When I started planning our summer vacation six months ago, I had an idea of what I wanted our two week vacation to look like. I made big plans, Jeff told me to scale back to something more reasonable, and then I came up with the itinerary that would eventually take us through three states and to five different national parks (and an unexpected national monument).
I was certain this was going to be a good vacation; I had no idea how incredible the journey would be. From our first night wading in a river to our last four nights stranded in Albuquerque after a breakdown, the vacation was everything our family wanted and needed and more.
It was our first cross-country camping trip with both of the dogs, which was a last-minute decision. In the past, we have put them in the kennel when we are going to be gone for an extended period, mostly because they did not do well camping in our last trailer. Ever since we bought the new one last August, they have become more comfortable with their camping surroundings. We did a trial run when we took them camping with us at Christmas, but we didn’t have to worry about leaving them in the truck when we stopped because they weren’t going to overheat. We had planned to leave them at home with our neighbors watching them, but with less than a week to go Jeff said, “Let’s take them.” We didn’t look back and we never regretted it. While we had some long days away from them, we weren’t making many stops on the road (because there was nowhere to stop) and our free-range dogs who have a dog door finally learned how to relieve themselves on leashes. Throughout the trip we marveled that we ever considered leaving part of our family at home, even more so when we broke down.
We spent nearly two weeks in my favorite region of the country and we saw nearly every type of western landscape. We watched the sunset from atop a desert sand dune, accidentally discovered rock riverbeds, journeyed into the depths of the earth, climbed ladders in Mesa Verde, hiked to stunning views in oppressive desert heat, drove to the highest elevations our kids have ever experienced, off-roaded into a canyon, and star-gazed underneath an arch.
Lack of service forced us to put our cell phones away for everything but picture taking. Endless hours exploring as a family kept us away from most technology, except the early mornings or late nights when Jeff was working or I was writing. Even the many games we have in our camper for nighttime entertainment didn’t get much use because we were crawling into bed far too late nearly every night, exhausted bodies and full hearts dragging us to sleep.
We learned more about our nation’s complicated history and drove past evidence of that history in the form of reservation after reservation. We made sure to point out the current state of our indigenous citizens, but it will be years before we know whether those mini-lessons sunk in for our compassionate but privileged children.
And we dealt with the unexpected.
This week I started finally reading my “homework” for a conference that I’m attending next week: Margaret Feinberg’s Taste and See. After our family’s adventures from the last week, this early quote stopped me in my tracks: “Picking something as simple as your destination plays well into the illusion that destiny is yours to control; however, this trip has stripped me of making choices…I sense that if I relinquish control and stop trying to set the agenda, maybe I’ll make space for God to move. I force myself to receive each day as a gift rather than manage it like a to-do list.”
Jeff follows all sorts of camping forums on social media, and he said he had seen at least three other people in similar situations during the July 4th week. We weren’t alone. And we knew that. We had seen examples of sidelining repairs ever since we bought our first camper, but like most people, we just hoped it would never happen to us.
And then it did.
The hardest part, besides freaking out about the financial implications and wondering how we were ever going to get home, was the loss of control. For the first couple days, it was so hard to not know what was coming next. We had spent nearly two weeks with a plan that went better than anticipated; now we had no answers for our kids. They were used to us knowing what was coming next and that loss of control was humbling and temporarily crippling. I felt trapped and told Jeff that I was starting to feel like we did when we were living in our camper. Jeff said I was just upset that my plans got changed and I didn’t have any control over what was going to happen next.
He was right.
We’re home and as I look through pictures and read back through the blog posts I wrote on the journey, I don’t dwell on the fact that we’ll eventually have to head back to New Mexico to collect our repaired camper. I’m thankful that we are ok. I know that God was looking out for our family and protected us along the way.
We’re not done. We’ll keep adventuring. We’ll keep exploring the wonders of Creation.
And maybe next time I’ll remember to pack rain jackets.