We paved a new path for our lives and we didn’t know what to expect when we decided to move forward on this venture. Szymon brought it up in passing at the beginning of the relationship on a couple occasions and told me it was a dream of his to do a bike packing road trip from the US to Patagonia. I looked at him in surprise and admiration for wanting to take on such a feat, but in my head I was thinking “What!? Thats crazy! There is no way I can do that”. Then it happened. After some idle chatting back and forth and some research on his end, Szymon began searching for a van. A van because now I have come into his life and in order to convince me to go with him, he figured a van would get me on board rather than a bike. It was very surreal at first. We were both really excited and all we could do was talk about this “trip of a lifetime”. That’s when we found Gaia, a 2007 Dodge sprinter from Indiana and that was the first step in making this trip a reality.
As we began planning, we came up with lists of things we needed to do; we went over preferences on what we both wanted out of this trip, how long we would go, which routes we would take, start calculating the costs a bit and the list went on and on. That was our first holy shit moment. This was going to take everything we had if we want to make this happen. We can’t half ass this, we had to be committed and all in, not only financially, but committed to leaving everything behind and starting over in uncharted territory. We knew that it was exactly what we both wanted. We wanted to see the world, experience different lives, reconnect with nature and the communities beyond our neighborhoods. We wanted to change lives, helping people along the way, by giving our time and energy serving the greater good and traveling with purpose.
We started to put money away (a lot of money… nearly a third of both our incomes), began buying materials that we needed to start working on the van, worked on the van nearly every weekend we could (weather issues) after we brought her down from Chicago in November and so began the journey towards imbalance. It was fine at first, like most times you begin a new project, you get so hyped about it, you just push forth and get to work with lots of enthusiasm, but when you’re already working 40 hour weeks (Szymon) and teaching nearly 15 classes a week (me) all over Los Angeles and Orange County, it started to catch up with us. We worked so we could save, we saved so we could build, we began building so we could live, but all the essentials that we needed in order to be sane were beginning to wane. We haven’t had the time to spend “quality time” with each other, let alone our friends. We were so keen on saving, we stopped going out, eating out and splurging on anything unnecessary. We didn’t talk much about anything outside the van and we didn’t give enough attention to self care.
We had to devise a new strategy. We told each other that it would really suck to lose each other because of the stress that came along with this project. I mean what would be the point of getting all of this done if our relationship doesn’t survive it? So, we sat down and decided to make a conscious decision about the way we restructured our lives for this project. We put together a timeline on when certain portions of the build should be finished, in order for us to make our deadline (Last week of May 2017). It seemed like we would be able to get it all done as long as we stuck to the timeline, but we quickly realized that life doesn’t work that way.
In the same way, I reflected on the planning of my own life. When I was young, I told myself that I would graduate High School with honors, I would get into UCLA or UCSD and graduate and become a successful business woman, meet the love of my life, get married and have 2 dogs and a horse and a house just outside the city by age 25. If you know anything about me or my life, that is not what happened. Life happened instead. I graduated high school, went to college for a while with an undecided major and I think my soul was dying because I did not know who I was and I was tired of doing things that were getting me no where. The endless hours at a job that didn’t inspire or challenge me had me wondering “What am I doing all this for?”. My life had no purpose and I had no happiness in it because I felt like I was stuck in a constant loop and there was no end in sight. That is where my journey began into who I have become. I am not an UCLA or UCSD graduate, I am not married and I don’t own a house, but found my calling as a Yoga Teacher who encourages and helps people become healthy, happy and confident. I am more self aware today than I ever was before, I have hobbies and activities that motivate me to get stronger and I no longer live in the fear of “I need security in order to be happy”. Quitting my job almost 3 years ago has been the best thing that I have ever done, and even though it was terrifying at the time, it was worth everything because it led me back to myself.
This brings us back to the now. Yes, we are still saving, we are still spending countless hours on building and planning, and we are still making it a priority, but not at the expense of our health and well being. We knew we needed to reinstate balance back into our lives and relationship in order for this to flourish. We starting conversing about things outside the van, Szymon decided to take a weekend off with the boys, I made an effort to reach out to the people I missed spending time with, we both caught up on some reading and we decided to take a weekend off for Valentine’s Day. Giving up a few weekends in order to recharge, reconnect and revitalize ourselves has been the best thing for us and even though that pushes our dead line by about a month or so, I would much rather make this happen with us intact than in pieces, wouldn’t you agree?