“Wa-wait…you’re doing what now?”
I knew it was coming. As we shared our news, I could just hear people saying to us, “Wow, that’s crazy.” Not “cray-cray,” the cool kind of crazy; more like, I-know-a-great-therapist crazy. If it were just the two of you that would be one thing, they’d say. But with kids? That’s just foolish and irresponsible.
I’ll tell you: This week, we left on a seven-month road trip around the country–me, my wife, and our two boys, now 10 and 9. My wife, who runs a trade association, is visiting her organization’s members, and the boys and I get to be part of the adventure. In addition to my writing assignments (thankfully portable), I will add teaching to my resume. Roadschooling, as it were.
Like the traders, trappers and prospectors who roamed the prairies before us, we know it’s a long, treacherous journey. Nevertheless, we have stocked our covered wagon (an Airstream travel trailer), hitched up the horses (400 of them, according to the truck’s brochure), and are headed West. We’ll follow the rutted trails cut by the early pioneers (since paved and part of the Interstate system), hunt and gather whatever nutriment and rations we can find (on travel store shelves), and circle the wagons each night to recharge (does “full hook-up” include electric and WiFi?). Lewis and Clark would be proud, and likely envious, of our modern Conestoga’s 15,000-BTU air-conditioner. Though I imagine even they would tell us to wait until the kids are in college before considering a journey so obviously fraught with peril.
There is something to be said for taking a risk, for leaving the known for the unknown, for getting (literally) out of your comfort zone, and for putting yourself (literally) out there. Even so, I have been pretty quiet about our news. For months I have strategically avoided Facebook and have only shared our plans on a need-to-know basis. This type of big life change is hard for anyone to digest in one sitting, and really can’t be condensed into an elevator pitch or status update. Besides, it’s hard to feign confidence and enthusiasm when you’re still trying to muster it yourself.
In the past few weeks I finally, cautiously, began to share. I braced myself for lots of questions, the same ones ruminating in my head for months now, most still unresolved. How would this even work? What does a typical day look like? A dad who homeschools? Isn’t there a reason most people don’t attempt a stunt like this? Are you worried about uprooting the kids? What about work, and standards of learning tests, and friends, and extracurricular activities? What if you don’t like it?
They’re right, we’ve never even camped before. But, we keep telling ourselves, this opportunity is here now. We love to travel. We’re ready for a new adventure. The kids’ ages are ideal. We’re all healthy. Had we passed it up, or waited until we had better answers, we would always have wondered. And, I suspect, regretted.
As it turns out, I didn’t have to argue; there was nary a naysayer. People have been genuinely supportive. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, other traveling families we have connected with on social media, even the kids’ doctor, have all overwhelmed us with encouragement and praise. People seem excited for us, even if it’s not something they would ever do themselves (which of course they wouldn’t, it being crazy and all).
I’m excited too. And nervous. About change, and how the kids will adapt, and how the parenting and homeschooling and work/life/travel balance will all go. Most of all, I’m nervous about leaving the security and comforts of a three-and-a-half bath home with modern plumbing to live in a 200-sq.ft. tornado magnet with a 4:1 tenant-to-toilet ratio and a do-it-yourself septic system. Indeed, full-time travel with kids will bring lots of change and unique challenges. Bye-bye, Comfort Zone.
Beyond the day-to-day change of scenery, however, we are sitting on a golden opportunity here as parents. As our family develops new routines in a new environment, we have a rare shot at starting over with a clean slate, a reboot, a do-over. What I wouldn’t give to undo some bad habits we’ve let creep into our lives: too much screen time, not enough family time. I want to teach them that it is more fun to collect experiences than Pokemon cards and 3DS games. I hope this journey will teach my kids, who tend to be anxious, how to adapt to change, meet new friends and develop confidence.
I will post regularly here about our experiences parenting on the road, win, lose, or draw. Until then, wish us luck. We’re going to need it.
Follow Schrum and his family on Instagram at Up In the Airstream
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