(for Part 1, click here)
Travel was pushed to the back burner.
I started teaching at a public high school. Andy worked as a youth pastor. We moved a few times, following opportunities. We had a baby. Then another one. We had to be responsible. Responsible people just work to make ends meet. They don’t chase adventures around the globe.
When we got the opportunity to follow a traveling trade show circuit around the United States AND count it as providing for our family, we jumped at it, of course. It was not ideal travel, to be honest. Trade shows prefer to book venues at times when the weather is its worst, in hopes of drawing people to the convention center or fairgrounds where they can do something indoors since it is too miserable to be outdoors much. So we traveled the country in a van from hotel to hotel, never spending more than a few short days in any one place.
We were homeschooling at that time at the kids’ request, so traipsing around the country from late October to early April—with only a few weeks off between Thanksgiving and Christmas—was entirely possible, but honestly it was not often that great. We might have 1,000 miles or more to travel between weekend shows, and the weather was almost always bad. I did my best to find interesting places to visit without ever straying too far from the inevitable interstate highways—historic sites and museums and architectural wonders—but when we ask our kids what they remember of those years, they invariably just shrug and say they recall being cold all the time. It was technically travel and we did check off nearly all 50 states, most of the major cities and bodies of water, and dozens of national and state parks, but it was far from ideal.
When the last of the kids left home, we were both still working as high school teachers in Oregon. It was a busy life, even just for the two of us. We moved into a fifth wheel trailer to save money and simplify our lives and found it wasn’t a bad lifestyle for us at all. Our teaching responsibilities kept us very busy, though, and with Andy’s dad living at our home back in Montana needing increasing amounts of care and attention, we found ourselves running frequently back and forth, juggling between our lives and responsibilities in each place. It became increasingly hectic and stressful, but at least living in a fifth wheel made us flexible and portable.
When COVID hit and our teaching moved online, things got even crazier in some ways (how does one teach woodworking online?), but at least we could live anywhere, since we were suddenly forced to work remotely. We rode out most of the first waves of the pandemic in Montana where we could care for his dad. At least we weren’t running back and forth as much.
As the pandemic wore on, we finally had time to catch our breath and reconsider our priorities. Now that our kids were gone, we had to ask ourselves who we were without the bulk of our parenting responsibilities. We had to examine our goals, both short and long term. We remembered our initial dreams and passions. We wanted to see the world. We wanted to learn. We wanted to explore and have adventures. We did NOT want a schedule imposed upon us while we did it. Most importantly, we realized we did NOT want to wait until typical retirement age to pursue our dreams of travel. We had seen too many couples’ travel dreams go unfulfilled because they waited too long and their health gave out. We wanted to find a way out early.
(for Part 7, click here)