You CAN Go Home Again

Empty chairs in the Adirondacks

You can’t go home again, wrote Thomas Wolfe. He means we can’t return to “the escapes of time and memory,” those days of youth we reminisce about, a happily tinted past filled with cotton candy and water slides. I think he’s right.

After 15 months on the road, we scooped up the van from its summer parking spot in Idaho and drove to Portland, pulling in for landing earlier this week. Our trip, initially planned as a four month jaunt, finally hit a juncture where no location beckoned us more than planting our feet back home…so here we are. Our tenants’ lease was conveniently up, so we don’t even have to park the van down by the river!

The map! Starting in Portland in the top left, we headed south...and just kept going.

The map! Starting in Portland in the top left, we headed south…and just kept going. Each dot represents a place we stayed the night. The part along the top was our bike tour, and I ended it with our flight from Mexico to San Diego.

In a way, it feels like giving up. The traveler ego inside claws at my logical, time-for-a-break side and yells at me to not hang up the cleats, to keep going because we can! Well, shut yer stinkin’ yapper, ego. It’s time to rest up, wash off the dirt, and lace back up for the next run.

Part of pausing is to reflect. We’re both different people compared to when we left at the end of 2013, and we want to see how it feels to be home. Pre-trip slashing through the jungle of possessions and obligations and the subsequent travel afforded us the opportunity to be emotionally light, grow bedrock-strong in our relationship, and cultivate a sense of inner confidence that we can accomplish whatever we put our minds to. Rather than cement blocks of comfort solidified around our feet, there’s a fresh foundation under us that feels steady yet springy, a launch pad for whatever we aim for next.

Stepping over the threshold of our house made us feel like honeymooners moving into our first home. After three sets of tenants during our absence, it was a pleasant surprise to not see punched-in walls and broken windows, just spotless floors and gleaming glass. We left the house furnished, so the move was easy. Hauling a few armloads of gear and clothes in from the van, plus all the bikes, felt like a fresh slate and a new beginning. I’ll say this much: simple amenities of home attain a fresh sparkle when you’re on the road a long time, that’s for sure. Hooray for washing machines and dishwashers!


A fun number that I calculated was that the rent from our house during our time away more than paid for the Sprinter van. Considering my company allowed us to save money AND our tenants paid for our van, I’d say the “four month winter getaway” worked out nicely. Maybe we should do more of them? Twist my arm…

It’s only been two days, but I already am glad to be landed. I’ve only had one short freakout (while setting up internet, but who doesn’t hate talking to CenturyLink?) that I quickly solved by going for a run up a local mountain. Missed you, Mt. Tabor. More importantly, I’ve connected with a number of close friends and it feels like no time at all has passed, a mark of a great relationship. Seeing them reinforces why we invest so much into our community and friendships. Heck, I ran into three friends just on a walk to lunch on our first day back – it was practically an episode of Cheers!

On top of the memories of this trip, I’m grateful to call many places across the U.S. home. Comfortable friendships and feeling at home in cities all over the place is a gift we are lucky to have received. So while you can’t go “home” to a place the way it thrives in your memories, we can cultivate new homes, even in places we’ve lived before, and I’m finding a new appreciation for old haunts as we touched down during January in San Diego and Idaho before picking up the van.

It will be exciting to hit the road for another adventure when we do. (Utah in April, anyone?) In the meantime, our schedule is filled with time with friends, a plant-based nutrition course for Chelsea, short trips to the mountains and coast, volunteering, yoga, and making sure my employees still know what I look like. Life is busy, but totally on our terms these days, and we’re going to make the most of it.

As a framed print on our dining room wall says, “Wherever we are together, that is home.” It’s great to be here.


P.S. The blog doesn’t die here, don’t worry!

Rolling toward Portland after our reunion with the Sprinter!

Rolling toward Portland on a foggy day after our reunion with the Sprinter! Seven months away from my buddy the van is just too long.

6 replies
  1. Scott
    Scott says:

    Ah… What an excellent and timely post. I just signed up to your blog, and you end your trip! 🙂

    I am considering and planning my “retirement” to a “mostly fulltime” RV lifestyle, and am really enjoying RVers blogs. I too am planning on renting out my house while I am gone (and find it somewhat surprising that so many others blogging just completely sell out there real estate instead of taking this route), I ALSO am planning on doing it with my wife, in a Class B (Promaster Winnebago Travato). Several things in common, so I cant wait to dig in to your journal from day one and see what I can glean from it. Thanks for writing and sharing.

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Ha! Sorry Scott. I waited FIFTEEN MONTHS for you to show up, and you had to wait that long to subscribe? 🙂

      Don’t worry, man. I’m not chopping the van into tiny little pieces and popping out twins. Lots more to write about and other adventures to pursue. In fact, I’ll have extra time not filled with sorting out hotels or biking 8 hours per day that should (I hope) allow me to write some posts like “What it’s REALLY like to live in a van for 8 months” and stuff like that.

      Glad to have you along for the ride. Drop me a line anytime with questions and perhaps we’ll run into you somewhere in this world sometime! Happy RVing, good sir.

  2. Jeffrey Fritts
    Jeffrey Fritts says:

    Welcome home to the Great Northwest. While my career in the Air Force didn’t move our family very often (only 13 moves in 26 years) with all the traveling I did, flying around, I most certainly can identify with the feeling of being home.
    After seven months of neglect how did your buddy the Sprinter feel about starting up? Was there a little battery charging necessary?
    For my 63rd birthday I bought another new bike. I answered the question on every cyclists and bike salesman’s mind, how many bikes does a cyclist need. As an engineer I know you will appreciate the formula: n + 1. The number of bicycles you already own plus one more. I take great pride in supporting small businesses and my LBS. I got tired of having fun riding and wanted to REALLY have fun so I have a Specialized Stump Jumper FSR Comp EVO 650B. Lets see…a beater for nasty weather, a cargo bike, a carbon fiber ‘go fast’ road bike, a full suspension MTB, and my pride Miss Abby the AWOL to tour with. I think that will do for this year. See you on the roads and trails!
    AKJeff Riding his AWOL or Stumpy or Roubaix or …

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Thanks for the welcome home! Didn’t make it through Walla Walla this time around, but we’ll see you sometime.

      Nicely done on the Stumpjumper! That sounds like a most-excellent ride. I got out on my MTB today for the first time in 7 months and it was so. much. fun.

      Keep rooting for sunshine and enjoy the spring!

  3. JacknJillTravel
    JacknJillTravel says:

    The great thing about home is that you can always go back. Again. And again. It’s been awesome following you guys on your adventure. Do you think you’ll keep the van around for the next one?

    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Sell the Sprinter?! We just got to know one another. Not a chance…especially since it’s back on the road at the end of March. Even if we were taking a longer break, there’s no way I’d sell it. Too many short, fun trips where it’s great fun to have a camper van.

      How goes your trip? Haven’t seen any blog posts come through the RSS feed recently… I’ll be down in Utah in April, any chance you’ll be there?


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