10 Lessons from 2018

10 Lessons From 2018

Sometimes the lemonade is really tasty!

  • Those of you reading this final entry and following our blog know our story. Through circumstances beyond our control and circumstances in which we had influence, in 2017 I found myself without a job.  Rather than move for a job (not my career desire), we decided to take a severance and look for something new.  The last half of 2017 was great in that we enjoyed time together in South Dakota, I was able to fly a bunch and the boys were able to enjoy time at school with their buddies.  In addition, I was spending my time interviewing and looking for work.  When our house sold quickly and we didn’t have a job to go to, Maureen and I decided hitting the road was what we wanted to do with our time!  As I look back at 2018, I have to admit that there were times when I really had wonder, doubt and disappointment.  But, as I have the chance to really think about what happened during 2018, I exchange those feelings for those of happiness, wonderment and relaxation.  The elimination of my job was really some of the best lemonade I tasted!  Taking advantage of the opportunity in front of us & jumping in with both feet was a wonderful lesson.

Technology is great, but so is no technology.

  • Our current advancements have been made possible by technology. It’s everywhere we look and it’s part of nearly everything we do.  During the last year, we used technology to get where we were going, to figure out what to do next and even to educate Andy and Woody while we traveled around.  It was great and I am so glad we had it.  You know what else was great?  The times we spent hiking a trail with no cell phones or video games.  Some of our best memories were made without technology.  We explored, experienced and enjoyed by becoming part of wherever we were at.  Whether it was crabbing from a pier, digging for diamonds or just talking with family and friends, my favorite memories included ditching the digital leash!  The lesson here is that getting rid of technology (or at least taking a break) can be a very good thing!

Closeness can, well, bring a family closer.

  • I grew up in a big house. Sometimes it felt so big that I could be “all alone” with others in the house.  Our house in Sioux Falls was pretty big too.  All in, it was close to 6,000 square feet.  When we decided to hit the road, we weren’t sure how to do it, but we downsized to about 400 square feet (another 45 square feet if you count the cab of the truck)!  We became efficient in our use of space and reuse of possessions.  Just take a look at many of our pictures-we all had favorite clothes!  We also became very good at being with each other all the time.  While we certainly had occasion to get mad at each other, it rarely happened.  Our boys shared a space at the back of the camper that included 3 small beds, some storage and their video games.  The space between their beds was about 2 feet wide.  Guess what?  They managed to be kind to each other, they learned to work out any issues and they were genuinely fun to travel with.  I am so glad we got to travel with each other now instead of it being just me and Maureen at retirement!  Traveling as a family made this such a great experience!  When we were searching for our next house without wheels, our search criteria was more heavily weighted for what we could do there!  Lesson-Go RV’ing!

Sometimes the best money spent is no money at all.

  • When looking back at our pictures, we had so many great experiences for little or no money. We were trying to be frugal so that we could spread our dollar as far as we could.  Remember, I had no job and we were not headed to a job.  One of our favorite places to enjoy a hot bath was a natural hot spring right on the Rio Grande inside Big Bend National Park.  Even though we were down south during the winter, we did find a couple beaches to visit and swim at – Gunner loved running on the beaches!  While in NM, we were able to watch an amazing sunrise and watch some great basketball (I’m on top, unh/hey-Alix Hailey)!  In California, Mike and Kitty treated us to some backstage tours of the entertainment industry and we even got to spin the Wheel of Fortune!  Clamming in Oregon was a flop, but getting muddy sure was fun!  Crabbing kept us busy for a few days and fed us too.  Talking with family and just hanging out with friends filled in several of our stops.  There are so many great stories of all of our experiences and I am very glad we took the time to do each and every one of them!  What I can share with you about the experience is that sometimes ditching things for experiences helps bond loved ones closer.

Taxes can be frustrating, but they fund some great things!

  • Death and taxes—two things we can’t escape. So many parts of our Great Tischer Escape included tax funded experiences.  We made visits to museums, libraries, presidential museums and National Park properties part of our destinations.  We did buy an annual pass to National Park Service properties.  The pass paid for itself time and again.  Every single mile we put on was traveled over public roads-some were great and some were so horrible!  We got really good at finding BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land to stay on for free!!  From our site looking out at the arches of Arches National Park to our private deep woods site right by a stream outside of Crater Lake National Park.  From the site on the bluff overlooking Grand Teton National Park to the stay just outside of Zion National Park.  Without a doubt, our favorite campsites were all on free land.  BLM land also made me feel a little better about the tax bill at the end of 2017!  Lesson-if I want to enjoy public parks, I have to pay my fair share.

Car sandwiches can become boring.

  • Ever since we’ve been married, Maureen and I have been frugal with certain things. During car trips, especially with boys, we’ve had the tradition of making “car sandwiches”.  These sandwiches typically include sliced french bread from Wal-Mart, salami and sometimes cheese.  They are accompanied by crackers and carrots.  Honestly, when you have them once a month or something like that they’re pretty good.  When you have them every other day…not so much but we kept at it!!  During the trip, we had some great local treats wherever we went.  Woody liked to help find places featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  We also found some great local ingredients and had great camper food too.  So many favorites along so many of our stops.  Oh and way too many car sandwiches!  Lesson-exploring a region through your taste buds can be a great thing, just be prepared to wear your stretchy pants!

Education can happen in all kinds of places.

  • Our great adventure would not have been possible if it weren’t for how hard our boys work at school. They are both bright boys and have really applied themselves when learning.  Because of this hard work, their teachers and school administrators recognized their drive and hardy work ethic.  When we approached the teachers and administrators about our opportunity, they vowed to do all they could to help us.  Not only did they help us, they provided us with a curriculum, teacher support and transcripts for the boys at the end of the year.  During the trip (it’s not a trip, it’s a lifestyle!), we made great use of public libraries wherever we were.  Several times, we stayed longer in a location so that the boys could get extra work done.  Book work was just one kind of learning.  By exploring wherever we were, not only did the boys learn, but so did Maureen and I.  From Little Rock Central High School to the hangars at Pima Air Museum, we learned so much about so many different things.  Learning can happen anywhere so long as you seek it out.

Family and friends are fun to stay in contact with via Facebook, but being face to face with them is better.

  • Facebook and other forms of social media are great ways to know what your friends are up to. It’s easy to just take a quick little look and then go about your day.  During our time on the road, we made it a point to stop in and see family and friends.  Some of our stops were to see people we stay in regular contact with.  Some were to stop and see people we hadn’t seen in years!  In all, I think we must have seen over 80 different family members and about half a dozen friends.  The opportunity for the boys to meet so many of our family and friends was priceless.  Lesson from this is that everyone was so welcoming and genuinely happy to have us visit-take the time to go say hi to people!

Busyness can get in the way.

  • I know it’s easy to say, I mean I had no job, but being busy prevents us from enjoying lots of different things. I had the luxury of having a great severance and that took a ton of pressure off of our family as we enjoyed our time together while searching for work.  I know I can work crazy hours and get cranky.  I know that my boys are growing up right under my eye, yet I miss the small stuff.  I had let busyness get in the way of enjoying what was around me.  While on our adventure, we were all not busy or busy together.  We took the time to explore, to read books, and build snow forts in a national park!  Busyness sometimes makes a person feel needed or wanted, but I often wonder if I had used it in the right ways.  By enjoying the gift of not being busy, I think (hope) I was practicing the things that I want to keep me busy.  For instance, today I went both skating on our lake with Woody and downhill skiing with the whole family.  Lesson-Don’t let bad busyness get in the way of all the great things happening around you.

Home can be where you make it.

  • One year ago, today, we had no idea where we were headed. Our possessions were in storage containers and our house was the Coachmen and the truck.  We didn’t feel as if we were without a home, we had plenty to do.  We had plenty to eat.  We didn’t have the worries of everyday life with us.  Instead, we enjoyed most everything we were doing.  Did we get mad at each other?  I am sure we did, but we had to get over it real quick because we only had each other.  While we moved our trailer to well over 40 different locations, we still felt at home because of who we were with.  As the interviews continued to happen, we would become excited about the potential to live here or there.  We knew we could make nearly any of them work.  What helped us settle on Wausau (other than a great job offer) was the fact that we felt at home.  There are so many things to do in the area.  We know the boys will be able to get a great education and will have many great friends.  The area is close to home for us and it feels like a natural fit for us.

We look forward to spending the next chapter in our blog back in Wisconsin and hope you will come and visit.  We have room for your trailer!  This entire experience taught me that lots of not so great things can happen in a person’s life.  The support and love of your family can get you through a ton.  I learned to pick my chin up and enjoy home on the road!  Thanks for being part of our great 2018! (JT)