My Last Post From the Road

Do not trouble your hearts overmuch with thought of the road tonight. Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them. (From Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings)

It’s Thursday afternoon as I write this, and it’s quiet and it’s hot. A few flies buzz around the door where the sun reaches in and scorches the bus’s black leather passenger seat. Maile and the kids fled to a small lakeside beach not far from where we are parked. Through the vents I can hear the A/C rush and roar but it cannot catch up.

The bus is messy, as it usually is at this time in the afternoon. An empty cereal box stands at leaning attention. A sippy cup, a styrofoam cup, a random shoe, a plastic deer, and a John Deere tractor clutter the floor under the table. The couch I’m sitting on holds a box of Legos, two of the kids’ backpacks, Maile’s purse, and a pile of homeschooling folders.

But soon it will all be over. By Saturday night we hope to have this bus parked in my parents’ driveway, and by Monday it will be cleaned out. We will probably never spend a night in it again. How strange.

Two weeks ago we were parked in a beautiful campground in South Dakota, wearing sweaters and coats. One month ago, Salinas, California, and we hadn’t yet lost our brakes. Five or six weeks ago, we were in windy Amarillo, a visit that seems to have taken place years in the past. Tulsa, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Sarasota, Gainesville, Orlando, Charlotte, Bremo Bluff – all seem like settings in a book I read, long ago.

Four months ago (or one week before we left on our trip), I could not have begun to envision the amazing people we were about to meet in person, or the awesomeness of the landscape, or the heart-in-mouth moments of stress, anger and fear. We’ve experienced things I never could have imagined.

* * * * *

This is an adventure: setting out to do something that doesn’t make sense, something for which you are not completely equipped, something that takes you into a place fraught with danger or uncertainty. This is true of changing professions or moving or writing a book. It is true of saying hello to a stranger or giving away money for which you had a very good use. There are many ways to embark on an adventure, and very few of them involve a big blue bus named Willie.

Also, this about adventures: there are many terrible things that can happen along the way, and many terrible things that WILL happen along the way, but the worst thing that could possibly happen is that you return unchanged.

* * * * *

We return from our adventure with very little to show for it – at least in a material sense. We have a good deal less money, not much work lined up, and for at least a few weeks we will be living with our parents. Again. By most measures used by this world, taking this trip was a mistake, and it has left us worse off than when we began.

Thankfully, there are other means with which to measure a life. Ones less arbitrary than the numbers on a bank statement.

I know my wife better than I did before. I now understand why she wanted to take the trip, something I didn’t know before we left. I have a better understanding of what she needs from me, and I understand (at least a little more) how I can provide her with that. I now see that she does put her right hand up over her chest while she reads something that moves her.

I’ve learned how much my children need me to be present for them. What a soft heart Cade has. Lucy’s yearning for affection. Abra’s enjoyment of a messy, crazy, moving life. How, when Sam watches the landscape go by, it tames his savage side. His “Red Rackham” side.

I’ve changed, too, but in less tangible ways, ways that I have trouble articulating. At least right now. Give me a few days. I’ll let you know.

* * * * *

It has been quite an adventure. I wish you knew how much I appreciated the fact that you took the time to join us, to read our posts, to comment, to encourage. The countless emails that I received from people who were inspired by our trip in turn inspired us to keep going. We didn’t always want to keep going. But we did.

So for now I say good-bye from the road. The next time we meet, I’ll be in my parent’s basement again. Full circle. Looking for writing work. Going to visit grandma. Taking my aunt for her chemo treatments, if she’ll have me. That’s another thing I’ve learned on this trip: I can have little adventures every day, if I’ll just get outside of myself for a minute.

In the words of JRR Tolkien, who penned perhaps the greatest adventure story ever written:

Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.

Finally, this:

Take an adventure. I can see it in your eyes. You could use one.

* * * * *

Photograph used with permission. Copyright Michelle Walls.

44 Replies to “My Last Post From the Road”

  1. Shawn, I’m only sorry that I joined your adventure too far into it. However, I’m looking forward to joining your adventures going forward.

  2. Ah, yes. the end of the road, of this particular road. It’s been absolutely grand, Shawn. And I have a hunch it ain’t over yet. The road running may be done for a while, but the adventure? Nope. Not a chance. Prayers for re-entry, for comfort for your family as your grandmother says good-bye, for your aunt as she wades through continuing treatment. And for Maile and for you and for each of those amazing kiddoes – that you will keep the most important parts of this experience deep within, that you’ll continue to let them change you, that you’ll find the next ‘road’ at exactly the right time.

    1. Thank you, Diana. You’re voice has been such a constant source of encouragement. It’s meant a lot to Maile and I throughout the trip.

  3. “Thankfully, there are other means with which to measure a life. Ones less arbitrary than the numbers on a bank statement.”

    Thankful indeed. Otherwise, I surely would not measure up.

  4. My friend, as we set our Relay For Life here, as this small town adventure begins, I am – as always – inspired by you. Tomorrow, as we Relay, as I shave my head and long for sleep, I will be thinking of you and Maile and your beautiful aunt. . . . adventure really is where you choose to find it and take it. Thank you for this trip. Thank you for you.

    1. All the best, Andi! I can’t wait to see pictures of you with your new ‘do! Thanks for providing us with such a memorable stop on our trip.

  5. This is a beautiful line Shawn: “the worst thing that could possibly happen is that you return unchanged.” While I would add a footnote that perhaps careening off the side of a mountain would be worse, I still understand the sentiment and take your point. There are risks and losses by not embarking on the journey. Those risks and losses feel far worse because nothing has been ventured, nothing new has been experienced, and no lessons have been learned. I’ll continue to chew on that, but I’m going to have the brakes on my car checked out first…

  6. My heart tells me that this end is only the beginning for you. I will wait with all the others to see what comes next. Thanks for saving a seat for us on the bus. We have all been changed for the better.

    1. Very kind of you Scott. I’m only disappointed that you didn’t get to step foot inside the bus. Perhaps if you guys can make it over to PA sometime…


    1. Thank you, Joyce. It’s been great getting to know you (or at least as much as one can in the comments section of a blog).

  8. Shawn, I feel a sadness to see your journey end, but thankfulness for the privilege of tagging along. My hubby says we must continue the adventure for you. How glad I am that we were able to start our journey sometime in the middle of yours – because I have gained courage and insight from your words. Our bus is not as big nor as blue as yours and our itinerary will be different, but I have been strengthened by what you’ve shared.

    May God energize you all as you trade your sea legs for roots and may your ongoing adventure be greatly blessed.

    1. True that. You and your family provided us with a much needed refuge in the middle of our trip. Thanks so much for that, Jen.

  9. Thank you Shawn
    It was a great trip for us too! We enjoyed hearing from you both. Your wife has a way of writing as well that invites my heart and soul to get involved and take action. You did a daring trip of which you were ill-prepared for, at least that’s what you said. But it seems so much like life itself. We encounter so much along the way that wasn’t expected and somehow those life experiences teach us things what we need for the rest of our lives. And especially when we ask and are watching for answers, we aren’t as likely to miss something that we will need to know!

    Blessings to you and your family as you settle back into some kind of routine.
    And blessings on your Grama…we got to see her the other evening and some of your extended family. Thats always a good time!

  10. I’m going to miss your tales from the road.
    But I am so, so excited for the next journey life takes you on.

    1. Our love right back at the McVicker clan! So great seeing you in Texas. Hopefully next time we all get together Charlie will be around.

  11. Your words, your story, the vision of your wife hand to chest being moved has touched me today. I am uncertain if I have read your journey before. I feel like I would remember if I had because I am so moved by your words. I am going to go back and read of all your adventures. I am certain each layer is as beautiful as this one. I must admit I have never watched Lord of The Rings, but think I will now because of the amazing quotes you posted here today. I find my best days are when I get out of my nest and explore. It is on these days when I meet divine connections. My husband and I both share this adventure. I saw him walking along the shoreline over the weekend not looking ahead or behind but below. I was shown in this moment that he too has become a journeyman in search of discovery that can only be found with intentional seeing.

  12. While I rarely commented during your trip, I was a faithful follower and admirer from afar. You’ve kindled in me a need to be more daring in my daily life and for that I’m grateful. Prayers for you, your extended family and particularly your grandmother.

  13. You’ve received such priceless gifts, Shawn! Truly, the adventure has only just begun for you. These months will carry you through the unknown days ahead. Good things await. I am praying for you all as you prepare to see your Grandma and as you navigate what comes next.

    And this adventure you speak of? Well, let’s just say I had the craziest idea the other day and it doesn’t involve me leaving home.

    1. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you while on our journey, Leanne. Thanks for helping to spread the message. I look forward to our next trip, when Canada will certainly be on the itinerary.

  14. I’ve appreciated journeying with you, Shawn, as my family and I just this week uprooted and moved somewhere else too. For us, we’re back home, where I started, where I’m still trying to catch my breath to reconcile the past to the immeasurable, unforeseeable, totally daunting, future. I don’t feel so alone knowing you and your family and just as adventurous as my family is. Thank you, and welcome to your new life. It will be new now, you do know, yes?

  15. This aunt, the one with tears in her eyes, would love for you to sit with her while she does chemo. I love you, Shawn.

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