Post trip angst

So my usual post summer trip angst is lasting a little longer than usual, probably because I have been obsessing over family travel web sights like www.familyvagabond.org. Among other things, this website profiles the many families who have forsaken a predicable and tethered life for a nomadic lifestyle, oftentimes undertaking journeys with no planned termination.

Does my infatuation indicate a desire for this life for my own family or am I just being nostalgic?

Flashback to spring 1992. It was all about acquiring my very own VCR and a 19 inch TV. I had just graduated from the University of Michigan with a useless degree in psychology which I put to work in a halfway house for women who were dually diagnosed. Luis, fresh from the Coast Guard, was making pizzas at a popular local place. We were 22 years old and ready to settle in to an uneventful life in the Midwest. Then I had one of those conversations that end up steering life in a completely different direction.

One of my very best friends, Sean, had recently made the move from the midwest to San Francisco. When I shared my excitement about getting my share of the American dream he did not congratulate me. Instead he was very blunt, he said I was going to get stuck in the Midwestern rut and never get out. It gave me pause, because this was a familiar story to me, a story that haunted me in it's somber regret. It is my own mother's tale from the mid 1960's, of how she was going to break free of plans and conventions. Her plan was to get in her car and just drive out of Detroit, to leave her predictable life behind, head west on I 94 and see where it would lead her with no plan or end point in sight. Two hours out of the city she decided to turn back, changing the course of her life forever. The heavy feeling of regret sinks in heavy on my chest as I recall this story, I remember the look on her face and the mourning in her eyes as she mused over this one life's chance she did not take.

Motivated by the fear of getting stuck in the Midwest forever and the fear of not wanting to have the same regrets as my mother, I proposed to Luis that we move out west, to San Francisco. We could sleep on sean's floor until we figured out what we were going to do. He really didn't have to think about it, and it surprised me how easily he agreed. I guess he figured he had nothing to lose. He had severed his Long Island, NY roots when he joined the coast guard and his military stint gave him a taste for adventure and travel. He was easily sold on the idea. By summer we had gotten rid of most of the things we accumulated while he was stationed in Port Huron, MI and I was a student in Ann Arbor. We packed up the Nissan Sentra and got on the road.

It was liberating, exciting, and felt so very right. We didn't know it then, but our decision to pack up and leave the midwest began a nomadic and rootless period of our lives that are a constant reference point and testament to the benefits of selling all your stuff and hitting the road.

Hoarders and Vagabonds

With all this free time on my hands and paralyzing indecision about what to do with it led to a hoarders episode marathon over the weekend. If you have never seen an episode of hoarders it is crazy. I have never been so motivated to clean, sort, and purge in my life. Courtesy of Netflix I watched at least a dozen episodes over the course of two days.

This is the result:

The iPad camera could not capture the true number of bags of crap I gleaned from the room of my two children, there are several that are not shown in this picture. The kids and I worked for eight hours on Sunday and could not believe what has accumulated...over the past year! We did the same haul out last summer and we were amazed then too.

Besides watching hoarders for hours, I spent a lot of time cruising websites of families who had sold all their stuff to begin a family adventure of world travel, calling themselves nomadic families. I was simultaneously feeling superior to the hoarders and inferior to these vagabond family travelers and their cool name which spawned a full day or purging my house, beginning with the kids rooms. Because if I'm not going to have a nomadic family, well at least I can clean out my house like they do and by god at least I won't be a hoarder!

The other thing that motivated the clean out was realizing, yet again, that when you can live for several weeks out of a backpack with not much more than three changes of clothes, a few books, and a toothbrush, well, the average American child's room can feel a bit overwhelming. There was stuff coming out of our ears!

The clincher came when my daughter was in tears over how small her room was and how she needed more space. I looked around, and with the wisdom of those psychologists on the hoarders show fresh in my brain I said girl, you don't need more space you need less stuff. And that started the cleaning binge which resulted in the enormous pile in the foyer. Lucky for me my children were also motivated to clean out the stuff so there were no battles to fight.

The kids are going to have a yard sale this weekend. I have no doubt that they will use that money to buy more stuff.