I never camped as a kid. My mom's idea of camping was a night at the Holiday Inn. As a grown up, I've probably slept in a tent a dozen, maybe two-dozen times in my life, all of those times with avid camping enthusiasts. I have put up a tent myself once, maybe twice. I've never owned a stove and have never actually said out loud, "Let's go camping."
My husband's nights outdoors are half that. In fact after the time we camped in Yosemite and Eddie thought our 4'11 friend Ali was a bear and hollered so loudly that he woke up the campsite, we had a sort of agreement that our camping days were over.
But one of the perks of being a travel writer is that the story comes from the conflict, the drama. Editors love a story about a family of four who only camped one other time. For a night. Right after a rafting trip and a fancy farm dinner. Oh and did I mention that it took Eddie and I about an hour to put up that tent together?
Comfort in the outdoors has never really been either of our strong points. So why embark on a two week campervan adventure from San Francisco to Yellowstone with two boys, ages 6 and 2?
Well, the obvious answer is that we didn't actually have a place to live for these couple weeks. But to be honest, the real reason was because I have been roadschooling our older son Kai through travel. And he has been studying wolves, learned that the main place in the USA that wolves still live in the wild is Yellowstone, and asked his travel writer mom to take him there.
I couldn't say no, right?
Well that first night of sleeping in our campervan, between the road workers drilling all night, four of us in a double bed, little Nikko's snuffy nose and cough, my fear at not having put all our food into the bear box before getting into the van and throwing my head under the covers, all led to a sleepless night.
As I lay there, sandwiched between my kids and my husband, I thought about this displaced year and how fitting it was that suddenly we really were without a home, in a rented campervan in the middle of the woods. I wanted clarity. That night at our Tahoe Star Tours, when asked where we lived, I had no answer. In our campervan wasn't fitting. We didn't live in our campervan, we were using it as a means to get from one place to another. We didn't live anywhere. Not SF. Not LA. Not Santa Cruz.
I've been here before. Many years ago. Many times. Floating from one house to another, one trip to another, ok without having a home. OK with being defined as a nomad. I was in motion. Moving towards another place, another experience, another definition, another way to live.
On this night, my kids snuggled close; Kai's leg draping over me; Nikko's hand entangled in my hair. They didn't ask for this. A life measured by adventures. And suddenly I felt like a bad mom. Here they were in a freezing campervan. Nikko coughing. Kai trying to toss and turn. Eddie and I essentially not talking, just trading off parenting duties as we scavenged for money and stability.
Yet I didn't know how to give them anything other than what I know. I can dish out adventure like the best of them. I mean that's how we got here: I had finagled the use of a campervan to take my kid to see wolves. Just like he asked. Forget a pony, now what am I going to do when he asks for me to give him a home?