Three weeks into living full time in the RV, having identified that I had been stuck in the gap between the life I left behind and the transition into life as an empty-nester, I remembered something that had not been obvious to me — I had intentionally designed the Challenge as an experiment. An intentional way to discover what kind of life truly blows my hair back.
So, as we tucked the RV — which we named Andi — into a secluded spot beneath the towering trees at Carolina State Beach in Wilmington, North Carolina, thoughts in my head began to swirl. I knew that as with any experiment the very purpose of collecting data is to assess the results and then make adjustments. Living a Radical Life is an iterative process. There had been a purpose to the period in the gap. That the gap itself was, in fact, part of the journey, not merely a blip along the way.
I just wasn’t sure what it was exactly that needed to change. We had an itinerary and a timeline. I had clients and classes to teach. It all seemed finite. Why, I wondered, did this feel so different from the five weeks we had spent in the RV we had named “Baby,” seven months prior traveling through Washington and Oregon? I had been so careful in that experiment, testing to ensure that living in an RV full-time was the right next step. What exactly was the problem?
In the meantime, Jeremy and I eased into the new week. I scheduled a hair appointment and that felt normal. I went to the bookstore. The grocery store. And that too, felt normal. And, I realized, those particular things felt normal in an interesting way. I did squats and lunges with my virtual personal trainer outside, inhaling the fresh, clean spring Southern air. I was able to hike the easy, flat trails near the campsite during coaching calls, overlooking the beach as the boats sailed by.
I wondered again, what exactly was not working?
Then it became clear.
I had believed that life was happening to me. My work schedule, which had me teaching classes until 8:30 pm EST. The travel schedule, moving every few days and staying one week in a place at most. The mechanical breakdowns. The bickering over the length of time it seemed required to do everything. Then I remembered true power could come from recognizing it’s how I happen to life that will define the meaning and fulfillment I find from each and every situation.
Which was when I decided to start asking myself different questions, those I had come to rely on in designing life lived on my terms.
- What are the core elements of my day that create that ‘blow my hair’ back type of feeling?
- How can I effectively create that on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?
- And, armed with that knowledge and my inner wisdom, how do I create harmony between work and life that feels aligned with the journey my soul has taken me on in the Radical Living Challenge?
I talked with a mentor, journaled, and ultimately during a morning walk on Carolina Beach with my husband it became clearer. For the first fifteen minutes, Jeremy and I walked parallel to a line of rusted pipe set into the sand, in place as part of a coastal beach renourishment program that injects new sand onto the beach to mitigate erosion and damage from coastal storms. The noise from nearby construction vehicles reverberated through the air, the screeching birds and ocean waves fading into the din.
“This is what the experiment feels like right now,” I said, my voice rising as it careened into the noise. “We are on a beautiful stretch of beach, but this pipe is so ugly, and the construction, it all feels like it’s obstructing me from feeling the peace I expected to feel.” The realization that I had brought expectations of what life living in an RV should feel like felt jarring. What other expectations and ‘shoulds’ had I brought into the experiment that I hadn’t been aware of?
Jeremy then suggested we drive up the coast a few miles to a spot he had discovered a day earlier. Quiet. Less populated. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at Freeman Park Beach to begin the conversation again, walking and talking.
“ I want to slow down,” I said. “I want to dump the itinerary and find spaciousness. I want this.” I gestured towards the ocean. “I want quiet.”
The seagulls flying above squawked as if offering encouragement as we walked on, talking about the purpose of the Radical Living Challenge, and what we came to find as individuals and as a couple. And by the end of the walk, my husband and I agreed to shift our approach to the journey itself. We would leave Wilmington as planned, in a few days. Visit Charleston for three days, also as planned. And then, begin our experiment in extended stays beginning in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Three days later with a new book on my nightstand and a fresh blow-dry, my head and heart felt clear as we left Wilmington towards Bird Island where we would walk two miles to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox. For more than thirty years visitors have come to the mailbox to fill its empty notebooks with letters and drawings, baring their souls, drawing comfort from the soothing sounds and sights of undeveloped beach, ocean and endless horizon. The mailbox holds the wishes, thoughts, prayers and dreams of all those who walk.
As we began the trek I noticed the vastness of the beach and the horizon which seemed to stretch into infinity. It felt so expansive, different from the beaches I had been on. I walked on noting the tiny bits of shells that littered the beach as I searched for the sand dollars that are supposed to be plentiful on this part of Bird Island.
Then, I saw it — tucked into a dune — two small wooden park benches and the mailbox marked Kindred Spirit.
I chose one of the pens and notebooks waiting in the mailbox and sat, reading the prayers and wishes of those who had come before me. Each letter beginning, “Dear Kindred Spirit,” I read letters to loved ones no longer here. Notes expressing gratitude. Others who had left words of wisdom. I let it sink in, listening to the compass inside of me that had pulled me to this unmarked spectacular place on the planet. I thought of the fellow Kindred Spirit who had shared this space with me. Perfection.
I felt so much in that moment at once. Gratitude, and yet I also missed my parents deeply. I felt joy and spaciousness create an opening in my heart. The wind blew recklessly, whipping through my hair.
“Dear Kindred Spirit,” I wrote.
“I want to feel free. Like a bird. To do this I will need to have Radical Faith that this journey is the exact one my soul has asked for. Help me to find the courage to dismantle the narratives I have in my head, all of the expectations and ‘shoulds’ I have been wearing like a lead vest. Of others. Of situations. Of myself. I thought I had left them all behind in California. But there are those that stubbornly cling to me like pieces of cellophane. Kindred Spirit, help me to surrender.”