What a year. It’s been…a lot. A lot of struggle, sadness and frustration, and a lot of goodness, togetherness and growth, all mixed up together. In hindsight, the year 2020 has taken so much from so many, but it has also given many people priceless insight and opportunity. For us, it has given the gift of togetherness, of re-examining our perceptions of the way life can be lived. It has reminded us of what we sometimes take for granted and has humbled us in the things we are grateful for.
We started the year off with a trip to New Mexico in February, just before the Coronavirus became a worldwide Pandemic. We didn’t even know of its existence until we were on our way home from this trip. The first images in the photographic exploration of our year below are from our time spent at White Sands National Park. The girls loved playing (and sledding down) the dunes there, and Mark and I were captivated by the beauty of this place at the edges of day. It is most certainly on my list of locations to return to and spend more time.
When we returned home, the outbreak of the virus came into full swing, so we hunkered down. The girls dove into art projects to keep themselves busy (including dying their own hair). And I went into full blown home improvement mode. Tearing down the wallpaper and repainting the entire house. We also did a lot of work on making the girls rooms exactly how they wanted them! Meanwhile, even though my work had basically come to a stand-still as far as booking new sessions, Mark was as busy ever helping his clients navigate the current situation and plan for the future. But for us girls, there were many lazy mornings and a lot of down time for things like journaling, reading, and spontaneously jumping into the pool…which you’ll never hear me complain about! Unfortunately, those were the silver linings of a time filled with much fear, uncertainty and sadness. We lost a close family friend to Covid during this time, and the levity of the situation has weighed heavy on our hearts and minds.
Over the summer, we decided that perhaps our RV was the perfect place to continue to social distance while still being able to travel and get out into nature. We set out on a trip out west that took us from The Grand Canyon, to Moab, then on to Montana (where we spent our first wedding anniversary!) through Colorado and all the way back to Louisiana. It was so nice to get outside. And as an added bonus, I’ve never in my life seen some of the places we visited (like Grand Canyon National Park , Yellowstone National Park, Zion ,Arches National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park -yes we visited all of these on this trek) as void of people as they were during this time. It was truly a special experience.
One of the most life changing things that this year has taught our family is that work life doesn’t have to look the way that most people have always assumed it does. 9-5 hours usually spent away at the office, a commute, a suit and tie…all of those things were just part of a typical day for Mark most of the time. Until this year. When lockdown forced everyone into a work from home scenario he did what everyone else had to do, he adapted. And do you know what we figured out? It works. Not only does it work, but it has been a beautiful change in what our day to day lives look like, and I’ll even go as far as to say that I believe Mark has been able to take better care of his clients than ever before! Why? Because this change has given us the flexibility to go on the road. To travel. And when Mark is immersed in nature, it brings out the very best in him. Therefore he is able to give his clients even more of the best of himself. I have documented him over the year taking client calls from mountaintops to RV campsites to roadside stops…once while we were getting a chip in the window repaired he even took a client call sitting next to a dumpster. Haha. Take a look for yourself, they say a picture says a thousand words. This has actually been one of the most productive years of his career and he’s done most of it while working from home and on the road. The point is, this year has opened our eyes to the possibility of a new reality going forward…how amazing is that?
Oh, and did I mention that on the way home from this road trip we got the chance to stay at an Alpaca farm in KS? We have been LOVING the program Harvest Hosts this year and have had the opportunity to stay at some amazing farms, wineries, etc. If you’re into RV life it’s definitely worth checking out!
After our summer adventure, we spent a few weeks at home and then headed to Missouri to help my parents renovate their new house! We set up camp in their front yard and the RV became Mark’s office for the week while I assumed the part-time job of “popcorn ceiling scraper”. I also learned to cut and install dry wall and use a hand saw. It was a lot of work but a lot of fun and it has been super satisfying seeing everything come together for them there. We also managed to sneak in a couple of lake days filled with paddle boarding and some time spent with my cousin and her family. All in all a busy but rewarding trip.
Because of all the craziness and uncertainty of the times, I decided to enroll the girls in virtual school this year. So when August rolled around, we actually began our fist day of classes from the RV as we headed back to Louisiana! Virtual school has been both frustrating and rewarding at the same time. My favorite things about it are the slow mornings, not having to rush around, and of course the ability for us to travel and still be in school! It is also a lot of work, and to be honest I’ve been slightly disenchanted with what they’ve been learning and how it is being taught on the particular platform they have been using. This mama is seriously considering homeschooling in the very near future.
This fall, and during the school year, we also managed to sneak in a couple of trips to Florida and another BIG trek to the East Coast! We spent a few days at Smoky Mountain National Park, one of our favorite places, and then made our way all the way to Vermont to spend some time with Mark’s brother and sister in law. We made sure to have planned out days where we were sure to be connected to wifi so Mark could hold his scheduled meetings and the girls could do their online schooling, but the flexibility we gained in not having to be tied to a particular location was so liberating! On the way to Vermont we drove in through upstate New York and stayed at another amazing Harvest Hosts location where we were able to do some hiking in the beautiful fall foliage, feed and take care of their animals, and pick some apples right from the tree! After our stay in Vermont we spent a day in Salem, MA. during the perfect time of year, just before Halloween! We all enjoyed the rich history and witchy vibes. On our way back home we were able to stop in New Jersey and see the location of the famous duels from “Hamilton”, which has been my oldest daughter’s obsession lately, and we even took a ferry over to NYC! The girls were thrilled to be able to walk around times square for the first time. Then, to finish up the trip we spent a day in Washington DC, which is now another place on my list of places to which we will have to return and spend more time.
We made it home just in time for Halloween. The girls were actually both super cute this year (they usually choose to be something terrifying) and they decided on being a cow and a lemur!
The rest of the year has been a bit of a blur. I always feel this way around the Holidays. I think it’s been filled with mostly virtual school to be honest! But in all seriousness, though this year hasn’t been “normal” and it hasn’t been easy, it has been good in many unexpected ways. We were given the gift of more time together. We were given the gift of slowing down. We were given the gift of change and growth and broadening our perceptions…and through all of the sadness we were given the gift of feeling a little more deeply and loving a little more fiercely.
So with a grateful heart for the year passed, I look forward to the new year with open arms. Here’s to the new adventures that 2021 will bring!
Follow along on our adventures through 2021 on Instagram!