119 | Bittersweet Transitions of Both-And Experiences

bittersweet transitions podcast episode
Join us on this episode as we delve into the bittersweet transitions of adventure experiences. From family gap year to end of school moments, we explore the complex emotions and unexpected lessons that come with embarking on unforgettable adventures inspiring us to embrace the transformative power of both-and experiences. Tune in and discover the beauty and complexity of bittersweet transitions in the world of adventure.

 Hello, and welcome to Ordinary Sherpa. I’m your host, Heidi Dusek. May was a transition month for us on many fronts, and I’ll get into that in this episode.

We are currently entering phase three of our Family Gap year, so I wanted to take this episode to reflect a little bit, give you an update, share some thoughts and feelings and all the things of a family gap year, and give you a little insight on where we are and where we’re going from here.

I’m excited to be back into content creator mode again, I have many more episodes, both of our experience. I’ll be interviewing the kids and you’ll hear about those in upcoming episodes, interviewing a couple other people who have done some interesting adventures both near and far, and it’s just been a good rekindling, I guess, of some of the work that I’ve done and repackaging it in some ways and repurposing it, but giving it a new twist with the experiences we’ve had. So excited to share with you some things that are coming this summer and into the fall. Lots actually are coming, so stay tuned. But I wanted to take this episode to really give thoughtful reflection to the process. I think sometimes in adventure we often are seeking going after the thing, doing the journey and the summit.

I talked a little bit about that in our last episode. The idea of a summit versus success. Often when we’re coming down from those things, we don’t always take the time, at least I didn’t always take the time to reflect, to recalibrate, to reposition ourselves. And so this episode is meant to be that, to be a reflection, a rekindling.

There’s a lot of things happening just in this time of year, we’re recording in early June of 2023. And you know, graduations are upon us end of school years, summer vacations. There’s a lot of little things that offer these points of reflection. So I wanted to share a little bit of ours, and the title of this episode is Bittersweet: the Art of Both and Experiences.

June 2nd in Our Normal Life would’ve celebrated the last day of school. Instead, we’re nestled into our 27th National Park, hiking to glacier blue waters and looking for wildlife. We played a game on the trail yesterday. If we found a plant or flower that looked interesting, we’d pretend we were the first person to discover it and name it what we thought it should be named the Dingle-Dangle-Lilly-Hopper was my favorite. Brent would follow up with the seek app to determine the plants real name. Each of the kids finished their required pages in their junior ranger books, A symbolic end of chapter for their 2022-2023 school year.

Glacier National Park marks the start of phase three of our family gap year. It’s also on the heels of two weeks, spending time with friends, family, and time at home. It’s interesting to look back and remember all the things I thought I’d miss, which I do, and also realize all the things I don’t miss. We quickly filled the space in our schedules. Each of the kids had a wishlist to complete, tasked to accomplish, and people to see.

We squeezed the life out of every waking moment, which left us all feeling exhausted. However, freshly laundered bedding can be so satisfying. Sipping coffee while nestled into the recliner, watching my favorite sunrise over the marsh. Putting up the trampoline to jump for a mere 10 days before taking it down again, it was all worth it.Being in it, I realized the slow drip of life can quickly drown you into a sea of busy.

Our time at home revealed to me the nuances of Bittersweetness, that we can be both happy to be home and sad, to be stationary, to feel connected to friends and family and miss the independence we had to enjoy the complexities of life and crave the simplicity of living with less.

It seems we are always in a counterbalance mode, moving towards the things we don’t have, except when we get there, we realize we went too far and wanna go back to what we had. I was notorious for having a combustible schedule in May with something happening every night of the week. I couldn’t wait for June when we’d have the freedom to just be, but by July I was so mad that we hadn’t really done anything with our summer and I’d overscheduled July and August except that September and May mimicked each other.

We were constantly trying to counterbalance what we currently had, and that’s kind of what being home felt like. Transitions often reveal the both and experiences in life. For example, in graduations, we can be both excited for our child to move on and be sad that the phase of their life is ending. Summer vacations can reveal both excitement of the fun that we can have and the freedom away from school and structure, and have us missing our friends with five of us all on our own spectrum of bittersweetness. It can be tricky to hold the space for them and still take care of ourselves.

Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, we were up at 5:00 AM to get the to-do list of things that needed to be done before we left. At 6:00 PM I still didn’t feel any closer to ready. I was frustrated that I let life swallow our energy and time. I was annoyed that the kids still had dirty laundry in their closet when we left, that they packed clothes that clearly would not fit next week and I couldn’t get out of the fog created from two weeks of a go, go, go lifestyle, I didn’t feel ready, but we left anyway.

I was grateful on Friday morning when we woke up to a sunrise over a northern Wisconsin lake at the campground with our Memorial Day weekend camping crew that we were back. Maintaining the tradition of outdoor time and connecting with friends, but also back in 227 square feet in our vacation home on wheels. Sometimes we need to go back to appreciate what we have.

We traveled 10,000 miles in four months and learned that we aren’t ready to park it just yet. The kids loved seeing their friends and decided to keep going to unschool and keep traveling this fall. Memorial Day weekend, we played hard and stayed as long as possible, but by 6:00 AM Monday morning it was time to drive on.

With two 14 hour days of driving, which goes against all of our travel ethos, we were spent. The kids napped multiple times. We pushed on until we couldn’t. The long drive days almost felt like a detox period to come down and recalibrate to our location-independent lifestyle.

We arrived into St. Mary’s Campground in East Glacier on Wednesday, May 31st. The old routine was back in action with set up and then explore time. We snuck in a visit to the visitor center and prepped for all the first of many hikes. Virginia Falls will leave a mist on your face as you dwell in her mighty force to carve her way through the mountain. She makes her presence known for miles and is visible from the going to the sun Road. St. Mary’s falls will seduce you with her turquoise hue. The crystal clear waters will parch you, yearning for just a sip. Many Glacier Hotel will transport you to the Swiss Alps. The scenes to Grinnell Glacier will make you think you are witnessing a piece of artwork come to life. Roaring Eagle falls near Two Medicine will mesmerize you in wonder at how the upper and lower falls develop within the same falls. It doesn’t take long to remember why. This was the wonder that called for us.

We watch people come and go, many one nighters on a temporary escape from life, and I sometimes wonder if people know that an adventurous lifestyle doesn’t have to fit into the vacation days from work, nor does living for the weekend need to be the norm. It also makes me wonder if people that live here appreciate the beauty that leaves most of us awestruck, or is this all just normal to them?

In the world of financial investment, there’s this method called sequence of risk returns. When we imagined this lifestyle, I took our joy audit and plotted it into a sequence of returns, methodology. Does stacking joy create greater returns? Our lifestyle wasn’t an all or nothing bet of bucket list experiences. It has been a sequence of risks and returns.

Four months of continuous travel plus 10 days at home have revealed that our family gap year is our new normal transitions, even in small doses are hard, and they take time for us to recalibrate.

This week, we cross the border into Canada to spend the entire summer in Alaska. Oddly enough, my calendar reminded me that two years ago I put an event for this week to start our family gap year by traveling to Alaska. However, we jumpstarted that goal by almost six month.

Bittersweet is not always an either or experience. Summits and bittersweetness are parts of the journey. It doesn’t have to be either or, it can be both.

If you’re intrigued by the concepts of this episode, there’s a several ways that you can take action and support this work.

Number one, you can download the Joy audit tracking form to help reveal and identify the parts and pieces of your life that you might invest in the sequence of risk returns.

Number two, you can buy my book Beyond Normal. Available on my website where I go into much more detail about the Joy audit, about our lifestyle design and how we got to this space.

Or number three, book a strategy session with me and we can go through the unique nuances of your lifestyle and the bittersweetness that you are embarking on.

Whichever it is, embrace this period of bittersweetness. Allow life to be both and experiences. Whatever stage of bittersweetness you are in, keep going and let the adventures continue.


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