When you hear that I’m a single, disabled, mother of seven kids, the first thing that leaps into your mind probably isn’t “you should spend a few weeks traveling around in a small RV!” Luckily, I stopped worrying about whether or not that made sense, and off we went on a whirlwind tour of six states.
Okay, technically, it wasn’t even close to a whirlwind since we spaced driving out as much as possible to accommodate my health limitations. But, in 21 days, we did at least visit six states, spending each night in a small RV, cooking our meals in its postage-stamp sized kitchen, and generally living in quarters close enough to resemble a prison. Except that I’m pretty sure that prisoners have larger common areas, plus TVs, and maybe even working Internet access.
I’ve always loved to travel. When I was younger, I was too busy working and raising kids to do much beyond weekends away and a very occasional international vacation. When I first recognized that my health was progressing into disability, and that I would not be able to ride a camel in Egypt or climb the stairs of Santorini again, I realized that it was those stolen vacations that mattered far more to me than a million hours I had spent at work.
I loved my job, and I was good at it. Perhaps surprisingly, I went through a massive amount of mourning over the cold, hard reality that I simply couldn’t work any longer. Yet, all of that paled in comparison to my desire to see as much of the world as I could, for as long as I still could.
So I bought a cheap travel trailer off Craigslist not long before we left. I learned to drive while pulling a trailer by driving while pulling a trailer — which definitely included some interesting moments trying to back up. While on our trip, I learned how to light a propane hot water heater and unclog a black water tank (yuck!), and I even dealt with car repairs, and having to rent a car mid-way through!
It certainly wasn’t glamorous, but we made so many memories in those three weeks that it’s hard to say which ones will end up being the ones that we hold the more dear. Maybe, it actually will be the time that we (briefly) lost a child at Disneyland or fought over who had to unclog that damn black water tank for the hundredth time, or maybe it will even be those long, endless stretches of road where we listened to Macklemore and talked about American history.
When you’re packed into a travel trailer for three weeks, you learn a lot about each other and yourself. Some of it might be surprising, and some of it might even be unpleasant. But, it’s wisdom, that’s for sure, that you will never find in the comfortable confines of your home.
I probably won’t be able to roam around in a travel trailer again this time next year. It was hard-going physically for me, even driving only a few hours each day, and spacing driving days out with rest days in between.
I saw Disneyland in a wheelchair, and I had to stick to the absolute shortest, flattest, paved paths in the national parks that we visited (and really need a wheelchair there, too). But, this summer, I saw the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon. I learned what a hoodoo is and how it forms. I saw the sun set over the desert, and I spent hours getting to know my children in the ways that only spending seemingly endless amounts of time together can do.
When your life veers off-course, and you are given a future that slowly and steadily declines, long before it “should,” you have many options. You can try every treatment you read about on the internet. You can mediate. You can pray. You can rage. You can cry. You can despair. And you can even refuse to believe that it’s true. I’ve done all of those. Sometimes more than once. But, when it’s all said and done, none of us has a promised future. None of us knows how long our health will be good. All that we can do is live the life we have today, while preserving the hope that it will still be there tomorrow.
Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to haul my kids and myself through the west for three weeks. But, maybe, it was exactly what we needed.