An Adventure, Not a Vacation

Recently Theresa was corresponding via email with a former coworker who was experiencing some family problems, and the coworker replied, “Easy for you to say, you’re on vacation for a year.”  The coworker didn’t say it with malice; it was just her perspective of our trip.  But her statement didn’t ring true with how we were feeling, so it got us thinking: How is our trip different from a vacation? 

Over the past 20 years of our relationship, Theresa and I have taken at least one vacation per year to a national park.  Before this trip, we had visited a total 26 national parks in the United States, a few of them more than once.  Our typical vacations last about 11 days: one day to travel there, four days of hiking, one day to travel to another part of the park, four more days of hiking, and one day to travel home.  Whereas this trip will hopefully last about 10 months.  So the huge difference in time between a vacation and this trip will naturally imply major differences in all aspects of our lives. 

Timm & Theresa at the location of the Athabascan Glacier when they met in 1992

Because our trip will last so long, it’s more like normal everyday life, with three major exceptions:  1) We don’t have to work, 2) We’re living on the road in a tiny RV, and 3) We’re visiting amazing places almost every day.  But we face most of the other responsibilities and difficulties of a normal life.  So after thoughtful analysis, we’ve concluded that this trip is not a vacation, it’s an “adventure.”  And here’s why:

On Vacation On Adventure
Our vacation lasts 1-2 weeks. We hope our adventure will last for at least 10 months.
We pay all our bills before we leave and don’t have to worry about our finances. We have to pay our bills and manage our finances every week.
What taxes? I had to spend a day in April doing our personal and business taxes.
We often eat out for dinner. We eat dinner in our RV.  We’ve only eaten out for dinner 7 times in 4 months.
We buy food and snacks just once when we arrive at our destination. We have to shop for groceries every week.
We don’t have to clean our hotel room or cabin. Theresa cleans our RV every time we stop someplace that has electricity and water.
We don’t have to do our laundry. Theresa does our laundry when we stop in town.
We don’t think about work, nor check our email or voice mail. Theresa doesn’t work, and I’ve put my businesses in maintenance mode, but I still have to monitor my business email and websites, and pay business bills and taxes.
Our dogs stay in the kennel so we don’t have to worry about them. The dogs are with us and we get to enjoy them, yet we also have to feed, clean and care for them.
It’s just a short time away from our family and friends. We don’t see our family and friends for a long time and really miss them.
As compatible as we are, it’s easy to be together for a week or two. It would be a challenge for any couple to be together 24×7 for 10 months.  It takes work, patience and cooperation to avoid driving each other crazy.
We have our lodging reservations made in advance. We’re often not sure where we’ll be spending the night.  When dispersed camping, we have to hunt for a place to stay.
We have our hikes and activities planned before we arrive. Since we are visiting so many parks and often change our schedule on the fly, we have to figure out the hikes and activities just before we arrive at each new park.
Our destination is fixed. We can change our route, stay someplace longer if we are enjoying ourselves, leave someplace sooner if the weather is bad, and add new places we want to visit.
At the end of the day we stay in “civilization” in a hotel or rented cabin. Many days we dispersed camp out in nature isolated from civilization, extending the experience of our amazing natural lands.
In the evenings we relax and watch TV or read a book. In the evenings, we also write our blogs or work on plans for our next stop.
We may drive a couple hundred miles to the various hikes. We plan to drive over 25,000 miles.
We are relatively safe most of the time. Almost every day we are in danger of accidents, crime, and wildlife encounters.
We have a generous budget for dinners, activities and souvenirs, so we can splurge a little bit. We have a tighter budget and have to watch it carefully since we aren’t working and earning income at the moment.
We don’t process our photos or write about our trip until after we return home. We process our photos and blog about our trip just about every day, otherwise the job would be too big and we’d forget too much to leave it all until we returned home.
We don’t share our experience with our family and friends except for maybe a postcard. We blog, email, snail mail, and phone our family and friends on a regular basis. 
Everyone takes a vacation, so our vacation is nothing special. Most everyone wishes they could go on a year-long adventure, but few people actually do.  Therefore, many people are living vicariously through our adventure or have been inspired by us to take their own.
We have electricity. We have electricity about half the time.
We usually have cable TV. We rarely have TV reception.
We can take long, full hot showers. Most of the time we take drip showers.
It’s a big disappointment if the weather is poor because our time is limited. The weather is poor typically a couple days each week.  But since we are on a long trip, it doesn’t bother us much.  We just hike in the rain or do something else.  We have the luxury of time.
Because our time is limited, our experiences are also limited. Because we spend so much time outdoors, we have much more opportunity witness unique events, such as an avalanche, bears, baby elk, and a deer swimming in a river.
Because we visit only one park per vacation, it takes years to build up a variety of experiences. Because we are visiting a new park every few days, we can compare & contrast the parks, their rules, features, and our experiences in each.
We are sad when the vacation ends. Some days we get road weary.  But we don’t have sadness or think much about the trip ending.  We have the luxury of time.
When we return home, our lives will pretty much be the same. When we return home, we will need new jobs, a new place to live, and our attitude about life will be forever changed.
We suspend reality and enjoy the fantasy of life on vacation. We’ve made a new reality of life on the road.
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