LESSONS FROM THE ROAD: PART ONE

Hitting the Road Through #EndlessCaravan

In the Spring of 2017, our family packed up our bags and we flew to Jackson Center, Ohio, and the headquarters of Airstream, who provided us with the trailer and the truck as part of their Endless Caravan Campaign. This beautiful endeavor allows families who have creative visions to move around the country and do their great work, while also getting to experience living in an Airstream trailer. I have so much gratitude to Airstream and their vision, because what unfolded over the next three months I believe radically changed all of us as a family.

From Ohio, we all headed out across the United States for a season-long journey in an Airstream trailer, 23 feet long (about 175 square feet), with two kids ages 8 and 4, my wife and myself. There was one queen bed and a kitchen table that transforms into a single bed. We had an ambitious route to cover 9,000 + miles covering 23 states.

Along our journey my wife planned family arts events through her business, The Art Pantry,and I spoke at schools through my work with Yale Universities’ Emotional Intelligence Lab. We had no previous experience towing a trailer and we booked almost no campsites in advance. In 3 months, we learned a lot about trailer life, this incredible country, our family, and how families are doing across the country.

Hope Lies in Our Families

Before the trip we were not sure what we would find as we traveled the country, but one thing we found was hope: hope in our collective, in one another, and hope that our children will have a bright future. We found this sense of hope in the amazing families we came across. There was not a single state across the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest and beyond that did not have amazing, inspiring families.

We encountered so many beautiful families who love their children, who love each other. We saw children who are happy, who appreciate their parents. We saw parents who are grateful for their children and for the opportunity to be a family.

This hope is what I want to share with you through this series of reflections: through the opportunity to focus on, heal, and love our families, and through supporting one another, we discover what this will make possible for us as communities, for us as a society, and ultimately for us as a world.

In this series of articles, I want to share what I learned from traveling with my own family as well as the lessons from interacting with hundreds of families through my work with Yale, speaking at schools to parents and administrators across the country, and through the events that my wife held, doing art with young children and being with families who had their own dreams that they shared with us.

Claim Your Family

The first big lesson of the trip was that we learned to claim our family. We live in a society that is constantly comparing one family to another; we’re comparing one lifestyle to another, one family’s choice to another. Something about going on this trip helped us to claim our family spirit. We recognized we have this special unit, the four of us, headed out across the country and it was our adventure to have. It was our journey to grow closer together.

The beauty of claiming your family is that it makes it yours. You don’t have to compare or try to be like anybody else. It’s family — it’s your family, and in reclaiming it, you can begin to push back against society’s inertia that often splits families apart, whether through struggles around technology, overworking, or peer groups that our kids become part of that we have little control over. Being together on this trip helped us to reclaim our family. I believe it is possible for all of us to go through the process of reclaiming our family by acknowledging that this is our beautiful gift that we have created with our partners and loved ones to do amazing things together.

So, as we traveled across the country, we started to understand for ourselves that we were living somewhat of a dream. We were outside society’s norms. We were free to be us. Our kids were not in school. My wife and I were not working 9-5 jobs. We were figuring it out on the road, while on the move. And we were doing it together.

Allan Watts describes life in our culture from going to kindergarten to first grade to second grade to third grade and they kind of lead you along in this ‘here, kitty, kitty,’ fashion until you get to high school, and then if you’re fortunate enough, to college. And then after college, you get this great job and you start a family. And somewhere in the course of this spectrum, you end up in your 40s and you have this wake-up moment, and you go, is this it? Is this what my life is all about?

I believe that there is something magical that can happen in a family when we wake up to who we are. We wake up to who our partner is telling us they are, and we wake up to who our children are showing us that they are. It’s in this awakened state that we have some freedom to live the life we want to live.

So many families are suffering right now because they often feel stuck, that they have to live life the way that they have always thought they had to live it, or the way they see it being lived by other people in their communities. And if there’s one thing that anyone takes away from this offering that I’m sharing, is that you are empowered to live your life the way you want. Especially in your families, because you created your family.

And yes, immediately you might ask me, ‘Well, how are we going to live the life we want with our finances? How are we going to live freely when we live where we live? How are we going to live differently with our kids’ educational needs?’ And I would say, let’s stop for a second, and let’s dream first. Before we put up all the obstacles and find all the blocks, let’s make sure we’re aligned on what you truly want. And if we can get a glimpse of what you truly want, and if you can claim your family, then I think we’re on a totally new journey.

What does it mean to you to claim your family as yours?

Tell me in the comments below!

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