Pursue Your Own Journey: Three Insights from RV Life
Last summer, my husband and I left Minnesota on a journey across the country, living and traveling full-time in our 22-foot travel trailer. This was a huge change for us. Not only did we leave two weeks after our wedding, but we also left everything we knew. We said goodbye to family and friends. We left great jobs and 20 year careers to become digital nomads. And, we got rid of most of our possessions. Although no one we knew had done anything like this, we felt compelled to more actively pursue our own journey while we were still in our 40’s.
We chose the name “Wheelhouse Journey” because it represents two important things to us. First, living in a literal house on wheels. Second, and even more importantly, the chance to explore what’s in our wheelhouse while we explore the country. We wanted to focus more on our passions, things we love to do, or wanted to learn more about.
When folks ask me what I’ve gotten out of our first year on the road, there’s a lot of travel stories and lessons learned the hard way! But I believe the following three insights are especially relevant in pursuing your own journey wherever you are in your personal or work life.
Don’t Let Your Stuff Anchor You
After a year of sorting, selling, and donating, we no longer owned a sofa, a snow blower, a lawn mower or 90% of my shoe collection. While it was a very long and tedious process, I learned that you can truly “downsize your stuff without downsizing yourself” (the topic of another blog!)
Everyone’s stuff is a bit different but it’s recognizable in that it’s really not life, health or soul-enriching. For me, it was lots of clothes and shoes, really old college and grad school papers and books, unsorted mementos, CD’s I never listened to, company tchotchkes, etc, etc. Truly it was things I had accumulated because I had the space or never took the time to sort through them. Or sometimes kept because they made me feel secure.
Stuff can feel like a huge anchor to considering making any type of change. At times, I actually considered giving up on our full-time RV dream because of how hard it was to part ways with my stuff. Think about this as it applies to moving or changing jobs or making any of the big decisions in your life. Don’t let unimportant stuff anchor you to where you are or be the reason you don’t make a move.
Embrace Your Own Pace on Your Journey
As a runner, I’ve learned how important it is to stick with my own race strategy. While it’s good to be able to surge at key times, you want to run your overall race at the pace that’s best for you so you don’t burnout. My worst running burnout was at the Philadelphia Marathon. There, I got so caught up chasing down other runners in the first part of the race that I beat my half marathon PR. Then I lost all my steam and slogged through the remaining 13.1 miles ending the race on a painfully slow note.
In my career, I’ve often been behind my peers in getting to different job levels. Although this initially made me feel like a failure, later I realized it was the perfect pace for me. In many cases, I got to a role later but brought critical experience or an important insight. And most importantly, in life I got married in my 40’s and am so glad I waited to find my husband!
When we started our RV journey, some folks asked if we were fast-tracking to retirement. (We’re nowhere near retirement but did become digital nomads!) But while I focused on a more traditional career for many years, I was always inspired by folks who explored personal dreams, traveled, and volunteered. So, after a lot of planning, it was time for my pace to change. Figure out your pace in your life and career and fully embrace it instead of worrying about everyone else’s.
Choose Your Path Based Upon Fulfillment
Finally, this year taught me that there will be some stress in any path you choose. From a distance, full-time RV life seemed like it would be a vacation from the everyday grind. Well, that’s definitely not the case! Similar to a lot of folks, we still have work deadlines and money and health to worry about. On the other hand, there are different stresses that can even feel scarier. Like driving around a tornado and through a hail storm, or listening for how close a pack of wolves is to our camp, or bracing the RV against 45-50 mph wind gusts.
Sometimes, things can get pretty stressful. Several months into our journey we considered turning back. We had gotten too close to too many wildfires, had trailer issues, and worst of all, our beloved dog Denali passed away far away from the support of family and friends. But, when we really thought about it, we realized that during the good times on the road we were so much more fulfilled than before.
Have you ever taken what seemed like an “easy” job and then weren’t energized or inspired? Every worthwhile decision, job, and journey comes with some stress. Rather than avoiding it, I’ve learned it’s better to build ways for dealing with it. Instead, ask yourself where your true passions lie. What gets you excited or feels like an important growth challenge? And when you have a choice, pursue the path that brings you the most fulfillment on your own journey.
As we get ready to set off on our second year on the road, I’m trying to keep all of this in mind. While we’re still figuring out our pace and path, I’m committed to keeping my stuff at a minimum. Even living in an RV, it’s a constant battle!
As you reflect on pursuing your own journey, what have you learned? If you’re interested in talking more about this, please let us know. Share your comments below.