Radio Silence, Business is A-Brewing

You haven’t heard from us in a while. I’m not going to make a silly excuse for it and say that we’ve been too busy to post or write or communicate at all for the past two months. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

The past eight weeks have been a ridiculous rollercoaster of emotions for me and Megan, and the simple answer for all of it is that we can’t seem to make up our minds. We want to go on the trip. We are excited by all that it could mean: new experiences, more music performing for me, and the chance to grow together as a family in ways otherwise impossible. But we love our home and neighborhood. And we fear that once we leave, we might not return.

Many of you know that I have a particular fondness for beer and for brewing it. And that love has slowly grown into a full-blown desire to open a nano-brewery in my hometown of Saint Charles, IL. This, of course, complicates matters even more. I have a meeting with the city’s economic development team on September 8th. How that meeting goes will likely determine our next steps—either sinking in our teeth further  here locally or, possibly, moving ahead to take the RV-trip plunge. The next two weeks could get really, really interesting…

Scarlett, Eleanor picking blueberries at DeGrand Champ in South Haven, MI. 8/3/2017
I’d like to conclude today’s post by sharing an excerpt from a post that I never finished. It was supposed to be our official declaration *not* to do the trip. After taking a week away on vacation in western Michigan, now we’re not so sure:

Post Title: Detour
Last Modified: 6/24/2017
Status: Draft

Sometimes we make plans and sometimes our plans are made for us. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs and adjust accordingly.

We are sad to officially announce today that an RV trip will not happen for us this year beginning in August, as we had first hoped. At best, our traveling adventure will be delayed until Summer 2018. At worst, indefinitely. The decision did not come easy, but only after taking a step back from full-throttle planning, assessing our family’s needs, and truly considering our heart’s desires.

Regardless of taking a year-long road trip, what do we truly want to see happen in our family in the next year? (Yeah, we are talking about goal-setting—at the family level.) What do we consider possible—and impossible—and can we dream big?

For those who know me well, there’s no question as to my level of Romanticism. On a scale from 1 to 10, I’m Romantic Level: Hopeless. I am a dreamer of dreamers. An entrepreneur. (But make no mistake, the mood swings can be extreme. Big dreams are accompanied by equally-big come-downs.)

So what brought our plans to an RV-tire-screeching halt? In a word: growth. Our greatest desire as parents is to see our children grow into beautiful displays of the human spirit—spiritually-attuned, active contributors to society, dreamers, explorers, eager to learn, critical thinkers, empathetic.

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”.

How it All Began

Today is May 20th, 2017, and I find myself thinking about something I truly haven’t thought about seriously in about six years.

Two weeks ago, on May 3rd, my wife, Megan, sent me a link via Facebook Messenger with the short message “What do you say?” The link was to Happy Loud Life’s “Goodbye, Dream House. Hello, Dream Life” promo video. (HERE IT IS, if you’d like to watch it on Facebook.)

The video struck a nerve with my wife. And she asked, straight-up, if I’d be interested in doing what the family in the video was trying to do. My answer was really quite simple: sure.

For two weeks, I have found myself regularly coming back to the idea of selling everything, buying an RV, and taking our family of six on the road—for a year or even permanently.

Our first real conversation in the evening on May 3rd about traveling the country as a family was short. We watched the Happy Loud Life video and just talked. Megan wanted to set a definite time limit on our excursion: one year; and she said she wants me to book shows and perform music along the way; and I thought it was important to consider financial feasibility, among other things. With our busy schedule that week, we quickly concluded we’d need more time to work through simple details, see how much it would cost, and start writing ideas down.

May 4th. The text messages begin. “So…are you serious about Road Schooling? Like for real?” Megan asks. “Yes. Absolutely.” I respond. She wants to do a dessert truck. I mention beer truck. She smells a competition! (Neither of us think “state and local licenses”.)

A few nights ago, Megan asked me for a gut check: “Do you think we should go?” My answer was no. I cited concerns about community and family, our kids building friendships, and living in close quarters (something we aren’t strangers of already). Storage was a big concern (especially with all of my music equipment), and, of course, I mentioned the difficulties of fermenting beer on a moving vehicle [insert Breaking Bad reference here 🙂 ].

But I also mentioned the possibility of adjusting our life here to be less… suburban. Maybe we could set aside more money to pay for bigger, better family trips (something we really haven’t done. Family wedding in Idaho aside)? Maybe smaller, closer trips, but more of them? Maybe we give away half of all of the kids clothing now. In order to cut our laundry in half now. What can we do now. here. in order to make the changes we feel will bring us greater joy and satisfaction? (I want to simply mention here that I do believe joy can thrive even in adverse circumstances when it is motivated by a sure sense of purpose… That’s another blog post for another day!)

I “ran the numbers” out loud; and taking a year on the road as a family to learn and grow and see and do life together is definitely possible, money-wise. But we’d have to sell the house. And the two cars. And decide what to do with all of our stuff. (Some of it, we thought, we’d like to have around for whatever comes next—assuming there is a stationary life that exists after becoming nomads.)

There’s a ton of work to be done if we are going to pull this off in the kind of timeframe that we are talking. Megan wants to begin our tour a few days before the weekend of the total solar eclipse in August. We already have plans to be in down-state Illinois for it, doing some rock climbing and camping for the first few days prior, then enjoying the eclipse near Carbondale, IL, before driving home. It would be perfect timing.

So many details must be discussed that I told Megan we need a night out just to talk and write and plan. We’ve talked a little about what some of my goals would be for a year-long road trip, about school curriculum and making sure to be in warm places during the cold winter months of the North. We’ve talked blog names and about a big fancy word called “monetization”. Well, she’s scheduled the planning night for this Sunday, so I guess you could say she’s taking this idea seriously!

So why would I choose this adventure? Honestly, there are pluses and minuses for staying and going. My feelings seem to shift back and forth even in a single day. At this very moment, it’s a meh. But one thing I know: when I ask myself this simple question, the answer is clear:

Am I home? Not yet.

In my next post, I’ll try to lay out what I think is the good, the bad, and the beautiful about taking the plunge into RV’ing with a family of six. Thanks for tracking along.