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**Be warned: This post steered much deeper than I expected it to when I sat down to write it.
This one is focused much more on mindset and presence than on practicality and finances. If that’s not your cup o’ joe, you can move along with no guilt and find the more practical posts on our RV Living Resources page. Such as 5 Pieces of Advice for RV Newbies We Wish We Would Have Been Given.
That type of information might be more helpful for your current needs. But if you want to take a bit of a dive into the less practical? Well, take a deep breath and read on.**
Right now, as we sit in the midst of an unprecedented and unnerving global health event in March 2020, I can’t help but wonder how different the world might look on the other side of it.
And sure, I have fears that rise to the surface just like you do and cloud the waters of reality. But I am working to clear away those fears and allow the optimism and possibility that are hiding just below the surface to come into focus.
In this past week, Julie and I have had conversations about how the current environment makes us question our resolve to RV full-time again in the next couple of years.
I’m finding that this type of event, this type of social climate, makes us crave a feeling of certainty and safety over possibility, opportunity and freedom. Not just in our living situation but on many of life’s fronts.
But that doesn’t mean I’m okay with that craving or that I’m ready to bow down to it. Right now, I’m just observing it and questioning it. I’m trying to learn from it, not blindly criticize it and attempt to choke it out.
This is a time to pay attention, when I have some extra time and less activity, not to simply attack what scares me or makes me feel uncomfortable.
And it’s a time to reflect on life, on the things that make me feel most alive. As you might imagine, that has brought my thoughts back to our 17 months of full-time RVing with our family.
What Will I Do Differently When We RV Full-Time Again?
Look, I can’t promise myself or you that we will absolutely hit the road again as full-time RVers in the future. I don’t hold the future, and I don’t know what it holds.
But at this point, there is still a large part of my spirit that believes full-time RVing will be a part of our “best life” in the years to come. How that happens, when it happens, what it looks like? Well, those are much cloudier issues.
I’m still saying “when” and not “if” when I talk about full-time RVing. I’m still interested in creating our best life, and that always happens in our minds before it happens in the material world.
So when we RV full-time again, our circumstances will look much different. We will be doing it as a couple, not a family of five. And here are the things I believe I will choose to do differently with this entirely new set of circumstances
Speed. Why do we seem to love it so much? Why is it our default setting in almost every area of this human life?
I’m not sure I want to try and answer those questions, not right now at least. I just want us to acknowledge it as a reality of this day and age: We believe faster is better.
We schedule down to the minute. We multi-task like demons. We strive to hit impossible deadlines. We tailgate in traffic as if inertia was not a thing. We want to get there, over the next rise in the road, believing it’s so much better than here.
It’s almost like we are trying to outrun the present moment, the mystery that it holds, instead of choosing to simply experience it.
When I look back on our first RV journey that covered many thousands of miles, I see very little lingering. Sure, we had our downtimes for relaxation and recovery, no doubt. But we missed out on more connections with other people and with the places we visited because speed was still our default.
I see now that we desired to experience more places instead of to experience places more. We lived on the surface and missed out on the depths and the rewards which almost inevitably come along with a slower pace.
The reality is you can’t hope to touch the depths of a place, to connect more intimately with it and its people, without adding time to the equation.
When we hit the road again, I will choose to slow down, linger, and learn from each location. I will choose to know and experience the soul of the places we are privileged to visit.
Exploration is awesome. As humans, I believe we were made to explore, that it makes us who we are.
But exploration just for the sake of it can easily become an empty experience. When the exploration is devoid of purpose and intention, it is only a shell of what it could be, what it should be.
Here’s the dividing line for me, at least: When our exploration does not naturally prompt expansion, we are doing it wrong. When growth is an afterthought of our exploration at best, we are leaving so much value on the table. And we are all the poorer for it, along with the human race as a whole.
You see, exploration almost always exposes us to new people, new perspectives, unfamiliar cultures, and sometimes unsettling customs. I think that exposure has huge potential to help us grow, to expand.
But that expansion is definitely not a given. When we meet all of this newness by trying to make it fit into our existing boxes of judgment, by running it through our personal filters of like and dislike or approve and disapprove, the potential value of the experience is sucked right out of it.
I look back on our travels and I see that very clearly in myself at many points along the way. I see that I wasn’t willing to let people and places simply be what they were. I distorted the experiences of exploration because my heart wasn’t open enough to simply accept these things as they were, to find the value in them without the need to add or tweak anything.
I came to new places expecting them to thrill me or entertain me. I showed up with my needs and my sense of judgment, and that distorted my experience of many places and people.
It’s incredibly easy to not see things as they are but rather as we hope or desire them to be. But that is always a shame and a missed opportunity in our explorations.
When we hit the road again, I will choose to explore in order to expand. I believe this will add depth to my experience and will honor the opportunity itself.
When you travel with a family and you have one vehicle to take care of the needs of five people, it gets pretty tough to find time to escape and simply wander with only yourself as company.
Through all of the stunningly gorgeous and impossibly peaceful locations we visited, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I did this in 17 months of travel. That’s what the situation called for and I have no regrets.
But if you think I’m not going to take advantage of the increased opportunity for “lonely wandering” when we hit the road as a couple, you are sadly mistaken.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not looking to escape from my wife; far from it. I had almost no chance to escape into the wild with her during our travels either. That number will naturally increase on the next round of travels, and I am truly looking forward to it.
Time alone, however, is a core need of this introspective introvert. I know that I will be better with my wife, for my wife, when I take advantage of the greater freedom to disappear for a day.
I know that I will discover hidden parts of my soul tucked away in the shaggy moss of a pine tree or under a giant and mesmerizing toadstool. For me, those chances present themselves when there is no rush, no pressure, no hurry, no worry. Just time to move at my own pace, giving nature time to reveal itself to me.
Just writing those lines got my heart beating a little faster, my mind racing with images of silent escapes to come.
Yes, when we hit the road again, I will choose hours of lonely wanderings in the places that make me come alive.
Read Among the Trees
I rarely leave the house for any period of time without having a book along for the ride. No, I mean a physical book with paper pages and everything.
This is a habit I have developed to keep me from losing precious minutes of my day lost in the endless maze of social media, feasting but returning empty.
It’s probably not hard to believe that this habit didn’t develop on our last family journey. If I’m not wandering or venturing pretty much anywhere alone, it leaves very little opportunity to escape into a book.
When we have the chance to dwell among the trees again in places of solitude and beauty, this “bring a book” habit will absolutely come along with me.
What could go better with a day of lonely wandering than a half-hour reading on an ancient tree stump? That is a match made in heaven.
So, when we hit the road again, a real book will make every excursion with me into the hidden places of the earth.
And I hope those books will get worn and dirty, tattered and aged, as evidence of our adventures together out into the world.
Sit and Stare
As far as I can tell, our society is losing the ability to just gaze. To sit and look at just one thing for an extended period of time, taking in its every detail, appreciating its silent wisdom.
It feels like we have learned to value speed (as we discussed above) over appreciation in every corner of our human experience.
Over the past few years, I have tried to get much better at this. I’m aware that my attention, our attention, is always and incessantly pulled to the next thing. Moving on to the next thing is always our default setting. The next thing is better. The next thing satisfies our misguided need to make constant progress, just for the sake of progress.
But I think there is a far different type of progress whose value is often lost: the progress of appreciation.
When we make the choice to simply stay with an object, rejecting the natural urge to speed along to that next thing, something begins to shift inside of us. It prompts a subtle rewiring of our brains, reminding us of the value and depth we miss when we obey that first urging. It opens up new doors of discovery and perception on levels we did not realize existed.
And just as importantly, it allows our relationship with this thing, this one right in front of us in this moment, to expand. It allows us to move beyond our simple label, “this is a stream”, and into a deeper understanding of its purpose, its beauty, its significance in the connected web of all things that is our world.
On our last journey, I was drawn to try and take photos of some of these subtle and hidden details in nature. I wanted to capture the value of sitting and staring in digital format.
When we hit the road again, I will choose to sit and stare and attempt to capture exactly nothing.
I will let things be, in their place, at that moment, for me to gaze at and appreciate all the more. I believe this is how a heart, how a human, expands.
Be Enveloped in Gratitude
This point had to come last in this list, as you will see.
I am beginning to understand something new: Gratitude is the natural result of increased attention and appreciation. But attention and appreciation are very difficult to develop at our world’s breakneck pace.
So there is a natural progression that happens here: Added time, slowing down leads to added attention. Added attention leads to a deeper appreciation. And deeper appreciation is the doorway to an overwhelming and pervasive sense of gratitude for this human experience that can fill and transform a life.
Time –> Attention –> Appreciation –> Gratitude
And this is something I believe with my entire being: An authentic sense of gratitude, truly felt in your bones and not just scribbled on a page, is the secret ingredient for a transformed and remarkable life.
Go ahead, try to convince me otherwise. Show me the evidence you believe proves me wrong on this point, but I believe it’s an impossible case to present effectively.
Even though this four-part progression has just begun to crystallize in my mind, I look back and believe it is exactly the path I have been trying to follow for the past six years. Imperfectly, no doubt.
And I know now it is the path I will continue to walk down in the coming years, whether we have the privilege of hitting the road full-time again or not.
Although I do desire to RV full-time again, I can now see that I must choose a transformed and remarkable life right here at this moment, in this place.
How Will We Choose to Travel?
Travel is an incredible gift, a privilege not available to all. When we receive that gift, I believe we have a responsibility to use it wisely.
I hope you will join me on this path of pursuing transformation and expansion through the joy of travel. I hope we can make our travel matter, that we can give something back to the human race by honoring each location and each person we come across.
If we are able to set aside our judgments and preferences and instead invite added time, attention and appreciation into our travels, the resulting sense of gratitude and wonder can change everything. It can breathe new life into our humanity.
Todd Bonner is the slightly quieter half of the dynamic TREKKN duo. He spends most of his time sharing information about RV travel and safety, RV accessories and tips, and the National Parks he has visited and still desperately craves. When he’s not busy working on TREKKN, you will often find him staring at breathtaking pictures of Glacier National Park, probably his favorite spot on earth.