After 28 months of living like nomads, traveling the country selling chicken, and answering the question “So what do you do all day?,” we are officially saying goodbye to full-time travel. (Part of me still can’t believe we ever said hello to such a crazy thing to begin with, but here we are now, with a wealth of experiences and travel stories to prove that we did.)
It may seem like this transition back to “normal” life should be an easy thing that we’re looking forward to without an ounce of trepidation. But our exit from LDP (this travel program) isn’t looking exactly like what we’d always imagined it would — we thought we’d only be heading back to Georgia for a few months and then off to wherever our future restaurant would be, we thought we’d have a pretty good idea of where that might be by now, we didn’t expect to be exiting with a baby well on the way, and we certainly never imagined we would be settling back down into a completely unsettled world that’s reeling from a world-wide pandemic. But we are trusting that none of this is outside of God’s control. He is surprised by none of it, and He has a path in mind for us. And we are so very ready for a home that doesn’t change every few months or less, for a community we don’t have to abandon just as often, for the chance to live near family and close friends for the first time in our marriage, and for some stability.
This transition feels like a momentous moment — perhaps even more significant than the moment when we began this journey. Because this leaving is final. We’ll never again live with only what we can fit in heavy duty tubs from Lowe’s, stay over one hundred nights in a row in the same hotel, or have to explain to people “Well, we just moved here. And we’re actually going to be moving again in a month or so. See, we move a lot for work.”
To be honest, I won’t miss any of those things, but there are a few things I will look back on fondly — the instant bond that’s forged between us and the people we meet who travel with us, those moments where we all crack LDP jokes and find some relief in sharing this journey with someone else who finds it equally wild, the excitement that accompanies the stress of moving somewhere brand new, the sweetness that accompanies the scariness of Kaleb and I taking on the world alone but together, and the satisfaction of entering a new place and then making it our home.
This leaving is also significant because it means that WE DID IT. We accepted the challenge of full-time travel, and we rose to the occasion. For me, this means accomplishing something that I was genuinely terrified of. We learned so much more about ourselves and became different people all at the same time. It may be weird to say this publicly, but I believe in celebrating all of life’s important moments, big or small, so I’m going to say it anyways — I am so very proud of us. I’m so proud that we accomplished this, that we’re coming out the other side even stronger as a couple, and that we found so much good in the midst of the crazy.
And, lastly, this transition is significant because we are once more completely changing our lifestyle. That’s a big deal no matter how often you do it. And even though we are going back to a lifestyle we’ve lived before, it’s in a different place, and we are not the same people anymore, which will surely change how we live.
This post is my attempt to mark this momentous moment, to reflect on what it means, and to give our family and friends an update on what’s next for us.
While Kaleb and I are grateful to have had this opportunity, we are also ready to close this chapter of our lives.
We’ve had some incredible experiences during this time. We’ve made some amazing new friends. We’d enjoyed mentoring Chick-fil-A team members across the country, becoming part of over a dozen different churches, trying new kinds of foods, restaurants, and coffee shops, seeing beautiful sights and American landmarks, and living such a unique lifestyle.
But I wouldn’t be being honest with you if I didn’t also say that this has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s the furthest that my introverted, change-averse, plan-making self has ever stepped outside of my comfort zone. (I mean, it pretty much obliterated my comfort zone.) It was stretching and scary, and each month was different from the next. There were a lot of questions, a lot of uncertainty about what the future held, and a lot of learning curves. Plans went awry as often as they went right. The only thing that was constant was the constant change.
I’ve asked myself whether I would change my mind about traveling if I could go back in time — all the way back to when Kaleb and I were sitting in our first tiny apartment together in Oregon and tentatively talking about giving up all stability and traveling for two years. Would I tell myself to say no instead of yes?
I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’m fairly confident that, given the chance, I’d still say yes. I’d do it again. (Though I’d tell myself to live some parts of it differently if I could.) These 28 months were like an intense, long-term personal growth boot camp for us. I would truly hate to part with any of the lessons we learned during that time. I know we were where we were supposed to be, doing what we were meant to be doing. Even though it was hard, it was right. Hard things and right things can be the same.
It’s impossible to go through such a cataclysmic season of life without it changing you. And, like I said earlier, this has changed us completely. Our values and priorities have shifted and been resized, our perspectives on the world and on other people have widened, our personalities have been stretched and refined, and our compassion for others has grown. We have gained so much clarity on who we each are and on who the other is. We have discovered what’s worth fighting for and what’s worth changing our minds about. We have learned new ways to live our lives.
Kaleb’s experiences during this time aren’t all the same as mine, so I can only speak fully about what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed. I’ve had a lot of quiet time on my own to reflect and learn more about myself during this journey. Truly, when I look at who I am now compared to who I was before this travel program, I find myself stronger, wiser, calmer, more in tune with myself and my husband, and much more aware of what’s really important to me.
I don’t say those words lightly though, because the moments that forged these changes in me were never simple and were sometimes achingly hard. They forced me to face hard-to-swallow truths, they drove me to the end of myself, they required lifestyle changes and major mindset shifts, and they came with their fair share of chaos, discomfort, and tears.
I haven’t forgotten the strain of those moments. Yet when I think of them now and when I look at the transformations they created in me, I somehow also see beauty. And for that I am truly grateful. I am grateful that any hard times from these past 28 months didn’t shatter me but bent me into a better kind of person. I am grateful that God didn’t waste a moment of my fear or stress. I am overwhelmingly grateful for how He met me in my low moments. And, I won’t deny it, — I am grateful to have reached the final page of this chapter in life.
What’s next for us? Right now, we only know what’s in store for us through June/July. We will be moving back to our home state of Georgia where we have lots of family. Kaleb has accepted a job with a local operator and is excited to work with the same one restaurant for a while, instead of hopping around multiple locations like we have been. In June, we will welcome our baby boy into the world and have some time to adjust to parenthood. While we are in Georgia, we will continue the process we began almost a year ago of finding our own Chick-fil-A restaurant for Kaleb to operate.
Even though we are still exiting with a lot of questions, we aren’t in a hurry anymore. We don’t plan to put our lives on hold until we have the answers we want. We are going to keep living the life we want to live now. We are going to treat this next step as permanent, as one worth investing in, and we are going to be fully present in it — no matter if it lasts just a few months or a whole year.
If we have learned anything through this journey, it is that God will direct our path if we will just stay in step with Him. Right now, all we know is the next right step, — move back home and get settled for baby — so that is what we’re going to do. And then we will do the next right thing after that, and the next right thing after that, trusting that each step has a purpose and is leading us in the right direction. We will carry everything we’ve learned these past two and a half years into this new life with us as we continue pressing toward our goal. But we aren’t viewing this time as a pause in our story. Rather, this is a beautiful, needful part of it, and we are going to commit to it fully, embracing where we are in our journey and trusting God with what’s to come.
It still seems surreal that in just a few days we will leave our last assignment, turn in our last rental car, and simply walk away from life as we have known it for the past two and a half years. With one six-hour drive from North Carolina to Georgia, we will cross from one lifestyle to another and leave this way of life behind forever. I think every big life change, no matter how good it is, gives you a sense of apprehension, of wonder at what’s to come. So it’s with a mix of excitement and apprehension, a load of lessons learned, and an immense gratitude of landing back in the South and near family for a while that we move toward this new phase of life.
The time has finally come to put away the suitcases for a while, rest, and refresh our hearts in community and stability — and, for that, we are incredibly thankful.
You can find out more about what these two years of full-time travel were like here: “What No One Told Me About Full-Time Travel”