61: Life in a Rolling Cardboard Box

61: Life in a Rolling Cardboard Box

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Life in a Rolling Cardboard Box

Where we love is home — home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sunlight is now my alarm as I rise to light the gas stove for my coffee. I peer out into our living area where all four of my children sleep — girls on the couch, and boys on the floor. We told them it would only be for a year. I smile, as in January it will be five. The traveling life has woven our family together from separate pieces of cloth into a quilted piece of art.

I think back to our old life with a new house I designed and built on my great-grandfather’s farmland. Jon worked more than forty hours a week — on-call weekends and vacations as the only IT person for the bank and its eleven branches. I stayed home with the kids, found volunteer opportunities, and kept up with the demands of their public schooling. I look back now and see how as a couple we lived parallel lives — Jon had his work bubble, I had the home bubble, and on weekends Jon could visit my circus show.

In 2008 our marriage shattered like a mirror. Jon and I decided to pick up the pieces and eventually, after therapy, decided that the best way to reclaim the relationship we began as eleven-year-old kids was to hit the road with our children.

Now our life fits into 200 square feet of living space in this motor-home and a 5x7 storage unit. With such limited storage space something new comes in only if something old goes out — or so I keep telling my children. This lifestyle holds me accountable, especially when I walk through a store.

Today, I sit to write in the quiet of the morning. I begin a new travel blog as Jon sets up his TV tray next to me in the corner of the bedroom. Jon eventually found work on the road after a year and a half dry spell. With no money, times were desperate until he found a fellow traveler, now friend, who also lives with his family on the road. A gracious man who offered to mentor Jon from the back of his camper in the art of warehouse software development. Our friendship has now morphed into being more like relatives. That’s how it is on the road. Your crazy traveling friends become your crazy traveling family. After living literally next door to each other one can only hide personality quirks for so long. Or maybe that is just me with the quirks?

With the Internet the only requirement for his work, Jon clicks away in a T-shirt and shorts. Interesting how productive one can be when out of the sterile environment of a cubby or basement. I work on editing my latest YouTube show as I step out to share my life with the world. A life I am finally happy with living where we are not just surviving, but thriving.

The motorhome feels cozy. It’s a space that has brought loving things into our lives, from beautiful places to accepting people. A space where busyness has been removed and in its place we have practiced connection. I have permission to find myself, to spend time with my husband, and to know the passions and struggles of my children. I was unable to find this depth in my old life.

Today, I will rub elbows with my kids quite literally as we pass through the hallway we call a kitchen. I will talk to them as I make brunch, be asked to look at their newest interests, and laugh at their latest funny video find. Traveling friends will soon cram into empty spaces on the floor and couch as they pass around the popcorn and play another round of Clue. There is nothing better than listening to the kids’ laughter pulse through the cardboard walls as they chatter until the moon gleams its light.

Later in the week we will find a hiking trail to breathe in the gift of nature. Hiking has become a family activity that requires little equipment and provides an array of adventure. It spreads us out and gives us an opportunity to talk one-on-one with each kid as we walk. It has been an activity we continue even as they morph into their teen years — a time when society has warned us we will be at odds with each other. We don’t think that has to happen to us.

I never knew we could be more content with so much less stuff and less space. Our ancestors may have lived with less stuff and in one-room homes from necessity, but today we are choosing this life every day because it allows us to focus on each other. Sure there are moments where I feel like I might explode from the intensity of sound and proximity. Yes, there are times I fire up the van and squeal away to a coffee shop to just hear my own thoughts! Yet, I now feel such depth of joy and connection in my life.

In letting go of the busyness of schedule and stuff, my arms are now free to embrace today. And so I embrace the essence of today — the people with whom I share this adventure of life in a rolling cardboard box.

~Jema Anderson


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