In the Fall of 2020, when everyone searched for normalcy during the pandemic, we decided to embark on a different kind of journey. The kind that promised to be anything but ordinary, to stretch us out of our modern comforts and into a deep exploration of our values and our family.
We made that decision in two weeks, coincidentally as we also decided to commit to a full “remote school year” – whatever that meant. It was apparent that no client had any interest in meeting face-to-face and Dave would continue to do his job remotely. The year would be virtual. No sports practices. No family obligations. And so, Dave and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s go camping!”
We didn’t really know what that entailed. Neither of us had even stepped foot in an RV, never mind purchasing one. And so, we took the leap, spending the next couple weeks packing up our home and renting it out for three months, purchasing an SUV and a 29-foot camper, and creating an “adventure itinerary” with plans to travel up to Montana before snowfall and down to Texas to see Big Bend.
We named our camper “Maggie.” She had a bit of water damage, but nothing to worry about. Her beauty was on the inside: a black and white motif that felt light and airy. We loved all 200 sq feet of her. And we loaded her up with our clothes, our pots and pans, games, a complete spice rack, one barely played guitar, and two dogs.
We hit the open road a few days before the virtual school year began. Lucas (age 9) and Jesse (age 7) were excited for the opportunity. They were sick of being locked inside, with the beach closed, the trails closed, their friends locked inside. It was time for adventure.
And adventure it was. There’s nothing like learning by trial and error. Like having a camper door swing open on the 405 in traffic and having fellow drivers signal for you to pull over. Or completely changing the itinerary the night before departing because half of California was on fire. Or seeing a plume of smoke coming out of the camper while travelling down a country road in Italy, Texas.
Coalville, Utah. The first day of school spent along a creek. Grand Tetons. Seeing a moose and a bear on the same hike. Yellowstone. Feeling the “rain” from Old Faithful. Garrison, Montana. Salmon on the grill on a Friday night while breaking every one of the rules at Bernie and Sharon’s RV Park. Glacier National Park. The purple and turquoise rocks in Lake McDonald. Rocky Mountain National Park. The sounds of the elk rut. Great Sand Dunes. Sledding and giggling.
We saw spectacular beauty in the landscape. Our Maggie.Nomad Instagram feed highlighted the majesty of the national parks in all their splendor. We collected followers and even had our two minutes of fame on The Today Show.
What wasn’t so visible was the inner landscape. And yet, it was deeply connected to the meaning of the trip.
John O’Donohue described this to Krista Tippett recently on her podcast, On Being. He said, “When you wake in the morning and come out of your house, whether you believe you’re walking into dead geographical location, which is used to get to a destination, or whether you’re emerging out into a landscape that is just as much if not more alive as you, but in a totally different form, and if you go towards it with an open heart and a real, watchful reverence, that you will be absolutely amazed at what it will reveal to you.”
We assumed that spending a few months in nature during the pandemic would be a chance to “disconnect.” What it created was a sense of deep connection. It put us in a state of awe and wonder. Of curiosity. Of attention. Of conversation.
I recognize what a privilege this is, that not everyone has a job allowing complete abandon. That not everyone has the means to pack up their life into an RV and travel the country. But what I’d like to suggest is that you find a way to create the connection between your outer and inner landscape. That you find beauty in the world around you. The people. The land. And your voice within it.
I came back from this experience with a changed perspective on time and space. While I’ve always felt that each day was a gift, what I now recognize on a much deeper level is how we can endure anything when we connect to the things we are most passionate about. When we integrate the personal and “professional.” When we bring the outside, in.
It’s why I’ve chosen to add an outdoor leadership component to LoyaltyCraft. Because not all lessons can be learned in our everyday landscape. That when we need to dive deep, with the attention of our hearts and minds, our best bet is to let nature show us the way.