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Traveling Tribe

More than anything, I have always craved community. Amidst a community, I feel most myself. It’s where I find rhythms to sink into. Our kids flourish in community’s light. We do better as a family.

I never thought we’d find a deep or lasting community on the road, but by fate or accident or luck we have. In mid-January we met a group of traveling families in San Felipe, Mexico who have become our tribe. We move together from one breathtakingly beautiful place to the next.

The kids are magic together. There are ‘the littles’ ages 5-9 and ‘the teens.’ They call each other ‘siblings’ and ‘cousins’. Jesse, who once was an introverted loner, now pops out of bed, does his chores and refuses breakfast to find his friends as quickly as possible. The other day, we took him into town to get ice cream but for the first time in his life he wasn’t interested, he just wanted to get back to playing.

The littles have a robust exchange going: Sea glass, shells, little pieces of found treasure like bottle caps (trash to my adulted eyes). This is how unschoolers and home schoolers cover economics. They know which parents have marshmallows and who has the good mexican breakfast cereal. The puppy-sitters are paid with a different kind of treasure- pickles (which turn out to be difficult to find in Mexico).

At one park we stayed at there was a trampoline with a four person max rule. The littles figured out a rotation system. The kids squabble, but we are learning that in most cases if the adults give them space, they figure it out because they want to keep playing more than anything. Wanting to continue the play is the great motivator of conflict resolution.

The teens move as one big body, it’s unclear whose limb belongs to whom. Somehow they spend all day together and want to do it again the next day. When possible, they all sleep in the same rig. They annoy each other but the frustration pales in comparison to the love. They are starting a youtube channel together and are scheming of how we can keep traveling together for years to come.

Tucker plays teacher at a whiteboard he found, teaching his friends math. Jesse’s friend teaches him to fly a kite.

On hikes when our kids would usually be whining, they are so involved with their friends they don’t notice they are walking. Fun is the great mover of life.

The adults sit around the fire at night and talk and laugh and yell at our kids to be careful by the fire. We look up at the stars in wonder that this is our life. We walk home in the dark, the ocean waves crashing. Shooting stars falling. In the morning some of us do yoga and meditation together. When there’s a court we play fierce pickleball together, round after round, mixing up the teams. It is unadulterated fun.

We slowly learn each other’s nuances, who needs more space, each other’s food preferences and allergies, which kids wake up when. Ours are the late risers and sometimes I find the other kids waiting patiently outside our rig for their ‘brothers’ or ‘cousins’ to get up to come play.

We know who to ask about wind forecasts and who has the Baja travel guides (a lifesaver with spotty internet and inaccurate google maps). Between us we have a functional pharmacy. This came in handy when many of us got Covid the first week we were together. We know who has Snorkel gear, an air compressor, the coveted paddle board, the right size baking dish. We find out whose grill is on, who has extra tortillas or a little extra patience and can host the boisterous teens in their rig.

Someone always has it, or if not, Matt will figure out a hack.

Our taco potlucks are legendary. Everyone brings their tastiest contribution and somehow together they make the most delicious meal I’ve ever had. The most adventurous eaters and the pickiest are all happy.

We pick up friends along the way. They are drawn to the kids’ exuberance. We are welcoming- come, have a taco! We’ll teach you to play pickleball! Here’s the best hike to do in the area! Sit by our fire!

Oh, and the Walkie Talkies! How I love the walkie talkies when we are caravaning! We tune into the same chanel. We try to keep the chatter to the necessities, not to be distracting. The necessities such as ‘oncoming semi-truck or large “tope” (speedbump) ahead, so everyone can prepare to squeeze by on the narrow road with a drop off on the side. But sometimes we can’t help but gasp into the walkie talkie- holy wow- look at that view! Or, after a particularly treacherous switchbacked narrow road down a mountain with 18 wheelers coming in the opposite direction we heard. “I need a new pair of undies!” The walkie talkies fill a childhood desire to be included in the secret club. To be connected across distance. To know the codes ‘10-4’ and ‘copy ‘and ‘‘roger.’

One of the mamas is mostly traveling as a solo parent as her husband can’t work remotely. We make sure she is in the middle so that someone can keep an eye on her back wheels on the road and make sure she’s never left alone. The moment I knew we became a traveling family was after the day we traversed the ‘‘road to hell” which the solo mama was particularly anxious about. She was worried about her brakes failing. When we got to the bottom of the road we pulled over to take a breather. One of the dad’s, who without really knowing him can come across as gruff, mentioned that he had a plan that if solo mama’s rv lost braking that he’d pull his travel trailer across the road to stop her. He was prepared to give up his home to protect his fellow traveler.

It is some work traveling with other families. And it involves compromise. We travel more slowly than if we were each traveling alone. The whole caravan pulled over when we broke our steps, or when a little one is car sick. In the early days, we searched for a friend’s missing cat, delaying departure by an hour. No one is mad, just concerned. It takes time for four rigs to fill up with gas and propane. Effort goes into figuring out where to go next and when. Our budgets vary. Some evenings our family still has hard bedtimes with our kids that make me want to drive the RV into the ocean. It’s not perfect, but overall we are so much happier.

There is and will be conflict and mistakes and grumpy days – because we are humans. From my work, I’m used to establishing formal community agreements or ground rules. But this tribe is fluid. Keep doing what works. Change when it doesn’t. I notice how the ways of our family changes those around us, and how we are changed by others too. I feel the words of Octavia Butler and Adrienne Marie Brown helping guide me. In the meantime, we keep enjoying this precious moment and the next. We didn’t plan to travel further than San Felipe, Baja but it keeps working and so we keep going. I notice myself and others mellowing, unwinding. Eating so many tacos, paletas, and ceviche every day for the fish-addicts. Experiencing pleasure. Enjoying each other’s company. Loving the community we’ve created.

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