We often wonder about our Legacy. Just the other day, straight off of US Freestyle Team Trials, Dan and I were sitting in a City Market parking lot, drinking a cup of coffee, enjoying a rare moment of quiet. We had left the RV under the auspices of “running errands” amidst a dozen pleas to accompany us.
Now, mind you, this is not a rare phenomenon. As parents of 12, we are escape artists, we are the Houdini’s of RV living. Of course, we also have a child or two who are accomplices in our get-away, but we run when we need to. And after the crazy, awesome, exhilarating, and emotional experience that was the US Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials, we needed to decompress.
So, on this particular day, we found ourselves reminiscing, talking about how amazed we are that we got to this place in life. A life that, while not easy by any stretch, is incredibly fulfilling. Amazed at the Legacy we somehow have managed to cement. It’s funny, when you look back over the years and are able to see all the pieces that had to fall together to complete the puzzle. And, while we are more than aware that our puzzle isn’t complete, it is, without a doubt, world’s away from where we started.
Dan prompted the conversation by saying, “I can’t believe we are able to give the kids these kinds of experiences,” referring, of course, to the unbelievably blessed life of traveling full time. I mean, with 12 kids, money is tight. They need to eat, they need clothes and shoes and, occasionally, medical care for things like serious concussions for throwing double back flips off jumps while snowboarding. They also need gear for all these extreme sports that we love so much.
And, while North American travel has and continues to be great, world travel, in our eyes, is even more amazing. Through kayaking, Grady and Brody, had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks in Europe to attend the US Freestyle World Cup in Spain a few years ago. That was the greatest experience of their young lives.
And now, Kady, Kenny and Dally, along with their coaches Grady and Brody and a bunch of their friends, are all going to Argentina to represent the USA at the World Championships in November. It’s mind-blowing to me, it really is. Kayaking has literally opened up the world to our family. And, the community, the people that comprise our circle as we travel, have changed our lives and filled it with so much goodness.
This would never have happened if we continued down the road of school, work, etc. Kayaking isn’t a high school sport, neither is snowboarding. Our kids did the soccer, softball, football, hockey, basketball scene. They had fun. Until … kayaking. It literally changed our lives, changed the Legacy we were developing. Immediately, no-one wanted to go to football practice anymore, or soccer, or even hockey, instead they wanted to go to the river.
Next thing you know, we were homeschooling, we bought an RV, we started traveling and then we never went home.
It’s funny. When our story, the salacious story of a family of 14 ditching everything to travel the country in an RV, first hit the airwaves, we got a ton of hate. We were called selfish and crazy and even worse. We were thought to be on both public assistance and trust funders.
The mentality that one would willfully sacrifice that which society values the most: the house, the cars, the status, the power, to live in a 300 sq ft moving box was crazy to most, it was insane and had to be made with ulterior motives.
But the purity with which we made that decision was undeniable. We felt so strongly that our kids deserved to know there was more to life than working to pay bills. Now, I’m aware that saying has become mainstream, almost dull, but that doesn’t change its truthfulness. While having a job, making money is absolutely essential to life, it doesn’t have to be, nor should it be, the entirety of one’s life. And that’s where society has fallen. Too much focus on college and degrees and paychecks, and not nearly enough on life and life experiences.
We are fully aware of the fact that we didn’t choose the easy path. It’s a rather tough road and, I have to tell you, even we are not immune to getting caught up in the desire to have more, want more.
I mean, take our RV, it’s a 1999, not even of this century. It’s a year younger than Kady. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear we would love to have a new luxury RV as sometimes it feels we are merely ½ a step up from tent camping.
I mean, we are the quintessential, the legit, the authentic dirt bag kayakers and while everyone else around us is trying to fake it, as they sleep in their pricey cars, hit up hotels, and eat out every day, we’d love to upgrade from this distinction.
And sometimes, not very often, but sometimes, when everything in the RV is falling apart and we are low on funds for whatever reason, we can begin to feel as though we are sacrificing everything for very little. It’s laughable, I know. When I look back on those instances I shake my head and promise to remember how silly I am for the next time it happens.
Because here we are. Traveling. Kayaking. Snowboarding. Living and loving life. We are surrounded by people who support us and propel us to be better, to do better. We have built a family and an extended family that will stand the test of time. The wisdom that surrounds us is incomparable. It’s so massive, so undeserving. It dissolves all wants and replaces with only needs.
Sacrifice is beautiful. But, when it is replaced with blessings, be still my heart. And all you need is a change in perspective to realize you aren’t even sacrificing, but rather being abundantly blessed.
And, I’m here to tell you, if we can do it, any one of you can. Money doesn’t make you happy. Money only buys stuff. Happiness is found only in love. Love of your spouse, your children, God, and life.
The other day, some person, name to remain undisclosed, implied that Dan had it easy. This individual is part of a two income household, making well into the 6-figures. They own two homes and travel extensively to luxurious islands. Whereas, Dan has 12 kids, a wife and all the bills that come with us.
Money is nothing. This individual has a lot of money, but has not love. This person is unhappy, even with all that money and looks at us, dirt broke most of the time, as “having it all”.
Another person, experiencing marital issues recently confided in me that he, despite being worth millions, wished he lived in a small ranch home and struggled to make his monthly payments … perspective. He only wants love and happiness, money be damned.
So true, we may be sacrificing much, but what we receive in return is tenfold. It makes whatever the sacrifices seem so minimal. So ridiculous.
So, sure, we are sacrificing luxuries, but for experiences with our kids. We are sacrificing the nice car, the show-worthy kitchen, the luxury vacations for time with family, for our Legacy … that, my friends, is priceless. That is riches beyond measure.
And, so yes, Dan, I cannot believe we have done what we set out to do. We have beat the system. And, if we can, so can you … but you have to want it more than you want societal goods.
Susie and family,
I came across an old video of the family in Alabama at Locust Fork (I live in Bama)…I love y’all’s story, the love you have for each other, and all that you and Dan have done to raise some pretty awesome kids! My wife and I have a grown son, and we are very amateur kayakers – we wish we would have introduced our son to this sport earlier – we love being on the water. We too pulled our son out of elementary school and homeschooled him through high school and never looked back – what a blessing it was! I would love to talk to you or Dan sometime. God bless!