at our wedding (despite the fact that she’s one of my closest friends and I don’t understand how people get through life without a sister who is 9 years older). End of story. Perhaps I’m just realistic. Shit happens, it could always be worse and usually it’s going to be ok, eventually. That’s how I feel about this trip. We are lucky to be here, we don’t take it for granted. We are not bending over backwards to find meaning or fulfill a vision at every moment. That would be unrealistic and likely set us up for severe expectation mismanagement and failure. Perhaps that’s where the anticipated drama would arise, who knows. Rather we find comfort in our routine, try to play outside and sweat every day, keep Penny happy and comfortable. Jon and I find time together and time apart and it works for us.
June 18th marked our 5th wedding anniversary and our tradition is to read our vows to each other. As I read mine I was reminded about a part of our vows, our marriage and our friendship about which I feel extremely passionate. I vowed to Jon and to myself that, as part of the way to best care for our team (i.e. our relationship), I would always make sure I was taking care of myself. It all goes back to the mindset and approach that you can’t be any good to anyone else if you don’t love or like yourself. So, in that vein, in order to be good to and for Jon and our marriage, I have to take care of myself. In van life this comes in the form of eating well, excersizing often and finding comfort in our little routines/organization.
So there you go. I don’t have dirt or drama. I hope these are still my sentiments in another four months, but for now, the Roaming Robos are comfortable, fulfilled and balanced.
Side note: I wrote this and shared it with Jon. I asked him if he agreed with what I wrote or does he secretly have a bunch of drama brewing just beneath the surface. He said, “looks good. Sounds right. Same page.” Yup.