Did you know I used to live out of my 1997 Volvo station wagon? For 7 years it served me well. There was just enough room for me to curl up in my sleeping bag, and I had two small crates of clothes and a HUGE bin of climbing gear. Colorful prayer flags streamed from my roof rack, and my friends could find me by looking for these flags in any crag parking lot.
Later I lived out of a large 1990s Dodge Ram 15-passenger van, lovingly named Chomolungma (the local name for Mount Everest). She was a beautiful baby blue, and eventually died a peaceful death as I was driving her across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.
Since then, I’ve often blogged about how I missed living simply in that way – having everything I needed in my vehicle so I could drive anywhere on a moment’s notice.
Recently, I ended up buying a 2003 Ford Econoline 350 Sportsmobile van, a beast of a van whom I appropriately named Mama Bear. I’m having the best time playing with her! It was a great decision – the freedom she offers me and my family when we travel is fan-freakin-tastic. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to use the #vanlife hashtag here – it feels weird for me, since living out of vehicles has been a mainstay for climbers for decades, and I feel I am returning home vs joining a new movement ;).
It feels good to be home.
Why have I decided to go retro (for me) with my travels and adventures?
Part of the reason is I realized some of my dreams of the adventurous life I wanted to live with my family were outdated.
In my 20s and 30s, I felt the most adventurous way to travel was to go far (ideally at least 9 time zones away) and long (5-6 weeks minimum).
I also still had my dirtbag mentality that if I was going to spend $1800 on a plane ticket, I better make it worth it and stay as long as possible. That makes a lot of sense when you only make $1800 a month as a climbing guide. Not so much now in my life.
My husband and I stuck to these far-and-long travel goals really well – even after our daughter was born. Twice a year we would go to Asia or Africa with her for 4-6 weeks, plus many shorter trips in-between. I felt so…unconventional!
Until I didn’t.
Instead, I discovered I started to feel freakin’ stressed about it!
I was definitely the primary caregiver on trips, and while my husband paraglided, I was often alone with my kiddo in a foreign land. It was somewhat boring a lot of the time since I was limited in what I could do with a toddler, and I craved adult conversations and a good friend, despite the epic surroundings and amazing cultures I was experiencing.
I also enjoyed working on my business on these trips, since that’s a long time to go without creating something fun for my peeps. Slow internet in these remote areas (if I was lucky to have it at all) totally stressed me out. I am not as patient with technology as I used to be).
For some reason, I didn’t “need” 4-6 weeks off anymore either. That might have something to do with not being able to do 30-day expeditions as much;)
With a kid, I also found that returning from long trips abroad meant messed up sleep schedules for her (and therefore me) for a long time. It also meant the house was a shit-show while I unpacked from being gone for so long. Inevitably some plant died or some house item broke while we were away, and I’d have to deal with a broken hot water heater or a clogged up toilet on top of everything else.
I eventually realized that for this stage of my life, I wanted to take vacations with friends and be completely unplugged – for shorter periods of time.
I wanted to not have my travels completely throw me off my game anymore. I love creating through my work, and work wasn’t something I needed to escape for as long anymore. I love serving others. And I didn’t need to be away from friends and family for long periods of time either (must be that I am intentionally creating my community to be full of pretty rad people!).
I would rather hang out with a girlfriend and my kiddo gazing up at steep granite peaks from an alpine tarn in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California than chill out above a glacier in the Himalaya sans a friend.
Conversely, I’d rather go to the Himalaya and be there 2.5 weeks completely unplugged than try to stress about internet connections and finding friends to hang out with for an additional month.
It took a lot to accept this shift, and I’m still integrating it.
I had to let go of an identity and a judgement that if I wasn’t doing something utterly exotic far away and for over a month, I wasn’t leading a truly adventurous life. Sure, other people could think car camping was adventurous, but I had the belief that I was supposed to be an example of what level of adventure was possible with a family. I believe am that…but the way I was doing it was no longer honoring my new evolving self.
Recently I was sitting at an alpine tarn with a wise friend celebrating my birthday when she reflected back to me that indeed, it can be hard to let go of outdated dreams. That phrase hit me like a train.
Exactly! That’s what was going on!
I was trying to live a dream that no longer applied to who I had evolved into.
I was resisting this new desire because instead of seeing that I evolved into a new person, I thought I was de-volving into a more …boring person.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Me trying to live an outdated dream had me feeling incomplete and stressed.
Embracing my new dreams – adventures with friends and being totally unplugged on those adventures so I could be fully present the entire time – has me feeling excited and passionate about my travel again.
I’ve got a road trip planned in Mama Bear this November, and I’m going to leave her with some friends in New Mexico and drive her to my slice of heaven in Baja come Spring. I’m going to head to Asia or Africa or South America next year and plan to meet up with friends and stay for less time so I don’t need to be plugged in at all while there. I’m going to be so much more relaxed on those trips and just allow myself to savor every moment.
I am so fucking psyched.
What dream are you holding onto that you’ve outgrown?
Are you telling yourself you “should” hold onto it because you’d be failing if you let it go?
Could it be that instead, you have evolved into a new version of yourself with different needs and different dreams that are just as valid and perhaps even more thrilling?
Try to see what happens when you let go of that outdated dream and live into new ones. What happens when you honor yourself and what you want…now?
For me, so far, so freakin‘ good!