Adjusting to Change Too

Josh beat me to posting our emotional process. I began working on this post one week into our trip but due to the area we were in, I couldn’t continue until now. My competitive nature told him I needed to post mine first. I cried before him! It’s silly, but there it is. Anyway…

We are now over two weeks into our journey. While it’s good to be on this adventure that we feel God has called us out on (and we are already learning so much!) I (Mel) have been surprised by the emotions that came over me the minute we drove away. I never expected to feel a deep sense of sadness and loneliness. It made sense to cry when we left as we said good-bye to our loved ones but to continue to cry, actually, sob, even now has caught me off guard. I’ve been wrestling and struggling with it. It’s been wonderful exploring together and having this focused family time but I miss my family, my friends, and my community.

Eva saw me crying and asked why I was so sad. I told her I missed my friends and family. She said I didn’t need to be sad because we had their pictures up in our motor home. I could just look at them and not miss them. I gave her a hug and thanked her. I didn’t tell her it’s not the same. I’m so glad we have pictures up but I miss talking to everyone. I miss seeing them all. I miss hugging them and just being with them.

I met a woman at the first campground we stayed at who had a “Fulltime Families” t-shirt on. I recognized the name from the Facebook group I was told about and joined before we left. It’s a group for nomadic families who have made traveling around a full-time lifestyle. I mentioned I was part of the Facebook group and she told me there was actually a membership we could be a part of. She said it’s a way for them to have community while traveling. Twice a year they plan a big meet-up somewhere in the country. They’ve made friends they run into here and there and even travel with another family now. Her comments had me reflecting on community ever since.

I’ve always believed we were made for community. The emotional process I’ve been going through has only confirmed that belief. We’re not meant to live this life alone. We need our villages, our tribes, to help us raise our kids, to try out different ideas on, to share our food with, to encourage and cry with in hard times, to laugh together. Even the kids sense this. They have cried over missing friends and wish they could play with them.

We have truly been blessed with such an amazing community. From our best friends and their 4 kids who have lived with us for 5 years now, to our families close by, to our school community and neighborhood, to our church community, we live in a wonderful place with wonderful people all around us.

My time as a volunteer Child Ambassador with World Vision has given me the opportunity to visit and learn about other communities and cultures around the world. My two trips to Africa have shown me how important community truly is. Even in the midst of extreme poverty, they have each other. The Ugandan people have even been named the happiest people in the world in spite of their poverty. I’ve reflected many times on how over resourced we are in the US and yet we have a deficit in community in our culture. The bigger our homes, the more technology we have, the more independence and self-reliability we think we have the more isolated we become, not just from our community but from our very own families that we live with. With isolation comes loneliness, depression, addiction, and more. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert but I have witnessed this many times and experienced it some. We have much to learn from other cultures and people.

I have reflected more on those who have been driven from their homes; refugees from Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, the DRC, and other war torn countries. How horrible and devastating to not only be forcibly pushed out from your homeland but to also be separated from your loved ones never to know if you will ever see them again. The leaving of our community is nothing compared to what they are going through, but it does give me more empathy for what anyone who has had to leave their home, family, and community must be feeling.

So, this adventure comes with a variety of emotions, reflections, and processes already. As I mentioned before, I’m glad to be on this 10 month journey, but I don’t believe this is for us as a full-time life-style. I need my people, we need our people. I truly can’t wait until I get to hug everyone again. When that time comes, expect lots of tears from me. But that time it will be tears of joy to finally be with them again.

 

Adjusting to Change

Anyone would assume that leaving the 9 to 5 for 10 months is a dream come true.  No more waking up early every morning to fight the nations worst traffic (Seattle).  No more dealing with difficult customers and fighting the stresses living in the  big city.  An escape into the most beautiful land our country has to offer.  Over the last 12 days, we have been amazed at the wonders of some of natures phenomenons right in our own back yard of the Pacific Northwest.  In Glacier National Park, we crossed over the Continental Divide (I didn’t even know we had a Continental Divide) twice on the same road as we shared the mountain with big horned sheep.  In Craters of the Moon, we walked through lava caves millions of years old (so they say).   In Yellowstone, we were overwhelmed with hot springs, geysers, steam vents, boiling mud, and herds of Bison that walked 5 feet from our motor home.  The Grand Teton was home to majestic  craggy mountains that stretched high into the sky. (Pictures to come in next post.)

So with all this awe, wonder and beauty, how did I (Josh) find myself laying alone in my bed a few days ago, crying to myself?  Not the type of crying you feel when you had a bad day or when your feelings get hurt a little.  No, the crying that comes from deep within your being.  A cry that is more like a whaling.  Deep sobs that sound so shameful I was embarrassed even when my wife heard me cry.  Tears that come from a place you never hope to visit, but in life, is necessary to visit as seasons change.

As I have been reflecting on my tears I have realized that adjusting to changes is a type of mourning.  Mourning for the loss of what I once had, what I have needed to give up in order to accept the season of life I now walk in.  Neither the tears nor the mourning are bad.  They are necessary.  Life is suddenly so much different.  It is good.  But my nature also requires me to go through a process of grieving as I let go of the old and take hold of the new.  It is difficult and uncomfortable but I know it is worth it.  And I would be a fool to think my grieving is over after just one session.  I’m sure I will experience other episodes of great loss and pain.  How else would I feel when I miss all the great people who are back at home?

For those who have noticed, this will be the first blog in 12 days.  Not because we forgot about all our friends and family back home, but because where we have just been, we have had no internet or cell service (a nightmare for some, I am sure).  More adjustment to change.

Interview with the Kids

As we set out on our journey, I (Mel) decided to do a brief interview with each of the kids. I was not surprised at some of their answers and at others I was very surprised. I meant to get this up a few days ago, but better late than never. 🙂 This will be the first of many posts where you will get their perspective on our adventure. Enjoy!

On our way to Montana. It was fun pulling out the old car bingo cards from my childhood!

~What was the hardest part about getting ready to go and leaving?

Caleb (almost 12): Packing and getting our rooms ready. And choosing what we want to bring and save and get rid of was also hard.

Lydia (10): Packing cause there was so much stuff to put in the attic or get rid of things that might be important but we couldn’t bring on our trip. And saying goodbye to friends and family and Fluffy (our guinea pig).

Asher (7): I didn’t want to miss my friends and I didn’t want to leave.

Eva (5): That I thought that Fluffy is gonna die.

 

~What was the funnest part about getting ready to go and leaving?

C: Nothing!

L: Looking forward to going around the country.

A: Nothing!

E: That I was gonna get to swim in a pool!

 

~What are you most nervous about for his trip?

C: Dying or getting diseases or bad things that could happen to us.

L: That one of us is going to get big by a snake or drown or something like that. And that Fluffy’s gonna die.

A: That Fluffy’s gonna die.

E: That Fluffy is gonna die while we’re gone. (I’m sensing a theme here!)

 

~What are you most excited about for this trip?

C: Seeing Niagara Falls!

L: That we get to go around the country and that Bobby is my teacher. (Bobby is her nickname for me. Sometime a few years ago she started calling me Bobby instead of Mommy. Maybe she had a cold at the time and then liked it. 🙂 )

A: Meeting new friends.

E: That I’m going to swim in the swimming pools! (Can you tell she likes to swim?!)

 

~What do you want to learn about while traveling?

C: More history of America.

L: Animals in different habitats.

A: Wasps! (He currently has an obsession with bees and wasps. It started in first grade. Thanks Mrs. Pihl!)

E: I’m excited to learn how to read!

 

It’s going to be quite the adventure with these 4! ❤

IMG_7773

 

 

Unlikely Places

 

What I (Josh) had hoped for was more unexpected than I had first imagined.  After leaving Leavenworth yesterday morning, and traveling for over an hour, the family was getting hungry for lunch.  Looking for a good view point to park at while we ate, I took our motor home (which the kids have named Advy) off-roading up a small rocky bluff.  After much excitement and doubting from Mel and the children, I made it up the bumpy hill.  We had a view from our living room window that would have cost millions back home in Seattle.

After enjoying our meal at the bluff, we moved on from there.  After two more hours of driving we stopped at an unassuming rest stop on I-90.  That is when the unexpected happened.  As the 6 of us sat on the green grass under the shade of tall trees, I made a simple statement, “There must be a game that we could play here together.”  What followed was the most epic game of duck-duck-goose I have ever played in my life.  A game I have played many times as a child.  A game I never guess I would enjoy playing ever again.  But some sort of magic took place that afternoon on the green lawn of a freeway rest stop.  I became a child again for the first time in a long while.  I got lost in the simplicity of the game, the anticipation of being a “goose”, the thrill of being chased and being chosen.  I lost myself and connected with my family in a way I hoped would happen, in a way I never dreamed of.  Spontaneous serendipity describes it best.  I can hardly believe that sharing life together in this way has already started happening just two days into our trip.  My prayer is that this is only the beginning of the magic we will share together this year.

 

Launch Day

August 1, 2018.  A day that will go down as a day of history in the Miller family.  It has been a long anticipated day.  Much planning, preparation and hard work has lead us to this day.  It has been a day full of excitement, tension, emotions, and many tears.  We left Shoreline, WA today at 4:15 pm to embark on an adventure around the country we believe will last for 10 month.  We traveled swiftly and directly to Leavenworth, WA where we plan to stay one night, before we travel to Spokane, WA tomorrow.  Our drive today was intentionally designed to be short for a total drive time of 2.5 hours.  We ate dinner at the 49er Diner in Leavenworth and arrived at our campsite with plenty of daylight to set up camp.  More tears were shed before the end of the evening.  Some well deserved rest is much needed.  As we laid the children down to bed I (Josh) told them how proud I was of them.  I told them what “big kids” they were and how I was excited to see how much they would grow up on this trip.  I watched their eyes grow big and smiles beam across their faces.  I could see that they were excited to grow up in a new way this year too.  I sat on the bed with them thinking to myself that this truly will be a year to remember.   I am grateful for my family and the opportunity given to me to share life with them this year in this way.  I am grateful to and thankful for everyone who is making this trip possible for us.  I hope that your year, too, is full of as much adventure and growth as ours.

August Itinerary

Recently the most popular question people have been asking us is, “Do you know what route you are taking?”  We have the month of August and part of September planned out, passed that we will generally be traveling East for the fall, South for the winter and into the mid West for the Spring.  We will be sure to give everyone more specific information as we continue to plan but for now this is what we have planned:

Date Location Distance Drive Time Days City/State
Aug.
1 Home 108 2.5hrs Shoreline WA
1-2 Leavenworth (TT) 252 4.5 1 Leavenworth WA
2-5 Spokane (TT) 244 5 3 Spokane WA
5-8 Glacier 488 9.5 3 West Glacier, MT
8-10 Craters of the Moon 237 5 2 Creaters of the Moon, ID
10-13 Yellowstone 7 0.25 3 Yellowstone, WY
13-16 Grand Teton 431 7 3 Grand Teton, WY
16-17 Devil’s Tower 130 2.25 1 Devil’s Tower, WY
17-18 Mount Rushmore 38 1 1 Keystone, SD
18-19 Wind Caves 58 1.25 1 Wind Caves, SD
19-22 Badlands 510 8 3 Badlands, SD
22-24 Mick & Barb (Family) 323 5 2 Litchfield, MN
24-26 JellyStone* (TT) 230 4 2 Fremont, WI
26-30 Pictured Rock 392 6 4 Pictured Rock, MI
30-31 Shaunna (Family) 4 Plainwell, MI
Sept.
1-4 Shaunna (Family) 324 5 4 Plainwell, MI
4-6 Kenisee Lake (TT) 166 3 2 Jefferson OH
6-7 Niagara Falls 198 3 1 Niagra Falls, NY
7-8 Brennan Beach* (TT) 1 Pulaski, NY
(TT)= Thousand Trails Resort

 

The Why

Many people have asked what led us to make the decision to go on this adventure. The answer may surprise you as it is full of pain, challenges and new perspective.  We hope that you will be encouraged as you read our story below- “The Why”.

(Mel) The idea to travel with my family around the country has been a part of me since I was a child. My mom had a cousin who home-schooled and traveled with his family. Every once in a while they would come to Seattle to visit us. I always thought it was amazing that they got to see the places they were learning about.  When Josh and I got married, we talked about the idea every once in a while. We thought it could be fun but it wasn’t anything we ever tried to pursue.

(Josh)  Several years ago I began feeling the stress of raising four kids, running my own business and being the sole financial provider for our family.  Mel was busy in the world of theater and compassionate ministries and the differences of our personalities began creating more and more tension in our marriage.  I was completely overwhelmed and I started to show signs of heavy depression.  Mel and I decided to go to a marriage counselor (Spring 2016) together and we embarked on a new chapter in our relationship.

(Mel) The first weekend in October 2017, I traveled to Knoxville, TN. I visited one of my best friends who had just moved there a few months prior. I was really excited to see her but I worried that she was going to miss all the beautiful mountains and lush green of the Pacific Northwest. However, Knoxville surprised me. She lives right up against the Smoky Mountains. The area is stunning! We visited a few historical homesteads and I kept thinking over and over how I wanted my family with me. I called Josh that night, with so much excitement and sense of urgency, and told him we had to travel with the kids.

(Josh) When Mel came home from Knoxville with the idea of traveling the country by motor home, I filed it away as an unrealistic pursuit.  Fate, though, has a way of making itself known.  After over a year of meeting with a marriage counselor, Mel and I had worked diligently on our personality conflicts and communication styles.  Our next goal for our relationship was to find a shared vision that would help unite us together instead of pulling us apart.  We began praying with each other on a more regular basis, seeking for God to give us shared vision.

(Josh) Recommended by a friend of mine, I was reading the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss.  He explains how “Doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic” (pg. 50).  In it is a story about a family that took a year long sailing trip around the world (pg. 25).  The wife in the story said “far from being a reason not to travel and seek adventure, children are perhaps the best reason of all to do both.”  Reading that story was profound to me- I had an epiphany, an “ah-ha” moment.  I was moved with emotion and felt that I had suddenly been changed.  (Proof that studying business can lead to a spiritual experience.)  I immediately read the story to Mel and described how it had impacted me.  From that day forward, our conversations about traveling the country together began taking on new meaning.  We had found our shared vision.

(Mel) The following weekend Josh asked if I wanted to go look at RVs. Instead of excitement, I became apprehensive. You see, ever since Eva was born, I was looking forward to when she would start school. The next year would be the only year that all my kids would be together at the same school; Eva in Kindergarten, Asher in 2nd, Lydia in 5th, and Caleb in 6th. All of a sudden, we were looking at traveling and road schooling that year instead of having them in their elementary school. While I was doing the dishes the morning before we looked at the first motor home, I was really feeling anxious and talking to God about it. In my heart I heard Him ask me a question, “What is it that you have been looking forward to for this year?” I said what I’ve been saying to everyone, “All the kids in the same place, at the same time, on the same schedule.” He replied, “That’s not changing. They’re just going to be with you.” Talk about bringing on the tears! God always has a way of answering prayers, it just might not look like the way you think it will. I’m so thankful for His perspective shift. So, I set out of the house that morning with excitement. Over the next month and a half, the whole process of seeking and buying our motor home was full of confirmations from God (which may be a post for another day).

(Josh) Life has begun taking on new color for me.  Where I had once felt pain over the  differences in our relationship, I have begun to appreciate the harmony our differences can bring.  Where I once felt threatened that Mel’s passions were taking her away from our family, I now feel a partnership that we had never had before.  For the first time in my life, I have begun to accept life the way it is.  For me, this trip means so much more than just traveling the country.  It is the pursuit of living fully alive. An adventure along side of my one true love.  It is my deepest desire to share life with Mel and my family.

(Mel) It’s so exciting and wonderful to be pursuing this together! God is leading us out. He has lessons for us to learn. He is doing a work in our marriage and family to strengthen us during this time. We have no clue what God has in store for us, or what any of those lessons are, what it will all look like or how it will all play out. But, we know that even when we face hard times all of it will be good because He is good!

What a trip this will be! Thanks for coming along the journey with us! ❤

the goodness of God