The five weeks we spent in the Orlando area were truly magical. We had a million cool adventures and learned and discussed lots of new things. But in the end as I look back, it’s the people we shared this time with that stand out the most in my mind.
Upon arriving in Apopka, Florida at a sweet little RV park, Chris noticed some issues with our electrical system. The inverter wasn’t working properly and then proceeded to internally combust resulting in a 3-day RV blackout. What’s worse? The door of the inverter basement compartment then fell off. Go ahead… laugh. We did. Sometimes it feels like National Lampoon’s RV Life over here.
Enter Michael and Jeannette Brown and their pup, Hazel – our new neighbors. We were feeling pretty pitiful and overwhelmed navigating and trouble shooting the electrical system of the RV. It’s a vulnerable feeling stepping out of the RV with a tarp hanging off the side in lieu of a compartment door as the other RVers gather in droves to point and whisper. Oh that didn’t really happen? That’s what it looked like in our heads… Michael spent time with Chris as moral support, idea man, and helping hand. We quickly became friends and got the tour of their traveling livelihoods. Michael is the baker, owner, salesman, and primary taster of his business The inFAMOUS Welsh Cookie Co. He has a small, fully functional bakery in the front of their trailer and carries on his family’s tradition of baking Welsh cookies (his grandmother’s recipe) in 23 (and growing) flavors. Jeannette is proprietor of The Scottish Tinker, selling authentic Celtic jewelry of all kinds - traditional to unique. Together, they are The U.K. Market and travel the country selling their wares at Celtic Festivals.
We couldn’t have asked for better neighbors or friends. The kids spent loads of time visiting with them and we all really enjoyed their company. The end of our month in Apopka culminated in several challenging repairs completed (We knew something had to give when Elijah tossed a coin into the water at It’s a Small World in DisneyWorld and wished for electricity.) and lasting friendships formed. We were very sad to leave the comfort of that bond.
All the while, we were squeezing in as much time as possible with Chris’ grandparents who have wintered in the Orlando area for the last 17 years. At 81 and 82 (I’m pretty sure it’s OK for me to post their ages since it seems it can be worn as a badge of honor both up to one’s early 20′s and after about 75), they never missed a beat with one (long) day spent at Disney, one spent showing us around Celebration, one taking us to the Farmers’/Flea Market, many long walks, a few yummy restaurant meals, baking, board/card games, reading, seemingly incessant conversation from all sides, bicycle repair, a playground picnic, and a couple of cookouts. We reveled in each other’s company. It was simply perfect to spend SO much undivided time over such a long period with them. There are very few such opportunities to celebrate and saturate in love and appreciation for others. When we left Apopka, we had the priveledge of joining them at their RV park for an additional week. What a treat to be neighbors! We wandered back and forth between our homes at will – easily and freely. We met their friends and got to experience the lifestyle of their Floridian winters which had previously just meant time apart. We were comforted and thrilled to see what full, active, connected lives they have with their winter friends in their winter home.
As if that weren’t enough! We’d been talking since last year’s Rethinking Everything Conference about getting back together with John Stralecky and his wonderful family. Chris and John hit it right off at RE and we so enjoyed listening to him talk about backpacking around the world on $40 per day during one of his sessions. Cosmically enough, John has RV aspirations and wanted to pick our brains as well. Both of our families have come to the realization that life matters NOW and passions drive all. Sharing a couple of meals at each other’s homes and wandering downtown Disney was time spent with kindred spirits and brought to life that the same realizations about living a joyful life play out in so many different (and perfect) ways. If you haven’t read John’s books (Big Five for Life, The Why Cafe, Life Safari), I highly recommend them.
Sadie and Elijah had a grand time playing with their daughter and I, chatting with John’s wife, Cindy, who has so many interesting tales to tell. I enjoyed talking unschooling with her as they consider educational options and lifestyle based in their unique worldly perspective.