Back in the USSA, Boy do We Know How Lucky We Are!

We decided to take a 2 month “vacation from our vacation” from July 20th-September 20th.  It was perfect timing for a cousin’s wedding in Las Vegas and perfect for catching the PNW summer.

So what do you do when you haven’t been home for a full year?

Eat out at your favorite restaurants? Eat your favorite junk food and drink your favorite beers?  Take baths every other day, maybe every day?  Watch your favorite TV shows?  Sit on the porch with your parents? Go to the local bars with your friends?

What were we REALLY missing from the States?

I was hyper focused on the food, I’m not going to lie.  I realized that I love the variety of cuisine that is so easily accessible at home.  It may not be the highest quality produce or the healthiest, but we can get anything we imagine thanks to the love-of-importing in the US of A.

Banh Mi and Sesame Balls. Our first (of choice) meal out. And it happened on our 3rd wedding anniversary…it’s been an amazing ride.

There were so many emotions swirling around in my brain that I wasn’t sure what I missed the most and what I wanted to do during our short time at home.  I really missed being part of our friends’ daily lives and sharing important milestones and holidays with our families.  But I also realized things wouldn’t be the same upon our arrival.

Friends move away, family members go through emotional changes, and people move on.  I’ve always said, I like change and I can deal with it, but accepting that you can’t go back was a new realization I was faced with after we arrived.

After all that partying at weddings we managed to squeeze in some camping in the beautiful PNW summertime too.

So, after being gone for almost exactly a year, we focused on physical To-Dos.  We didn’t want to be lazy and sit around chit chatting, so we lined up several jobs with family.  We helped Todd’s brother with building his patio for 2 weeks.

We did some house maintenance jobs around Todd’s parents’ house and fixed up their front porch.  But first there was some more Americana food.

We helped my parents for 1.5 weeks with house chores and splitting and stacking wood for the winter.  The list seemed small to me, but I guess we did a lot.  We were constantly moving, going to Lowe’s or Home Depot, or both.  It felt really good to help out (even though it was so little), maybe we were trying to make up for being gone for a year.

The second part of what turned out to be our work-cation was spent on our house.  We’ve always had dreams of making several updates, but we didn’t because of a lack of motivation and then we took on the van-build project…that was A LITTLE time consuming.  We had dreams of a bathroom fan, kitchen fan, dishwasher install, canned lighting, and garden trimming.

Turns out we did pretty well!  There’s nothing like pouring some love and sweat into your home.  It took us a full week to install a bathroom fan (maybe because we made 4 giant holes that would need to be patched in our ceilings).

Then we moved on to making holes in the kitchen.  We installed 4 LED canned lights, to replace a very old fashioned fluorescent light (no additional holes, just 1 old one to patch).  Our grand finale came with 8 LED canned lights in the living room (only 5 large holes to patch).

Todd did an AMAZING job figuring out how circuitry works with fans and lights.  We got fancy dimmers and 4-way switches. We yelled and got frustrated with one another just once in a while, what house project can be complete without a bit of a marital test???  It was great.  The hardest part was the prep and the cover-up.  Which is why I now consider myself to be a connoisseur of local paint stores and an expert drywall patcher, texturizer, and painter.

Lastly, my other true love, gardening.  I spent many hours admiring the flowers in my garden, some overgrown, some bounding with life, and many needing trimming.  I think that’s what completes the feeling of home, a garden.  Getting to watch it change with each season and plotting on how to propagate the plants to fill the garden even more.

Interspersed with all these projects we had many camping trips, neighborhood/Barrio hangouts, and Todd got to go on a beautiful boating trip around Vancouver BC-a must do on his Dad’s Bucket List.

All this time at our house got me thinking, why do we long for home?  Is it the people?   Is it the garden?  Or is it this idea that you can always return to this one place and it will be your place, no matter what.  No matter what kind of day you’ve had, no matter what is ailing you.  The only idea I don’t like about “Home” is that it usually comes with a need for a lot of “stuff.”

When packing up to come back to Bolivia, we were faced with “our stuff” situation again.  Upon leaving last Summer 2016, we were able to leave the house furnished and the garage stuffed with stuff.  At the end of August we had to empty it entirely because we were going to have new tenants.  It was easy and it wasn’t.  We gave away A LOT of knickknacks and a lot of random lumber, paint, and worn furniture.

The rest of our earthly possessions fit in this SUV, bound for Todd’s parents’ basement.

Thankfully I was able to sell a couple of big pieces of furniture and give a lot of things to friends.  But I was incredibly overwhelmed with the amount of things we accumulated.  How do we fill this place that is supposed to provide us peace and shelter with so many things we don’t really need?

As I look at our van right now I’m overwhelmed with understanding why we need all these bed coverings, dishes, tools, beauty products, and outdoor gear we have.  But I suppose you do need some basics for living.  I was also hit with the difficulty of materialism earlier this year when my paternal grandmother passed away.  She was an incredibly accomplished woman for her time, a dentist in late 1940s Poland.   She was filled with memories of the horror of WWII, which probably led her to be a principled but simple woman and a great adventurer-she traveled well into her 80s.  Walking through her apartment this past May was very hard, I was reminded that she had accomplished so much by all the stories she told me there.  It seemed to me that her life was also surrounded by these “Things” that at one point served her children, her grandchildren, or her friends.  And as soon as she was gone, they stopped serving.  So I continue to ponder, how do we live a life of fulfillment, in this short time we have?


So how was our trip home?  Awesome.  It was awesome to check off a bunch of projects and to chit chat with family and friends.  My Mom asked if I was sad to be leaving….and I had to say “No” 🙂 I love HOME but I love the road too…I  may have brought back a bunch of Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese food and spices to keep me going until we return though.

10 Replies to “Back in the USSA, Boy do We Know How Lucky We Are!”

  1. Marlen Conrad says: Reply

    It’s amazing how many things” the road” is teaching you, especially about what’s important. Stripped away from our stuff, we are free ,yet at first vulnerable. Our stuff is bound up with ego and identity and memories.
    It’s wonderful how you connect with the people on the road. Happy Trails! M

    1. You’re right Marlen, it’s very hard at first and I spent a lot of time wondering why has society taught us to tie these things to our identity and memory?

      And yes, every day I’m reminded of how the people we meet are really making the journey.


  2. It was such a blessing to have you guys here over the summer.
    A joy for us and an amazing trip and lots of hard work for you.
    Great pictures!

    1. Thanks Mom! We had a blast. Thank you for having us for so long.

  3. Hello. A fellow named Dick on the Sprinter forum referred me to you all’s blog. I’m looking for a 2006-2007 Winnebago/Itasca View/Navion 23′ motorhome for a year long South American adventure. We just felt a van would be too small. I’m still researching it, but do you see anyone in your travels in small US class c’s.

    1. Thanks for coming by. It’s all trade offs with each option having its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously with a larger rig you are more comfortable at camp, but on the other hand you are larger and can’t go as many places. Argentina and Chile have pretty good roads and you would be fine. But we have found that it is important to have a rig with a bit more agility Bolivia and Peru. Here even streets in the cities can be challenging. With a Class C you’ll have to stay on bigger roads and in some cases stay out of the cities. We find that we tend to “test” our Sprinter the most getting into and out of wild camping spots. Overhead clearance can be a problem too. So I guess, to answer your question, there are not many American style Class C motorhomes down here. People seem to go with something a bit more rugged like a regular sprinter, truck camper, Unimog or something along those lines. You don’t need 4wd, but we are very thankful for every inch of clearance the Sprinter has.
      How many are you? For two, I would argue that there is enough space in a Sprinter, the design just needs to be a little more creative. Also keep in mind that unlike a sailboat, when you camp you tend to expand your living space and move outside to enjoy the sunset. We have seen a ton of retired European couples who have been traveling for several years in great comfort in Sprinters or truck campers. We know someone who built out a T1N long Sprinter, using flares to put the bed sideways, and he has tons of space. Also, remember the system for the blackwater tank is different down here. Most use the cassette systems they use in Europe. They would need to be modified in a US Class C.
      Hopefully my ramblings have given you some food for thought. Please let me know if you have more questions. Please stay in touch and let me know how your planning is going.

  4. Hi,

    Glad you are still having fun. I have a good buddy in Calca Peru which is in-between Cusco and Machu Pichu. Her name is Rocio Roman. Her address is:

    Urb Manzanares S/N
    Serpost Calca


    Phone: 011 518 420 2625 home
    Cell: 842 02625 (I think)

    She has your name too. Stop by to say hi or if you get in touch if you have questions or need any help.


    1. Hi Dr. Ann! Thank you for reading! And thanks for the contact!!!! We are currently getting close to Cusco. We’re in Machaguay hoping to see the Valley of the Volcanoes in the next couple of days. The landscape is astounding here!

      1. OH no, my friend Rocio,is in France until Jan. Let me know if you are going thru Guatemala again as I have friends there too.

        1. AWWWW. This happens! We will definitely update you as we get closer. Thanks Dr. Ann!

Leave a Reply