Looking back: our first Winnebago year
A couple of years ago, our lives were busy - too busy. Our photography business was booming, our daughter was growing up way too fast, and we were frantically racing to and fro in a ceaseless flutter of activity. We were doing a respectable job of squeezing everything in, but the steady barrage of tasks and responsibilities seemed to constantly threaten our delicate balancing act and more importantly our sanity. It wasn't until we were racing home (for the third weekend in a row) from a few days of family fun on the Arkansas river to wash our clothes, mow the lawn, clean the house only to return the next day for a photo shoot, that I was struck with the idea that ultimately changed everything for us. On the three hour return trip to the Arkansas river valley, it dawned on me how much richer and more relaxing our lives could be if we weren't constantly racing home. Maybe, our home was no longer the sanctuary it once was. I mean sure, it was safe, beautiful and comfortable, but it was possible that it was also the biggest thing holding us back.
It's funny how seemingly everyday I have at least one revolutionary idea. Some are written-off almost instantaneously, while others tend to linger. The idea that a brick and mortar house might actually be a detriment, was a complete paradigm shift that kept resurfacing in my consciousness. I started to daydream about what our family and professional worlds might look like without a physical location. I began to play around with the notion that perhaps we could automate more of our business and create systems that would allow us to better serve our clients by taking our work to them. After several months of toying with various scenarios, I pitched the concept to Peter. He was simultaneously thrilled and terrified: thrilled at the possibility of a grand adventure, and terrified at the possible implications for our family and business.
We spent the next six months endlessly debating thousands of scenarios, and developing strategies to minimize our risk, but ultimately there was no way to foresee what the repercussions of moving our family and business into an RV would be - it was simply a leap of faith. That decision, or more accurately that radical change of existence has led us on the grandest of adventures and opened doors that only a year ago were completely unimaginable.
Over the past twelve months, we have shared our favorite adventures through our images and stories on our blog, through Facebook and Instagram, but as I sit here recounting our experiences on the road, the most profound impact has occurred within each of us.
A multiple exposure of Peter's favorite pastime.
For Peter, he is chasing his dreams on every level. Professionally he is at the top of his game. Not only has he maintained the excellence that our our wedding and portrait photography business is known for, but has also a become a regular contributor to most of the paddlesport magazines including Kayak Session, Rapid, StandUp Journal, Canoe and Kayak, Kayak Angler, etc. and has dramatically expanded our commercial photography division which serves top brands including Jackson Kayak, Winnebago, GoPro, Goal Zero, Kokatat, Werner Paddles, Orion Coolers and many, many more.
As for kayaking, he paddled over 250 of the past 365 days including 20+ personal first descents. Although he is working harder than I have ever seen, he is managing to find balance between family time, work and play.
Who's learning? Abby is - everyday in the largest classroom in the world.
Abby has always adapted well to just about any circumstance, but this journey has really brought out her best. As for school, her online program gave her a solid base, but paled in comparison to our real world experiences. Rather than reading about the Wright Brothers in a history book, we went to Kitty Hawk and ran the distance of the first four flights of the Wright Flyer (which we also saw in person in the Smithsonian). Visiting battlefields, cemeteries and watching the noon meal formation at the Naval Academy brought home the sacrifices made by so many for our freedom. She has experienced, up close and in the wild: alligators, crocodiles, manatee, dolphin, barracuda, starfish, rays, puffer fish, owl, elk, moose, snakes, deer, bears. She has explored the desert, ocean, grasslands, tundra, deciduous and coniferous forests, rolling hills, jagged peaks, glacial erosion, urban landscapes and everything in between. The world has proved to be a far greater classroom that we could have ever hoped for.
All the world's a stage, and Abby is completely comfortable on it.
Much too soon for my liking, she continues to transform before my eyes into a strong, smart, compassionate and outgoing young woman. Three times this year I have watched her captivate an audience of more than a hundred people, and inspire them to go on their own adventures. Each time she has taken the stage, I have been awestruck by her confidence, poise and eloquence in the spotlight. Whatever concerns we had for Abby's wellbeing on the road have vanished.
Desert canyon acoustics are perfect for Kathy's guitar with Tucker the family dog snoozing after a big river day.
As for me, I am learning to channel my continuous overabundance of words into new calling as a writer, especially as a continuing contributor to WinnebagoLife. Creating another dimension to accompany Peter's photographs and share our story with the world has filled that creative void that has sat empty within me for quite some time. I have found that twelve months on the road has made me more relaxed, more fit and happier than I have been in years.
A first driving lesson - easy on a dry lake bed in Death Valley.
Looking forward, the obvious question is, "What's next"? The easy answer is another eighteen months on the road. What that actually looks like is anyone's guess. New adventures, time well spent with family and friends, and most certainly more incredible opportunities than we could even fathom today. Where is our favorite place? It's out there somewhere, just over the horizon. It's that place where we have never been that takes our breath away at first glance. That place where adventure awaits, ready for us to behold. Life is too short to not live out your dreams, so get out there and do something incredible, and perhaps somewhere down the road our paths will cross and we can swap stories of greatness around the campfire. Until then onward!