The Half Year Mark

Today mark’s the 1/2 year anniversary of our trip.  And though it has been a thrilling adventure filled with travel, history and culture, the last two month have begun to feel “normal”.  Let me explain.  The first 4 months of our trip were none stop exploration and movement, where were stay in one place, at the most, for 4 days- then moving on to the next destination.  In these first 4 months we drove 11,000 miles.  In contract we have driven 2,500 mile in the last two months.  That’s more than twice as much driving comparing the first two-thirds of our trip to the last one-third.  Maybe it has felt more “normal” because we have stayed in the same state for two month (Florida).  We have parked our RV in one place for two week at a time twice and once for one week. (Fort Lauderdale, Orlando & the Everglades, respectively).  We have established friendships with several RVing families, two of which we now stay in contact with and seek each other’s company when we are traveling.  The pace of life feels “normal”.  Everyday events of life are happening.  Little things.  Lydia getting glasses for her eyes as she grows up, playing board games as a family, Eva counting the days down until her birthday (1 day left!!!).IMG_0280

Little things like eating beef stew, being silly and being “the Millers”.

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Little things like Mel and I taking time away for ourselves.

Mel to Guatemala with World Vision,

and me to California to spend time with my close friend Bruce.

It is funny how such a “big” thing like an RV trip across the country can become to feel like a “normal” kind of a thing.  I suppose that normal is simply “that which we are conditioned to.”  If this is true than I can say that we are now conditioned to living in a motor home.  We are conditioned to living in a home away from home.  We are conditioned to making new friends everywhere we go and are conditioned to living like nomads.

And though these feeling of normality may change as we begin more ambitiously to travel again in February (New Orleans & Texas), I believe we have now been conditioned by this trip.

With all this said, it seems to me, that life’s secrets are unlock in this simple, well know truth- “Find joy in the little things.”  “Little things” like playing with legos, going on bike rides, reading as a family, and making a new friend.  I have traveled 13,500 miles, from corner to corner to corner across our country, just to be reminded, once again, of the famous word of T.S. Eliot:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

While Daddy’s away, we go play!

Josh has been in California for a business trip (and some much needed alone time) for a few days now. So this is what the kids and I have been up to as we hang out in Florida, just north of Orlando.

We took a day trip to St. Augustine and stopped by Trader Joe’s on the way. The kids used their TJ gift cards they got from Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas to stock up on snacks for the road trip. Unfortunately, due to the government shut down, we couldn’t see inside the old Spanish fort but we got to play around it. The kids still had a great time and we did still learn a few things.

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We’ve checked out various book shops and went on a Starbucks date to use more Christmas gift cards.

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Today, we decided to head to the LEGO store at Disney Springs (just like Downtown Disney for those familiar with Disneyland). It’s the closest we’ll get to touching Disneyworld on our trip. We had a lot of fun! The LEGO sculptures are impressive and the computer that “scans” your hand to tell you what LEGO character you are had us cracking up. Especially when Asher popped up as a ballerina! He laughed so hard he cried!

A bunny from Lydia’s LEGO Friends set had a bow piece break off and get stuck in the hole so you couldn’t put a new bow in. She brought it with her to the store and asked if they had another bunny. So, they gave her a bunny from one of the displays and put her bunny in the display. She thought that was so cool that her bunny is in the case at Disneyworld. If you happen to go there any time soon, you can stop by and see it!

We have new friends we met in our last campsite that have joined us at our current campsite so we’ll be hanging out with them the rest of our time while Josh is away. I’m also preparing for my Guatemala trip with World Vision. I leave 2 days after Josh rejoins us. I’ll share more  about that after I get back. In the meantime, you’ll just have to see what Josh and the kids will be up to while Mommy’s away!

3,473 Miles Away from Home

January 8th, 2019, was a monumental milestone in our trip and our lives.  Driving to the SW corner of Key West, Florida, we both arrived at the furthest southern point of the Continental United States, and, possibility more significantly, we drove to the furthest possible point away from home without leaving our country.

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Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at Fort Zachery Taylor State Park, the furthest southwest point in Key West, we watched the sunset.

I took the below screen shot with my phone while we were there.  According to Google maps: 3,473 driving miles away from home and 50 continuous hours of driving to arrive at our doorstep.

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As the last rays of sunlight painted across the horizon, the park closed and we needed to go.  Go- Every mile we now go we go closer to home.  Though we still have nearly 5 months left on our trip we are officially travelling back home.  We have reached the limit of the size of our country.  We have gone the distance, we have made it to the furthest point.  As large and vast and rich and deep as our country is- everything in this world has its limits.  Not that we have at all exhausted the limits of places to go in this country- far from it!  But one limit that our family has forever reached is the driving distance limit in our country from our home.  We can never again, in our country, be further away than we were on that day.  What other limits, I wonder, can we reach in life?

So what is next for us?  The rest of the month will be spent in Orlando, Florida.  Now most people might assume that means we will be spending days on end at Walt Disney World, but not so for us.  In fact we will not be gracing the Disney park once on this trip.  So why so much time in one place (expect of course for the sunshine and warm weather)?  The next season of our trip is full of trips within a trip.  What I mean is that for one week, I (Josh) will be traveling to California for both business and pleasure and for one week Mel will be traveling to Guatemala for one week with World Vision.  We felt it best to plan these trips back to back so that we could park the motor home in one place and put our RV driving on a two week hold.

Once back from our trips on Feb. 3rd, we will drive straight to New Orleans where we plan on staying for one week.  We plan on traveling to Texas in mid February and are hoping to visit Mel’s brother, Matt, in Kansas City, some time in March.  Much more fun to come.  Many more adventures to be had.  We love and miss you all.  Our hope and prayer is that you too reach out and touch, no matter what it takes, the outer limits of your lives and live life to its fullest.

 

New Years- A Half Way Point

One of the “challenges” of camping in Florida in the month of December and January is to believe that it is the winter here.  For the last week we have been camped at the Everglades National Park at the Southern tip of Florida, making it one of the warmest camping spots we could be in the entire country.  We are truly grateful, and thankful for the privilege of being in this place at this time.  I never in my life imagined myself wintering in Florida.  Up into this point, our road trip has been busy, characterized by  driving long distances, visiting countless historic locations, land marks, museums, friends and family.  Christmas was the first time on this trip where we parked in one spot for over a week.  Speaking of Christmas, my (Josh) Mom and Dad (Grammy and Grampy) flew into Florida for a week to spend a little time with us for the holiday season.  Thanks Mom and Dad- you helped bring greater joy into our holidays, even as we celebrated Christmas thousands of miles away from home.

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With all this said, our New Years Celebration in the Everglades may be one of the most memorable New Years of our lives.  On New Years Eve, as we explored the waterways of the Everglades we saw both crocodiles and manatees, for the first time, alive in the wild.  Countless fish jumped out of the water as the sun set into the Florida Bay and birds of all types flew overhead.

As the daylight grew fainter, we rode our bikes back to camp and then suddenly we witnessed the mysterious glowing dance of the fireflies.  Flashing auras of light faded in and out as we peddled alongside our illuminated friends.  For a moment, in our minds, we were no longer on this place we call Earth.  We were in a world of mystery, serendipity and surprise, where only the unexpected occurs, a world of awe and wonder, a place where things we could never dream come true.  Our experience that evening was otherworldly.

When we did make it back to camp, as though we had arrived in a magic floating cloud, we recounted the experience with each other, and prepared for our “normal” new years activities.  We began our celebration with a family card game (“Up & Down the River” for those who know the game).  A camp fire under the brilliant starry night was next on the list to bring in the new year.  As the hour approach we roasted s’mores and at the turn of the hour we toasted with sparkling apple cider.

But this toast was unlike any toast we have ever had.  Yes, we toasted to the end of 2018, a year full of unforgettable memories.  A year of growth, learning, thanksgiving, adventure and family bonding.  Yes, we toasted to the beginning of 2019, a year full of anticipation, expectation and infinite possibilities.  But for our family, January 1st, 2019, marked another milestone in our trip of a lifetime- a halfway point on our trip.

On August 1st, 2018, exactly 5 months to the day of the New Year, we embarked on a 10 month journey to explored our vast and amazing country as a family.  This means that New Years Day marks the exact half way point in our trip.  Every day from now on we will arrive back sooner than the amount of time we have now been away.  Now, instead of looking behind how far we have gone, we can now, more easily look ahead to when we will be reunited with everyone on our return home.  Though there is still so much more to come on this trip, we are half way there.  The journey is possible- the doubt all gone.  We are here, as far away from home as we can be without leaving our country, now every day we can say we are getting closer and closer to home.

With our current plan, we plan to visit Key West Jan. 7-9th and spend the rest of the month on the East coast of Florida, including 2 weeks in Orlando.  January 9th will actually be the official beginning of our return home from a distance perspective, but from a time perspective, we are half way done with our trip.  Thank you everyone who have been supportive, helpful and encouraging as we have embarked on this wild adventure.  May your New Years be as memorable and magical as ours.

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Christmas in Florida

Normally, I (Josh) am not the type of person who likes to go to resorts and hang out around the pool.  I like being outdoors in the woods, hiking, backpacking and climbing the mountains.  But certain realities in life (snow, rain & cold) keep me from enjoying these types of actives in the winter.  With this in mind, I find a new appreciation today for being poolside on a warm (82 degrees) Florida day.  Back home, I would be inside looking out the window, wishing for better weather.  Today, I am working on my computer in the sun, going in the pool for a quick swim when I need to cool down.

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We made it to Florida on Dec. 4th and I got my birthday wish fulfilled (born Dec. 6th) by being in Florida for my birthday.  I celebrated heartily at the Outback Steak House with a prime rib steak, Cesar salad,  asparagus, baked potato soup, gourmet mac & cheese and mojito (yes, heartily).  We are currently staying in the central Florida city of Wauchula.  This last week we visited Orlando and Yemassee.  We will be staying in Fort Lauderdale for the rest of the month and will have the privilege of having my parents visit us for Christmas (who we have not seen for 4 1/2 months).

This part of our trip (in Florida I mean) has been, by far, the most relaxing part since we launched on August 1st.  Though our goal on this trip is not relaxing (again poolside vacations are not my style), staying out of snow is.  I am determined to keep our RV out of the snow as far as it is in my power to do so, and waiting the winter out in Florida is part of my power.  It has been nice though, staying in one place for more than a couple days.  The first 4 months of our trip were so busy, running from place to place and seeing all that this great country has to offer.  And though we plan on doing much more of that on the second half of this trip (yes our trip is almost half way over already), this time in Florida is a much needed reprieve, especially during the holidays.

As a whole, our family is doing very well.  Six people living in a 240 sq. ft. box has become our new normal.  Though quarters are tight which has lead to times of frustration and conflict, we are learning to live together better.  We are learning that abundant space is not a necessity for family health and that alternative solutions can be found when escape is not an option.  We deeply miss all our friends and relatives back home but have found a new depth of friendship within the six of us.  Making new friends and cherishing brief encounters with those friend we make is a new skill set we are also developing.  If the goal of this trip is growth and maturity, than I believe our family is succeeding.

For me personally I (still Josh) have experienced great joy along side of tremendous frustration.  My greatest disappointment on this trip is that fulfilling a dream (going on this trip) does not guarantee euphoric happiness (duh).  As much as I wish life were “easy,” experiencing a fulfilling life is hard work, regardless of my situation.  Making daily choices to act kindly with my family when I just want to strangle them instead is just as much work in Seattle as it is in Florida.  Said differently, changing my environment does not instantly change my character.  Character development is hard work and never ending.  This is the good news though.  Though I am not instantly changed by this trip, I am being changed everyday on this trip.  I may not see a difference in myself tomorrow, but I am become a better person as I struggle through life and continue to make the day-to-day choices I know are right.

One thing I am also especially grateful for on this trip is the time and space to think about and reflect on what is most important to me.  What do I really want to do with my life?  What really is important to me?  How can I refocus my life on these important things?  How do I shed those things in my life that are keeping me from what matters most?  These and many other questions take time and deep reflection to think about and even more time to wrestle with in an attempt to answer.  Though I have not “found the answer” to them, I do believe I am closer now than I was before we left on this trip.  And if this pondering is any indication of what is to come out of this trip, then I believe I will be a better person and will have gained a clearer life direction when we arrive back home in Seattle.

Nov. – Dec. Itinerary

A bit overdue, here is our itinerary for Nov. – Dec.  We will be is Florida for most of December and will be celebrating my birthday there too! (Josh- Dec. 6th).  Though the weather has not been unbearably cold recently (25 degrees tonight) I am excited to be in Florida soon.  I have never in my life had the opportunity to spend a winter in the South.

Nov. Location City
1-3 Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA
3-4 Valley Forge Valley Forge, PA
4-6 Delaware ?
6-9 Wash DC. Wash DC.
9-13 Aunt Patty & David Shipensburg, PA
13-14 Mount Vernon Alexandria, VA
14-16 Williamsburg Williamsburg, VA
16-17 Jamestown Jamestown, VA
17-18 Monticello Charlottesville, VA
18-20 West Virginia Beckley, WV
20-21 Kentucy ?
21-24 Paula’s House (Thanksgiving) Nashville, TN
24-28 Ruth’s House Knoxville, TN
28-30 South Carolina Greenville, SC
Dec.
1-3 North Carolina Leland, NC
3-4 South Carolina Charleston, SC
4-8 Florida Wildwood, FL
8-12 Florida Clermont, FL
12-16 Florida Wauchula, FL
16-26 Florida ?

Happy Thanksgiving- 100 days and counting.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family.  We miss you all and look forward to seeing everyone upon our return home (sometime in the middle of next year).  We hope all of you are enjoying your holiday and are able to surround yourself with those you love most.  This Thanksgiving will be the most unique Thanksgiving of our lives, away from both family and home.  We are grateful and thankful for all of you and though you are all far away physically, you are close to us in our hearts.  To our great blessing, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day in Nashville Tennessee with our Child Ambassador friends, Paula and Wendy Hemphill, and for this we are grateful.

We were privileged with the company of some of Mel’s family for an early Thanksgiving Celebration on November 10th.  Mel’s parents flew to Pennsylvania, where we all met up with Mel’s Aunt Patty, Uncle David & Aunt Kathy and Uncle David.  It was such a joy to spend time with family away from our own home.

Our apologies for getting behind on our blog (again) and leaving you all in the dark.  We are still healthy and well and we are still on our projected course of travel.  No different than “normal life” back home, we are busy, busy, busy, trying to balance the demands of our new lifestyle while raising our family.

I will try to give an abridged yet insightful account of our last weeks of travel.

After leaving NYC we headed down the coast of Jew Jersey and took some down time from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.  We spent an afternoon on the board walk and beach of Atlantic City, NJ.  Mel’s favorite movie as a young middle school girl was set in the city of Atlantic City, and she was able to realize a childhood fantasy of visiting this “magical” location.

Next we headed to Philadelphia, a city that I (Josh) liked immediately because of the well developed bike lanes throughout the city and points of interest.  After I toured the city alone on my bike, peddling 30 miles around town in the early morning hours, I rode back to our motor home and convinced Mel and the kids that biking was the best way to travel around the city.  We rode to and from the historic districts of Philadelphia that day together as a family.  We saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin’s former property, and original manuscripts of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation.  And, by my request, we finished off the day with a delicious Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich!

Valley Forge was our next stop, where we participated in a ranger lead tour through part of the historic landmark on a cold, sunny day.  We walked through tiny shelters in the same location where revolutionary soldiers camped the winter of 1776.  We hid out on the high walls of a redoubt, visited the winter location of the then Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, and ended our day in the Washington Memorial Chapel.  Though we would have liked to stay longer, the one day we had there was well worth the time.

We traveled to Delaware for a short respite as we hung out with Mel’s friend Javy, enjoying a picnic lunch, a clean shower at their house, and an evening of spaghetti and beer.

Almost as busy as NYC, we spent 3 days in Washington D.C.  I could endlessly drone on-and-on about all that we saw- just look at the pictures and you will know that much fun was had and that 3 days is not long enough.

Also, while in D.C. we went out to dinner to celebrate our 100th day on our national road trip (Nov. 8th).  It’s hard to believe that it has already been so long since we have been home.

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