It’s Thanksgiving 2017, which means we have almost been living full time as vanlifers for eight months-EIGHT MONTHS. This is incredibly hard to believe. When we first started out, we wanted to do “a year in a van.” But now, I just don’t foresee us ending this amazing life so soon.
Before we get all serious, let us wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving! We are so thankful for all of the support we have received along this journey. From stories from others embarking on an unconventional life to simple cheers encouraging us to keep going, this really is the fuel that sparks us onward.
I shouldn’t feel anything but complete gratitude on this day.
We are in Colorado at the time. It’s a beautiful 72 degrees. There is a clear view of the mountains from our window.
However, the fact there are people in every city and town who are missing this time of gratitude to stand outside stores and wait in line in order to get presents for their families or themselves and put stores into the black in sales makes me scream inside, “this isn’t right!”
Many of these people will be those who can’t afford things at full price, people who work two jobs, single moms who try their best to support a family and give their children a Christmas that the culture we live in tells us we are “supposed” to have. The time we have with our families is already severely limited by the cost it takes us to live. We use our time working meaningless jobs to make paychecks to pay bills and to buy things we believe will give our lives more meaning. We turn days like today, Thanksgiving, into days where we stretch our pocketbooks to buy the best gifts at the best price to show people how much we love them, rather than spending quality time with the people we love and being thankful for all the incredible things we already have.
Studies show that material things do make us happy, momentarily. But they also create a culture of “never enough.” The, “once I have this, I will feel happy,” culture.
When ______ then ______. However, this is a PERPETUAL way of thinking and living our lives. We are programmed by our culture to “need” more, but who is that helping? Not you, not me. Maybe our small business…maybe. But the long term effects of chasing our tails is more years of chasing our tails.
In the documentary Happy, researchers found that once our basic needs are met: shelter, food, water, etc., our levels of happiness plateau.
Have you ever stopped and thought, this is good. I have enough. If this is all I ever had, this would be enough.
How can you blame us? Most of us were raised with questions like “What do you want for Christmas?” as the norm.
Last year, our daughter was two, it was the first Christmas we had where she was able to open gifts and know what was going on. I was super excited about it. Christmas, to me, has always been a magical time. I wrapped EVERY SINGLE GIFT. Even oranges in her stocking. I know, that’s ridiculous, but I wanted to see her face when she opened things. It’s so fun as a parent to see your child’s face light up and get excited.
She opened her first gift, some LEGO’s (not trying to advertise for them, haha), and immediately wanted to go play with them. We had to stop her to make her open her next gift. She was excited, and then proceeded to leave to go play with her gifts. We stopped her and showed her there were more presents. She responded by slight frustration and opened her next gift. Again, she was excited and happy. As a parent, I LOVE seeing her excitement, but I DID see it, with the first gift.
I began getting nervous, wondering what on earth I was creating by teaching my two-year-old to keep digging deeper into her stocking to look for more, more, more. I realized then that I was training her to step in line, to join the madness that is our consumerist culture, and I just can’t.
Everly likes rocks. She likes make believe. She likes playing outdoors. She doesn’t need anything. Sometimes I feel like I’m becoming a mom I would HATE having if I were a kid. I’m not trying to suck the fun out of holidays, I’m just trying to raise a child who thinks for herself and is free from bullshit societal rules that hold us back as human beings.
We live in a time on this earth where we have incredibly more than ever before in human history. At the touch of a button we can have our questions answered, dinner ordered and ride located. It’s really an amazing time to be alive. I’m thankful for every single moment that I get to be in it.
I want to be thankful for what I have and to recognize when I get stuck in the comparison trap. I want the holidays to be a time where families come together to love each other without the stress of what material thing they can or cannot give. For most of us, If we could bring a little more consciousness to every moment and truly look at our lives, we would see enough. Maybe we could stop this perpetual race to a destination that already exists in this moment. Just maybe, we could realize that the time spent with those we love is more important than the half-priced gift waiting for them on the store shelf.
I’m really interested in your views on this topic. What are you thankful for? Do you see the consumer culture as a hindrance in our society? Imagine if it were possible to live in a world where we actually felt like our basic necessities were enough, how would we get there?