11 February 2011

We’re selling our house and everything in it.

By the end of February, we’ll have sold or donated nearly everything we own, including our second car, a 72-inch TV and home theater system, our dining table, three sofas, our bed, almost all of our children’s toys and games, more than two-thirds of our collective wardrobe, and regretfully, at least lately, our only snow shovel. Also this week, I’ve resigned my job of nearly six years, one that I continue to love and the sole source of income for our family. Soon it will all be gone and we’ll begin the next phase of our lives: living & traveling full-time in the 27-foot Airstream International we call 1337stream (pronounced leet·stream). We’re trading the tethers of our daily commutes, the crippling parade of bills, and the countless, unnecessary possessions for the freedom to pursue passionate work, dramatic backyards, and unforeseeable adventures. Our anchor rodes are severed & spinning wildly, and soon we’ll be adrift, chasing our new American Dream.

The Whole Mad Swirl of Everything That Was to Come

A couple years ago we got it in our minds that this suburban, nine-to-five plane of existence we’d built for ourselves may not be the exact road we were supposed to travel. We’d made all those big life decisions, like buying a too-big, five-bedroom house in the suburbs, a short commute from our design jobs at Kansas State University. We had student loans and car payments, loads of monthly bills, and then a baby. It’s a common story, and one that much of America, in some variation or another, enacts and presumably enjoys.

And for a time, we did too. At first, we loved home ownership. After years of renting apartments, we cherished the privacy and security, the flexible spaces, the ability to accommodate and entertain guests and, perhaps too much so, the blank canvas on which we could express our aesthetic sensibilities, filling it with furniture & artwork & décor to a precise fit. We even enjoyed the many projects that come with owning a house: cleaning, mowing, landscaping, learning about plumbing & electricity & HVAC & lawn irrigation. But it wasn’t long before the novelty wore off and we saw that these things didn’t make us happy, weren’t exactly good for the world, and were expensive as hell.

Worse still, we began to lament all the ways we were being sheltered from the world. We’d become socially-lazy, content to “just stay in” and sink further into the comfort and safety of our home, regardless of what great things might be happening around town. We’d bought tons of “stuff”, aiming to fill the vast emptiness of our house, boxes & boxes of flat-packed, particle-board furniture and machine-shaped pottery from faceless, distant factories. We ate food from big-box chain stores with origins often impossible to trace and seldom to anywhere considered local. Our daily loop-de-loop commutes, besides being expensive and boring, have deadened our sense of distance and direction to meaningless noise. The interminable routine of bed too late, work too fast, eat too much, see too little has been difficult to interrupt and leaves far too little time for anything truly meaningful, including each other. Even the weather itself often seems too distant in our dense & opaque home.

On the Swell of a New and Beautiful Wave

And so we yearn for a life closer to our evolutionary trajectory, where the decisions we make have simpler and more direct consequences, and where our intersections with nature are daily and of a variety impossible to match in this otherwise sedentary & contemporary lifestyle. We pine for new and more-dramatic horizons. We crave the thrill of travel: that uninhibited romp through the mélange of lives, landscapes, languages and flavors that is the American road trip. And so we commit to loos’ning ourselves of these limits and imaginary lines: the suburban fences & 50-hour work weeks, the daily commutes and decorative whatnots, the chemically-treated, manicured lawns and this unshakable need to consume. We’ve imagined for ourselves countless alternatives & escape plans, and the best of those, which is to say the most daring & unlikely, have become the dreams we’ve chosen to pursue.

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

And so, in a few short weeks, the following plan will shake out: my wife Jessa, our two-year-old son Jack, and myself (hi, I’m Josh) will move our few remaining possessions into the Airstream and push off into US Southwest, going wherever our interest takes us and staying for as long as that interest is maintained. (Our 11-year-old daughter Cody will meet up with us over her summer vacation). We’ll make a home in state and national parks or on other public lands, slowly working toward our ultimate goal of visiting each of the United States’ nearly 400 National Parks sites.

Jessa, Jack & Josh enjoying their new Airstream

Jessa, Jack & Josh enjoying their new Airstream

We’ll immerse ourselves in local cultures, indulging especially in the tremendous variety of culinary, recreational and artistic opportunities this country has to offer. We’ll engage Jack and Cody in the wealth of educational experiences that only the world as a classroom can provide. We’ll document our adventures here on 1337stream.com, naturally, with stories, photos, maps and heaps of data. We’ll continue to work, requiring just a computer, some inspiration, and the occasional internet connection to support our new lean lifestyle. We’ll live on less, too, reducing our environmental footprint by using a fraction of the natural resources we do today and by eating locally whenever possible. We’ll move slowly & deliberately, and avoid the indulgent rush and excess of modern life.

Except when we don’t. Because, sometimes, we won’t.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll have rough days, and we’ll face a wealth of interesting challenges along the way. We’ve never attempted a change as fundamental and unconventional as this, and we’re prepared for the transition to be difficult at times. But we have our ideals, we want for very little, and we’re no stranger to the iterative nature of any redesign project. We’re comforted, especially, by the growing number of like-minded individuals & families forging down similar paths, many in their own Airstreams and most with what appears to be great success.

So one final thing before I wrap this up: please follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our RSS feed. Over the next couple of weeks, leading to our big departure in late February, we’ll be posting a variety of more practical information: introducing ourselves and our trailer, previewing some of the challenges we’ll face as full-time RVers, and, once on the road, transitioning this site into a proper travelogue. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.