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van life Jun 05, 2018

I saw another bald eagle today. They've been visiting me regularly for months now, circling above me, perched in trees, in my dreams--a symbol of independence and strength. They represent freedom.

But freedom always comes at a cost. And sometimes, casualties.

Last year, my husband and I bought a Mercedes Sprinter van that we planned to convert. It was supposed to be a fun weekend project, a way to spend quality time together.

Quite honestly, tent camping had become less appealing the deeper we creeped into our forties. Chasing mischievous raccoons with a penchant for stealing shoes in the middle of the night is no longer all that amusing. Besides, we'd never been what you might call a conventional couple, so it wasn't much of a stretch for us to think we could to work and travel from the road. We'd done it several years ago in Europe, and it wasn't as difficult as you might think.

These days, working remotely is as common as working in an office. The internet is widely available, airports are everywhere in case you need to get somewhere quickly, and campgrounds and State Parks are plentiful. In fact, there's an entire underground community of van dwellers that act as a support system for this kind of nomadic lifestyle.

Except there was one teensy weensy little problem: we couldn't agree on a layout. He wanted tactical; I wanted cute. He wanted a gear hauler; I wanted a bistro on wheels. Looking back, our inability or unwillingness to compromise was just one of many clues that an unraveling was imminent. We shared similar dreams when our relationship began, but somewhere along the way it became clear that we wanted to experience life very differently.

And we both deserved to.

So now, what to do with the van? Given that the wait for one with similar options is now over 18 months, I just couldn't bring myself to insist that we sell it. It only seemed right that he should keep it, since I didn't need the options he required.

But it was my dream, too, dammit.

I wanted to travel and see the country and feel alive.

I'd already envisioned myself behind the wheel. I'd spent months making wish lists and fancy spreadsheets and Pinterest boards. I had travel destinations mapped out.

Loss after loss after loss.

It was all starting to feel unbearable. But then I remembered: Our dreams don't just show up on our doorstep unannounced. They don't randomly bump into us in line waiting for a Caramel Machiatto at Starbucks. We have to envision them, speak of them lovingly and often, say no to things that move us away from them, and say yes to things that bring us closer to them.

And we have to practice self-care so we're healthy enough to enjoy them when they arrive.

No, I was not ready to let go of my dream so easily. Freedom requires a willingness to stand up for what we believe in, and the ability to remain open and flexible to how our life unfolds.

So, I did what any logical, determined, independent, forty-something woman would do: I bought my own damn van.

And I began to redesign my life.


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