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In the Pursuit of Home

Four hours ago, I blew a fuse on my inverter. Four hours and twenty minutes ago, I didn’t even know what an inverter was or that half the plugs in my Airstream were powered by an inverter, which is monumentally different (and altogether far less powerful) than those plugs that are grounded.

Learning. Don’t plug a space heater into an inverter circuit.

If you’re worried about my lack of electric plugs at this point in the story, don’t be. My grounded plugs are still working and my Airstream itself has power (praise God because it’s a whopping seven degrees outside). The major concern here is that my interior Christmas lights are plugged into one of the inverter circuits. Oh, and so is my TV. So, I’ve spent the entirety of my evening with no lights and no Christmas movies. Naturally, my bah-hum-bug levels are skyrocketing through the roof.

Three hours on YouTube later (via my iPhone), I have learned how to undo my Airstream’s front seat cushions and shove my head into a small hole underneath the dining seat (while trying to remember what was said in aforementioned YouTube videos). Really, I have no choice but to fix this thing. Plan B is not an option because, well, it doesn’t exist. Hard fact: I’m not rolling this tin can out of here anytime soon. If you follow my Instagram stories, then you know that it took me and my brother 42 tries just to get her level (and he’s no spring chicken when it comes to handy work).

So, amidst texting my Airstream dealer (please ignore the fact that this sounds like a drug reference), DMing one of my best friends from high school who constantly has to deal with my ignorant shenanigans, crying, throwing the dining room cushion the whopping 23 feet to the back of my humble abode, maintaining a decent amount of sanity with my head submerged inside a tiny cut out hole, pushing buttons and probing around wires that could very likely electrocute me, I did it. I fixed the inverter.

Airstream, one. Stephanie, one. Okay, who am I kidding? The Airstream is royally kicking my ass, but the point here is that there has been a restoration of both the Christmas lights and the Christmas movie marathon.

If I were really keeping score (and I’m totally not keeping score), the Airstream would be up 37-14 (this is me, not keeping score). Between losing my back window in my maiden voyage to Colorado to the huge dent that is now on the passenger-side back panel from God knows what at my rinky-dink RV park in Houston to my water freezing in transit to Amarillo and to the perils of cold-weather camping in the Rocky Mountains, I’m often shocked that this silver bullet is still standing. Hell, I’m often shocked that I’m still standing.

Fact. My confidence in solo trailer travel has increased exponentially, but I am often plagued by two things. One. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t have to learn something new to merely function in my day-to-day life. Two. This really cool, amazing experience can get really lonely.

I’ll expand. I usually like to lead with the bad news first, but in this case, I’ll work through the good and end with, what I am going to call, the not-so-good (in the spirit of optimism).

When I hitched the Airstream to my Denali back in May, I had never towed anything other than a ten-foot long U-Haul trailer in my entire life. When I tell you that I had no idea what the I was doing, I quite literally mean that I had no idea what the I was doing. Aside from a half-day tutorial from Claudio, my personal Airstream Jedi, and a one-hour crash course on backing up from Steve, my aforementioned Airstream dealer, I had zero experience with nearly everything that was required to keep the trailer in working order. And, despite the insecurities that flooded over me due to this inexperience, I had purchased the trailer, so my only option was to attach the trailer to my car and take it off the lot.

Disclaimer. I have recently noticed my affinity towards putting myself in situations where I am forced to do things that I would not normally do as a byproduct of my fear of failing. Meaning, I intentionally place myself in extreme circumstances where “no” is not an option in order to create an environment where fear cannot exist because the only viable choice is “yes.”

So, I hitched. I towed. I drove the Airstream to Sun Valley from the dealership in Boise (with the seven-way plug trailing behind me, if you recall). I backed it up with flying colors. I packed her full of everything I thought that I would need and then we embarked on her first real trip to the motherland of Colorado, sleeping at a movie theater parking lot somewhere outside of Salt Lake City along the way.

Then, Denver paralyzed me. I realized how difficult it was to find a camping spot. I was too intimidated to even attempt to use my propane. I didn’t have a water line or sewer hookup while crashing in the back parking lot of my mom’s office building, and I didn’t want them, because it just felt like more things for me to learn how to use and then break and then learn how to fix. I remember sitting in my brother’s kitchen as he innocently told me to go out and see the world. I smiled and nodded with every ounce of dwindling confidence inside of me.

Easy for you to say, bro. You are good at these things. And, you have someone to share in the learning and the breaking and the fixing and the planning. Not me. Not today. Nope. Today, the choice to move just feels too damn heavy.

 And, so I sat in that. The heaviness. For two months. Until my mom’s boss basically gave me the boot and I came to the cathartic realization that, in my current state, I had bought an Airstream to live in the back parking lot of an office building. In other words, life not exactly going to plan.

So, I spent a day Googling campsites and reading road maps and researching the 72 questions that were buzzing through my tired mind. And, I did it. I planned my first real trip to Zion to Newport Beach to Yosemite to Flagstaff to Sedona to Houston. Me. I planned it. And, yes, lots of shit went wrong along the way. But, I hooked up my sewer line and drained my tanks and used my propane and checked my batteries. And, I witnessed some of the most grandeur sites that the United States has to offer.

More importantly, I grew. I sat with myself through the good and the bad and the beautiful, and I paid homage to the piece of me that didn’t think I could do it by waking every morning to be the one who was doing it. I started to shed insecurities layer by layer until the only thing left was a belief in myself that, yes, I am this woman driving around in her Airstream with the confidence to do it alone.

Ouch. That word. Alone. I warned you about the not-so-good part of this adventure. I’m not even sure that “adventure” is the right word choice here. Because it is my actual life. Maybe this is one of those awful word plays on the SAT where it reads, “All adventures are life, but not all lives are an adventure” and you have to determine whether the statement is true or false. True, my current life is most certainly an adventure, but it is also just that, my life.

From afar, the perception of this life is infused with freedom and flexibility. From afar, I’m saving money and seeing the world. From afar, I’m living out too many people’s dreams who will never actually take the opportunity to seize those desires simply because they are scared.

Hear me. If you want something bad enough, you will stop at nothing to make it happen.

From afar, the loneliness is not an ever-present reality. Because, no one was sitting on the floor with me last Sunday as I cried for two hours while listening to Marshmello’s “Happier” on repeat. I had just left Houston – a place where I feel deeply connected to a community, a place where I had settled and established a routine – to return to the geography that inspires my soul, only to realize that I am now in a town where I know nothing and no one.

My back is pressed against the fridge. Nugget is curled up in my cross-legged lap, and I can smell the pumpkin spice candle burning on the dining room table, the table that is surrounded by the glow of the Christmas lights plugged into the inverter circuit. I am cozy. And happy. And, yet, I am simultaneously overcome by sadness because of the silence that sits behind the music that is flowing through the Airstream’s surround sound.

Fact. I can confidently do this alone. Fact. I do not want to do this alone.

And, what is “this?” Because I am not trying to make some grandiose statement about tiny home living. I am not saving money by living in Breckenridge, Colorado for an entire winter (seriously, I’d be better off renting a room than this concrete slab). I am not on a mission to force more people into a nomadic way of life.

I am simply trying to understand where I want to plant my roots or even if I want to plant my roots. I don’t necessarily need a person to find that answer. But, I want a person. Because I’d rather be typing this long-winded diatribe next to the warmth of another body. Because I’d rather have someone else pick the campsites while I handle the grocery shopping. Because I’d rather laugh inside the deepest connection to another human when, after three hours of watching YouTube videos, we still can’t figure out what the hell we’re doing. Together.

So, maybe he’ll want to jump in with me. Or, maybe he’ll ask me to stay. I don’t feel a deeper attraction to the former or the latter. I don’t have an expectation for that outcome. I simply know that I must continue to live my life with the confidence that this adventure steadily sharpens and provides. He will find me. Or, I will find him. Or, hell, we’ll both swipe right on each other and engage in five days of witty banter that culminates in an actual first date of unprecedented epic proportions.

What I know is that whether we stay, or go, or stay and go will be irrelevant. Because the adventure will be us. And, this confidence that I’ve gained, it will always be mine. But, him, he will be home.

Stephanie is a road warrior, adventure seeker, and brand builder. She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and after spending nearly a decade between the PNW and the east coast, she’s proud to once again be calling Colorado home. Well, home for now. Stephanie recently bought an Airstream with the intention of living a more minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle. After logging over 20k miles in her car last year, chasing rock faces in the summer and powder days in the winter, she realized that life could be a hell of a lot simpler if she could carry her house with her on these adventures. In 2017, she started her own marketing agency, Sleigh Creative, to take control of her freedom. As a freelance creative director and brand strategist, she spends a lot of days playing and even more nights working. In all things, be it work or play, she seeks to inspire people to the life of never settling. You can follow along with her journey on Instagram, @by.stephanieleigh, and through her self-titled personal blog.