You’d probably think people who temporarily lived in a van for six months would be excited to get back to their house; eager for daily showers, using dishwashers instead of buckets and toilets instead of bushes. But what we lacked in plumbing we made up for in views. Our back yard was the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, the Pacific Ocean, Yellowstone, random canyons and creeks. You miss plumbing, you do. You really, really do. You even scream at the people you love when they drink water before bed, because water makes pee and pee makes for trips in the pitch black forest with the pitch black bears. So, put down that water, sweetheart. You know how mama likes everyone dehydrated before bed.
With the end of our adventure about a month in sight, we decided going home wasn’t best. We weren’t ready to drop our kid off at school at 8 a.m. and regroup as a family at dinner. That’ll work well when she’s a teenager who has NOTHING TO WEAR EVER, but now she’s pretty damn likable. She reaches for my hand on walks, convinces me “you don’t need makeup – no one cares about your zits!” and praises me for being the best cook when I pour a bowl of cereal. She’s pretty much the dream man, only way more forgivable when I find skid marks in her underwear.
These are the magic years.
So no. We chose not to go back to the reality we left behind, even though it was dreamy. We lived a few blocks from City Park, the Denver Zoo; rode her bike to school and the donut shop; took Ubers to see plays in the city. A crazy-good life, but a weekend life. We’d do these things on Saturdays and Sundays, then see her about 3 hours a day during the week.
Van life was about capitalizing on these magic years by taking calculated risks and making sacrifices so we could be with each as much as possible. Since pulling it off, we’ve been high from the thrill, pride, and life-changing experiences that come from taking chances. Like addicts, we craved more of that high.
Continuing van life wouldn’t work, though, because we needed more consistency for Nora and my business. So we’d need to plant our roots somewhere outside of the city. Having lived in and around National Parks for 6 months, we knew we wanted more land, so about a month from the end of our travels, we made an offer on a house sitting on 5 acres with a barn for 4 horses. And they accepted? They accepted.
Here’s the thing about risks. You gotta take them fast or your brain will get in the way. And you can trust me on this because I’m an expert at leaving my brain out of things.
This plan worked on many levels — our house in the city was renting very well, and the house on 5 acres had rent-able space in the basement with a separate entrance. My husband and I immediately shared a vision: We’d have people rent the basement who were REAL horse people so we could learn the ropes from them. Plus, this was our kid’s dream. If you asked her to choose between a horse and anything else – Disney? All-you-can-eat cotton candy?? Elsa’s ice powers??? She’d roll her eyes and choose a horse every damn time.
Could we pull this off? Should we take these calculated risks again?
I mean, Hell Yes Reason Number 1 is our 6 months on the road — the photographs above. And Hell Yes Reason Number 2 are the animal whisperer instincts our daughter has exhibited for years, instincts that need to be celebrated and developed lest we be idiots. . .
So we’re horse people now.
“Um, honey, can you fetch me that horse collar?”
“The horse collar?”
“The seat belt for the horse.”
“The seat belt?”
Correction: We are “horse people” now.