Periodically during our family gap year life in the RV, we have moments when we start to feel like we are missing the comforts of home. When people ask what we miss from home the kids often – having a bedroom door (instead of a privacy black out curtain), a dishwasher, hot showers that don’t require us to turn on the hot water heater nor having to listen to the groan of the water pump. Much like the novelty of travel, simple indulgences take us out of our daily routine and can offer a refresh. In this episode I want to lean into how we might experimenting with indulgences without feeling the slip of lifestyle creep or justifying expenses that don’t align with your values.
Before we get into this episode, I want to thank one of our sponsors, Elakai Outdoors is a company to help people live their best life outdoors with high quality and beautifully designed yard games. One of our favorite outdoor yard games is Kubb, a simple Scandinavian and family friendly game which I like to describe as a cross between chess and bean bag toss. If you haven’t played, no worries each game includes a QR code to download the instructions for off-grid play. The outdoor games from Elakai Outdoor are built to last a lifetime, not just a single season. My husband awed at their custom crafted from premium wood and accompanied with a compact travel bag, you can see a short clip of us playing if you head to the show notes. It was an indulgent accessory that was perfect for campgrounds or a friends backyard, it’s a timeless addition to your outdoor adventures, bringing joy wherever it travels. You can check out Kubb and other stunning outdoor games by clicking on the link in the show notes. Use code ORDINARYSHERPA10 for 10% off. Add a little indulgence to your outdoor play with Elakai Outdoor.
We started to notice the need for indulgences in Alaska this summer. It could have been a combination of 40+ days of rain, a few natural disaster warnings (Tsunami, earthquake, and a few wildfire evacuations) or maybe just the novelty of 6 months of travel was beginning to wane. The trick seemed to be how do we test indulgences without slipping into lifestyle creep or making adjustments if we felt these indulgences were critical to our over all well-being.
It started in McCarthy Alaska – highly encouraged Untourist destination (see more by following @ordinarysherpa on Instagram) Our little monster’s birthday was coming up. We had spent the past few weeks rather isolated. Another hike, another park, another library didn’t feel all that exciting or special for a birthday. And we’d be way off grid in the heart of Wrangell St.. Elias National Park. We weren’t seeking a flight to somewhere remote nor a world-class whitewater rafting trip. We already had too much adventure the last few weeks. We wanted something simple, something comfortable, something indulgent. Thanks to travel rewards I could “splurge” on an Airbnb cabin with bunk beds and a loft. Kennicott River Lodge also included a shared lodge providing a large kitchen, ample living room space with several games, and private showers with hot water for days (relatively speaking)! I don’t want to sound privileged when I say it wasn’t the glacier hike, or the 15 Mi round trip bike ride to Kennicott that made that birthday weekend special. It was playing in the loft and baking a cake. You see the RV oven is small and the temperature is inconsistent for baking. (Fun fact from my RV technician husband’s training, the RV oven manufacturer’s acceptable tolerances in + or – 50 degrees). Having a big kitchen and a loft felt indulgent.
We have continued to be intentional about experimenting with indulgence, especially as we turn the corner into Q4 or our family gap year and discussing more frequently how we plan to make our home the destination of choice following this experience. In this episode I am going to share more about the experiments we’ve done in indulgent experiences.
I was spending time in Washington with my foodie cousin. He invited us to go pick blueberries. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of blueberries, but the farmer told him “she will be after she picks these.” Every blue berry I have ever tasted was tart. We were encouraged to taste them as we picked. I had already shared with the kids that we can pick a bucket, but we would likely gift them to my cousin. As we worked our way down the row, my son shared how sweet the blueberries were. “Sweet?” Hmm. Sure enough. These weren’t just sweet but they were absolutely delicious and plump. We ended up keeping 2 buckets full. There is something about the soil along this region that creates the perfect pH for several different plants. Apparently Chimacum Washington has the secret sauce and this blueberry picking experience turned on an indulgent flair for fresh and absolutely delicious locally grown produce. While I have always loved a good farmer’s market I started to really pay attention to local farms and see if I could determine the sourcing location. Part of the unexpected benefits of a small kitchen is that we are required to grocery shop more frequently – which means we are regularly getting fresh produce in our vacation house on wheels. The abundance of blueberries presented a greater challenge though…what would I do with an extra bucket of blueberries?
At home I likely would have simply thrown them in the freezer (which I did, but remember our freezer is quite small) but these were SO GOOD fresh that I wanted to utilize their heavenly sweetness in all the things. It was actually this problem that led me to explore how I might hack my way to indulgence.
Experiment 1: Baking in a Higher End Kitchen with many more amenities
Let me remind you of the RV oven woes I shared earlier, and minimal baking equipment we have in the rig. The Kitchen Aid mixer just didn’t make the cut in our packing list. When I started sourcing ideas for baking with blueberries I began to dream of luxurious things like a dishwasher and and temperature controlled oven, and abundant mixing bowls and normal sized baking pans. I decided I would use time that we had planned at my friend’s cabin to bake. The experiment was lemon zest blueberry muffins with strudel topping. I was up early that morning and enjoyed my quiet time in the kitchen before the rest of the family came to life for the day. I wanted to serve warm, fresh-baked muffins.
The Indulgence: Multiple mixing bowls, a lemon zester, a large farm style sink to set the used mixing bowls between preparation cycles, and abundant counter space to to prep and cool items. Last but not least, a dishwasher.
The Learning: The modern kitchen amenities will inform some ideas for our home kitchen. Seeing and experiencing other kitchens is a fun practice, which ultimately reminds me these indulgences are often romanticized. But in the end the practical use case for many of the utensils and higher end amenities are somewhat limted. We appreciate them when we have them, but often forget we have them when we do own them. I’m not making any judgments on what you value or what you might be romanticizing, it simply got me thinking about how I might hack this indulgence in a meaningful way.
- Life Hacks: Can I rent, borrow, or check out from the library? I saw several of the public libraries we stopped at had fancier small appliances available for check out. A few years ago I borrowed my friend’s ice cream maker. I liked it but couldn’t justify buying it since we make ice cream once a year. However one day I found the exact same model at a thrift store for $7. For that price I could justify the space and owning the appliance even with our minimalist preference.
Experiment 2: At Home Pool and Hot tub
Our friend’s cabin had an in-ground pool and multiple times a day we made sure to jump in the pool. The weather wasn’t hot while we were there, but the heated pool was refreshing. I jumped in at least once a day to leverage the resources we had available to us. I made a point to have one of my workouts be to swim laps. I also used it as a mid-day refresh after a warm afternoon working in the loft. The many inflatable toys seemed fun, but they were big and quickly became a point of contention between the kids.
- The indulgence: An inground heated pool with a fenced in pool deck, nice chairs and umbrella to enjoy some sunshine by the pool.
- The Learning: As much as we enjoyed the pool, it also was a glaring reminder it comes with a lot of maintenance and upkeep. I appreciated the pool shed that housed all the stuff (chemicals, pumps, cushions, a refrigerator, etc) to keep the area decluttered. Ironically the pool was a source of constant frustration – the kid’s weren’t listening, there was much more arguing and less tolerance for people being in their space (which is kind of ironic). It felt like the pool triggered quiet alone time and more frequent conflict conversations. We didn’t have this problem at the pond where we stayed in Canada. We played endlessly for 2 days without any issues. I am wondering if the space and feeling of being fenced in actually had an impact on our mental space with less tolerance to work out conflict.
- Life Hack: There is something to be said about how we behave in the presence of others. I do think given that at the pond in Canada, others were around. There was an awareness and higher tolerance to deal with conflict. I used the pool much like I take mid-day showers at home. Something about being in and around water helps neutralize, calm and cleanse the ick off. While this experiment didn’t justify the need for any at home pool or hot tub, it did remind us about the appeal and calming effect of water. We’ll continue to explore how that might look as we consider making home our next adventure spot.
I won’t go into detail on other experiments, but I will list a few indulgences and what we learned from them.
- Espresso Machine: while I love a good coffee in the morning, a good coffee pot is much easier to clean. I think the indulgence comes from having someone else clean up the mess and feeling a bit pampered in the experience than the DIY version.
- Fresh Clean Bedding: Clean sheets are something I never considered as an indulgence. In general our laundry practices are different in the RV since we have less clothing and items along. I don’t mind rewearing clothes that aren’t really dirty, but having clean and fresh smelling sheets is something I want to be mindful of when we get home.
- Peloton: Holy Cow that was a workout I wasn’t expecting. The learning was how do I create the space at home and commit to using it on a regular basis. I like the variety of new exercises.
- Own Rooms: Ironically the younger two still chose to share a room. My oldest was really excited about having a door in his bedroom (instead of the privacy curtain he currently has in the loft). I think the indulgence was more of the big bed than everyone having their own room. Ironically no one sleeps very well when we “splurge” on airbnb stays.
- Games: I am reminded over and over again how much interaction and time we spent in different ways when playing games. Sleeping Queens and cribbage are currently on upcoming Christmas Lists. Both were simple enough for all of us to play and I loved how they brought us together at the end of the day.
- Good Wifi allowed us to watch movies together as a family
- A big sectional couch encouraged all of us to hang out together
- Air rifle and Orbeez guns with targets in the forest was almost like an at-home paintball course with no injuries required. The hidden targets were all visible from the porch and positioned in safe spaces.
- Ice Cubes: Always having them in the freezer is a luxury we can never seem to get enough of when we have them. The automatic ice machines will continue to be an asset in any at-home freezer.
Many of these indulgences are simple things that we currently don’t have on a regular basis. While I don’t feel like we are deprived in any way currently, it’s more of an intentional thought process to what do we want to add back into our life at home, what can we get rid of at home, and what can we live without.
I think my key learning in experimenting with indulgences is most often they are indulgences because we don’t have access to them regularly. If we did, I don’t know that we would find as much value in them. Sometimes restricting access or having a short-term indulgent experience is more meaningful that having it be a part of everyday life.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Ordinary Sherpa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ordinarysherpa/
Elakai Outdoors (Indulgent Outdoor Games): https://glnk.io/r549q/ordinarysherpa Use code: ORDINARYSHERPA10 for 10% off your purchase
Airbnb in McCarthy, Alaska: https://abnb.me/e/cECPjG3mQDb