On Memorial Day of 2015, my husband and I loaded ourselves and our almost-three-year-old daughter up in our SUV pulling a tiny U-Haul trailer filled with what was left of our worldly possessions and drove 1,000 miles across the Southwest USA to our new temporary home in Durango, Colorado. After nine months of planning, researching and selling our things, we officially began a life of full-time slow-travel and willingly flung ourselves into the Great Unknown.
The idea first came to us last summer sitting at the kitchen table in our home in Austin, Texas. We had just returned from an intensive week-long meditation workshop and found ourselves pondering life and sitting eye-to-eye with a Lululemon shopping bag full of recent purchases. On the bag was a question,
"What would you do if nothing stood in your way?"
Almost in unison, Brian and I looked at one another and said, "Travel." It was one of those moments when you sense that everything is about to change but you're not quite sure how.
What unfolded from there was a string of late-night conversations and what-if scenarios. What if Brian could work remotely full-time? What if we didn't have any other financial commitments besides our living expenses? What if we didn't worry about storing our things and just sold it all? What if we lived the places we once saved all year long just to visit?
The answer was the journey we are neck-deep in right now. A life of slow travel, which to us means staying in one place for several months. Moving about the country and the world season-by-season renting fully-furnished homes and just living life. Getting to know a place. Making friends. Immersing ourselves in the culture. And then moving onto the next place that is calling to our hearts. It was a radical idea that became more and more familiar the longer we talked about it, as if it had always been inside us just waiting to be discovered.
We announced the news to our family and friends months before we were set to leave, and I am convinced that no one thought we would actually do it. There was a mix of reactions. Excitement, fear, curiosity, resistance. I watched with great interest how what we were doing was either extremely liberating or extremely unsettling to people, and I began to observe the same dichotomies in myself. On one hand I was ecstatic about the adventure awaiting us, and on the other hand, I was scared to leave the friends, family and life we had built for 15 years in what now felt like home.
The shedding process helped tremendously. As we dismantled our home piece by piece on Craigslist, I began to realize how unattached I was to almost all our things. It wasn't the stuff holding me back; it was my own fears about letting go of the life we had built. Our network of friends. Chloe's school. The traditions we had come to enjoy year after year. Who would I be without it all?
We talked about it night after night, and we gave ourselves an out so many times. But we always came back to the plan because it was always the direction our hearts were pointing. Anytime we doubted it, we took whatever we were afraid of losing and plugged it into this question,
"Is __________ worth not following our dreams?"
The answer was always no.
So we did it. Amidst both celebration and criticism. We sold most of our things, and what we weren't ready to part with, we loaded into a little U-Haul trailer. I am not the least bit ashamed to say that I brought THREE totes of kitchen supplies. I love feeding my family in a way that supports our healthy lifestyle and that meant carrying along our Vitamix blender, our Breville juicer, our steamer, and our rice cooker. I even brought my favorite veggie peeler. Trust me, you do NOT want to be stuck in a rental property that has a shotty peeler. No. Thank. You.
It ended up totaling to 15 totes plus a few miscellaneous bags. We stuffed a 4ftx8ft trailer FULL, and what felt excessive when we left Austin has felt oh-so-comforting upon arriving in Durango. I honestly don't regret a single item. We took 1500 square feet down to 15 totes, and I'm pretty damn proud. We know we'll pare down with each move, but this felt like a really great first step.
Once we loaded up the trailer and left town, we took a week to make the journey. We stopped for four and a half days at Brian's parents' houses in West Texas and then spent another three and a half days in Santa Fe. While we had an enjoyable time visiting with family and seeing New Mexico, in hindsight, we wouldn't have dragged the trip out like that. We had already been uprooted in Austin for so long as we sold off our things that another week of living out of our bags was a little much. But we made it. And we made some amazing memories along the way. Like this epic sunset at the Opera House in Santa Fe.
We have officially been in Durango for four days and three nights. We arrived in our 5-month VRBO rental on Monday and have spent the week getting unpacked, exploring and acclimating to our new life. Brian has a home office set up in our expansive master bedroom, and Chloe and I have set about the business of finding our grocery store, our favorite parks and the way to her new school.
I could go on and on about her school. The short story is that it is absolutely wonderful. The longer story involves lots of tears about leaving her beloved teachers and friends in Austin and lots more tears about starting a new school here in Durango. My tears, that is. Kids are crazy adaptable. Besides a few outbursts about wanting her old friends and her old school, she's been going with the flow and totally in the moment. It's me that's been a blubbering mess.
That has been the hardest part for me. Of course I miss my own friends and my own routines, but I know I'll see them again. It's the uncertainty of making decisions for another little person and not knowing how it will all effect her that has kept me up nights. I feel this great sense of responsibility, and the core of my being knows we're making a bold choice in the direction of all our happiness, but the little sneaking doubts on the backs of naysayers still get to me sometimes.
But seeing the joy in her face the last two days at her school has washed all that uncertainty away. It is this amazing little nature school tucked away in the mountains alongside the Florida River. The kids are free to roam and play and explore and get dirty, and I honestly have never seen her happier. It took me thirty minutes to get her to leave with me today to come home, and while I still feel this big gaping hole every night when I read the book her friends in Austin made her as a goodbye present, I know that what we are all building as a family along this journey will never take away from where we have been and the experiences we have shared with the people we love along the way.
It's been less than a week into this 5-month leg of our journey, and I feel like I have already learned so much. What I'm learning in big bold letters is that just when you think life can't get any better, it does. There is always more. And I feel like I'm just now figuring out how to allow all that goodness.
I turn 34 years old in two days, and I feel like it is no accident that this trip was timed almost perfectly with this new year of my life. If ever there was a time to feel like a literal new chapter has begun, it is now. I am so eager to watch our little family grow together through the trials and joys of this new life, and I am so indescribably proud of the courage we have shown individually and collectively to make this leap.
The Known can be so comfortable, but the Great Unknown is where the magic happens. And I adore magic.
P.S. The best way to follow our journey is on Instagram. You can find me here.