I’m writing this from the sofa, where I’m propped up with pillows and heat packs, anti-inflammatories and arnica salve close at hand. This is where I’ve spent the past three days, recovering from wrenching my back while kayaking. This is a challenging part of traveling—I would rather be in our hometown, where my acupuncturist and chiropractor are trusted friends. (For that matter, that’s where my trusted hair stylist is, too. I can’t tell you how many questionable haircuts I’ve had in the past three years.)
Reflections On Our Travels
Because I’m generally several weeks behind in writing our blog, I have the luxury of looking at our life from the perspective of a few weeks’ distance. From that safe place—and a conscious choice to focus on the positive—things usually look pretty darned rosy. In truth, they are.
It’s not always so wonderful in the present moment, though.
I’ve written about the more difficult challenges we’ve faced in the past three years—the loss of our dear friend Kevin, who died suddenly not long after we embarked on our fulltime journey. The loss of our sweet kitty, who joined us for the first year-and-a-half of our travels. Our big boo-boo in the desert, where we wrecked our trailer and were out of our home for six weeks. The outpouring of support that we received, including from friends on our blog, carried us through those painful times.
Minor Bumps In The Road
There have been plenty of minor bumps in the road, too. I rarely write about those, because they fade from memory pretty quickly given some time and distance. These include expensive and sometimes unexpected truck and trailer repairs and computers and cameras going belly-up. There’s also been some not-so-minor stuff like cataract surgery for Eric and an anaphylactic reaction to antibiotics for me—but by the time all of that was over with, I didn’t want to think about it anymore.
We’ve been on Lopez Island since late June, enjoying what we’ve come to think of as our summer home. But our arrival was marred when we awoke two nights later to find ourselves ankle-deep in water inside of our trailer. We’re still dealing with the aftermath—everything has throughly dried out, but Eric is facing two days on his back beneath the trailer to replace the insulation, and we’re deciding where we’ll go to have new flooring installed when we leave the island. (I hated the little strip of carpet in the living room and bedroom from the beginning, but I assure you this was not my plan for getting rid of it.)
The bright spot in that incident? It wasn’t the black water tank.
Sometimes Minor Things Can Wear You Down
The leak was the crowning event in a long string of relatively minor (albeit expensive) things that have occurred over the past several months. For a week in late June, while tearing out sopping wet insulation and carpeting and prying up five million carpet staples (the carpet installer clearly had way too much caffeine), we seriously questioned whether or not we wanted to continue this journey. We were exhausted and discouraged by this latest mishap.
This was one of those times that I wished, like Dorothy, I could click my heels together and go “home.” (Not sure if my Keens would work as well as ruby slippers, though.)
There’s no question that it’s more difficult when things “go wrong” when you’re living on the road. Having work done on our trailer means hauling our home to the shop. It can be challenging to find (and trust) repair shops, service centers, and computer techs. Basically, we check reviews on Yelp, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. For medical stuff, we try to take care of it at home, or in locations where we have friends and family who can provide referrals. So far, it’s all worked out pretty well.
But whatever the latest challenge, what always rises to the surface after the dust settles, the flood recedes, or the pain abates is that we are deeply grateful that we found the courage to embark on this journey.
Despite The Challenges, This Has Been A Glorious Adventure
This I know for sure: Had we not taken to the road three years ago, there is no way that we would have had all of the amazing adventures that we’ve experienced or met all of the wonderful people that we’ve encountered along the way. And we have no doubt that we would have regretted the road(s) not taken.
As I reflect on our journey from my currently uncomfortable position, happier images flood my mind: hiking to high peaks in the Sierras, and exploring the colorful mesas, slot canyons, and ancient ruins of the Southwest. Kayaking the bays of the San Juan Islands, the refreshing Florida springs, and the mysterious swamps of Louisiana. Witnessing the splendor of bird migration in the remote canyons of Arizona, and the magnificent courtship displays of nesting egrets along the Gulf Coast. Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and along the Rio Grande in Taos. Wandering the lovely cities of Santa Fe, New Orleans, and San Francisco and the colorful small towns of Silver City and Breaux Bridge.
Returning to my roots in Apalachicola. Spending precious time with our families scattered across the country. Meeting new friends on the road and the joy of reconnecting with our friends at home. And of course, our glorious summers on Lopez Island.
How Long Will We Travel?
When we first told friends and family that we were going to rent our home and live full time in our trailer, many of them asked, “For how long?” Three years into this journey, we still don’t have an answer. What we do know is that we have a lot more adventures and travel planned, and we see ourselves traveling for a long time to come. Two more weeks on Lopez, and we’ll be taking off again. Meanwhile, I have a blog to catch up on—providing I can get the worst internet connection on the planet to cooperate. As far as I can determine, it’s the only downside to this beautiful island.
Thanks, as always, for coming along with us. We love having your company.
Oh, I’m so sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well! I hope the pain and inflammation disappear soon. Sending so much love.
Thanks, darlin’. oxox
Best wishes for a speedy recovery Laurel.
Back pain can be the worst.
I wish you knew how much I enjoy reading about your travels and how I envy your freedom and energy.
Thank you so much for your good wishes, Carol. I’m delighted to know that you’re enjoying our blog—we’re happy to have you along with us.
Oh, my! If I were to ever get it together and write a blog about our first two years on the road, it would read very much like this one (only not as well written)! I am at the same time exhausted from our recent adventure and invigorated about our future travels. I am tired of being a tourist and long for leisurely days at home, yet I have a bucket list that continues to grow. At the end of the day, I am simply grateful that we have choices. We are so lucky! Feel better soon!
Linda, I must say I’m glad to know we’re not alone! Our bucket list continues to grow, too (including a trip to Alaska like you guys have done)—and at the same time we’re committed to slowing down our travels. I agree, we are SO lucky to have these choices and opportunities!
I’m so sorry that you are laid up. We’re in Iowa now on our way to Washington to pick up our kayaks. I hope everything works out for the best. Take care
Thanks, Pam. I’m already feeling better. Have fun with those kayaks!
You two have definitely faced some challenges on the road, a couple that may have caused me to have a melt-down. You always seem to rise above these tests with grace and a sense of humor, two things I so admire about you both. Glad to hear that you are continuing your adventures for the foreseeable future.
Now on to the important question of how you are doing. Have you seen any improvement since you wrenched your back? We both send best wishes for a swift recovery. Big hugs!
LuAnn, you guys have been with us during a couple of our challenges, and have been wonderfully supportive friends through it all. Miss you guys—I promise it’s safe to meet up with us, haha!
And yes, I’m doing much better, thank you. Hugs to you, too.
Laurel, your writing is so expressive and you chose just the right words to say so much. You have been tested in these past three years and, it seems, have beaten the odds. I’m sorry to hear of your injury. Hopefully it will heal and you can get back to the business of living your dream.
Thank you for continuing to share your great experiences and congratulations on your third anniversary. Having this opportunity on the road, in my opinion, is a gift of the highest order.
You said it well, Steven—this opportunity for travel is truly a gift of the highest order. You express that so well in your beautiful blog. Here’s to many more grand experiences! Thanks so much for the good thoughts.
We’re sending you healing thoughts and positive energy for a quick recovery from your back problems and for the trailer.
It’s been 5 years on the road for us this month and we have experienced so many of the same positive adventures.
There have also been a few of those “Oh Shit” moments of sheer terror and many many moments of bliss.
If we were still living in the city we wouldn’t have met all of the wonderful people across the country and over seas that we now count as friends (you guys especially). We wouldn’t have lain under the eastern Oregon night sky watching meteors, or have enjoyed the fall color in Acadia National Park.
While life on the road isn’t for everyone, it certainly suits you, and us, well.
Until the next time our paths cross,
Riley & Karen, happy 5th anniversary of your full-time journey! Thank you for the healing thoughts and sharing some of your beautiful reflections on this traveling life. Yes, the wonderful friends we’ve met (including you, of course!) have enriched our journey immensely. We’re looking forward to meeting up with you guys soon, hopefully in September!
Wishing you a speedy recovery and “ruby shoes.”
Jer, thank you so much for the lovely wishes! :-)
Hope those meds are helping. I feel your pain with the haircuts but remember some of those before starting this journey. We left the kayak with the grandkids for a while, sore back too. The poor internet sucks but you are right about the experiences. Glad you are keeping on because that can all happen even at “home”. I would be sad to not have your blog to follow. Ice first then heat.
Looks like I made it about me. Hope you feel better.
Debbie, thanks so much for your expert advice. “Ice first then heat” has definitely helped. You are so right, that all of this same stuff can happen at home. We’re happy to be on the road, even with the occasional rough patches.
We are thinking about you. Can’t imagine much keeping you down. Hope you recover quickly. Our hearts and hugs are with you.
Aww, this is so sweet! We’re looking forward to meeting up with you two this fall or winter. So happy you made it to Lopez. :-)
Oh, no!!! So sorry to hear about your temporary, painful back problem. I certainly can relate…
I wish you a quick recovery and hope your plans for future trips unfold without further complications. You guys have been our on-the-road mentors (and friends).
Loretta, thanks so much for your good wishes—and your offer to help should we need it! We’re so happy you guys decided to take to the road—and it’s been a blast meeting up with you all across the country, including on Lopez. :-)
I’m glad to hear your adventures will continue but sorry to hear about your back. Al injured his back workamping and is finally doing better. I can totally relate to all the downsides of this lifestyle, but when things line up, it’s the best.
Last week I enjoyed hiking at Kasha-Katuwe and loved it. Your wonderful post was used as reference. Hope you’re feeling like yourself real soon! Now if only my computer would work right, I may actually start blogging again ;-)
Oh no! So sorry to hear that Al injured his back. :-( I know you understand both the downsides and the joys of this lifestyle, Ingrid. So glad you made it to Kasha-Katuwe! It’s such a special place. Hope you get those computer issues fixed soon.
Sorry to hear about your back. Glad to hear that, on the whole, you are glad about your decision to hit the road and see this wonderful continent.
Thanks so much, JC. We are definitely happy to be on this journey—wouldn’t trade it for anything!
Oh, Laurel!! So sorry to hear about your back. We both know how terrible a wrenched back can be. Sure hope things calm down real soon:) Yes, being on the road with medical issues is the worst.
Ankle deep water!! I might have thrown in the towel at that point. So glad to hear things have dried out. Please make sure Eric is careful under the trailer:) Good luck with your new flooring decision!
So glad to hear you are still going to continue on the road:) There are problems no matter where we choose to live. Why not enjoy new areas of this beautiful country while taking care of things:)
Hope we can catch up in Florida:)
Pam, I know you guys understand about wrenched backs. I figure I’m getting better because I’m starting to get restless to get out and DO something! You are absolutely right that there are problems no matter where we live, so we might as well be enjoying the scenery along the way. :-) I sure hope we can catch up with you soon—it’s been too long!
A lovely, real and cathartic post my dear. Somehow I’m glad it was the kayak and not the carpet that laid you up – at least you were having fun! It’s when the bumps pile on top of each other that this life loses some of its shine. I’m so glad you and Eric manage to positive through the solutions and find the joy. Both Tessa and I agree that finding a stylist on the road is the pits!
Haha, I hadn’t thought of that, Jodee—but yes, I suppose it’s better to injure myself having fun! We’ve definitely had a few bumps along the way (know you guys have had some, too)—but it doesn’t take much in this life to again find the joy. (Finding a good hairstylist is another story….)
So beautifully written I think you speak for many full timers when you say that despite it all, you do not regret the decision. We thought our just started dream was over after a year and half with David’s diagnosis and it is a serious challenge to deal with the medical problems on the road. We never know when time will be up. We too have had blow outs, stuck jacks and all the rest. I don’t think I rise above quite as well as you do. Thanks for giving me something to aspire to. I am very sorry to hear about your back and want to find out exactly what you did to cause it. I hope you are feeling 100% soon but with a back thing, do not push it. It’s connected to everything else. My knee problem turned out to be a back issue. Can’t believe you are leaving Lopez in 2 weeks. Really? Thanks again for this beautiful, realistic and heartfelt post.
Sherry, you and David are an inspiration for continuing on with your dream in the face of a challenging health diagnosis and all of the issues surrounding treatment on the road. It seems that it took us forever to push ourselves out of our cozy nest in Ashland, but even with some difficulties along the way, we’ve never regretted it. Sure hope we see you two in Florida this winter.
You two have certainly had a large share of challenges while on the road! But you are also an excellent example of how positivity can get you through anything!I hope your back recovers quickly. Looking forward to meeting you in Sept!
Thank you, Lisa. I know you’ve also had unexpected challenges arise since you’ve been full timing, and you’ve met them with grace and a positive attitude. We’re looking forward to meeting up with you and Hans, too! Yay, finally!
I had a moment of sadness when you were sharing your trials and tribulations, thinking maybe you were going to get off the road &settle down. And then a distinct joy raising from my heart knowing you were still loving the journey. I get a vicarious thrill seeing your images and hearing your stories on the road. In this crazy and stressful time on the planet you make it a better place!
I love how you can be in the pain of the moment, like right now or whatever that is, and when it’s over be in the experience of the next moment. How Zen is that!
Loving you both, looking forward to seeing you soon.
This is lovely, Cyn. Thank you for being so supportive of our journey, even though it means we don’t get to spend as much time with you and Kyle as we would like. We miss you two! We’re so excited we’ll be seeing you at the Sisters Music Festival in a couple of weeks! oxox
I’ve followed your blog for about a year and you have provided me with inspiration in planning our latest nine month journey west. Sorry to hear about your back and I hope it heals quickly. Traveling can be difficult but is also very rewarding- glad you have been able to overcome your difficulties and I wish you many splendid adventures wherever you may be.
Thank you so much for your good wishes, Pat. I’m so glad that you’ve been traveling with us. Wishing you a wonderful journey west!
Hang in there, Laurel! Love blasting your way for healing and smooth sailing ahead… xox D
Thank you, dear Dia! I know you understand about the pain and temporary limitation of injuries.oxox
Hi Laurel, I was just reading your blog. Rick and I are in Nassau trying to get back home with the boat! The weather finally is cooperating. I know how you feel I too have health issues(my knees) not good on our Grand Banks also so many stories to share keep in touch and feel better. Thinking of you. Our love to Eric. Karren and Rick
I’m so happy to hear from you, Karren! We’re looking forward to spending time with you and Rick this winter and catching up on the past year. Safe travels home from Nassau. Sending love to you both.
Oh Laurel, so sorry to hear about your back. I can certainly relate to the challenges when faced with health or medical issues. I’ve been there myself and all we can do is grin and bear it, for this is the lifestyle we have embraced.
This is a lovely post spoken out straight from the heart and I think you are speaking in behalf of us nomads on the road.
Whether we live on the road or on our stick and brick house, there will always be a breakdown or something. But you and Eric managed to stay above the challenges and rise from it. These too will pass!
Hang in there, I too got caught up with my blog when I had my knee injury.
I sure hope we can catch up with you in Oregon this fall, so I can give you and Eric a big hug!
I know you can relate with your recent knee injury, MonaLiza. So glad you’ve made a complete recovery and are back on the trails. :-) Thanks for your good thoughts, maybe I can catch up with our blog, too! We’ll make a plan to see you this fall, for sure.
Ahhh the dancing lessons from god can be exhausting at times but you two always make it look easy….grace and wit is my guess. Love you to the moon and back! See you in October!
Diana, sometimes stuff in the moment is overwhelming. But I can usually see the humor in retrospect—I mean, we’re all in this crazy dance together, right? And it can look really ridiculous at times. Love you, too, and can’t wait to see you!
So sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations…but as always to continue to be inspirations for Bob & I.
Enjoy your remaining time on Lopez & maybe our paths will cross in the spring:-)
PS- what was the cause of the flooding??
I hope our paths do cross soon, Bettina. You and Bob are inspirations for us, as well, with all of the wonderful volunteer work you do and the gorgeous birds you see. :-)
Congratulations on your amazing three years! You have been making memories that will last you a lifetime. I hope by now your back is better. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!
Thank you so much, Beth. You know all about making special memories on the road. :-)
Happy 3 years!!! We’ve been on the road for two now and I truly understand your perspective on how this nomadic life keeps us living in the present. Maybe that is one of the lovely changes that occurs after living in a life with a grounded home-base and life returning to A every evening. It was A-home, B-work, C-try to relax, fix things, and find adventure. Now when A = defghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz it’s hard to spend time thinking about that flat tire, black tank problem, or anything else except excitement for what tomorrow may bring. May your adventure together continue to bring new sunrises and unforgettable sunsets into your day.
Well said! Nomadic life does indeed keep us living in the present—I’ve often thought that travel is like a moving meditation. Wishing you many more continued wonderful adventures, too! And happy two-years-on-the-road anniversary. :-)
Well done on reaching 3 years, I’m sure many people give up when the going gets tough. As you said, we get to do and meet the most amazing things/people in this nomadic lifestyle we all lead, I often wonder how on earth we will settle down when we choose to. I hope you don’t suffer for long with your back, I’m sure it’s difficult to get comfortable and sleep well.
Jane, I’ve had the exact same thoughts, wondering how we’ll ever settle down after this nomadic life. I suppose we’ll want to at some point, but it’s hard to imagine with all that we still want to do. It’s not for everyone, but it suits us! My back is healing well, thank you. :-)
A very enthusiastic nod to this post– we are starting our third year as nomads (sold our home and rent furnished places in the US) and what I miss most about the old life are my hair pal and my massage therapist. Still, wouldn’t trade it for the world! My solve for body workers when we are in a place wo recos is to look for a teaching institution/school and often they have clinics where the instructors practice.Not willing to use the students but haven’t had a bad instructor yet. Cheers, safe travels
Thanks for the great idea, Leah. We’ve been thinking for a while that it would be nice to schedule massage appointments in our travels, especially with all of the hiking/biking/kayaking we do. Sounds like you’re having a wonderful traveling adventure!