April 28, 2023.
During the summer of 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, with wildfires consuming the state’s forests and dark smoke choking the air, I turned to Aaron and said: “I want to take a year off.” He blew off that idea as crazy and changed the subject.
But I kept dreaming, scheming, budgeting and putting that idea out there. “We can do it,” I said, “I ran the numbers. This is how much we’ll need to get a van outfitted and hit the road for a year.” I needed and wanted a break from our routine. Besides, we’d experienced so much death in the family in the past few years. People who didn’t get to live long enough to do all the things you’re supposed to do when you retire. “We’re doing it now,” I thought, “because the only time we know we have for certain is now.”
Fast forward to late April, 2023 and our leave date was barreling down on us. There was still so much to do. Rent the house. Pack up the last things. Move the furniture to the garage. Cancel this. Redirect that. Update insurance policies. Get those doctor’s appointments lined up. There’s so much logistics involved in living a life within a complex web of systems that govern every element about you. I was so ready to simplify, get rid of almost everything and break free of any unnecessary tethers. But we’d just planned and hosted a huge event the weekend before leaving, so many chores had to wait until the last minute. Stress levels maxed out.
On top of that, Aaron got sick. We just got new phones that didn’t import everything correctly. I was missing important calls and messages. I was managing all the things Aaron didn’t have enough energy to tackle. On the day we were slated to leave, he woke up very sick and he was in and out of doctor’s offices all day. We were down to just one vehicle, the van, which still needed a few things packed and organized inside. For me, the meticulous planner, I was really struggling with all these variables completely out of our control that threw our whole itinerary into chaos. Fortunately, I was able to call on my friend Amanda and a neighbor Rachel to help me get through that wild morning. I could not have done it without them.
At 4 pm, we drove to the property manager’s office, only to find the door locked and no one answering the phone. We just had to drop off keys and we’d be free to go. Since my phone still wasn’t working, I missed their return call. The business owner was on vacation, but one of her coworkers though to call me and send me an email, so as soon as I got the email, we got sorted out and hit the road.
It was hot and sunny, a rare turn for such a wet and chilly spring. All I wanted was ice cream. We stopped at Sweet Spot in La Pine to fill that need, a wonderful way to lift our spirits after a really rough week.
Since the next day’s plan included spending time at the Glide Wildflower Show, we drove down along the North Umpqua River looking for a place to camp. Snow filled the woods, blocking access to many sites. But we arrived at a lovely little snow-free campground called Boulder Flat and paid our ten bucks to spend a night along the river. The water poured loudly down the river bank, drowning out the sounds of our neighbor’s radio and screaming baby. It was perfect. I made some ramen with soft-boiled eggs on our induction cooktop and we ate comfortably in the van. As much as I love tent camping, in that moment I truly appreciated how simple it was to park, make food, eat food and retire.
Since Aaron was still very sick, I set up my hammock above a bed of greenery and trillium while he slept in the van. I took a deep breath, looked up at the stars and dreamt of easier times ahead.
If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you likely wouldn’t have known any of this was happening behind the scenes. It’s a place to share the highs and stuff away the lows. But both things can be true at once; we’re enjoying beautiful hikes, delicious meals at the coast and gorgeous wildflowers while also enduring illness, van organization snafus and a lost wallet. Oh, I haven’t mentioned the lost wallet yet!
The next day, in a state of illness-induced stupor I suppose, Aaron lost his wallet. We drove to both places it might have fallen out of his pocket, but to no avail. Feeling utterly defeated and depleted, he got on the phone to deal with all the things you need to do when you lose your credit card, debit card and license. Meanwhile, I ran to the nearby taco shop to get us some lunch. We didn’t need a complete meltdown on the second dat of our trip.
I’m hoping that all the bad and annoying stuff is going to happen all at once and then the universe will leave us alone for a while. No matter how much you plan, anticipate obstacles, prepare mentally and physically for a thing, stuff is bound to go sideways. That’s true of life in general but especially for a mobile life. We hope that our daily readings from The Vagabond’s Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discovery, and the Art of Travel will help keep us grounded and connected to what we’re doing and why.
As I write this, I’m sipping coffee at a deck overlooking the Siuslaw River. At the table next to me, a couple of 80-year old men are sharing old Hollywood stories. Aaron’s feeling almost entirely better. We’ve gone on a few lovely hikes so far: Wolf Creek Falls, Kerby Flat, Cape Ferrelo, Indian Sands, Floras Lake, Otter Point, the Oregon Dunes, Lake Marie. Look them up! I haven’t decided how much writing I’ll do on this blog, but since I enjoy sharing snippets to Instagram, I’ll keep up on that pretty regularly. Stay tuned for more, as I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to tell as the journey continues.