Making a List, Checking it Twice

Unpacking after our Trip to Devil’s Lake 2016.

Ask yourself: if you were going on a year-long trip in a motor home, what are a few of the essentials you couldn’t live without? Are there certain supplies that you need for work, stuff that you need on the trip in order for you to make money? Maybe you really, really like crocheting. Could you go without hooks? Or maybe it’s fishing. Or baseball. Or Pokemon. Or dolls or dress-up or matchbox cars.

You see, this is really gonna be the hard part. How are we going to tell our kids they can’t bring all 10 Beanie Boos with on our trip? Hence the list begins.

As a performing songwriter (yeah, I’ve been doing almost zero performing in recent months, but have kept up with writing a fare bit), having instruments with me isn’t optional—it’s a part of what I do and how I make money. On our trip, I’ll need to pare down the rig. (Right? I can’t bring all 11 of my guitars with on the road? Or how about my four amplifiers? Pedalboard? Recording gear? Microphones? If yes, how many? What about the rest of my recording studio gear? We’re talking 10’s of thousands of dollars.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ll have to spend a lot of time over the next couple of weeks deciding what matters most.

Here’s another example: How do we make coffee? French Press, stovetop espresso/percolator, single-serving pour-over, or instant (I just shuddered). Quality of life here, people!

As far as music goes, I think it’s fair to say that I’ll likely end up with two acoustics, one electric, an amp, a pedalboard, and enough recording gear to do the real thing on the road. And, I’d really, really like for our kids to continue learning piano, so add a compact weighted keyboard to that list. (Yikes! That’s a lot of stuff just related to music!)

For the rest of it, I’m working on a short mandatory list. Here’s where I’m at so far:

  • Kayak (yeah, seriously.)
  • Fishing poles (for the kids. I don’t really need my own.)
  • Rock climbing gear, including two crash pads
  • Hiking and camping gear (a couple packs, a tent, flashlights, first aid, boots)
  • Bicycles! (can’t you see now we’re really starting to build quite the list!)
  • Coffee brewing gear (haven’t settled on a method yet)
  • Basic tool set (it all takes up space…)
  • Laptop, other devices
  • Cast iron everything* (it’s heavy, but it’s versatile.)
  • Beer brewing equipment (now this one is gonna be reeeeeaaaaally tricky….)
  • Low-CC motorcycle (okay, okay, now we are really pushing it)

But seriously, what do we do about board games and card games and coloring books and supplies (Eleanor just loves to draw and craft and she’s great at it), and school supplies and… diapers. And the kids’ stuff? Seth is doing *awesome* in baseball this season. He easily could have played up a league. I want him to continue to improve. That means baseball gear, too!

When it comes right down to it, my list is already too long. Where can we cut? We have to decide as a family what “stuff” we truly want to bring with us, remembering that all of it is “just stuff” to begin with. Almost everything else is going to have to get stored while we are gone, we think.

If you were planning this kind of a trip, what are some of your essentials and what would you forego?

Hard Reset

Well, our Sunday night meeting just over a week ago didn’t answer as many questions as we had hoped. In fact, our date night out produced more questions than answers. But the good news is that it focused the questions we must ask and clarified logistically the order in which they must be answered.

We came  home having decided that we needed to know how much health insurance would cost our family during a year on the road. Second to that, we wanted to know if Megan could officially get a year leave of absence from her work. The final component was making sure that we could, indeed, afford a trip of this magnitude.

A week later, I can now tell you that I officially have an itch to take this plunge into RV’ing. Yesterday, I listed our home for rent.

It’s a change in our original plan, but I’m hoping we can still pull off this trip while still keeping the house. It’s another one of those “first steps” things—where we need to see if there’s actually a market for a rental house at the price we’d need so that we wouldn’t have to sell it. So let’s back up now…

Why would RV’ing be so cool?

I’ve really narrowed down my own thoughts on this, and I’m happy to share them with you here. For me, these are the things. This is life.

  1. We get to enjoy the outdoors—especially rock climbing—while I’m still young enough to enjoy it. I’ve got a bum knee already! But I don’t want to wait until both are shot to try to take a trip like this. I’ve got early on-set arthritis in my big toe. Let me climb while I still can! And let me pursue developing those skills at the country’s best crags.
  2. We get to teach (and parent) how we want to—whenever, wherever, and for whatever reasons we choose. It’s not about rebelling or bucking the trend—it’s about trying to do what’s best for our kids, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
  3. I’d get to “go on tour”. I’ve always wanted play music all over the country “for a living”. It’s been a life dream. In a phrase, my career goal has always been “to write, record, and perform music for a living.” This kind of a trip, although there’s little chance of me making serious cash doing it, would allow me to live out a dream in a way I never really thought possible.
  4. I get to fall in love again. I love my family and I love my wife. Our marriage hasn’t been so great in recent years. I’m excited about the idea of exploring the world with Megan, but also exploring Megan’s world—how she thinks, how she operates—and how to love her in all of the ways she has changed since we first got married.
  5. We get to instill in our children (if only for a season) a sense of wonder in the created world and a lifestyle of adventure.

Why would RV’ing suck?

The reasons really all boil down to relationships. And as born-and-raised Midwesterners, it’s easy to see the hang-up here. We’d be leaving all of our friends, family, colleagues, teammates, and church for twelve whole months. Minimum. (Longer, of course, if we decided to keep going after a year.) So is it worth it?

Of course there are other huge negatives: living in close quarters, not having personal space or time alone, having a small fridge, having little storage room, a fear of the unknown, financial uncertainty, having a wife who has never actually stepped inside an RV before(!), laundry washing difficulty, and more.

Designing a Purpose

In order to answer that question, we really have to start thinking about what we value and where we derive value from in this world. Yep, we have to get philosophical. (Megan seriously eye-rolled me the first time I mentioned this to her.) What’s the purpose of life? Why are we here? And then, once we have a purpose—a mission—what is the best course of action to take in order to fulfill it?

In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that one of my highest honors and greatest responsibilities as a human, a husband, and father, is to love and serve my family, putting their interests and needs before my own. So now we ask the question:

What does my family need right now?

It’s an impossible question to answer clearly and precisely, but I think that’s okay. At the end of the day, we are all just doing our best, trying to make sense of it all, and trying to do what’s right.

Megan talks an awful lot about feeling over-worked by her job—how she needs a break. And you know what? I think she deserves a break after teaching full-time for eight years. I think everybody deserves a whole year off every seven!

And as hard as that is to swallow, this next little nugget just kills me:

My son, my first-born son, a second grader, regularly tells me: “I hate school.” Doesn’t that just break your heart!?! He’s seven years old. No seven-year-old should even be allowed to have that kind of opinion. School should never be boring or dull or anything else that would make someone want to declare that he hates it. This, for me, set off warning sirens about my son’s heart and about what was going on inside the walls of that school six hours a day, five days a week. We know he needs a heart attitude change, in part, but does he also need a different kind of education?

So what does my family need right now? Well it most certainly seems like we need a hard reset. Or at least a break from “normal”.