Ryan and Meredith in Todos Santos, Mexico
Scared Small
People wonder why Ryan and I walked away from a seemingly perfect life in Colorado. We lived in a beautiful three bedroom victorian home, close to family who we love. My catering company was well recognized, successful and filling a much needed hole in the marketplace. We had created a community of love and support. Things were good. Of course we had our share of stress and hardship, like most folks—the kind of stuff you don’t post on Facebook, but those challenges we generally heard as opportunities for growth. The truth is, we weren’t so much walking away from our lives there, rather towards a new one.
A side effect of a comfortable life is complacency. I noticed myself becoming more closed off. Not wanting to meet new people or have new experiences. The stress of running my company left me without the energy to be bold (and some days to even smile). As I became withdrawn, I noticed I had less self-confidence. I was critical and judgmental towards myself and others. All the while wanting to appear as if nothing had changed. I felt like I was trapped on a small lake on a paddle boat vigorously pumping my legs, unable to dive down into anything deep for fear I would never resurface and unwilling to go ashore for fear the natives would ask me to do something I didn’t have the boundaries to refuse. So, I stopped. In October of 2019, I stopped taking new clients through my catering company. It was hard. I had to disappoint people and I hated it. I stopped answering my phone, put an auto-response on my email and avoided food markets and other places I frequented to avoid questions from friends and acquaintances. At first I didn’t know what to do with myself. Ryan and I travelled with most of his days off and spent a lot of time talking about what was next. His job as a Directional Driller and Consultant in oil and gas allowed us to dream big, but my energy was too sapped to visualize myself actually carrying out any of these grand schemes. I didn’t host Thanksgiving or decorate for Christmas, both things I relished in the past. My family and friends were worried, and to be honest, so was I.
Then Covid-19 came along and dumped its ice cold waters over the burning embers of the whole world. Everything stopped. Everything hibernated. The gift in this for me was now that everyone was dong it, I was finally able to accept the break for myself. In accepting the break, letting go and being swept away in the current, my energy started to trickle back. I saw opportunities to spread kindness (mostly through cooking for front-liners and dropping baked goods on stranger’s porches) and was further energized. When work wasn’t something I had to do, but chose to do, it became a joy again. This is a luxury, I know. Most people have bills to pay and families to feeding no space in their budget to burn out like I did—But I realized that changing my mindset changed my experience and that is something anyone can do. We carried on for the first couple of months this way. Ryan, being an essential worker, stayed busy in North Dakota and kept his 20 days on, 10 days off schedule and I cooked for kindness. As the restraints started to lift around us and the community came back to life, so did I. We still didn’t know what we wanted to do, but we knew to do anything of magnitude, we would need to sell the house. So, we reached out to our realtor and put it on the market. As with all things, Covid affected the process of house-hunting and buying, forcing many people to shop exclusively online. Showings had just became possible again, but buyers were required to wear masks and gloves and only the realtor was allowed to open cabinets and turn on lights. After each showing, every surface or contact area had to be disinfected. Naturally, these and other factors slowed the selling process somewhat, but we were confident the right buyer would come along.
Before “the crisis,” Ryan and I had planned to spend the summer in Todos Santos BCS, our favorite spot on the Baja in Mexico. The summers there are considered the worst time of year, hot and muggy days and nights that spilled into hurricane season in the fall. Our thinking was that if we liked it there at its worst, we could live there year round. Our summer plans were cancelled but our desire to travel hadn’t waned. We began to research the idea of living and traveling in an RV or converted school bus about a year prior and with international travel swept from the table, the idea resurfaced. The thing about most RVs is, they are ugly. Yes, yes, I understand the utility: light weight for easy hauling and maintaining highway speed, built-ins for maximum storage, heating and cooling systems…but absolutely no swagger. For that reason, I wanted a bus. Ryan found several for us to tour, and after several short road trips, we purchased one in Utah (more on that in another post). Our house went under contract the same weekend. Suddenly, I had a month to pack-up our 2300 square foot house and downsize our lives into a 260 square foot bus and Ryan was working an extended hitch that would keep him out of town for the entire process. I knew we were on the right path because none of it seemed like more than I could handle. More than that, I was excited to do it. We had negotiated much of our furniture into the sale of the house, so I spent the next four weeks finding homes for other household items and two kitchens worth of catering supplies. We rented a storage unit for art and heirlooms but wanted to keep only the irreplaceable. It became a daily game of, “What would you take if your house were on fire?” Turns out, not that much. When I really asked myself what we needed, the flat screen TVs and matching pillow sets seemed more like burdens than luxuries. Most of our “stuff” fell into that category. With each car-load I dropped off at Goodwill, another sandbag was cut free from the basket of my hot air balloon. I was ascending. It rained the day I signed the papers for the sale of our house. I drove to the parking lot of the title company for the curbside closing and within 15 minutes, we were houseless and simultaneously completely out of debt for the first time in our adult lives. Most of our worldly possessions fit into a 10×20 box but our possibilities felt bigger than ever. Our adventure was just beginning…