It was the day we decided to take a chance on ourselves, the day we coined the term “Our Family Gap Year.”
Overstimulated. Overbooked. Desensitized to our sense of wonder. Always looking down at a screen. Rarely looking up at the sky. These are unfortunate, but common issues for families these days, and we were no exception. In one way or another, each of us had become enslaved to a schedule, an electronic device, a pattern of rushed behavior. These had become our norm. We chalked it up to stress, not realizing the common denominator—we were too plugged in.
That is until California changed not only our scenic views, but also our pace. Somewhere along the beaches in Santa Cruz, we decided to unplug. We all turned our phones to Do Not Disturb and logged out of our social media accounts. I even powered my phone completely off and left it in my purse for the majority of our vacation. With the exception of a few sensational photography posts, the kids willingly decided to snip the electronic ties that bound them to distraction and disinterest. And it was with a spirit of pure adventure that we created a digital free zone, where no one outside of our family was given the opportunity to steal our attention. Once unplugged, we began to notice what we’d all been missing—each other.
Somehow, with no cell phone or wifi service, we found the connection our spirits needed most.
I can’t say with certainty where it happened for the others, but for me the shift in perspective began with a change in altitude. While exploring the coastal mountains along Highway 1, I felt swaddled by a slow, steady power much bigger than myself and my hectic life. The energy was so intoxicating that by the time we reached Yosemite, with her gentle winds and sweeping panoramic views, I was positive I’d been forever changed.
Something life-altering happened to our family on that vacation. We were led by our hearts, straight into the lap of Mother Nature. While sitting quietly with her, we saw, no—we felt, what mankind could never do, be, or recreate. We remembered how to experience wonder and amazement at the blessings in our lives. Yosemite spiritually connected us, made us alive with energy and a brand new purpose.
There among the redwoods and the misty trails, we made a family decision to choose one another. Reece realized he didn’t have to move away for his Freshman year of college. He decided to breathe a little and stop rushing himself to choose a major. Aidan and Lorén came to the conclusion that they could recalibrate their busy schedules by schooling at home this year. And just as importantly, Beau and I came to see that we didn’t have to put work before all else. We consciously chose to recharge our batteries and rediscover the sense of purpose which initially drew us to building homes in the first place. The five of us decided to recreate ourselves—together.
In the months that followed, we made changes. We exited off a high-speed interstate and onto a slow-paced gravel road. With a strict speed limit. And children at play signs every few feet. So here we are, doing what we dreamed we could—slowing down, taking in our days together—one at a time. And loving each other every step of this journey.