I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile. It’s something that has been stirring inside of me.
When we sold our house and set out in our RV to travel the United States, we had a slew of different reactions from friends, family, acquaintances and strangers. Some responded with silence. Others responded with statements like, “Are y’all crazy?” A few said, “What an amazing learning experience and what great memories your kids will have!” Many said, “Awesome for you, I couldn’t do it.”
We’ve gotten many questions about the practicalities of traveling as a large family in an RV: “How do you make money on the road?” “Where do all the kids sleep?” “How can you live with one bathroom for 12 people?” “How do you cook in such a small space for such a big family?” “Don’t you all go crazy with the lack of space?” We’ve only had a couple people ask the best and most important question – in my opinion, “Why? Why leave a perfectly good business and a beautiful 5,000 square foot house and move your family of 12 into a 400 square foot RV to travel? Is it for education? Is it all just for fun?”
As much as Ryan and I absolutely love traveling and think it is fun, we would not have chosen to uproot our family and largely let go of worldly security just for the purpose of fun. We do think it’s amazing to be able to give our kids the gift of history, science, geography and psychology in person, but still, we would not have uprooted only for that purpose.
Our family life has had ups and downs over the years. We’ve had marriage battles, sicknesses, major health issues in our extended family, losses, financial struggles, broken relationships, church hurt, loneliness that came the larger our family became, judgement spoken to us and about us, personal failures and heartbreaking pain to walk through. We’ve also had great relationships with family and friends, marriage growing in love, the joy of birthing and raising 9 precious children, the beauty and growth of adopting an awesome Chinese son, miracles, breakthroughs, an amazing church home for over a decade, a very successful business, financial security, nice houses, good vehicles and nice worldly things. Our life was far from cookie cutter, but the portion that most resembled perfection is the part we’ve purposely chosen to leave.
We want our children to see what the world has to offer and to see what they can offer this world. We want them to see what the world needs and to understand what they need. We want them to feel different climates, view a plethora of landscapes, learn about different job opportunities and experience different churches. We want them to learn and know that life isn’t just about chasing a career – that making money is important and necessary – but that love, relationships and people are more important.
We’ve stood in line behind the woman whose daughter was sexually abused and is battling an eating disorder. I was there to listen, care, encourage and pray. We had an older woman faint on the tram we were riding up a mountain, who Ryan was able to help catch and hold. We were warned not to go down to the river because there were homeless people camped under the bridge. We taught our kids that these were valuable people just like us who we should treat just like we do each other or anyone else. We walked on down and got to sit on a log by the river chatting with a really nice man who happened to be homeless. I’ve had heart to hearts, teaching my oldest about sex trafficking and the heartbreaking effects of it. He’s now scheming in his mind how he may be able to help rescue girls and women. Our wild big family has brought smiles to faces and joy to hearts. One of the Disney photographers taking our photo was brought to tears and told me that we made her day. I hugged her and she grabbed my hand. I told our kids, “You never know what she’s going through. She may live alone and never get touched, hugged or held.” Our kids have brought several people to tears and many to smiles by singing and playing music sitting outside our RV. We’ve had people encourage us, pray for us, take us to lunch, give us or our kids money. We want our kids to see that traveling or staying put, these are the moments that matter most. These little life moments that may seem insignificant are the big moments. They are more important than standing on a platform, writing a book or posting a blog. They are more important than college, knowledge or climbing any corporate ladder.
Don’t get me wrong. We are all for education, college and trade schools. We are for hands-on learning. We are for money-making, careers and investments. We are for owning houses and vehicles. We are for getting planted and staying put in a local church. We are for settling and establishing a home. We just want our kids to know that life isn’t about “me”, “my dreams”, “me getting a bigger house”, “me getting a better car”, “me rising to the top”, “me competing against others”, “me accomplishing big things”, “me being a great minister”, “me being the sweetest, most self-sacrificing community volunteer”, “me being a great musician”, “me being the best worker”, “me being the amazing worship leader”, “me”, “me” and “me”. Because we all probably have or can get lost in those mindsets. It is, for the most part, the American way…the normal way. And at the end of the day – and surely at the end of this life – those things leave us empty-handed and barren.
Of course, we could and can teach our kids these things by staying put, but we see this as a great way to really show our kids different cultures, climates, people and places. We are able to be so hands-on in our tiny living space, and we are able to have so many more experiences and conversations together than we did in the normal daily grind in our big spacious house.
And that brings up another thing – the daily grind. We are teaching our kids that just because something is the norm for most people, it doesn’t have to be the norm for them…unless they want it to be. There are many jobs that aren’t 8-5, many that allow one to work from home, many that are enjoyable and many that include their passions. They don’t have to go to work 8-5 while their kids go to school – then spend the evening cooking, doing extracurricular activities and homework, and tucking their kids in bed – having barely seen the kids or engaged with them all day. We want our kids to know that can be their norm if that’s what they choose, but that it’s not mandatory they choose that as their norm. There are endless opportunities and options to be sought, found and lived.
Also, we’ve had possessions and plenty. I like stuff. Our kids like stuff. Don’t we all like stuff? Stuff can be good, stuff is nice to have, but we can live with less and still be happy. We want to show our kids that exchanging having a lot of things for more experiences and memories with those they love can be worth it and bring greater happiness. Even in the excitement of traveling, we keep reminding our kids that God is our greatest adventure and our greatest joy. Traveling does not compete or compare to life lived in Him and with Him.
Lastly, we are traveling in attempt to show our kids that true and lasting security is not found in a house, a job or a steady routine. Security can be found wherever we are. Security is God, the only stable and unchanging solid One, and He is always with us and for us.
If you’ve rolled your eyes, felt jealous or thought we were making a crazy decision, I understand. I drooled a bit watching others travel full-time prior to us setting out on our journey, and I’ve been painfully aware of lack in certain areas of my life at times when I see someone else experiencing the very thing I seek but don’t have. Those are things much more deep than a desire to travel. It’s easy to look into others’ lives and see all they have that we don’t. I can see how it’d be easy to look into our life and see that we are so blessed with health, marriage, kids, finances and currently a traveling lifestyle. For those things, we are more grateful than I could possibly express. But there is pain in this life for all people, and that pain has not passed us by.
We are still healing from a great unexpected loss we experienced not too long before we set out traveling. There are situations we’ve experienced over the years that delicately involve people and feelings, not just our own. Many times we’ve walked through those things with God alone or with God and a trusted few because we’ve valued not hurting or dishonoring others over having our pain seen, validated or cared for. I consider myself not to be a crier, but I can assure you God has collected many, many more bottles than 1 of my tears over the years. I’ve experienced deep pain and deep heartache. I’ve also made poor decisions, unintentionally hurt others and had to deal with the pain of sorrow and regret. If we could sit down for a one-on-one conversation, I’d tell you some of the darkest places I’ve been. And you wouldn’t wish to have my life. If I sat with you and heard your deepest pain, I wouldn’t wish to have your life either.
This morning we visited a church and heard a sermon on trials and pain. I felt that stabbing feeling in my chest, and I tried to ignore it. At the end of the service a handful of people went up front and wrote on pieces of paper pain they needed release from, and then they pinned those pieces of paper to a cross. I was one of those people.
I’ll leave you with this quote I heard this morning, “Our pain can either be a jail that imprisons us or a school that empowers us.” May you be empowered by the pain you’ve bore to take flight. May you know that even though people may not see, understand or care, God sees and deeply cares. May you care for the pain those around you have gone through and are going through, and may you inspire them to take flight as well. ♥️