A few years ago the Navy led us on another adventure – another move to another state. As any good military move goes, we were headed home to visit family on the way. If you’re curious, that means 17 states. The best way to see the country, you ask? We hooked up our travel trailer and were off!
We stayed in it while visiting family and sightseeing our way around the country. Then we decided to keep living in it after we arrived at the new duty station. Yes, you heard me right. We lived in our camper. For ten months.
Some might think we were crazy. We’re not, though. Really. Staying in the camper was a leap that was filled with anxiety and excitement. But, when I thought about it, there was no reason to be stressed about it. We could move out and into a house at any time. So, no biggie, right? We decided that time was after those 10 months.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because I have been thinking about it a lot lately. I have a friend who’s taking off on a Navy led adventure of her own soon, with a camper hitched to the bumper. I’m sad to see them go, but oh-so-hopeful for their camper adventures. I don’t know if they’ll be in a house in a month or two or if they’ll stay in their camper longer than we did. Either way, though, there are lessons to be learned, if they’re open to them. I can’t wait to hear about their journey!
In the meantime, I long for some of the days we had during our journey. We now live in a wide open space, with wide open rooms. I think our master bedroom is probably bigger than the space all five of us existed in with the camper. The kids each have their own rooms. We have two separate living spaces to hang out in, two rooms to eat in, two floors to be in. My husband has his garage and a shed to boot! We have a front yard and a side yard and some woods too. It’s a great home. It really is.
Yet, there are things I miss from those days in the camper.
I don’t want anyone thinking I’m saying I don’t like our house or that cramming ourselves into a 31-foot trailer was better. The two situations are completely different. Both offer positives and both come with negatives. I’m simply remembering what those good things were from our camper adventure.
I said “no” more easily.
When you live in such a small space, you can’t accumulate schtuff. I felt no guilt for saying no to more anything. No more decorations for the walls. No more shirts just because they look comfy. No more kitchen gadgets. Now I window shop and think about things I’d like. There’s a lot more inner dialogue and debate.
I said “yes” more readily.
When a child would ask if I wanted to read a book, go for a walk, or play a game – I often said yes. There wasn’t a whole lot else to do. We lived in a camper. Now I feel busy, even when I’m not. I have a calendar that is full of meetings, get-togethers, and to-do lists. There’s a lot more hemming and hawing when they request my time.
We cleaned less.
We were much more on top of picking up and tidying, because there’s really no option in such a small space. “Whole house cleaning” simply didn’t take that much time in the grand scheme of things. Now we have cleaning chores that have to be done by all of us every day or it snowballs into something that feels overwhelming.
Camper couches aren’t meant for hours of lounging. They’re ok for a short bit, but long term hanging out is better on…well, on the couches we have in our new, comfy house. So, we got out more often. We did fieldtrips, museums, playdates, fun, fun, fun. Now, we’re busy. And we sit. The kids play in their bedrooms or read on the couch. I type from my recliner. We enjoy the comfort of our home. We also do a lot, but separately. The kids have activities. I have activities. We’re having fun and enjoying life…it’s just different.
These are some of the places where I clearly see a difference in the life we had and the life we have now. I don’t know if all the changes are simply the stage we’re at in life now and they coincidentally correspond with our move into a bigger living space. Maybe (probably) some of both. But it feels like as soon as I let the family out of that small living space, they shot out into nooks of their own as far from the rest of us as they could. I admit, I did too. I really enjoyed and needed my space, physically and mentally, after those ten months. But now that I’ve had that for a while, I kind of want to find a place in the middle to settle.
With the reminder of my friend’s pending trip, it brought all of this to the forefront for me. So, I’ve been saying no without guilt or worry a little more. (I don’t need it, why wonder if I do?) I’ve been playing and reading more. (We’ve got a lot of games…and I do love games.) I’m working out the kinks in our chore schedule so that it doesn’t take as long as it first did when we got to this home. (Let’s face it, bigger spaces will take more cleaning, always.) And I’m still working on some ideas for how I can get a little more of the living I felt we were doing and a little less of the busy I feel like we are.
Any life adventure, Navy led or not, can teach us something. We can take our fondest memories into the next chapter as we turn the page. That’s what I’m trying to do now. As I like to say…I’m a work in progress. So is our life, no matter what size space we reside in. That’s life, I guess. That’s growth.