It’s hard, after spending most of 2016 wandering around the US and Canada, not to want to get back on the road again. Back to the long roads, weird rest stops, new people and adventures — both mundane and unbelievable — that I’ve experienced this year.
So I’m going to do it again in 2017. But first, I want to tell you the truth.
Divorce has a way of making you untouchable. The people you knew in your previous life — including your family — aren’t sure what to say or do. The people that you learn to know in your new life aren’t interested in the baggage. You’re stuck somewhere in the middle.
That’s how I started 2016: somewhere in the middle but mostly broken — personally and professionally.
You may have heard stories — especially from me — about the tech tour but here’s the truth:
At the beginning of 2016, Dana and I weren’t ready to move in together and I couldn’t move back in with my parents. I didn’t know where else to go, so I moved into an Airstream travel trailer. Full time.
I wasn’t sure what to say to my friends and family in the DC area, so I started thinking of ways to get away. That was the beginning of the tech tour: a plan to get away from the things I knew.
It was cheaper to keep the Airstream moving than it was to keep it parked in one campground, especially in the DC area, so what started out as a six city tour became a 42 city tour that would take me across North America and back three times over the course of 9 months.
Along the way, I shook hands with over 20,000 people. I ran out of gas twice. I saw things — the most beautiful things — that few people ever see. And I learned about myself.
These are a few of those things:
- Take your family with you. For the first half of the year, Dana was only able to join me on the road sporadically. For the second half of the year, she joined me full-time and I’d like to think that the quality of both of our lives improved dramatically. You don’t need to be together 24/7 — there’s value in alone time — but there’s something incredible in traveling with your significant other. There’s something amazing about going places together, experiencing new things together and growing together.
- Everyone’s pretending. I grew up in a culture that prefers to keep everything hidden. Most of us work in a professional culture of keeping everything hidden. You don’t need to broadcast your issues to the world, just find your tribe and keep them close. At the very least, make sure you never pretend around your significant other.
- Everyone is (mostly) good. When I moved into the Airstream full-time, I worried about my safety. A year later, I’ve learned that full-timers watch out for each other. More importantly, I’ve learned that the vast majority of people are good. They just want to help and they hope you will do the same.
- Reduce friction in your daily life. When I first moved into the Airstream, I quickly learned that trailers have more water than most people want and less electrical storage than most people need. I invested in a huge power upgrade (600A of lithiums, 900W of solar panels, a hybrid inverter and a 3000W generator) and my quality of life became nearly indistinguishable from apartment living. If you use something every day, invest in it.
- Always top off the tank. Every time I’ve made a mistake — personally and professionally — it’s because I didn’t take care of myself first. It’s not selfish, it’s a fact: you can’t take care of others, make good decisions or do anything else important if you’re not in a good place mentally and physically. If you can get an extra hour of sleep, do it. If you see a gas station, top off the tank — even if you still have half a tank (unless you want to run out of gas 50 miles from the next station, like me).
- You’re capable of much more than you — or anyone around you — thinks. I would have never thought I could spend a night on BLM land miles from the nearest human being or spend a night in a Walmart parking lot. The truth is that you’re capable of so much more, especially when you’re back is against the wall. Get a first-aid kit and a small toolbox, then learn how to use everything in it. Watch your self-confidence skyrocket.
- Never stop learning something new. Some people learn how to code, other people learn how to knit but I decided to learn how to long board — so I got a Boosted Board. I’ve taken more than a few nasty spills but there’s no faster way to put an ear-to-ear smile on your face than cruising on one.
- Be intentional. Be methodical. Every time I’ve rushed to do anything with the Airstream, something goes wrong. (Remind me to tell you about that one time I almost rolled the Airstream off a cliff in Whistler, BC… with Dana inside. She wasn’t happy.) The world wants you to rush everything, don’t fall for it. Some people like checklists, other people like processes — find your system and stick to it. Some people grow up when they’re 18 years old. I grew up at 35.
- Laugh more. Smile more. At the risk of this sounding like a self help thing, just trust me on this. I love that Dana and I laugh all the time. I love that I really smile in photos now. I love that I feel happier than I’ve ever felt. I don’t know how to measure it but I know that smiling and laughing has helped me be a better person this year.
If I can leave you with one thought as we enter the new year, it’s this: Change makes you better. Traveling makes you better. Do both, if you can.
Also published on Medium.