When we finally arrived in Southern California, something happened: We could see what might come next on our journey.
Somewhere in Florida, we stopped being able to forecast traveling through the rest of the country; we could only see until California. In part, this was because we were aware that driving through the Rocky Mountains may require a different vehicle and RV. It also could include our awareness of driving through, up and over 12,000 feet and our readiness to do so. Some of it will be shaped by season, too, so we only really could grasp a summer spent in SoCal. But when we finally landed in San Diego, the regions on our refrigerator map jumped out at us and began to take shape.
So as Scot and I were discussing these future plans, making circles around regions of the U.S. and arrows pointing toward Mexico, Canada and Alaska, we mentioned when we might be able to return to Michigan to visit friends and family.
“Maybe next summer we can head back to the Midwest,” I said, “for like a month or so and then head into Québec.”
Luna had overheard us. As the information registered, she turned to me and said, “Wait. We’re going back to Michigan?” coupled with a look on her face of why?
When that happened, Scot and I both looked at each other and laughed really hard, because her question and expression said it all: She wants to be on this journey and stay on this journey. It squashed any worry or wonder I had about whether or not she really likes doing this or wants to continue. It obliterated any suspicions that she sorely missed everyone back home, and it confirmed what we thought to be true, that what is happening to us as a family is profoundly grounding, inspiring, bonding, fulfilling, exciting, adventurous and interesting. Selling our possessions to live tiny and travel full time is it for this family. My heart swelled, I think I shed a mini tear, Scot and I smiled and the confidence in my step was surer than ever. What a moment.
Mama: Luna, when you heard us say that we might be visiting Michigan, what did you think?
Luna: Well, I don’t want to go back to Michigan, because I love traveling. But the worst part for me is setting up, like setting up to stay and setting up to go.
M: How come?
L: Because it’s boring, because I don’t have anybody to play with, only my friends if I make any [at the campground]. (Aw, meh-meh.)
M: What about travel days?
L: I mean it isn’t too bad, because I get to watch videos and things if there is a WiFi connection. We have to drive and all, unless we have a camper that we can drive, but then it is like a gigantic car.
M: Do you mean like if we had an RV that we could drive, then we wouldn’t have to unhitch and stuff?
L: Yeah, but I like our camper. The other ones are too big. This camper isn’t too big or too small like that triangular camper that we thought we were going to get when we got this one. That would definitely not fit us in it.
M: So what you are saying is that you are not ready to go back to Michigan?
L: NnnnnnnNO way!
M: I mean, I can see us visiting, but I’m not ready to stay there. It freaks me out to think that we would stay (and not travel).
L: Aaaaaaare you ready to go back?
L: Me either.
M: Out of curiosity, is there anything that would make the setting up part better for you?
L: Probably if one of you did it and one of you played, or if you switched — one of you did it and one of you played.
Good to know.
Perhaps some of you might be thinking that if we had another kid our problem of boredom and play would be solved! No. Luna doesn’t even want another sibling. She has never wanted another sibling. We all like three. Or, maybe you’re thinking that if we’d stay in one spot, then she’d have more friends, but then we wouldn’t be traveling, so no to that, too. Or it could just be that there is a lot of adult work that must be done, even in travel, that kids don’t want to do and that is just the way of the world and it, too, shall pass. Maybe. Whatever.
M: Luna, what if we had another kid so that you would have someone to play with while we hitched up? (Shakes her head no. Looks at me like this isn’t even a funny question.)
M: No? No good? Not even funny? (Still shaking head no. On the verge of tears. Changing subject.)
Where was I? Oh, yes, so we have an enthusiastic traveler on our hands, and we find this thrilling. I don’t know if I realized that she would be so invested. After all, ultimately we parents decide what to do, what we think is best for our children for the time being. But our kiddo has embraced sustained travel, including its ups and downs. How cool is that? What we feel is even more exciting is wondering what Luna will do with this experience. How will in manifest in her own life? Will she continue to travel with us, without us? Will she find that she’s had enough and choose a cozy home and steadfast community, never to travel again? Every time we hike, I wonder how far she will go with it — that is, will she become a super serious hiker doing things we never considered? She really enjoys boulder hopping and practices “mountain climbing” techniques, even though she is only four inches from the ground. When it comes to this she seems intrepid and I really can imagine her hanging from the side of a cliff as she finds her footing to scale in whatever direction calls most to her. Much like childhood. Much like unschooling/natural learning.
Despite her disinterest in “setting up,” she has a pretty solid grasp of how to do it and what it requires — chocks, wedges, the workings of a tongue jack, backing in and up, propane and its uses, leveling, maps, fuel, direction and directions, exit signs, lube, weather watching, sewer hoses and a sore butt and an empty stomach after a long drive. She manipulates the slideout, the awning and the stabilizers with a remote and even adjusts the jack when we are hitching the vehicles. Inside the camper, she is learning more about propane as she continues to learn to cook. She is pretty good at helping build fires, and she knows that life is a little less relaxing without a hammock and a campfire in it.
We also are learning to live with limitation. The camper is small, the spaces within it even smaller. At least one of us once a day rams an elbow into a protruding window prop, and we are lucky if two of us can fit in the bathroom at the same time. We don’t buy a lot because there isn’t a lot of room in which to store much, including food. When she remembers play items or books that she had back home in a home, she thinks fondly and reminisces but doesn’t lament. If anything, we are collecting feathers, rocks, shells and pine cones, and, occasionally, a dead but in tact butterfly, preserving it in its own little bed. And, of course, we are gathering a plethora of memories through experiences. She otherwise says nothing about not having things. She treats this camper like a giant playhouse for her, her Mama and her Papa. She is actually, truly a gem of a traveler and a ton of fun to be around all of the time, and she is great at tiny living. I doubt we could have chosen a better travel partner than this little girl.
Going with the flow of travel and going with the flow of life have brought tremendous benefits to her days — and ours — as a growing child and the strengthening of family. The hours are hers to unravel without schedule. We are together most of the time as a family. She hears us talk about work and writing, about relationships, joys and frustrations. Because Scot and I work together, she now wants her own business with Papa — a lemonade stand. On her computer she has made a mock-up for the stand and a business plan. When her brain tires, she returns to a video or to drawing. Later we swim or walk or play soccer. We make time for lots of snuggles and streaming of travel shows or foreign films. This creates dialogue for future travel.
M: Where do you really want to travel?
L: To England to see Stampy. (That is Stampy Longnose to those of you unfamiliar with Minecraft. Friend to all children, creator of Stampy’s Lovely World on YouTube, Luna is in love and hopes to meet him someday.)
M: You seem to be interested in Paris, too.
M: How come?
L: Because I just want to see it.
M: And you’ve mentioned Hawaii. Does that just look pretty?
M: You like the palm trees.
L: Yeah, but I want to taste a coconut. Can you eat the outside?
M: No, but you could probably use it in a fire.
L: Yeah, because it is kind of like really hard wood. But the inside is like very, very white. So does coconut water taste like coconut?
M: Well, it’s very liquid, but it’s not actually very sweet.
L: But yummy and good for you.
L: I just really want to taste the fat in it. I just want to taste the solid, I don’t really want to taste the liquid. (The fat. Love her.)
M: Any place else you want to visit?
L: Well, I want to meet Bratayley. (Another video star.) Wait, do they live in England?
M: No. They live in Maryland.
L: Oh, Maryland.
M: Which is by where we were last fall, near Pennsylvania, where the Hershey place was.
L: So that’s really all I want to see. I want to watch some more videos now, but ask me if you have anymore questions.
M: K. Thanks.
For most of my young adult life into my early thirties, I was quite sure that I did not want to have children. But my relationships changed and my feelings evolved and here we are traveling with this amazing, easy-going kid who likes to travel full time in a tiny house on wheels. For me and probably my husband, this life is a manifestation of all things love and hopeful, of dreams realized. For our daughter, it is simply her life, lived as free as the wind and as regular as the seasons. I wish this for any family. The togetherness that it creates is seamless, the joy and peace and harmony unknown to me in any other form, except perhaps through meditation. We are a fortunate trio for sure, and we are looking forward to more family travel. It sure is fun.