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Contemplating the end of full-time travel

Our standard joke is that summer in Vermont really ends on my birthday, in mid-August. Right on schedule, the weather has turned much cooler in the past week and we are starting to feel the fall air coming. It’s too early to call it “a nip in the air” but this morning the temperature is 49 degrees and the sky is scudded with fast-moving gray clouds. That’s a sure sign of the weather beginning to change.

Today is only a warning. Summer still has control, and today it will probably bounce back up to 70 degrees, the clouds will yield, and we will go to the lake. The water in Lake Champlain is still warm (by local standards, meaning 68-70 degrees). With a shorty wetsuit it will probably be a fine day on the water.

Friday evening the lake was churning with 2-3 feet waves and little whitecaps blown along the tops, under brilliant sunshine. It wasn’t great weather for the boat, snorkeling, or swimming, but it turned out to be great for the sea kayaks. I’ve never used the sea kayaks in anything but calm water, so this gave me a taste for what they can do. Although the lake was probably only as rough as one of the Great Lakes on a nice day, I was impressed by the ease with which they cut through the waves and stayed stable even when riding broadside against the crests. Steve and I paddled hard directly into the wind to a point of land north of our beach, and then spun around to surf the waves rapidly back.

Vermont still has some spectacular days coming in September and October, but we will miss them. In the previous two years we have gone to Maine’s coast for a couple of weeks in September, which is a superb time to go, but this year we have decided to head west. Our exact route is still unsettled, and I expect it will remain so, but generally our goal is the west coast by November 1. That will get us into a safe climate for November and December.

This may be the last hurrah for us, and so it is ironic that we will be (at least partially) retracing our first route in fall 2005. We still don’t know when we will cease full-timing, but right now we are anticipating the end by Christmas. That could change depending on personal factors, but we have decided to treat every moment as if it were our last and visit a few places we’ve always wanted to go. For Eleanor, the very top choice is Banff, in Alberta, Canada, and that is part of what drives us west.

But once that final tour is complete, what will we do? Settling into a wholly conventional life of hearth and home is not for me, and both Eleanor and Emma has said that they don’t want to stop traveling. It’s time to think about the post-full-timing life.

The only real obstacle to continuing to travel full-time is Emma’s school. Many people have written to me to suggest we keep homeschooling. Certainly this possibility has occurred to us, but upon weighing all the personal factors, we have decided we will probably cease full-time homeschooling in the next year. It has been a superb experience and we have not regretted it, but there are other things we want to explore.

I will state emphatically that this decision has nothing to do with the ridiculous “socialization” myth that we hear constantly. Without getting into too many specifics that would embarrass people we’ve met, let me just say that we have zero socialization issues and I think the theory should go the other way: we are constantly running into public-schooled children with disturbing socialization problems, while all of the homeschooled children we meet are very well-adjusted and have lots of friends. Homeschooling is great and I can highly recommend it to those who are willing to make the effort.

Courtesy of Jason Holm

But don’t get me started on that … I was talking about what to do when Emma is in school and trapped by her schedule. Suddenly we’ll be in the same boat as all other parents, and the prospects for taking a few weeks to go up to Banff will be very bleak indeed.

Still, there are weekends, and the occasional holiday, and of course summer vacation. None of the school holidays give us enough time to roam long distances, but that shouldn’t matter. No matter where you are in this country, there is always something interesting to do within a day’s drive. In Arizona, we are particularly blessed with year-round activities, from the Sonora Mexico to the national parks of northern Arizona and Utah.

One idea is to find a remote base where we can stash the Airstream for a month or two, and revisit on weekends. This will save gas money and time. Our friend Rich C has really sold us on the town of Prescott, with its funky granite dells and lively downtown, and we also like certain places near the Huachuca mountain range and west into California. Having the Airstream is like having a vacation cottage, except better because we can relocate the cottage as often as we like. That may be our mode of travel for a while.

But all of this is just me thinking out loud. We’ve got a few months yet to go, and many adventures still to have. No point in worrying about the end. We started this experience thinking we’d be on the road for six or seven months, and we will have gotten closer to two and a half years out of it. It has been a bonus any way we look at it.

6 Responses to “Contemplating the end of full-time travel”

  1. Rich C Says:

    On “socialization”…..

    Emma is one of the most outgoing, engaged, well behaved, well spoken children I’ve ever met. Socialization? Yeah, I think she’s socialized. 🙂

    Now, move that portable college to Prescott. I need some extra climbing partners. 🙂

  2. Duane Says:

    Its tough trying to make those hard decisions you have! I was pleasantly surprised to hear your opinions on the home school socialization thing. We’ve been home schooling our two boys since they began school and get the same questions. Its a non issue.

    I work a 7 on 7 off schedule and by home schooling our children gives us plenty of freedom. We can take vacations when the crowds are gone and now that we have an Airstream can take advantage of the ‘Streamin’ lifestyle too.

  3. jill Says:

    How is 49° mornings not merit a “nip in the air?”

    It would be neat to do a ‘year in school’/’year in the school of Airstream’ every other year rotation. A year of structure and then a year of spontaneity. You could spend a year planning a huge trip, you and Eleanor could do what we in the biz call “align the curricuclum” and you’d spend the year and traveling and learning the requirements by seeing and doing. She would have structure b/c she would see (mostly) the same friends the year after. That could work at least until the 6th grade, maybe 7th.

    And, dude, she would have the best stories and ‘show and tells’ (shows and tell?) the next year.

  4. Lynn Says:

    Oh I just love the Canadian Rockies – Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay – it is all so beautiful. I would love to spend the entire summer there someday… Get as far north as you can – the crowds (which won’t be bad in the fall) decrease exponentially the further north you go. When it comes to Canada: For Michael, it’s Vancouver Island and the Canadian Gulf Islands, for me, it’s the Canadian Rockies.

  5. Lois Grebowski Says:

    Oh, I see how it is…we take the Airstream plunge and then you leave! LOL! (Just kidding!)

    I’m sure you and your family will make the right decisions and I fully empathize with your concerns about “normal life” and public schooling (sheesh!)

    (What *IS* normal anyway?)

  6. Susan Says:

    As a parent who homeschooled one son through the third grade, I think it’s fantastic that you’re homeschooling (and in an Airstream)! Now that our son is in the seventh grade (private and public schools), it’s a whole new ballgame: no more freedom with being able to take our child on a vacation when we’d like, a waste of hours in a day during school, (then tons of homework when he gets home), little attention to each student as an individual (they seem to like robot students), etc. If I were you, I’d homeschool for as long as I could or at least as long as your daughter stayed happy being homeschooled (and also for as long as you can figure out the math!). You will know when it’s the right time to quit. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity while you can as your child’s young life will never come again. In my opinion, your daughter can learn more homeschooling than in the school system, believe me! After traveling all over the United States like that, she probably knows more about the United States than half of the US population! Keep up the great work in your classroom on wheels. By the way, we just purchased an Airstream. Wish we were still homeschooling.