Adventure Life Part 2: Reflection
The traveling-lifestyle is definitely not for everyone. With the lifestyle we've lived the past three years, we've had to be extremely (ridiculously) flexible, at times we've had to be creative about our situation to make the best of it , we (unfortunately) have had weeks (even once MONTHS) that we were unsure about a job/what we should do next, and have had to move across the country with only a few days notice (this has happened more than once). We have literally been DRIVING to a new contract without ANY idea where we were going to live! We have had contracts that got cut short, one that even only lasted a month. There was one contract where they extended the contract only to tell Joel a week later when he showed up at work that they actually didn't have any hours for him anymore. It's STRESSFUL AF. And there are days I cry, and are so stressed that when I finally fall asleep I feel like I literally did nothing productive the entire day. Then there have been so many days in just three short years when we've seen things that we probably never would've seen if we were living a permanently stationary life (like a rattlesnake roundup, a real rodeo, the beauty of the TX dessert, the forests in PA as they changed colors in the fall, a mountain top sunset, and so many stars in one night sky that it took our breath away) We have met some of the nicest people in the world, and we've challenged ourselves in so many ways.
What are some things we have learned along the way? How has this weird, stressful, fun lifestyle CHANGED us?
I think, for me personally, the biggest change I've seen in myself over the past three years is being able to handle the chaos (or at least just handle it better than before haha!). I have had to be more flexible, plan less, and force myself out of my comfort zone more times in the last three years than I have in my whole 20-some (okay 28.5) years of life. In the beginning of all of this I wanted so bad to be able to plan everything, and control things, but that's just not how it works. Most of what we do is "last minute" and it's even hard to plan for things while we are at a contract, because like I said before, contracts can change. It's still hard as hell. But it's gotten easier. And dare I say it, I'm a LOT more laid back than I was when we started (my family may or may not agree with this because I am THEE worrier, but what do they know?)
Something Joel and I both love about getting to live different places is just being able to see (and kind of experience) how different people live in different places. We both grew up in the same small, one-stop-light town, with the same people (for the most part) in rural Ohio. We have definitely experienced a little culture-shock in certain places. But the neat part is getting to notice all the little differences, like words and sayings, how different places celebrate things differently (like homecoming for instance, you Ohio people Google a Texas homecoming mum. Just do it.) and how food in different areas is done different ways (I'll also say this, Ohio pizza is still the best pizza we've had) And I know, you kind of get that when you "vacation" too, but trust me, some of the places we've been, you would NOT have vacationed there. And I think those little things, those tiny cultural differences, are stuff that we start to notice and appreciate, and even take with us when we leave.
I also see us as being able to appreciate living "simple." We have one shelf of cups, four plates, we buy (mostly) only the food we are going to eat that week, we downsize our clothes on a regular basis, and so on and so forth. This may be shocking but I swear it's true: all of our cabinets/drawers are not even full! We have one (small drawer) that has NOTHING in it!! Sure we have "luxuries" but we also go without a lot of creature comforts, and for the most part we don't mind. We try not to rush ourselves if we can help it, and we're well aware when we need to just take a weekend to chill and do nothing. But on the other hand, I notice that we can force ourselves to go and do stuff when we really just want to be lazy, because we never know how much time we may have in an area and we don't want to miss a once-in-a-life-time experience (we've had regrets that taught us that!)
So what about our relationship and how its changed/grown. I try not to get TOO awfully personally on here (for Joel's sake) BUT I'll make an exception this one time (:
Me personally, I think that traveling has had a very positive impact on our relationship as a couple. And if I'm being truly honest, I'll admit that I enjoy getting to be selfish with our time. By that I mean, when we are traveling, it's just us. There are no family activity obligations, no events to go to, no babysitting to be done, no trying to find time to spend with everyone while still balancing "us time" and "down time" and etc etc etc. It's just us, all the time, doing whatever we want on our own time. And that's NOT to say that we don't enjoy spending time with our families and friends, and doing all of the above things. We DO and it's HARD to not be a part of birthdays, holidays, and every special event big or small in the lives of the people we love. It's hard to know that someone you love is having a hard time and you aren't there to help or just BE there. It's even hard just not being there for the little stuff, too. There are times we even feel pretty sad for not being there. But, over the years it's gotten easier because we know that this chapter, this lifestyle, isn't our "forever" lifestyle, and so it's easier to feel okay about having this time to be selfish.
I also think that over the past three years we've become closer as a couple, we communicate better, and I think we even get along better with each other. Sure we still fight, we get on each others nerves and need to just take a break from each other. But living in such small quarters for three years, we've definitely learned the importance of getting over the stupid shit fast, because there's nowhere else to go! haha!! We were married for not even half of a year before we started traveling!!!! Five months of marriage and living with each other and we jumped head first into this craziness! So maybe we are kind of lucky that we didn't have much to compare this lifestyle to, because now it's basically all we've known! And sure, we've been told we're doing it backwards. You're "supposed to" do this sort of thing when you retire, after your kid are grown and whatever. But that's just plain silly. We're living our lives the best possible way we know how to right now, and I wouldn't change it for anything!
So here we are, three years of travel later, and we still don't feel like experts (: Sure, we've learned a LOT, we've figured out some stuff and some travel hacks (and in the past year some RV hacks) but there are still hard days/weeks. There's still times when I ask myself "WTF are we DOING!?" But I'm also 100% sure that if we lived a "normal" (stationary) life somewhere, I'd be asking myself the same thing on occasions. So I try not to worry about it too much (; I honestly can't wait until we have kids and see their faces when we tell them that mom and dad lived in an RV. I can't wait until we are 80 years old, and laugh at all the stupid lessons we learned the hard way while traveling and look back at pictures of us in our RV that we made a home.
When I started trying to think of how I would explain to you all the things that we've learned and realized and will carry with us forever, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it's mostly just stuff you'll learn one day or another. We're just learning it a little different than most people (: