The Fork in the Road

Some might wonder (those who weren’t privy all along) what started all this. What would possess a single middle age woman to give up a perfectly comfortable home, her business and most of her worldly possessions for a solo, unplanned journey across the country in a motorhome??

It’s really a long involved story, but I’m compelled to share it, at least in brief. I can’t say there was a precise moment when I knew I needed a drastic change in my life, but for years I’ve been haunted with the feeling that we, as a society, are on the wrong track. We’ve lost our footing, our “grounding” with this earth. That connection seems like it should be an innate part of the human spirit. It appears that our connection to nature… to our natural surroundings… has recessed a bit more with the passing of each generation. For the longest time I’d been shaking my head… zooming through my days… and thinking “This is just WRONG! Life is a GIFT and we are all wasting it, scurrying around like little rats in a maze!” I refuse to believe that we are meant to live our lives in such a way.

In addition, although I achieved much success and reaped many rewards in my career as a photographer, I became very disillusioned by where the industry had taken me. The economy was not the only culprit. Technology played a bigger hand for me. Not only did it bring photo buffs out of the woodwork and into the “professional” realm, more importantly it changed my workflow tremendously. I was no longer in my “groove”, and was spending far more time at one of 5 computers than I was creating art from behind my camera. In addition, one of the key ingredients in my success was the personal connection I developed with my clients. How do you develop a truly personal connection via the internet?? For years I tried embracing this change. (Huge kudos to those who have and are happy there! This is not a reflection on you!) That’s what we’re taught to do right? Embrace change. It’s not like I’m inflexible or incapable of change. (I guess I’ve proven that! :-)) But I asked myself one day, “Why should I?” When I’m so displeased with the change that was forced into my life, why should I feel the need to embrace it? Instead of embracing, and conforming to these changes, I’m choosing to embrace my ability to MAKE a change… to find my way back to a life I feel passionate about! For years I’ve longed to simplify my life substantially, it was just a matter of finding the right time and method for doing so.

In the mean time I had to honor the promise I made to myself after my divorce six and a half years ago… to hunker down and maintain a rather sizable and burdensome property, my daughter’s home since she was four, until she graduated from high school and headed off to college. With blind faith I started purging as that time was drawing near, and clearly things are happening as they are meant to because I went into contract on the sale of my home the week she graduated from high school, and handed off the keys one week after she started at UNT. (I love and miss you my sweet girl! Thanks for riding out those brutal waves with me!)

So why the Winnebago? I had no precise destination. The Northwest (still home to me) has been tugging at my heartstrings for years, but then what? Re-establish my portrait business? As much as I love creating beautiful heirloom portraits I have no desire to be anchored to another studio, even if it is on my property. Frankly, I have no desire to be anchored to any property for awhile. I’ve always been filled with a sense of wanderlust, and completely enthralled by the beauty of our world. It’s never ending, and I’d be happy spending the rest of my life taking it all in.  After the successful release of my book, The Dogs of Central Park, I decided I’d like to work on more books in a series. After much pondering I realized I had no reason to be anchored anywhere for now, and many reasons to be mobile… with MY dogs. An RV, which I had never dreamed of owning by the way, was the perfect means for doing just that!

No fan of technology and now I’m blogging??? I know… still hard for me to believe sometimes. The blog began as a way for family and friends to keep tabs on me. It’s basically a diary of my travels and a way to share my images along the way. I wasn’t expecting the interest that has developed in my journey, and it’s that interest that compels me to explain better why I am out here… on my “journey of discovery.” The focus of my journey is not just photography. It’s a spiritual journey as well. It’s about seeking peace and balance. It’s about healing and rekindling a fire and passion for life. It’s about letting go… of stress, of things, of the burdens that keep us trapped, unable to truly enjoy this amazing gift of life. Mostly it’s about living life fully and celebrating the blessing of each day.

(For more insight see the Feb 2 question posed by Brent Donaldson, and Fran’s response below.)

With my old home, my new home, and my “roadies”, Jazzy and Sadie right before we embarked on the journey.

The girls have a removable platform over the passenger seat. They like riding eye-to-eye with the “big boys” on the road! 🙂

Big thank you to Chris Fritche for helping me with the first two images above!!!

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  • Kathleen Kelly

    Great post, Fran. I love your attitude. You are living your words, which for so many is impossible. You deserve all the best and thrilling in life. Can’t wait to see more. Hope you are having fun in the ‘Bu. kathxxxooo

  • fran

    Thanks Kathleen. More to come now that I’ve got that one out of the way. The ‘Bu has been quiet. Lots of weather and lousy internet. Have enjoyed some time with a few old friends and long walks on the beach with the girls. Both blessings in my book! So glad we found time together. Hugs to all (Great and Small) at the Kelly house!

  • fran – I hear ya. I get every statement you made. I have had every thought you expressed. I am kicking and screaming every day about the changes in my business and how much time and effort I spend on a computer and not with clients or behind a camera. Not ready to chuck it yet but feel stressed and frustrated. And at the same time I am challenged and inspired.

    I wish for you the best what ever that turns out to be. I do hope you find a way to continue making pictures and sharing them as your contribution on earth is relevant for the rest of us. Thke care.

    • fran

      Thanks Kim. I have no doubt there are many out there in the industry who feel much the same. My camera goes almost everywhere I go, so there’s no shortage of images to share. On the contrary… there’s too many! 🙂 My best to you. Stay inspired!

  • Awesome read, Frannie. Many of us are living vicariously through you. Keep on stopping to smell the roses.
    ~r

    • fran

      Thanks Randy. If you’re living vicariously through me I shall be sure to make it a fun journey! Haven’t smelled roses in awhile, but I was just enjoying the sunshine and fragrance of Lantana and Verbena drifting up the hillside. 🙂

  • patty

    love reading your stuff and great pictures!! i am living in an rv in Montana with animals and husband…quite an experience I tell you…..plan on going many places…i feel lucky i have had these kinds of experiences…scary, fun, etc etc thanks for sharing with everyone…one never knows what one is capable of doing…………i was born and raised in san diego so the pictures you shot were all quite familiar to me….well done shots!

    • fran

      Thank you for your note Patty. Montana in an RV in the winter. Wow. If the northerners heading south for the winters are called snow birds, does this make you a sunbird? You’re right about not knowing what we’re capable of. And the only way to find out is step out there and try… whatever it is. 🙂 If you see me heading back your way (which I will because I did not get enough of Montana) drop me a note!!

  • Nicely written Fran.

    “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I…
    I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

    :o) Meet me in Big Bend… I’ll show you letting go and reconnecting with nature…

  • fran

    We’ve been talking about Big Bend for how many years now? You’re on! Roughly the second week of March. I want to be back near Dallas for my daughter’s spring break. Then heading east. Who’s telling Ara? 🙂

  • Ara knows :o) Spring Break in the Bend is usually crowded. With the impending opening of Boquillas crossing it may be even more crowded. It would be a good idea to check site availability in advance.

  • fran

    Let’s converse later about this. Going mobile today. Yeah… mobile!! 🙂 Been sitting still WAY too long!

  • Bonnie Cuddihy

    I’d LOVE to be doing what you are doing. We traveled from VA to MT in August 2010 and loved every minute of it. I’m an Air Force brat so it’s in my blood. My husband wants to stay put where his home ties are and he’s the resistant one. But I’ve got your blog to follow and relish in those gorgeous photos. So experience it all and share snippets with us staying at home. And pat those two lovely girls on the head for me.

  • fran

    Thanks Bonnie. Glad you’re enjoying the journey. Jazzy and Sadie send woofs! 🙂

  • Ara is here!!! Spirit is also… We will be back end of March as yes, it is a bit crazy during Spring Break. You are more than welcome to stay at The Oasis, it is 25 miles north of Terlingua. Most never do as… too far, which makes me smile!!! Too far from the Bars, too far from what?… There is so much beauty outside the Park, our own little secret hideaways carved in Stones Mother Nature has been diligently working on for years! We are ourselves going west after discovering a bit of NM! Mainly Three Rivers! Tucson a couple days… catching up on “stuff”. You know… “stuff”. Maybe “Slab City”? Who knows. I never do till that day we move on…
    Stay in touch, I even know someone that might prepare some not so bad meals…
    Ara and Spirit

  • fran

    Ara, let’s talk. I am heading east toward Wickenburg AZ tomorrow I believe, then north to So. Utah and into Colorado for a few weeks. Doesn’t sound like our paths are far apart.

  • Brent Donaldson

    Ok classmate…so now that you have been on this Journey for awhile now, I have a question or two to throw out there: What have you learned about yourself that you didn’t know before you started this Journey? Anything surprised you about yourself or how you reacted to any particular situation? I would be a little surprised if you have not learned a thing or two along this Journey. God’s Blessings Fran as you continue on…

  • fran

    Brent, the simple (and somewhat humorous) answer is I’ve learned a lot about RVs and RV maintenance, and that I have a good aptitude for figuring things out as I go along. But in answer to what I think you’re really asking… I learn a little bit more about myself and life with each new day. Much of what I’ve learned has been more of an affirmation of what I’ve always focused on believing in… that I am strong. I am brave. I am capable of doing anything I believe I can do. Most people assume that I just AM these things. I’m not really. Not by nature. I am these things because I BELIEVE these things about myself. Anyone who knows me, or has ever heard me speak, knows that I am a very firm believer in positive thought and positive affirmation. Every big task I tackle, I take my thinking from “I think I can.” to “I can.” very quickly, (it is a discipline) and this is one of the biggest tasks I’ve ever tackled. So one thing I’ve learned Brent, is that I really CAN!!

    I have also reaffirmed that my “church” really is in nature. It’s along the shores, or deep in the forest, or at the top of the highest peaks looking out over these amazing vistas that I experience my most spiritual and awakening moments. These are the moments that bring heaven closer to earth. They are moments that are impossible to experience while standing on the pavement and overshadowed by the craziness of our lives. It’s not always easy being alone out here, but even when alone for days on end, it’s hard not to be filled with joy while standing in the midst of such grand beauty.

    What I’ve learned about life is really more of an affirmation as well, as I’ve been on this journey in my heart and soul for several years. Each day is a new treasure to me, as I believe they are meant to be. It’s been painful for me to find so many friends (old and new) and family members living such burdened and disillusioned lives. The state of our country and economy is taking a huge toll on everyone, but what I think much of it boils down to is that it is hard to let go of what we’ve worked so hard to attain. And sadly, what most of us have attained over the years is just stuff… it’s belongings. I’m sorry if this seems insensitive to some. I am not insensitive to the anguish I’ve observed. On the contrary, it hurts me greatly to see the suffering. But the reality of it is that most of what we own, we don’t need. It’s just hard to let it go. What we don’t know until we move past it is that letting go gives us freedom. I know it’s very different when we’re FORCED to let go, and my journey was only possible for me because I seriously hunkered down and prepared for it, but we could all live simpler lives. The key is finding joy in simpler things. The things that don’t cost money. The beauty of the world around us. Moments of complete tranquility and peace. Deep and sincere relationships with family and friends.

    • “what most of us have attained over the years is just stuff… it’s belongings… But the reality of it is that most of what we own, we don’t need. It’s just hard to let it go. What we don’t know until we move past it is that letting go gives us freedom.”

      AMEN FRAN! Our society has gotten “things” so out of order.

      It was great to talk to you today!

      • fran

        Wonderful catching up with you as well Sue. I’m glad you agree with my convictions. Sadly, I see us spinning farther out of control with each passing year. My best to the family. Hope to see you when I when I come back through Texas. It’s been too long since we met for coffee!

  • Brent Donaldson

    I get to experience what you have been, on a much smaller scale, every Fall. A group of Christian “Brothers” and I take a yearly canoe trip into the BWCA (Boundry Waters Canoe Area) It is a primitive Wilderness area that borders MN and Canada. The farther back we go, the more solitude and distance we put between us and the “craziness of our lives.” A lot of times we never see another canoe the whole trip. While these trips are very demanding physically, especally the older we get, it is the most relaxing and spiritual vacation I take.

    I know what you mean when you feel heaven is a lot closer; when you can see and experience Nature up close, when you can see and experience God’s creation, how can one not feel that He is closer. Those of us who get to have these type of experiences are truly blessed.

    So Fran, keep experiencing, keep documenting and writing, keep following where your heart leads you on this Journey. While you may be traveling the roads of this country alone in your RV….I hope that you know that you are not “walking” this Journey alone! God’s Blessings Classmate!!

  • fran

    Thank you Brent. Your canoe trip sounds absolutely amazing. I would love to experience that one day! When you see me heading your way (which I will) be sure to drop me a note. I’d love to see you while there!

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  • Dan

    Hooray for Robert Frost and Yogi Berra.
    When I saw the title of this section, I knew that you had your priorities in the right place.
    I was linked to your blog by trying to find the name of a bird whose photo i took while at my local park down here in FL and found a picture of one that you had taken.
    I couldn’t agree more with your comments about Nature.
    I have been moved by the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun”. Your story and photos might just cause me to be moved to see “Under the Montana Moon”. 😉
    Lovely photos by the way, and continued success on your journey on this little ball we all live on. 🙂

    • fran

      Well thank you Dan, and much obliged. I have to admit I’m more than a little flattered by your comments. It’s been awhile since I embarked on this journey, and although the sentiments have not changed, there are times when my mind does lose track of the purpose of my heart. Of course, those moments are usually brought on by frustrations with technology (more importantly, lack of it’s consistency). Your unsolicited comment was a welcomed poke. AKA- “reality check!”

      P.S.- Did you identify your bird?

      • Dan

        You are quite welcomed.
        Yes I did. It is, in fact, a Green Heron, although I fail to see any green.

  • Lissa Berg

    I just LOVE the picture of the girls riding in their seat! What great friends you have, Fran!

    • fran

      They love riding up there. And yes… I do have great friends, like the Berg family! 🙂

  • Marla Horn

    Fran, what you have written could be my own words as far as why you took this journey. I too would love to do what you are doing, to simplify life, to be able to stop and just revel in the world God has given us and it’s beauty. Maybe one day I will have the same opportunity. If it was just me, no hubby or mother to care for, etc. I would sell my home and set out on my own, with my dog (hopefully dogs soon) and travel this wonderful country. Thankfully there is a wonderful hubby and a mother to cherish while I can so I will wait and pray I will have the health and means one day to “chuck it all”, simplify and travel as you are. In the meantime I will live it through your eyes. I admire you more than you can know.

    • fran

      Hugs Marla! Your words and encouragement mean a lot to me. Enjoy your blessings today and hold fast to your dreams.

  • Carrie Bassett Johnson

    Fran, I just added you on facebook and am just catching up with this awesome adventure you are on in life. Way to go! I am very excited to follow your travels and live vicariously through them.
    Best to you!

    • fran

      Thanks Carrie. Great to hear from you. I’m glad to have you along on my journey. The more the merrier! 🙂 Hope to see you at our next reunion!

  • Brooke

    Fran, I’ve just stumbled on your site AFTER I decided to follow my dreams & chuck my “stuff”. I’m selling my home; I’ve already purchased a tiny mobile home & a small motorhome to “see North America”. I too, am a middle aged woman (I’ve got a couple of yrs. on you) & I want to see & experience everything I can before I leave this world.
    Some of my friends & family think I’m nuts, but I do have a few supporters too. Maybe we’ll meet up somewhere on the road. Safe travels.

    • fran

      Hello Brooke, and congrats on choosing to fulfill your sense of curiosity and wanderlust. You’ll love what you discover… the places and the people you meet along the way. Where are you now, and when do you set out on your first adventure?

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