1 rv + the 4 of us x 1 year: A rangers reflection

Hello my Friend!

I’m (Ranger) Doug,

A year ago (August 14th) marked the day of the greatest accomplishment of my life. This is the day that my family and I turned our lives from “Ordinary” and into “Extraordinary!"

Maybe you want to make a change in your own life ….

Maybe you want to help someone you know that feels “stuck” in their lives ….

Maybe you just want to read a cool story ….

This is my story…. Enjoy my friend.

3 years ago my wife of many glorious years (Melanie) and I were feeling stuck, feeling exhausted, feeling like we weren’t going down the paths that made us happy in life. We were two professionals, her as a Registered Nurse, working specifically in Palliative Care (end of life), and myself as a Sales and Project Manager for many years across the trade professions. We worked extremely hard at our jobs, and most days had very little to give at the end of day to the people that deserved it the most, our two amazing boys. Teegan (a very eccentric, fun to be around kid, and a social butterfly with an innocent heart of gold), and our youngest son Hudson (a slightly shy at first, little rebel that tests our limits daily, but also melts our hearts with his love and kindness). We wanted to spend so much more time with them, while they were at the ages where they still “liked” us, but our busy careers and our need and desire for what we thought were our daily necessities didn’t afford us this time.

We were also at a crossroads in life and had to make a decision on our next home, as ours had reached its capacity with a 3 and 7-year-old in a two bedroom home. We knew we needed more space, but also loved the comforts and appeal of our small, but amazing house that we had poured so much time and effort into over the years to transform it into everything that made us “comfortable”, while growing our beautiful family. It was exhausting to even think about having to do it all over again on top of our daily professional responsibilities, children’s extracurricular activities and daily “self care” activities (such as yoga, exercise and other mindfulness practices) that we desperately needed to do to ensure that we could operate at 100% capacity and keep everything afloat day to day.

Mel and I have a fantastic relationship. We love each other dearly and would do absolutely anything for each other. She is my best friend. She is my rock when I need her to be, as I am hers. Four years ago, following the birth of our second son, she was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression and PMDD. It was a horrible combination that took her drive and passion for life away and forced her into a terrible state of mind (far beyond what I can comprehend to write about) at those times when the demons would rear their ugly heads. It was very crippling on her emotional well being, and took the sparkle from this beautiful, caring, compassionate women’s eyes, and put a lot of added pressure on our relationship and the well being of our family.

Something had to change…

“If you were faced with the news that you had only one year left to live, what would you do in that final year?"

During a discussion one night, I posed the question to her, “If you were faced with the news that you had only one year left to live, what would you do in that final year?"

She answered very quickly “I would sell all of our material items, our house, our car, our truck, and everything else we own, put our careers on hold, and buy a motorhome to tour this beautiful country with our family. I talk to amazing people everyday that are facing end of life in some capacity, and not one of them has ever told me that they wanted more STUFF. They wished for more ADVENTURE, they wished for more MEMORIES. They wished for more LOVE”. We decided then and there that our precious time on this planet was far too short to continue down the path that we were on. We decided that we didn’t want to wait for a diagnosis or tragedy to guide us down this path later in life.

We agreed that the time was now…

Following some long discussions over the next week, weighing all of the pros, cons, wishes, sheer work that had to be done, we set a realistic timeline of 3 years to accomplish our goal of leaving our stress filled, unhealthy lives, and reach our dream of hitting the open road and truly HAVING LESS and LIVING MORE.

Over the next couple of weeks, we discussed our plans with many of our close family and friends. We were discouraged when we realized that we had very little support. The people we thought would be behind us did not support our decision. They mostly thought we were crazy and that we were throwing our lives away, but the reality is that most were just not able to understand why we so desperately needed to get away from what seemed like on the outside to be the “perfect” life already, and give up everything that we had worked so hard for over the years. The lack of support was hard for us to comprehend at first, but it didn’t slow us down or change our desire for something more. It actually made us hungrier than ever to make our DREAM a reality as soon as possible. We got busy. The first thing we did was create a vision board, which was comprised of many uplifting quotes, pictures and other clippings that would provide us the drive and inspiration to sludge forward, even when we were exhausted and sometimes feeling defeated. This was a huge thing for us, and we turned to it many times over the upcoming months.

Next, we created a planning board.

I kid you not, this was a four by eight foot white dry erase board that was completely filled with small font, outlining EVERY little item that needed to be completed before we would be able to hit the road. Melanie had a hard time even looking at this board some days, as it gave her anxiety due to the shear amount of work that had to be done. Day by day we worked on clearing items off our board, one by one. We worked our asses off!

We received a real break when we found the exact motorhome that we had set our minds on for sale locally by an old high school friend. She was a beauty! A thirty-foot class C Motorhome, with plenty of room for the few belongings that we all decided were our essentials. It was coined “Murtle” by our little one and his inability to pronounce “motor-home”. We now had our trusty steed.

We decided that we needed to have a pet for our adventure. We agreed on a female African Pigmy Hedgehog. We named her Regi the Hedgie.

In the final 3 months of our plan, we sold our truck, rented out our car, sold our house, organized our finances and had multiple garage sales to get rid of the last of the STUFF that wouldn’t fit into Murtle.

Before we were ready to jump in, we felt that we needed to be able to give something back, as we were living out our dream. We agreed to be part of the ARCH Bucketlist Challenge, a challenge to raise money for our local hospice. This was a yearly campaign focussed on people raising funding for this amazing non-for-profit organization while doing extraordinary things. It was the perfect fit.

DREAM…. DREAM BIG…. You are supposed to be happy!

Dempster Highway, Yukon. 10,000km into our journey!

We were able to reach our goal a full 18 months ahead of schedule and hit the open road on August 14th, 2018. Our adventures brought us all over this amazing country. We’ve hiked the shores of Lake Superior while bathing in its chilly but satisfying waters. We’ve chased herds of bison through the trails in Northern Alberta. We spent two weeks chasing waterfalls in the Northwest Territories while meeting some amazing new friends and learning the ways of the land while interacting with the aboriginal people themselves. We’ve lived completely off grid for many days at a time in some of the most remote areas of the Canadian wilderness. We’ve seen some of the most amazing mountain ranges while driving through the Rockies and Cascades. We’ve submersed ourselves in the natural hot springs of upper British Columbia. We’ve touched the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle up the Dempster Highway. We’ve seen gigantic skies and witnessed the Aurora Borealis in full colour. We’ve explored the rainforests of Vancouver Island and walked the beautiful sand beaches in Tofino, while tidepool exploring and finding some strange and fascinating sea creatures all around us. We’ve visited the many friends and family that we’ve had spread across the country, that we’ve never had the time to do before. We have been on the most amazing adventure, all while being able to give back to a tremendous organization.

Fast forward a full year to now….. We are all thriving….

Hudson is an extremely well travelled 4-year-old boy that has learned a multitude of things that wouldn’t have been possible in our old life. He is a brilliant child that is able to handle almost anything that comes his way. He reassures us everyday that we have made the right decision.

Teegan has been homeschooled over the last year, with a thirst for knowledge and has learned more than we even thought was possible. He now has friends all over the country that he stays in contact with regularly, and has a charismatic approach to everything that naturally draws people in.

Melanie is far more in tune with her emotional well-being. She has made amazing strides to limit her daily stresses and enjoy each and every day to the fullest. She is the happiest she has ever been, and her passion for life is contagious to everyone that has the pleasure of interacting with her.

Regi the Hedgie is doing fantastic. She loves the outdoors and has probably seen more country and adventure than any hedgehog in history.

As for me, I am now working as a Park Ranger at a Provincial Campground, patrolling the park and enforcing the rules, delivering firewood, cleaning toilets and walking upwards of 5km a day, interacting with amazing people such as yourself, and sharing my story. I have never been happier. I feel completely fulfilled in life.

As a family we work as needed to ensure that we are financially able to make the next step (whatever that is) when we decide the time is right, but never commit to both having a full-time job at the same time. We share the financial and parental responsibilities, so as not to be overwhelmed. We work hard to ensure that we are financially responsible in the decisions we make, so we live within our means, and don’t crave the meaningless THINGS in life that don’t add true value. We surround ourselves by POSITIVE people. We surround ourselves by NATURE. We surround ourselves with LOVE. These things, along with our daily exercise regiment, healthy eating and our commitments to personal growth are the essentials that power us through everyday and allow us to be truly happy and LIVE OUR BEST LIVES.

If there is any advice that I can offer you, or your loved ones above all else….

DREAM…. DREAM BIG…. You are supposed to be happy. You deserve to be happy. Figure out what it is that you want in life and start working towards it NOW. Have patience with yourself and forgive yourself regularly. Your dream may not come become a reality overnight, but believe in yourself and stay focused and you will eventually reach your goal, and when you do, I promise you will not regret it my friend!

Wishing you love and happiness,

Ranger Doug and #RV4CHANGE

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