Cloud 9 at 6

This weekend marked the sixth anniversary of our first camp-out in Cloud 9. It’s hard to believe that we’ve traveled far and wide in our tiny home, covering thousands of miles from mountains to prairies to oceans white with foam. Along the way, we invested in a major remodeling project and a significant appliance upgrade; we experienced more on-the-road training than we ever could have anticipated; and we made some lasting friendships with other Airstreamers. It has been a remarkable ride.

This reflection was prompted by two simultaneous events: a memory that presented itself in our Facebook feed, and a friend’s informing us of his father’s recent death.

Interestingly, it was the death of Jon’s father that became the catalyst for our camping life. He was 43 years old when Jon was born, so he always seemed like an old man to him. His mom and dad divorced when Jon was a boy, but his dad never remarried, and Jon ended up spending a few years living with him as a teenager. Consequently, Jon got to know his father a little better than his sisters and brother. His dad had shared with him a longtime dream of buying a Winnebago and traveling the country. He went so far as to retire early, at age 62, just so he could pursue his dream. But within a few months of retiring, he developed lung cancer, and died less than a year later.

One night, about eight years ago, we were talking about our fathers and their unfulfilled dreams. We agreed we wouldn’t postpone our dreams but take whatever risk was necessary to pursue them while we were still healthy enough to do so. Our dream, similar to Jon’s father’s, was to get an Airstream and travel to as many national parks as we could fit into whatever remained of our lifetime.

So we took the risk. And we’ve had no regrets. So far, we’ve been to 19 national parks. That leaves 43. We’re planning to visit three more this year: White Sands, in New Mexico, Saguaro, in Arizona, and Joshua Tree, in California. Our “bucket list” parks, Acadia, in Maine, and Denali, in Alaska, are still far-off dreams, but they’re attainable if only we can find the time.

Ah, time. It’s been said that time is the most precious commodity anyone can possess, making it all the more imperative that we spend whatever time we have wisely. That’s why we prefer to spend our time traveling, where we can interact with others and our environs in exciting, unexpected ways, all the while opening our minds and broadening our horizons.

We met a young couple this weekend, just starting out as full-timers, still trying to establish a routine as they anticipate adventures to come. Their enthusiasm was contagious. And it reminded us that the wanderlust, once it takes hold, is a powerful itch that must be scratched–even if only one weekend at a time.