All photos courtesy of Shaw Photo Co.
I believe the people you surround yourself with should make you better. People who encourage you to choose authenticity over the safety of blending in. People who support you and are patient with your humanness, your flaws, and still see your good. Grounded souls who let your wandering thoughts float the phone line between you and offer insight, humor, and sometimes, a loving kick in the ass. They remind you of who you really are. They listen - really, truly listen and offer advice only when asked. They help you remember that you are strong and capable and that you'll figure this life thing out with their help. They are totems from the Universe to remind us that we are spectacularly loved.
Christina is one of those souls.
We met, by my small and rural upbringing's standards, in a very strange way. I never really believed that you could connect very deeply with people you "met" online, but I am sure the Universe chuckles at that one. We were both taking an online class through The Define School and right away, I felt drawn to her work and her words - she was very much a kindred spirit. I am utterly grateful for that class and the friendship that developed because of it.
She is in New York and I am in South Carolina and we haven't actually ever met in person. But we will. We keep in touch through cards and letters, phone calls, texts, and lengthy, raw, honest emails. It was with joy that I followed her cross-country journey with her husband and their pups in their trusty RV, Trudy, that started in the fall of 2015. We had talked of that particular dream often - her desire to travel in an RV to see the U.S. and see what came of that journey. The leap of faith it required.
I was thrilled when she agreed to let me interview her about the trip. Her insights are powerful and the journey itself inspiring. Thank you for sharing, my friend.
What made you want to simplify, and travel cross-country in an RV for months at a time?
I was feeling an intense feeling of being overwhelmed by our things, workload and obligations. Now looking back, this overwhelming feeling led me to wanting to leave it all behind and feel free from EVERYTHING for awhile. And while we were preparing for the trip, it was freeing to say no to things in that 3-6 month period we weren't sure we'd be back in time for. I must have written a hundred emails saying, "I am sorry, but we're unavailable during that time because we just don't know where we'll be." We don't have children, we purposely cleared our schedule of work (except for weddings on the road), and we arranged someone to look over our house so we felt like this was the time, if there ever was a time...
Was it a long-held dream - something you always knew you wanted to do, or a slow realization?
As a high schooler and college kid I always had dreams of a cross country road trip but nothing of this scale. I pictured more of a long car ride straight across the country and back. In the past few years, as we started talking about a road trip of this sorts as a couple, it started to evolve. At one point, it was as big as a year long road trip around the whole United States (think of a map and draw a line around the whole outer edge of the USA). My husband finally convinced me, bless his soul, that we start with something a little shorter and more manageable to first time RV'ers.
You and I have talked about the power of intuition and listening to our inner guides. How much would of this journey was a result of that inner guidance? Did you try to ignore your intuition at any point?
Wow - so the inner pull was so strong at the beginning to take this trip. Then, we got the camper and it sat in our driveway for a few months without us doing much with it besides a small trip here and there. At one point I was sure we'd never actually leave for the big trip, and I started finding every excuse to not go, or perhaps make it even shorter than three months... but I knew, deep down, we had to go and kept pushing slowly to make it happen. A few times on the trip intuition told us to stop and stay a day, to pick up and leave suddenly, or to make a choice going one direction over the other. Each time something significant happened which made me realize our intuition is much stronger than I knew. Our family back home would ask, "Why did you leave here?" or "I thought the plan was this and you did this instead," and we tried to explain it was just a feeling that made us go one direction over another... a feeling we couldn't truly explain but we knew there and then we had to listen.
What gave you the courage to actually pursue this dream? So many people dream of doing things like this, but often never pursue it because of fear. How did you overcome any fears you had regarding this journey?
I'm not sure I ever overcame all the fears I had and still do when it comes to my dreams. For me, the fear is always there, riding along. But the choice to keep on going, regardless of fear, was something we were working on without even realizing it.
Describe your simplifying and preparation process - how difficult was it to let go? What were some of the hardest things to overcome during this phase?
We're still simplifying and preparing, every day. It's always difficult to make the decision to let go, but once the item or "thing" or "relationship" that was weighing you down is gone, there is this immense feeling of not remembering what it was you were holding on to in the first place.
Once on the road, what was your first spiritual/emotional "road bump"? How did you cope?
I remember in Denver I was in the shower stall and this feeling of not knowing what the hell I was doing came over me. I couldn't figure out what I was doing there or what I was doing here. Then a sense of clarity came over me that it was time to start making real changes and start working on soul projects that have been in my heart for quite a while. One being the minimalist project I'm trying to work on. I still have a lot of fears regarding this project, which is funny because as I write this I am reminding myself of the process of just taking the first steps and starting. Fear will always be there... but you have to keep trying to go after the important work.
What were some of the most significant changes you experienced as a result of this journey?
We came home and decluttered way more than we ever had before. We are sort of at a standstill in decluttering at this moment, but the most significant change has been the recognition that we actually don't need anything to be happy. We just need each other, family, friends, our dogs, and community. Community is the big word here because I think it encompasses everything and you can be anywhere and have it... Even on the road we found community through people taking us in and caring for us at moments we were really missing people back home. A big change is that upon our return home we're making a huge effort to nurture and grow "our" community. Helping others where and when we can, taking local classes, supporting local businesses, etc, etc.
How did this affect you as a couple? What growth did you experience as a result of this journey together?
As a couple we realized that we wanted to recognize our independence more. After spending three months, almost always alone, in the camper, after working 3-4 years together as a husband and wife photography team, we realized we needed to support some of our own personal interests more. When we got home we still have alone, together time, but I see us growing so much more independently. Brian started on a bunch of house projects and re-finishing some furniture (he was never handy so this is all learned by watching U-Tube, and asking a handy friend for help). I started taking some art classes, yoga and meditation classes, and even going to movies by myself sometimes. It's so strange, because it brought us closer in that we know there is no one else we'd rather spend three months in a camper with with no one else around, but also we recognized the importance of personal time and personal projects that don't necessarily involve the other person.
On the other side of that, when we came home we made such a point to spend all this independent time growing that we forgot to take "together" time. Just last night we took our first date night in a long time, (just the two of us), and we realized how much we missed that.
What we grew to realize is that balance is key in every relationship... and it's work to keep balance, but it's fulfilling and satisfying work.
Favorite moments? Most difficult?
My favorite moments were our camp fires, dinners in the camper, evenings spent listening to podcasts and playing backgammon, seeing new places every few days, this one RV park in New Mexico that had this AWESOME hot tub (and it was cold outside so it was even better). (We couldn't take baths this whole trip, so the hot tub was like a huge thing for me.) My most difficult moments were homesickness. At one point we were in New Mexico about 35 days in and a snow storm hit. We got stuck for an extra day at this place called "OK RV RESORT." It was "ok," but we couldn't leave the camper and sat around playing music and taking photos on the selfie camera on our computer. We took a few walks around the campsite, did wash, and then back again in the camper. It felt like the day would never end and even though it was only 24 hours of being stuck, it felt like an eternity. I remember being sure we'd end the trip soon because homesickness had for sure taken over... Then a few days later, we met up with some family in San Diego for Thanksgiving and we were cured. It's funny how familiarity and love can cure homesickness. Just a few weeks ago, we watched the movie Brooklyn and she talked about homesickness in it and the feeling was exactly what I felt. It is so intense and all-encompassing, and then it just passes out of nowhere if you just wait it out a little longer... Keeping busy definitely helps. :)
How hard was it to adjust once you got home? What did you miss? What were you overjoyed by?
I remember coming home as if it was minutes ago. I felt so happy to pull into the driveway because we felt we had been gone SO long, but this odd feeling that we never had left at all came over both of us.
At the same time, I felt super-displaced, that I didn't belong back and that I'd have to carve out my little spot in "this world" of home again.
Also, after being gone so long other's opinions and judgements didn't have the same strong hold they had on me before we left. I started to hear myself more. (Of course, this "stronghold" is, and always was, in my head.. but I convinced myself it was real.) When I came home, I caught myself speaking up a lot more, and being more aggressive in my feelings and thoughts... It's been a process, slowly trying to remember how to be "a stand up member" of society and "fit in," but at the same time, I don't want to be a member that just goes along with things because everyone else is or because I'm afraid I'll be rejected for being me. And sometimes being me is being a hot, contradictory mess, but I am starting to gain more trust in that part of me; it's also an important part of me and I don't need to hide "her" all the time. The best part is by being me more of the time, I've felt my relationships getting stronger and truer. By being more myself, I started to connect deeper with friends and have more meaningful conversations with a tribe of some of the most beautiful, talented and honest people.
On the surface level, I was completely overjoyed by running HOT water, with GREAT pressure. I honestly thought it was the coolest thing on this earth to turn on the faucet and have high pressured warm water hit my fingertips. I couldn't believe how fast water came out of the faucet. I still remind myself every time I turn on the faucet that it's a luxury to have this feature. I also couldn't believe how BIG our house felt. We kept asking our neighbors if they put on an addition while we were gone.
Most of all, I am still excited about seeing our friends and family and having in-life, real face-to-face conversations. There is such joy to be found in real-life moments spent with good people.
Do you see yourselves doing something like this again?
Now that we completed three months, I am sure we could complete more - perhaps half a year or maybe even a full year. I'm just not sure that time is now... but we're already dreaming up mini trips and a few longer half month trips. Of course, timing is a lot of it and we're about to start a wedding season so leaving for two weeks at a time is sometimes a hindrance to our business. We'd also love to have a family and perhaps save a few of these bigger trips to take with them.
How did this journey give you direction for the future?
I'm not sure it did - yet. Personally, I have been feeling more lost than ever with the direction I'm going to take. I scaled down on weddings, am outsourcing more of the stuff I don't want to be doing, and trying to make room for whatever is next... I'm not sure what that is yet - but I do realize more than ever, I have to clear space for whatever it is that I'm supposed to be doing. I think in the past I was so overwhelmed by things, work, people, distractions, etc, that I couldn't even see opportunities or hear my soul callings. I just was going through the expected motions and steps of what life was supposed to be, and who I was supposed to be. Self-discovery is an ongoing journey but I'm happy to be more tuned into it.
Sites I Dig
The Road is Home
The Seed & Plate
Sharon Covert Photography
The Define School
The Noisy Plume
Sarah Gee Photography
Fox & Owl Studio
The Stork and The Beanstalk
Mellow Yellow Photography
A Simple Little Journal
What I've Been Reading
The Girls by Emma Cline
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Never Broken by Jewel
Hold Still by Sally Mann