It’s easy to get nostalgic when you live on a bus. For me, whether it’s a facebook photo that pops up from a year ago, or just the gentle reminder of the change in seasons, I am feeling especially reflective right now as I think back to life a year ago as we were gearing up for this grand adventure that is now in its latter stages.
November of 2017 was for me like making a mad dash out the door at the peak of a rain storm, only to find myself sopping wet and totally unsure of where I was going in such a hurry. I had no idea what I was getting myself into as we celebrated the official sale of our house and the official purchase of our RV, and began the arduous process of storing, selling and giving away all of our possessions in order to cram our lives into 420 square feet. It felt a little bit like dying, and at the same time, it felt a little bit like coming to life for the first time. I was oddly trapped and yet incredibly free. Excited, yet terrified of the unknown.
We are quickly approaching the anniversary of our official move-in day, which marks one entire year of living on this bus we now call home. It took me a long time to call it home, but I eventually got the hang of it. And now, a whole year of calling this bus home is hitting me this morning as I look out over a beautiful lake in Washington state.
I laugh when I think back on the silly things I hoped to accomplish aesthetically in that move, with my new house parked in the driveway of my old one. I actually brought coffee table books and decor onto this thing. I guess I overlooked the fact that RV’s don’t come with coffee tables. They barely come with a dinner table, and every inch of that is priceless real estate which does not allow for items of little or no practical value.
Over the the weeks and months and miles that followed, my priorities quickly shifted as we plunged into a year of learning on the road. I began to see my children for the first time in a way that allowed them simply to be. I began to see my husband for the first time too, as he blossomed into a dreamer, a poet, a philosopher and a damn good driver. We learned to laugh at the ridiculous things that go wrong when your house is on wheels. I began to see myself too, in ways I was not able to in our former life. Our flaws became more evident, but so did the beauty in each one of us.
And now, with only a few weeks before this grand adventure comes to a close, I am realizing that I am now more petrified to end this trip than I was a year ago to begin it. The faith it took to jump off the cliff was one thing, but the faith to believe we will land this thing is something I now find myself searching for.
Part of this fear is realizing that wherever we do end up living life following our 50-state journey, I will emerge from this cocoon as a completely different creature than I was when I entered it. I will look in a mirror on the other side of our journey and find that I am now unrecognizable. The changes we’ve undergone in this short time exceed the changes that I feel most people go through in an entire lifetime. So understandably, there is some trepidation attached to discovering what it is we will find in that mirror when we emerge.
I have been feeling a deeply emotional, almost spiritual connection to the butterfly in the days and hours before he breaks forth from his chrysalis. He can feel transformation. He is about to discover he has the power to do things he could not have dreamed of as a caterpillar. But he has no idea what he will look like, or how his new life beyond the cocoon will feel. He can’t fathom the adventures that lie ahead of him, or the incredible ability he now has to fly. All he really knows is that he entered into this small space as one creature, and he will leave it as a totally new one.
This year, this bus, this process is more than similar to the transformation that takes place there in that very small and hidden cocoon. I know it well. It has become a hideout for me over these months of travel. It has become our normal, because, after all, without it becoming our normal, we could not have survived such a shocking adjustment. But we have survived it, and we’ve learned to thrive in it.
I will never forget our first night of this adventure, when I crawled into a foreign bed feeling numb, something like the dog that caught the car. I looked over at Dave with tears in my eyes. No words were needed to communicate the feelings of fear and regret that were overtaking me. Was this crazy idea a mistake?
Dave just looked at me and smiled with this face I will never forget. “Shit just got real,” he said. And boy was he right.
Well, the shit is about to get real again. That life I was regretting saying yes to has become a life I now love. I can’t go back, but I’m not sure how to go forward either.
We have become small, closely knit and intrinsically connected to the places and people we meet each week. I cannot imagine what it will be like to get off this merry go round, and part of me hates the idea of it ending. But I know it must, at least this unforgettable chapter of it, and we must emerge. What we will become, we have yet to comprehend, but we know that this time has been a gift to prepare us for something we never could have imagined one year ago.
Today, 43 states into this incredible journey, my mind is not on coffee table books, lovely as they are. My mind is on America, on her people and her destiny, on all she has shown us of her flaws and her beauty, and how she too longs to become what she was always intended to be. I don’t yet know how, but I am so excited to see how we will get to play a role in helping her accomplish just that.