With a week and 800 miles completed of our 2,000 mile shakedown trip to the Everglades before making a loop around the United States, we have endured some challenges which have reinforced a valuable lesson about succeeding on an adventure.
Every adventure has unexpected and difficult challenges. Some of ours on the first leg of our RV adventure to visit 52 parks in 52 weeks include malfunctioning plumbing causing wastewater to back up through the shower drain, a violent virus that ripped through our family (twice), and poorly thought out sanitation practices and sleeping arrangements that amplified our sickness.
On previous long-distance adventures, including thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or cycling across America, I’ve endured plenty of challenges, including illness, injury, and cascading bad luck. However, in both of those adventures, I was either alone or alongside only one other person.
Encountering and overcoming challenges alone when on an endurance adventure is a relatively straightforward matter. You either have the ability, fortitude, and optimism to overcome or you don’t.
When on an adventure with another person, succeeding becomes a bit more complicated. Now your success in overcoming obstacles depends not only on your own mental and physical strength, but also on that of another.
In adventures in which there are two travelers, you have the potential benefit of a partner that can be strong when you are weak, helping you through troughs as you cycle through highs and lows.
On the other hand, should your partner become injured or slip into the depths of some pit of pessimism, you have the potential risk that your partner brings you down as well.
In larger groups in which no one can be left behind or sent home, like our family, the success of the group hinges on the ability of the most fragile member of the group to complete the adventure.
When we were struggling through our first days, Katie and I could persevere through the difficulties, our four year old daughter was a bubble of optimism in a sea of sickness, yet our toddler was down and out.
He was persistently sick, barely eating, poorly sleeping, and only drinking milk, which kept him hydrated but was complicating his healing.
Katie and I make most of the decisions about our trip though some fall only to me or to her and sometimes we disagree.
In this instance, we disagreed about what we should do.
I pressed that we should continue on our planned route through another park before heading to the Everglades. I insisted that we could get well, sanitize the RV, and get rest while underway by cutting back on daily excursions in the parks we would visit.
Katie felt that we should skip the next park and divert a few hundred miles to her parents’ house in Ft. Myers, FL where we could heal, clean, and rest before heading to the Everglades.
I resisted for a day the idea to go to Ft. Myers, but after our son threw up yet again one early morning, Katie more aggressively insisted (to put it gently), and I agreed. In hindsight, her decision was definitely the right choice.
Without a healthy team, our travels would grow more strenuous. Our health would suffer. The excitement and happiness would wane. Our adventure might ultimately derail.
To succeed on our adventure, especially when difficult obstacles arise, it’s critical to recognize that we’re only as capable as our weakest family member at a given time, and we must proactively manage the health and attitude of the team.