Planning a sober trip

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Graduate Blog: a travel, health and personal evolution lifestyle blog.

By Ryan Howsley Graduate

I’m currently two years sober and I am having the time of my life. Two months ago, I left the comforts of my structured day-to-day routine and have embarked on a new alternative lifestyle – full time van life with my girlfriend.

I’m a fly by the seat of your pants type of guy, whatever happens, happens (which hasn’t always served me well in life). I enjoy the thrill of not always knowing where I’m going, how I’m getting there, or who I’ll meet along the way.  Throw a tent, sleeping bag, and a little bit of food in the car and lets hit the road. On the other hand, my girlfriend (Jess) is the exact opposite. She will have “A” to “Z” mapped out, from where and what we’ll eat, to an itinerary of every day’s activities. This has made for a few interesting months.

One key element of my sobriety has been the use of teamwork. From going through treatment where I was put on a team that fully supported each other through our journeys into sobriety to recently joining the “van life” movement with my girlfriend where we are confined to 80 square feet of living space. Through it all, teamwork has remained consistent and has become an essential part of thriving in my newly formed lifestyle.  

So far the adventure has been surprisingly mellow. We have been going to places that have been mostly familiar and we haven’t had to be overly worried about where we’ll sleep at night, until now.

Our next stop: 1050 miles down to the tip of the Baja California peninsula of Mexico.

I have come to accept that this won’t be a fly by the seat of your pants type of trip, and I {reluctantly} concluded that this would a great opportunity for me to learn from Jess, and let her take the lead in planning. This is where our teamwork skills are truly getting put to the test.

We first defined what it is we want to accomplish during our time in Mexico:

  1. Daily habits / routine
  • The largest struggle with living in a van is getting into a daily routine of exercise and healthy eating.
  1. Beach Camping
  • One of the biggest perks of Mexico vs US van life – beach camping is legal!  We are itching to find those hidden beach spots with peeling tubes and epic sun-downs.
  1. Culture
  • Meet the locals / test out our Spanish skills and for me to open my palate to something other than chicken nuggets and hamburgers.
  1. Be a tourist
  • Snap on the fanny pack and go see something new!

One thing I have come to realize in this exercise is that: Planning = Lists, lists, and more lists

  • To Do (before we leave)
  • To Do (during our time in Mexico)
  • To Get
  • To Pack

Our lists include everything from: what/ how to pack the van, defining a route, spend, logistics, safety, equipment and food.

Next we delegate who is in charge of each task on each list. We both know each other’s strengths, so delegating tasks is quick – accomplishing them is not. However, by working together we are able to get through them relatively unscathed.  

Now, we start mapping out the trip and this is where it gets difficult. Personally, I want to surf as many different waves as possible. Jess, on the other hand, wants to dive into the culture, find the best spots to eat, and see the most unique sites. Well, there’s no I in team, so compromise will play a big role in this. Mainly, finding spots where both of our needs are met, is key.

My biggest takeaway from this experience has been to listen. I had no idea how much planning is involved for month-long trip to a foreign country, nor would I know how/ where to begin planning a trip of this magnitude. Somewhere down the line in my journey through sobriety and throughout my relationship, I have realized that being the star of the show is not always the goal, but supporting the star is. Jess is the star and for this to come together it was my job to support her by listening and taking action.

How can you listen to support the star of your show?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford

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