Extracting ourselves in a van trip around the US.

our van

The way you feel after your vacation can tell you what you should do next, if you pay attention.

We all fall into routines in life. Usually it's some variation and schedule of sleep, wake, work, play. After we do the routine enough it becomes automatic and we don’t think about it. When we feel bad, we’ll blame ourselves, or our coworker but we’ll almost never question setting and routine.

But when we switch that routine the pendulum of our feelings swings in a different direction. Pay attention to this change and you’ll become aware of what you should do. This happened a year ago to me and my wife.

A year ago, my wife and I lived in Oakland, California and worked office jobs close by. We’d work hard during the week and take weekend excursions with our kids and friends. Life was fine but not exceptional. Time seemed to fly by.

For a summer vacation we traveled to Wyoming to visit family and friends as we had several times before. As always the trip was a wonderful combination of adventure, exercise and community. After two weeks we drove the 14 hours back to Oakland.

After 11 hours of peaceful driving through Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada we hit the California border and the pace of life rockets up. Cars are tailgating each other, teenage drivers are swerving through lanes to get somewhere 30 seconds faster and we both start to feel stressed. We’d re-entered the rat race.

Once home, we notice all of the low-level stresses that are part of our lives here. We’re worried that our kids might be exposed to lead from the paint in our old house. I smell exhaust on my runs. A car nearly hit my son crossing the street. We’re wasting money on high rent. It takes 40 min to drive to work. Is someone going to steal my bike. Our neighbors have 10 people living with them and their gate slams shut. The list goes on and on.

During one dinner soon after our return we realized that all these low level stresses were going to leave us unhealthy and unhappy. So we made a commitment to go on adventure and find a better situation.

Since we didn’t know where we wanted to go we decided that a year long van trip around North and South America would be the best way to see different communities and give a little adventure. We didn’t really know how to do it but we started telling everyone that's what we were going to do. When friends would ask us questions, we’d make up answers that sounded good and they would become part of our plan. We just leaned forward and committed to removing ourselves from the surrounding of low level stresses.

I’m writing 2 weeks into our van trip as we’re stuck in a hotel room in Seattle because the air is toxic from the wildfires, all the parks are closed because of the toxic air and everything inside is canceled because of the pandemic… so it’s too early to determine if we made the right decision.