A Temporary Break

Duwan and Greg reunited at the Cactus Garden in Arizona.

September 3 – January 26.

So, yeah, it’s been a while. In July 2021 I quit the blog. We were house-sitting for friends in Massachusetts and I had meant to write a final post explaining my exit from the blogging world and had actually started one. But even though I had a nice desk to sit at, unlimited electricity and internet, and plenty of time I just couldn’t finish it. Sorting through pictures made me tired. The words weren’t coming to me. I felt drained and wrung out.

I had felt this way for a while. Besides plunging the world into a global pandemic, 2020 saw us on the road full time for the first time. There were lots and lots of wonderful things to see and do but constant traveling involves constant planning. Where to go next, where to shop, where to camp, where to store things in the van, what to cook, how to navigate new places in a world turned upside down. This stuff started to overwhelm me. And it wasn’t just the stuff I was doing that was stressing me out, it was also all the stuff I wasn’t doing. Cleaning, improvements to the van, keeping up with friends, social media, sharing with other bloggers. But my biggest stressor and the largest consumer of my time was the blog. My blog posts were becoming too vast. Too many photos, too much research, and too many weeks to put them together.

After I didn’t write that final blog and Greg and I left that house-sit in Massachusetts we continued to travel. Up the coast of Maine, eight days in Arcadia National Park, a quick jaunt through the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire, five days in Boston, a day strolling past mansions in Rhode Island, a few days in a campsite in Connecticut, up through Vermont visiting country stores for breakfast and friends, across Lake Champlain into upstate New York to visit more friends. All the while I was breaking down. The days were too full, I lost it when I couldn’t decide which way to turn in a park, planning in Boston made me feel anxious, a hike in the rain left me in tears. Tense days after my upsets were spent going nowhere, recovering in the van. I might blame a lot of this stress on our lifestyle. The small living space and constant movement are hard. But as I look back over the years, tears, anger, a feeling of desperation, and not being able to let go have always been a part of my life at one time or another. The travel, though, has certainly exasperated it.

As my well-being was eroding so was Greg’s and my relationship. I knew we had to stop, just take a time out, try to hit the reset button, but things kept compelling us forward, friends to meet up with, things to see, places to go. Until then it was finally all too obvious that we couldn’t go on.

We abruptly left upstate New York at the very end of August and headed for North Carolina. We stopped at Greg’s parent’s house for a few days and then I left in the van without him. It was a temporary break. I had medical stuff that I needed to take care of in our state of residence, Florida.

I had an ablation on a vein in my leg. Greg got an Airbnb in Tallahassee and picked me up from my campground to take me to and from the Vein Institute for my procedure.

In Tallahassee Florida I found a vein specialist to take care of a bad vein in my leg and I started seeing a couples therapist. I found a good deal on a month’s worth of camping. I started walking for an hour and a half every day and working on some of those van projects that I had never had gotten a chance to get started on before. Greg and I talked almost every day on the phone.

Greg stayed with his parents for a while then moved to Cabbagetown to help a friend in distress. There he stayed with friends and did a few house-sits. He started painting a house with his old painting partner, Paul and drove from Cabbagetown to Tallahassee once a week for couples therapy. I started taking antidepressants. I was feeling OK on my own. I visited Cabbagetown and felt good. But still, there were days of tears, misunderstandings, hurt feelings. And then it was all over.

Couples therapy was a bust. But the one good thing the therapist did was recommend a book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Greg and I started using that book to repair our relationship. I read more books and found Mindful Relationship Habits. We started doing the Habits over the phone.

Greg got to a stopping point on the house he was painting with Paul. He bought a car. I bought him a smartphone. And then he headed out west to clear his head, camp, and house sit. I stayed in the east and we continued to work things out long-distance. I camped in Florida and stayed with friends waiting for body shop repairs to be done on Ballena Blanca who I banged up by running into a barrier at a gas station. All the while both Greg and I were healing.

On a trip from Tallahassee to Greenville, SC I ran the van into a barrier at a gas station. Luckily the van was still drivable. I scheduled repairs in Greenville. Because of the van’s height, my options were limited and the repairs got pushed from December to mid-January delaying my departure from the southeast.

In mid-January, I got the van back from the shop and headed west to catch up with Greg in Arizona. It had been 5 months since we lived together. The most surreal 5 months of my life. Five hard, frustrating, and heartbreaking months. But despite all the bad things that happened, there was lots of good.

We both got to connect again with our very best friends in Cabbagetown and South Carolina. Greg got to spend time with his family, parents, son and daughter-in-law, daughter and son-in-law, and grandson, Gabriel. I got to see and photograph a real live wild Flamingo. We both were able to help our friend in distress in Cabbagetown and I think that friend is doing much better now because of it. Greg joined Trusted House Sitters, which now gives the opportunity to house sit worldwide. I was able to do many upgrades to the van. Greg was able to pursue a new hobby, 3D printing. I lost weight due to my daily walks. But most importantly, Greg and I are a better couple now. We know we want to be together. We want to do whatever it takes to make it work. We love each other. And we want to continue to stretch our boundaries and travel the world.

 

Supposedly this guy blew in with hurricane Micheal a few years back and has been returning to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida every year since.

I’m not sure where the blog is going to go after this. I love doing it but I have to find a way to make it easier to put together. I haven’t tracked our expenses for a while. Between doctor’s bills, buying a car, travel back and forth from Florida, etc. the money has been flowing out more than a wee bit higher than usual. I hope to turn the expense report into a monthly wrap-up about camping spots and likely expenses one might encounter on the road. Currently, we are traveling in Baja Mexico. It has been great and I hope to be able to share these adventures with you. The birds here have been incredible. Maybe someday I can go back and tell you about our summer last year. Despite my times of distress we saw and experienced lots of great things.

* All pics are click to enlarge. Once you have them enlarged you can view them in a slide show. Also you can hover over the pics to see captions.
** As always, there are an awful lot of pictures. If you are reading this in an email, it is probably pretty long. The photos are more artfully presented on the blog. Click here to see the post on the website.

Florida

In Florida, I stayed at a few Boondocker’s Welcome locations, a few free campgrounds, and a month at the Newport Campground south of Tallahassee. Every day I would get up and drive somewhere for my morning walk. Then in the afternoon, I would find a nice spot to open the back doors of the van and work on projects or do chores.

Projects

I did several projects during my travels that 5 months. One of the first priorities was to add a water port for our water tank. Previous to this upgrade it took two people to fill the water tank. Now it only takes one and is mostly hands-free. I also worked on replacing the cloth that covered the van’s lower cabinets with sliding doors. Meanwhile, Greg was working on building a lithium battery for the van. Luckily he had it ready when our old golf cart batteries died while I was in Florida. I made an emergency trip to North Carolina where we installed the new and improved battery. And I brightened up our traveling abode by painting the walls as well as doing lots of little projects to make things more convenient and better looking.

Cobbtown Acres

I spent about 5 days at Cobbtown Acres. The Acres in southeast Georgia is a spot where people could come and work on their rigs. There is a shop with just about any tool you would need and knowledgeable, generous people to help. Every night there was a campfire gathering. I only stayed about a week before the cold made me realize I had friends in Cabbagetown with nice cozy houses I could stay in. If you want to know more about Cobbtown Acres and the people you might encounter there check out this post by Holly and Joe of A Bus Named Sandy who I met during my stay.

Friends and Family

The best part of spending so much time in the southeast was connecting with family and friends.

Greg’s Travels

It didn’t take long to outfit my 2003 Toyota Highlander. It’s big enough to allow me to sleep in the back. But my trip west was cold, so I slept in the driver’s seat and started the engine for heat during the nights.

Greg’s Pets

I had four house-sits. I was generally happy with each of them, but the owners came back early three times. It was good to have the flexibility to camp between the sits. These were my pals.

I would like to dedicate this blog to our friend David Chatmon. Like so many of our friends David was supportive and never took sides during our separation. When Greg showed up in Cabbagetown and unexpectedly found himself with nowhere to stay he knocked on David’s door. He and his wife, Dian, told Greg that he could stay as long as he wanted. David has since passed. I am so glad that we got to share a little time with him this past year. David was generous, gregarious, and always welcoming. I think that he would be happy Greg and I are together again. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

24 thoughts on “A Temporary Break

  1. Thanks for update. Even though it sounds trite it’s true: tough times don’t last, tough people do! Glad you’re back together and doing the things that most of us envy.

    Love the pics, and don’t do the blog anymore unless it makes you happy.

    1. I like that – tough times don’t last, tough people do. Thanks. The blog makes happy but sometimes it makes me crazy too. Kinda like a sailboat!

  2. Thank you for sharing so honestly. So many people make their lives seem rosy all the time, when the reality is that shit happens to all of us!
    Glad you worked it out and hope to see you back in Mexico sooner than later!

    1. So much of it is rosy but it is just like real life and it’s hard to share the bad parts. Because they can be so bad. Hopefully we are past the worst for a while.

      We are currently talking about Mexico mainland next winter. Hope to see you then.

  3. Great hearing from you! The pressure of “having” to do can be so stressful. Best thing about getting older is realizing that you can just put most things off – at least for a little while. When it comes to the blog and organizing pictures and the such, we all LOVE to read of your adventure but just knowing that you are okay is what is most important. I’m glad you guys have had the time apart and worked things out. Relationships are a work in progress and life is too dang short to not be happy. My condolences for your loss of David. I pray that your memories will sustain you. Hugs to you both!!!

    1. Thanks Debbie. Hugs back to you and Pat. Yes, relationships are work in progress. A willingness to learn and change is key. We are so much richer together than apart.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed the update, but really, this post would be about 10 of mine. Even once a month would be too much! Maybe if you did shorter posts, it would be tolerable? Having said that, I do so love seeing what is going on in your life.

    1. Thank you Jacqui. I appreciate that you follow along. I love doing the blog and I know the posts can be a big long. I will figure out a way to keep everyone updated without consuming so much of my time.

  5. I second Jacqui’s comments. You put great effort into your posts, most likely because you want to share so many amazing things. Blogging takes time and effort. I haven’t been at this as long as you (3 years in March). As I always tell my wife, If it ever becomes something too time-consuming or not fun, I’ll find something else to do. I mean that. Retirement should be fun, and looking after your mental health should be the priority.

    If you decide to continue blogging, consider doing it less often or not having such extensive posts.

    It sounds like you needed a break to work through things. Your relationship is way more important than any of this. Best of luck moving forward.

    1. Thanks. The break was good. Doing this blog was way less exhausting. Mental and physical health is a priority now. So much has changed. Definitely ready for more fun.

  6. Dear Duwan and Greg,
    So very glad to hear that you are back together and things are looking up. We were worried about you when you came through; just felt such a sad vibe.
    Duwan, I hope you are fully recovered from your vein surgery. I know that was a scary deal.
    I love your blogs so much, but just take your time getting back in the swing. Ideally they should be a joy to you, not an overwhelming chore.
    We are fine; loving Tucson. Stop by anytime. Take care and love to you both.
    Meredith and Ed

    1. I am fully recovered from the vein surgery. So glad I was able to get it done.

      Yes, the vibe was a little weird during our visit. We were in North Carolina within a week after we saw you.

      We’d love to come visit. Hope to be back in Tucson in the spring.

  7. Sometimes the pictures say it all. Glad the blog is back. I enjoy the pictures when posted. Finding them is like opening an unexpected present. Don’t feel pressure to say anything. Safe travels together.

    Thanks

  8. Loved meeting you at Cobbtown Acres and thanks so much for sharing the blog, it was very helpful as I traveled the Texas Gulf Coast.
    I keep having to tell friends that I can only handle one adventure at a time. Cramming in experiences doesn’t allow for processing time, resulting in loss of opportunities for longterm memories. Go slow and enjoy more. It works the same for new people. We need time to develop relationships and the stories take make them worthwhile. Love you, PapaJoe

    1. Thank you so much Papa Joe. It was a joy meeting you and listening to your stories at Cobbtown Acres. Glad the blog was helpful fir your trip along the Gulf Coast.

      Yes, slowing down is key. Sometimes I forget or there are just too many things speeding me up.

      Hope I get a chance to cross your path somewhere out in the world again.

  9. Full time travel is hard. Full time travel in a van is even harder. Full time travel in a van during a pandemic when the entire world has turned upside down and you don’t have your normal support system available is damn near impossible. Add in the pressure to see and do everything, and to nurture friendships, and to write about everything in a handy dandy blog, and it can all become far too much. I feel for you guys on all of this and think it’s incredibly smart to prioritize your physical and mental wellness and incredibly brave to share your honest experiences with your readers. I hope things continue to improve as you move forward. Best wishes…

    1. Thank you Laura. It’s a hard but rewarding life. The love of travel is the only reason we’ve been able to stick with it so long. But when everything becomes a chore, like it did, you need a reset. Our reset is working well so far.

      It’s funny that it is brave to be honest but I didn’t want to go on without acknowledging what happened.

  10. Thank you for sharing – the good times AND the tough times. As everyone has already said, your blog and photos are wonderful to see, but it’s even better to know that you’re enjoying it all. If we have to wait longer, or see less, when you do post, that seems like a pretty ok trade-off. And, wow, a wild flamingo! What a gift!

  11. Great blog post, Duwan. So many points are recognizable. Being a nomad is not for the faint of heart, especially when it comes to the stresses this lifestyle brings and being 24/7 with a partner in a small space.

    You have worded these last few months you two have gone through extremely well. While it was inspiring to read your update (of which we knew most already :)), it must have been difficult to write it all up and hit the “publish” button…

    1. It was certainly a little difficult to write. Lots of details were left out. As always I try to be fair while giving a sense of what the real story is.

      Greg reads everything I write so if it is OK with him, I’m good to push publish.

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