Raising a Van Child

Settling back down after a life on the road can be tough at first, especially for those of us with itchy feet. There are, however, many different ways to have grand adventures. A year after arriving back home in Colorado we embarked on the major adventure of parenthood.

Our new little family.

When Tobin came into our lives, almost three weeks early (and on Emily’s birthday), we had no idea what we were getting into. The past two years have been a rollercoaster of joy, frustration, giggles, growth, tears, and love. We are doing our best to learn how to be calm and patient parents, while also taking care of ourselves. One of the things that we discussed at length before deciding to start a family was how we wanted to keep traveling, exploring, and having adventures with our child and not get stuck in the daily grind. We were impressed and inspired by all of the families we met on the road and all of the blogs we have read of people traveling with kids of all ages. So we have made sure to give Tobin plenty of van time, as well as other types of adventures.

It’s hard to tell yet whether or not Tobin has the inherent wander lust that drives both of us, but so far he’s been a great traveler. He absolutely loves airplanes and airports, as well as trains, buses, and pretty much anything with wheels. He loves to drive, that is to stand on the driver’s seat and turn the steering wheel, move the levers, turn all the knobs, and press all the buttons. When we point to a picture of Chimera he says “Tobin’s van”, so we seem to be on the right track.

Vans are awesome!

Watching the world go by.

“Tobin’s van”

Our first van adventure with Tobin was when he was only three months old. We drove a few hours west to Colorado National Monument. We had a great time slowly driving through the park and taking advantage of the opportunity to stop at all of the viewpoints and rest areas. We did a few short hikes and Tim took a long run through the canyons. It was spring so the nighttime temperatures were quite cool, but we all stayed warm cuddled up together in our cozy van bed.

Tobin’s first van camping trip.

Camping in Colorado National Monument.

Emily and Tobin enjoying the vistas at Colorado National Monument.

Camping in Colorado National Monument.

Road tripping with a baby is easy because they sleep most of the time. We took advantage of this fact a few months later on our next van trip out to the west coast. After a few longs days of driving we arrived in Eugene, Oregon, where we met up with a bunch of Emily’s family for an eclipse party. Witnessing a total solar eclipse is something that simply cannot be described. It was an incredible experience and we hope to incorporate more eclipses into our future travel plans. Tobin, on the other hand, was not impressed and slept right through it, that is until we all started whooping and hollering at totality.

Eclipse viewing in Oregon.

Snuggly van morning in eastern Oregon.

After the eclipse we party took our time meandering down the Oregon and northern California coasts, where Tobin got his first views of the ocean. We spent a weekend in Santa Cruz for a wedding, and then another stop to visit family before heading back to Colorado.

Tobin’s first trip to the beach.

Beach bum and baby.

Foggy morning on the northern California coast.

Loving the redwoods in northern California.

We’ve done the drive from Colorado to California several times and we always prefer to take Highway 50 – the Loneliest Highway in America. It truly is lonely, with only the occasional car or truck passing by, but that adds to the quiet beauty of the sagebrush hills and the occasional cottonwood stands in the rhythmic basin and range landscape. It’s easy to find a great place to boondock camp out there and we always appreciate the vastness of the sky on those nights.

Happy baby and daddy at a rest stop on the way back home.

Last fall we met up with friends in Yosemite National Park. Tim drove out alone, while Emily and Tobin flew to Sacramento to first visit with family, then we all met up near the park. We spent a few fun days hiking and biking around Yosemite, appreciating the natural beauty.

Chimera posing on the way into Yosemite National Park.

Tobin striking a pose in front of Half Dome.

Taking a turn behind the wheel in Yosemite.

Tobin in his favorite sweater in Yosemite.

Flying high on the way to Yosemite Falls.

This time the drive back was much more challenging as toddler Tobin now sleeps less and demands more entertainment. We generally try to avoid screen time, so that meant one of us reading books, feeding snacks, and animating toys for hours. We could no longer put in the long driving stretches and planned stops every few hours, preferably by a playground. It was an exhausting drive home and taught us the hard lesson of how we need to slow down and make more room in our travel plans (and our lives in general) to accommodate the pace of a toddler. We also had to modify our van living arrangements as the three of us can no longer fit in our narrow van bed. Tim was booted from Chimera and slept (peacefully) in a tent, while Emily attempted to share a bed with a restless toddler. Soon we will make alternate sleeping arrangements, so that Tobin is in his own bed, and hopefully we can all have sweet van nights.

At a favorite lunch spot along Highway 50.

It’s so true what people say about having a child that “the days are long but the years are short.” The past few years have flown by and we are enjoying family life in Boulder and our various adventures, but we are starting to feel the doldrums of the daily grind, the weight of material possessions, and that deep restlessness. We enjoy living vicariously through our overlanding friends and every blog post we read stirs that longing for the open road. We discuss timing and destinations, grand dreams and explorations, but so far nothing has solidified into a real plan. It’s only a matter of time before the wind carries us off again and this time we will have new eyes to see the world through and a new purpose to our travels – to show our son more of the beauty of this world and to share with him the joy of adventure.

4 thoughts on “Raising a Van Child

  1. Great story- I hope doors soon open for further van adventures! Keep Gram and Gramp in your plans if ever you’d enjoy company ?.

  2. Love this amazing and inspiring story! It brings back memories of our travels with wee ones. I have managed to remember the sweetness and have more blurry recollections of the more difficult aspects of occupying little minds. Tobin is so fortunate to experience life on the road with his wanderlusting parents! We love highway 50 too – and Nevada’s (and Utah’s) public lands that offer so much peace and expansive vistas. Here’s to the Joy of Adventure! Hope your travels allow you a stop in Reno someday. You are always welcome!

  3. This was a great read. I met you guys on the coast of El Salvador in 2014. We hung out for the day and then continued on our respective Pan American odysseys. Since then I’ve settled back into “the grind” out in California. My wife and I just had a son last month, and I often find myself wondering how to balance the wanderlust with my growing responsibilities. Glad to see you guys are finding a way, not only for yourselves, but inspiring your son as well. I’ll take a page from that book

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