My Holiday Wishlist: The Magic of Possibility

Magic_of_Possibility

 

And so we found ourselves in Toys R Us on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.  It was the first time I’ve been since I was a child.  I remember being so enamored of the store as a young one, thinking that it represented possibility.  Possibility of what, you may ask.  New toys to unwrap and play with, new people I could become, new worlds to explore on an icy February afternoon, how my life would be more complete with that one perfect, purple, sparkly Barbie skirt.

And so it was with a little trepidation that I walked into Toys R Us.  My habits of consumerism have taken a nosedive over the past several years, but not without a lot of work and introspection.  I wondered if I would walk through the doors and relive the youthful feeling of possibility and excitement I equated with this store, but this time geared towards my child.

Before we entered the store, we prepped our son that though we would be going to a toy store, we would not be getting anything for him.  We were there to pick out a toy to donate to a local toy drive.  I worried he wouldn’t fully understand, but I didn’t give him enough credit.  Not once did he ask for a single thing – and we walked up and down most of the aisles.  He was content to hug the stuffed animals, briefly pick up a couple of toys to see how they worked, and help us to pick out a toy for another child.  We ultimately picked out a scooter – something my husband and I would have gladly received for Christmas as a child.  To say I was proud of him was an understatement.  Great first trip to a mega-toy store, little guy!

But I also feel as if I exorcised some personal demons.  I walked through that store and felt nothing but disinterest.  Disinterest in what it represented and disinterest in the aisles and aisles of (mostly) junk.  This is not to say that I am anti-toy.  Van has some superb toys that he plays with regularly, some of which were purchased and some of which were homemade.  But, by breaking the tie of objects with possibility, I allow those very real possibilities to dwell elsewhere.  The possibilities that I dreamt of as a child are not something to be discarded, but are better if cultivated far from the halls of consumerism.

Instead of new toys to unwrap and play with, I find the magic of possibility by making something for myself that I would have otherwise purchased.  Instead of thinking about how my life would improve with a new [insert your weakness here], I take an active role and try to improve my life by learning new skills, spending time with people I love and with new friends, and exploring the natural world.  In other words, the possibility no longer dwells in a store, but dwells within me.  It is up to all of us to tap that potential.  And it is up to me to help my son to see the magic of possibility, particularly the kind that does not sit on store shelves waiting to be unwrapped.

Lessons Learned

One month in, I find myself reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned on the road during thus far.  Here are a few of my recent thoughts.

  1. Living on the road gets easier.  There is a big difference between going on a several day or a week-long camping trip and living on the road.  I’m not sure I completely appreciated the difference until we began this journey.  Minor inconveniences that during a week vacation would be easy to brush aside become much more bothersome when you realize that you are going to have to adapt to this inconvenience for the foreseeable future.  The flip side is that once you’re on the road for a while, you begin to adapt and adjust to your new normal pretty quickly (similar to the principle of hedonic adaptation).  Each day it gets a little easier and any fears I have related to this journey lessen.
  2. Fewer things = Less stress.  When you’re living with so few items and in such a small space, there are fewer extraneous things to deal with, clean, put away, maintain, etc.  This also means that there are fewer issues that can crop up.  Of course when issues do crop up, there are often fewer ways to resolve them.  Even with this constraint and with the constraints of not having a permanent home or any sort of regular indoor location in which to relax, unwind, or even bathe, I’m finding that I can pinpoint, understand, and address problems easier and more quickly than when I lived with a house full of items.
  3. Traveling with a two-year old means you don’t get to see everything you want.  Two year olds nap, they get cranky on long tours, they’re not interested in all of the same things as you and will certainly let you know it, they need more sleep, and they like to eat – often.  Our pre-kid traveling itinerary contained many more things in a day than we’re able to do or see with Van.  That being said, although we don’t get to see everything we want, what we do get to see we see through the eyes of a child.  And, we get to see those things with the most important little guy in our world.  That makes all the missed visits worth it.  This leads me to…
  4. Naps trump everything.  What, Van fell asleep in his car seat just minutes before we got to our destination?  Oh well, it looks like we’ll be missing that last tour of the day.  Enough said.
  5. It’s remarkably easy to get mail on the road.  We had heard of general delivery, but never actually used it.  Once we know that we’ll be in a certain area for a few days, I can call the local post office to confirm that they’ll receive general delivery.  One post office in each town will receive and hold mail addressed to you as long as it is sent to the post office via general delivery.  Then, once it has arrived, you go to the post office, show identification, and pick up your mail.  Simple as that!  By my second visit to the Dillard, Georgia post office, they knew my name as I stepped through the door and even gave me my mail after the post office had closed because they didn’t want to make me make another trip down the mountain.  What service!
  6. Any ill feelings I may have ever harbored toward McDonalds have all but disappeared.  Although we haven’t actually eaten anything at a McDonalds on this trip, we’ve made plenty of stops to their parking lot.  Because we’re using an inexpensive cell phone plan, we’ve turned off the data.  In order to check email or, more importantly while traveling, the weather without being charged an arm and a leg, we need to find a free wi-fi spot.  Starbucks and McDonalds provide free wi-fi, but there are many more of the latter than the former, especially where we’ve been traveling.  As long as we can find a McDonalds, we can check email and make sure we’re not in for any torrential downpours.   And it’s probably only a matter of time before we break down and order one of their burgers or shakes.  Alan jokes that Van is not going to realize that McDonalds even serves food – he’ll just think of it as a place to pick up some free internet for a few minutes.
  7. When you have the option, stay at a state or federal campground.  They’re cheaper, they provide many of the same amenities, they’re cheaper, there are more tenters, they’re cheaper.  And did I mention that they’re cheaper?  It is amazing the difference in price we’ve seen for private and public campgrounds separated by only a few miles.  It’s true that many of the private campgrounds have pools and playgrounds and game pavilions, but many of the nice public campgrounds also have playgrounds and pools (or even better, lakes) and nice, hot showers.  While not all public campgrounds have hot showers or even running water, with a little bit of investigating, you can save a lot of money by staying at the nicer public campgrounds.  The one drawback that we’ve seen so far is that private campgrounds are not affected by the sequester or state budget cutbacks.  Public campgrounds are, which is why we had fewer camping options earlier in our trip.  That being said, most of the private campgrounds in those areas were also closed as we were apparently visiting too early in the season.
  8. Eggs in a cooler present several issues.  First, if you buy them in cardboard, the cardboard is quickly rendered useless by the melting ice.  Second, if they find their way towards the bottom of the cooler and become encased in ice, they will freeze and no amount of thawing will turn your egg back to what you once had.  No matter, it’s still edible, but you may not be able to make that nice sunny side up egg you had planned.
  9. Kids don’t need many store-bought toys.  Yes, I knew this already, as I’m sure almost all parents do.  But it wasn’t until this trip that I truly got it.  We packed away boxes of Van’s toys into storage and chose only a handful of small toys that could fit in one box for our trip.  Van has played with a few things from that box over the last month, but the vast majority of the toys we brought have remained untouched.  Instead, he obsesses over rocks, leaves, and sticks (especially sticks).  He also loves climbing steps, over big logs, across bridges, and up and down hills.  Our evenings are spent to the tune of “more sticks, more sticks, more big logs, more big logs” on repeat while Van scours the campsite for sticks and logs to make a fire.  He has plenty of toys at his disposal, just not the ones we packed for him.