Nomad Life: Time Rich and Experience Driven
Oh, you poor thing, you live in an RV with your kids, I’m so sorry. These are common thoughts when I tell people that our family of seven lives in a thirty foot RV. Little do they realize that this conscious choice to live life as a nomad is driven by the fact that being time rich allows us to fill up our days connecting with each other and creating so many wonderful experiences. Like this past summer in Squamish…
Today I woke up to the sound of cars rushing down the highway twenty feet from my bedroom window where the warm sun was shining through bright enough that I knew I had probably slept in again. A common occurrence lately and a habit I’ve wanted to break, yet knew was impossible considering the amount of exercise I’m putting my body through on a daily basis. A tight nine hours of deep sleep, being soothed by the humming of the occasional car driving by. To most, a night spent sleeping on the side of the highway would only be a sign of failure, maybe indicating hitting rock bottom with nowhere to go, or a sign of desperation, possibly helplessness, in not being able to find more suitable and private shelter. To me, it’s peace. A symbol of freedom. An intention to live on my terms. A life that’s time rich and experience driven. Excited to start every day knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
As I awaken further from this deep slumber, I am showered with affection from my youngest two children, who are eager for their moments of cuddles and laughter before they know I will be jumping out of bed to join my husband and two older daughters for our freshly ground and perfectly french pressed cup of small-batch roasted coffee. My favorite five minutes of the day are as I savor each sip while preparing my mind for the exciting adventure I have planned for the day.
Like most days, we have a lot on the agenda. Not that a clock is holding us accountable, but more of an overzealous addiction to create some form of physical and mental challenge while getting lost in nature, usually only in the metaphorical sense (although it isn’t uncommon for us to actually forget which path we were supposed to take as you can read more about here in my post Purposely Getting Lost).
With veins full of caffeine and empty bellies, we head to the crag. My stomach growls loud enough for Victor to notice, but I never climb (or surf) with food in my stomach… it weighs me down and dulls the senses. While passionate about exercise, sports, and play, I am a mediocre climber and need every advantage I can get to overcome the nerves and self-doubt that like to sneak into my mind when I get over a hundred feet off the ground. Normally, I’d be scaling this wall with my mini-me (my 16-year old daughter, Gabi, who is as fanatical about creating experiences and plunging herself into adrenaline filled activities as me), but today, my significant other, my soul mate, my much more rational and grounded better half, has decided to literally follow me up this 200 foot route on his first attempt at a multi-pitch climb.
Four bolts in and I know this may not be a good idea. It’s a solid 5.9 climb (I told you I’m not that good), but for a person scared of heights and a solid 5.7 climber, this is going to be way past his comfort zone. I glance over at Gabi as she is leading my brother up his first multi-pitch. I smile to myself and feel proud of the confidence this lifestyle has allowed her to develop.
As I set anchors at the first belay ledge I am preparing myself for the fact that I may not get to do the next the pitch and by the time Victor gets to the fourth bolt I was positive that he would sound like Maverick in Top Gun, “It’s no good.” But sure enough, thirty minutes later he’s clipping his personal anchor into the bolts right next to me. I’m impressed.
“You have sit so I can transfer the rope to you…unless you want to lead the next pitch.” He looks at me with a clear message of Are you kidding? Both about leading (which I was kidding about) and finding a place to sit. “No, really, you have to sit somewhere to belay me for the next pitch.” He scans the rocks again and I can tell he’s thinking, Does she see something I’m missing?
“Here, just step over me and sit where I was.” As gracefully as you can while suspended a hundred feet in the air by a one-inch wide, nylon sling and making sure not to drop the seventy meters of rope I had perfectly gathered in loops around my ankle, we switched spots and ascended the final pitch. A success.
Some would call it a day, and my loving husband would give anything to be able to crawl back into bed after that and sleep off the adrenaline, but not us.
We head down the road five miles to a lake we’ve been wanting to rope swing into. It’s a popular destination for Squamish residents and tourists alike, but we hike a kilometer around the lake and find a nice rock cliff to jump off of and the older kids swim across the lake to the rope swing. I am bummed to have to stay on the shore to watch the younger two, who are not quite confident enough to make the swim across and therefore, we now have added coming back here with inflatables to the agenda for another day so I too can get the adrenaline fix of swinging off rocks into freezing cold waters.
For most, it would be time to call it quits and head back home to relax on a couch and find distraction through the numerous forms of electronic devices we have available to us in this age of instant gratification, and while normally we may head to a brewery to find relaxation in a cold micro brew, today is a special occasion because we have a campsite.
In true vagabonding form, I pride myself on being able to travel the world and find hidden pullouts and forest roads where we can cook big dinners and fall asleep to the sounds of nature (and some nights, cars) for free, but once in awhile, we spoil our kids with a campground. It’s nice to pull into a campsite and spread out. The chairs come out, our large oversized outdoor rug gets laid down, we catch up on cleaning, we reorganize our gear, we catch up on school work, and the real reason we pay for a campground … we get showers, hopefully, hot ones.
We connect together as a family more than most, but the twenty-four to forty-eight hours we try to spend in a campground, we connect even more as a family because the time here is spent with one main focus … to recreate. We refill our own tanks by lying in hammocks, reading, playing board games, writing, and taking leisurely walks or bike rides. What we do on our recovery days is so important to the success of living a life of adventure and creating memories together, but it’s not the big picture. None of it is.
The big picture is the free-flowing adaptability and instinctive lifestyle that tunes into the fact that life thrives on movement and creativity. The ebb and flow of existence in its purest form.
Society scoffs at the twenty-something dirt bag living out of their van—completely content in their minimalist material existence while avoiding conventionalism. For those unfamiliar with the beauty of living off-grid, the excitement of a new setting, the contentment when surrounded by nature, the sense of fulfillment that comes with figuring things out, the pride in self-reliance. The dirtbag lifestyle is bizarre. To wake each day and think, what do I feel like doing today? is unrelatable.
Like most days we finished it with a huge meal that always starts with a good IPA or bottle of wine, basque cheese from Spain, fig crackers, a salad with a blood orange olive oil and pineapple balsamic that we just picked up in Bend on our way up. It was followed by well-sourced meat and more veggies and ended with a bit of dark chocolate. We may live like dirt bags, but when it comes to food, we don’t cut corners. Meal time brings us together even more as everyone pitches in on the food prep, the cooking, and the clean up. Leftovers are as mysterious as the Loch Ness monster since, in a family this big, everyone fights for their fair share. And as naturally as most walk to their rooms to go to sleep, our table and couch are converted to beds and everyone falls into peaceful slumber again.
Two years ago, when we first moved into our RV and I wrote my first book, A Playful Life, I wanted to convey that working out was great, but it wasn’t the whole picture. That you needed to find ways to stimulate your mind, while losing yourself at the same time. A place where effort and reward blur into one and target heart rate and fat burning zone become irrelevant. The problem (or benefit depending on how you choose to look at it) became that the more playful my life became, the more unconventional I became. Because the value that getting outside and exploring nature and what my body was capable of doing became so high, that all the materialistic aspects of my life that I was working so many hours a day to accumulate, began to spark so little joy.
Time rich meant more time cuddling my kids, more climbing mountains together, more dropping into waves together, more hitting the trail together, more standing on peaks together, more sitting under the stars together that it naturally caused us to wonder: What were we really giving up by choosing this lifestyle?
Of course, you don’t have to give up your house or possessions in order to live a playful life. Start by prioritizing exercise and movement together as a family. Get outdoors. Immerse yourself in nature and open spaces. Create large time gaps of free time together so that conversations flow freely. Let your kids see you challenge yourself and fail often. Stop coaching them and instead give them the opportunity to explore their body, their interests, and their fears. Reward them with hugs and healthy food, not sugar and more stuff. When you are tired, lie in a hammock together and read. When they are bored, grab a piece of blank paper and draw or play Settlers of Catan. Find ways to turn off electronics and disconnect from the internet and use the time to reconnect with who you are so your kids can know the real you. The you who at one time probably loved to hop on a bike, a skateboard, a surfboard, kick a soccer ball, throw a football and just play and get lost.
Pack List: Things These Nomads Love To Travel With
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