What the Heck Are We Doing?

What The Heck Are We Doing

In less than two weeks we are leaving this cozy log cabin in Olympia, WA and moving into our cargo van for the summer (hopefully longer if we’re allowed back in the US in the fall!).  We’re both super excited because we’ve been wanting to do this for years, and because we’ve put a lot of time, effort, and money into getting the van ready for the roadtrip of a lifetime.

Beyond the excitement, we’re also terrified and keep asking ourselves: “what the heck are we doing?” and “why do we want to live in a tiny space with no running water and no toilet?”  If I’m completely honest with you, there is a lot of fear and self-doubt going on at this stage in the game, but after going through this process so many times we know that feeling fear before a big change is normal.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. – Nelson Mandela

I usually dissolve into a messy puddle of tears before a trip because I am afraid of leaving my friends and family, afraid of leaving the comfort and safety of home, afraid of the unknown.  Strangely enough, my meltdown about our van life project happened 2 years ago when Mat and I were on a 2-week road trip along the West Coast of Australia.

Australia Road Trip - Rental Car - Exploring Alternatives

Road tripping in Australia: this rental car was our home for 2 weeks

Australia Road Trip - Sleeping in the Rental Car - Exploring Alternatives

Road tripping in Australia: aside from a few nights in the tent we mostly slept in the front seats of the car

We’d been having the time of our lives driving to remote beaches, looking for kangaroos, and showering with wet wipes.  We loved being on the road so much that we were talking about buying a van when we got home so that we could take a road trip across Canada.  Then one night, when we were camping in the front seats of our rental car (surrounded by other campervans and RV’s), Mat came back from the outhouse and told me that all of the other campers had disappeared.  His story convinced me that we had somehow missed a warning to evacuate the area or that all of the campers had mysteriously vanished and, out of fear, I swore that I would never go camping again – especially not in B.C. because of the grizzly bears.

Fast forward to the present, and we’re about to do exactly what I was afraid of.

Campervan - Exploring Alternatives

Our road tripping adventuremobile

Our future friends? (photo credit: Ny of ilashdesigns)

Even though we’re often terrified before a big change we try not to let it stop us because we’ve learned that there’s (almost) always something amazing waiting for us on the other side.  We put our plans in motion despite our fears so that it’s too late to change our minds when the time comes.

A really good example of this “technique” is a video we just watched from the First Retirement Sabbatical Adventure blog when Jackson goes bungee jumping.  He managed to get to the site, pay the fee, learn how to jump and was at the edge of the platform before his fear tried to stop him from doing what he obviously wanted to do.  By then it was too late for him to change his mind and the momentum of his actions (a.k.a. the bungee jumping instructor) pushed him the rest of the way.

How do you cope with fear of the unknown?  With fear of change?  Do you let it stop you or do you find a way past it?

Happy Exploring!


17 thoughts on “What the Heck Are We Doing?

  1. Terri

    I am kind of doing the same thing as you guys in that I am making plans and moving things forward to a point where I can’t stop. I’ve signed the contract on a micro house and land and am going through the loan underwriting process for it and will soon start selling a bunch of my stuff! I used to let the fear stop me but no more!

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hey Terri – that’s soooooo exciting! Are you having your micro house built, or did you find one you liked that was ready to move into? Congratulations on taking action despite your fears – I’m sure you’ll find that it’s a very rewarding process (even though it seems hard at first!). xo

  2. Erin

    Danielle, it’s great you raise these questions. In a lot of ways travelling is easier and safer than it’s ever been, but there are always things that come up when you’re in a new place and away from familiar sights/sounds/people. There are times I’ve been afraid and calmed myself by playing out the rational or likely scenario. There are other times where I decided to follow the fear to change plans. I guess we never really know the future so fear can be helpful to catch red flags and respond to them. Jackson was definitely relieved when he was finally back up on the bridge after bungee jumping, but he’s sure he will not be doing it again. So, sometimes it’s something to be overcome and sometimes it’s okay to listen to it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hi Erin – you make such a good point about needing to know the difference between a good, rational fear and an irrational fear. I was just reading a FB post by Where’s My Office Now about how Corey had his bike stolen hours after he had a bad feeling about someone near their van. I’ve heard of many other people having this same 6th sense when something bad is about to happen.

      Also, I’m super proud of Jackson for jumping. I climbed a 3-storey lookout last weekend and could barely make it back down without having a meltdown. He’s brave for doing it even once! <3

  3. Lamar

    Great van.I hope you both have a great and safe adventure. Thanks for sharing your ideas and travels..I was wondering if you could put up a video showing the supports holding up your bed ? I have a van like yours that I would like to add a bed to…I know you have installed your furnishings with no excess weight.. Thanks again..L.G.

  4. Lamar

    I posted a question about the bed support. Not sure you got it..Sorry I am not very good with posting comments.. Thanks again L.G.

    1. PJ

      I’m also curious about how you set up your bed. Did you build a platform? We used a regular metal bed frame and cut various lengths of PVC pipe to stick the legs in because some of the legs are either on the wheel cover or the step because we situated our bed farther forward in the van. That gives us storage in back for a couple of feet, but also makes it a tight squeeze to get and out of the side door unless the front passenger seat is all the way forward. We are thinking about trying your setup.

    2. Danielle Post author

      Hey L.G. – I just answered your comment on another post but wanted to put it here in case anyone else is curious :)

      The bed is actually the bench that came with the van and it just folds down into an oddly shaped bed that is approx. the width of a queen sized bed, but lacks the length of any normal bed so our feet hang off the end! Mat puts the cooler at the foot to provide a little extension.

  5. Lamar

    For an awning idea ,,look at Bus depot ,,they sell one that attaches to your rain rail…Made for a VW but will work on your van…It can also be enclosed…Just FYI..L.G.

    1. PJ

      Thanks for that information Lamar! I’d never heard of those awnings and I think they would be a great addition to our camping setup.

  6. Martin

    Exactly that I’m going thru with my new Blog and recent life changes. But you are right that instant when you force yourself to do your thing is the best decision you make. I’ve experienced many times and always glad I did it.

    1. Danielle Post author

      I’m so glad you feel the same way (and that you push through the doubt). It really is rewarding :)

  7. Wayne

    Danielle, the fears are so totally normal. I’ve done two 4 month road trips living out of my SUV and despite the same “what the heck am I doing?” questions I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m working towards number three and am way more prepared this time. I’ve invested in an old 1971 vintage travel trailer despite all my concerns about the extra expense, fears of it breaking down etc. I simply feel like the extra room will be welcomed this time around.

    Funny thing is I noticed a leak in it two days ago. Started panicking as I’m admittedly NOT very handy. Today I went in and started ripping it apart to find, assess and fix the leak and redo that part of the inside. Facing my nervous apprehensions head on.

    These adventures we experience become way more important than any fears. It’s always good to follow your gut instinct on the road but when it comes to those irrational fears we really have to step back and put them all in perspective.

    I always remind myself of this when I start to freak out. “Am I more afraid of dying while commuting to a day job that I despise or am I more afraid of the adventures that wait for me out there?” The answer is always easy. People die in car accidents on their way to work everyday. People can also die on road trips and camping adventures too. The difference I think would be that the latter may not have many regrets. :)

    I enjoy your writing and have checked out many of your videos. You and Mat are awesome storytellers and I hope to run into you both on the road one day soon. With any luck, I leave in December… and I don’t even know where I’m going first yet.

    Cheers and safe travels,

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Wayne,

      Thank you for your comment! It always feels nice to hear that we’re not the only ones with fears. I love your strategy of facing them head on, and of putting them into perspective too.

      I hope your 3rd road trip is even better than the first 2 and we might just run into you on the road :)

      Happy travels!


  8. Crunshii

    Hey guys, thank you for sharing your story, it is really inspiring and informative!!!

    I’m a web guy that’s been working in the computer field, behind a desk for the past 15 years, always helping and taking care of family (parents/brothers/sisters – no kids of wife yet!) and I am currently in the process of going on a photog adventure around the USA for months to come. Been saving up and hoping I can make some cash on the go either by photography or creating websites. My quick plans is to get a Honda Element and do a camper conversion on it, and will try to see if I can do the solar panel project that you guys did on your van! for fridge & night time A/C + charging computers and cameras. I will keep you guys updated, just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing, I will embrace the fears!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Crunshii,

      Your Honda Element conversion plan and your photography adventure both sound amazing! Definitely keep us posted – we’d love to hear how everything goes/looks when you’re done!

      Happy Exploring :)


  9. leaking toilet

    Hi, it’s a pretty good post. I do agree your pointsyou’ve present on this post. Toilet problems are always nasty but you have to do, also the repair payment is not cheap. Most of time I prefer to do the job by myself. Do you still have any other articles about this title?

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