It was late one night at our home in Colorado when the idea hit me. I had a vision of us driving along a windy country road somewhere in Europe, roaming free and exploring the hidden gems along the way, fully living our love of adventure together as a family. On that cold winter night in Colorado, with school the next morning and a house full of comforts, cars in the driveway and bills to pay, it seemed like a distant dream. I shared the idea of cutting ties to our domesticated lives and setting off on a grand adventure with my wife Joli, and she lit up, and as we talked and got excited it became more and more real.
We’d always been travelers and seekers, both before we met and then after we met but before we had our four kids. Then it all stopped as we settled into our steady stable lives and raised our babies. We’d take a few small trips here and there and it was always a big effort, but as the years went by and they became more independent, the door started to open to the possibility of embarking on something more ambitious. The thought of leaving everything behind, selling or storing almost all of our possessions, packing up some suitcases and heading off into the unknown was both scary and thrilling. We knew there would be challenges and breakdowns, but the world was calling and it felt time to share our love of travel and adventure with our kids.
It was four months from that evening when the idea first came into being until we woke up before dawn for our ride out to the Denver airport for our flight to Paris, and we spent every day immersed in planning, preparing, listing things for sale, boxing up clothes, furniture, and belongings, researching itineraries and destinations, and finding our car and caravan. We’d decided that the best way of experiencing travel was by living in a caravan and towing it with a car so we could set up camp and then drive around to check out the local sites. We also thought it would be a lot cheaper this way than trying to find hotels and rentals everywhere.
By the time we got to Paris in June, we’d sold our cars, rented out our house, stored all of our stuff, I’d quit my job, pulled the kids out of school for the coming year, paid for our car and caravan (waiting for us in Germany), and had a basic idea of our itinerary. It was an incredible feeling to set off on such an epic journey without knowing what was in store for us, and to prove that we could utterly rearrange our lives to make it happen.
The first month or so was by far the hardest, and there were a few times that we thought we’d made a huge mistake and we should just call it off and head home to the comfort and safety of the familiar. Our caravan had multiple issues that required several trips to a mechanic, leaving us homeless and uprooted. The transition from our spacious home where we had plenty of bedrooms and places to spend time alone to the tiny confines of the caravan was intensely challenging at times, and Joli and I each had a few bouts of unraveled emotions and feelings of being lost at sea with a bunch of crying, whiny, needy kids. But we persevered and pressed on, and the caravan got fixed up, we met some wonderful people, saw some spectacular sites and scenery, and our lives on the road became the new normal.
That was about six months ago. Since then we’ve been traveling nonstop, spanning our northernmost point in the Lake District of north England by the Scottish border down to the undulating dunes of Morocco’s Sahara Desert. We’ve endured days of endless rain and mud, Holland’s Storm of the Century that crushed our outdoor awning, woken up at dawn to climb a sand dune to watch the sunrise in the desert, seen the bedrooms of kings and queens, made sand castles at beaches on the Mediterranean, Atlantic, English Channel, and Loire River, wandered around French farmers markets and Moroccan souks, and have met and made new friends speaking a rainbow of languages and representing cultures from Berber to Westphalian.
It’s all the little details that have made this journey so rich and colorful — the yellow maple leaf bigger than Ciele’s head falling from a tree in Barcelona in autumn, the whispers inside the enormous cathedral in Auxerre in Burgundy, the lavender flowers that matched Aliya’s dress at the castle grounds in Kent, the moss that clung to rocks next to a waterfall above Lake Windermere in Cumbria, the ruined stone walls of the old medina near the Meski oasis deep in the Moroccan outback, the old boats we floated past on the Dordogne River in our canoe, the soft woolly fur of the camel we took out to the overnight Berber camp, the tide going out while camped on the beach in Brittany revealing all sorts of hidden treasures, and so many countless more simple memories from our time together these last six months.
We’re now headed to the south of France to settle down for a few months, put the kids into a bilingual school there, and catch up on some projects. There is a rhythm to this life, and when we tune in we can feel when it’s time to hunker down and when it’s time to hit the road, when it’s time for stability and when it’s time for adventure. We’ve spent far more time together as a family, getting to know each other at ever deeper levels, than we ever did back home. Sometimes I can’t believe how much I was missing when we weren’t this close. I love witnessing the wonder of our children seeing, hearing, and feeling their surroundings — almost every day they are wowing and oohing at something new, and I can almost sense their brains being rewired to accommodate the spectrum of life we are now living.
After France, who knows? Now that we’ve seen what’s possible, even the wildest ideas are possible. Nothing seems out of reach, no frontier too difficult to explore. Maybe an overland journey to India, half a year living in Thailand, cruising around the Mediterranean on a boat, camping in Greece… if we think it, we can do it.
If you’d like to read more about our current adventure and to follow us on the road ahead, check out our blog at kestanocaravan.com. We’re also on Instagram at @kestanocaravan and @jypsyfamilia. We love meeting other traveling families and supporting families thinking about travel so please get in touch anytime. Wishing you all a path of discovery and enlightenment no matter where it takes you.