Molly Moore, her husband, Joe, and their four young kids have been traveling in their 2019 30’ Airstream since July 2020, attempting to let go, spend time in wild places, and instill a strong foundation of Leaving No Trace, while picking up the trail of their Legos left at campsites across the entire country. She tells her family’s story at The Moore Air, which recounts their adventures and discoveries from remote parks to big cities, all while growing up and slowing down in tight quarters…together. You can also catch them on Instagram @the_moore_air. Read earlier installments here.
We had now been on the road for over a year and a half. The unique qualities of this lifestyle: the logistics, the roadschool, and the unplanned near-disasters that once felt so new were now rhythms. The intensity of newness - that initial learning, the discovering, the vividness of all the colors, the way you have to be aware of every new piece of information in your purview – was now more muted. There was certainly never any monotony, never a lack of access, always something interesting just around the corner, a consistent vibrance. But the overwhelming absorption of such a dramatically new and different lifestyle had, somewhere between Florida and Montana, become normal. The kids had established themselves. What had started as an upending to their world had become their co-creation of something new, a redefining and discovery of their values, interests, and strengths. We weren’t bothered by a looming sense of when do we get back to what we had, but instead were living what we had created together.
And as this self-discovery continued at the forefront of our trip, so did the daily brush ups with some of the grandest wonders of nature. We had our highest-yield days of fishing in the Florida Keys. We had touched the heavens crossing the Continental Divide in Colorado. We had sat before the majesty of the Teton range. We had been alongside the enormity of the Pacific Ocean for nearly three months straight, with its bull kelp, dolphins, whales, seals, otters, sneaker waves, and anemones. We strolled through some of the country’s oldest and highest trees in California. We had seen the full spectrum of orange splashed across unique rock formations as the sun set in the Desert Southwest.
And now we were approaching Mississippi.
We knew there wouldn’t be mountains. We knew the air would warm, thicken, and fill with mosquitos, quite contrary to the dryness of the mountaintop west and the always-70s of southern California. But it was spring, and spring in the south is lovely. It smells lovely. It offers hope of possibility. And for me, it is nostalgic. The magnolias! The dogwoods! The bougainvillea! Mississippi, here we come…
Sharing Time, Energy, and Experience
We had extensive friends and family across the state and our month in Mississippi would mostly be spent in driveways. We had already learned the power of relationships, were already familiar just how important friends and family, new and old, were to us in this context. Family in Idaho welcomed us after our exhausting first leg of the trip, cooking three meals a day for us in their driveway as Covid was peaking. Family across Washington, Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, South Carolina, and Virginia took us on hikes in their backyards, taught us to feed their baby goats, taught us to rub buttercups on our noses, taught us to rub the bottom of a crab to make it fall asleep, took us on hunts to look for river glass, took us on boat rides. They cooked for us, did laundry for us, ate with us, welcomed us, and satisfied our innate longing to feel known and valued. That family reminded us of who we share our genes or histories with and what themes run deeply throughout. It’s no wonder we discovered we have (multiple) relatives who have big families on farms, relatives who have sailed the world, relatives who have lived in an RV, relatives who homeschooled, relatives who are strong women who know their botany, relatives who like good music.
And friends, too, had become important to us in new ways. We made fast friends with two families in the Badlands; one we ended up bumping into again in the Tetons and the other welcomed us to their home in Los Angeles, the kids all writing postcards back and forth along the way. We made fast friends in Florida who we then made plans with in North Carolina, California, and Georgia. We made fast friends in the Keys who we then bumped into on a roadside in Montana and we then made plans with in Washington, Oregon, and Missouri. We spent time with old friends in homes and neighborhoods and contexts we had never seen, re-living our glory days and celebrating their lives as they knew them now. We spent time with old friends in magical places, re-learning who they were outside of the traditional contexts in which we once knew them. They shared their recipes, their child-rearing tips, their favorite hikes, and how to get their kids up those favorite hikes. We celebrated triumph over cancer. We mourned the losses. We shared dreams and cooked up futures together. Though spending our days in playful activity, cajoling kids on hikes, leaping from cliffs into cold pools of water, holding kids back from snakes, our pizza evenings were spent sharing more deeply, more intimately. Because of covid? Because of the loveliness of the surroundings? Because it felt like vacation? Because we might not have another close friend in the next leg of the journey? Who knows, but I will forever take with me a profound love that I felt from those I journeyed with, whether for a quarter mile of a hike or an afternoon of despair, or a week without a shower.
And now we were approaching Mississippi. The driveways and bougainvillea beckoned us.
Driveway Boondocking with Friends and Family in Mississippi
Our first stop was the Delta. We were parked in our first Mississippi driveway, surrounded by the aforementioned spring blooms, with a lake nearby for fishing, farm animals for teasing, and a swimming pool to wash away our roadschool frustrations at the end of the day. We were taken to farmland and woods to explore. We found deer shed, turtle shells, and even an animal skull. We were cooked for. And, through the magic of a slow evening, bathed in the Hospitality of Presence, we learned how to rub our fingers on crystal in such a way that the crystal sang back to you. We laughed along the way, each having their own technique, some convinced lemon juice made it work, while others just found the right touch. And, as a springtime tornado rolled through, our two nights turned into three and our driveway presence turned into a house invasion. At one point, we discovered our third child, crawled up in the master bed, watching tv, with the dog. We had officially made it our own.
Next, we were welcomed into the home where Joe’s grandfather had been raised with his eight siblings. The home had been in the family for years and the nearby creek even bore their name. We were taken on countless mule rides (the small tractor, not the animal). We discussed homeschooling with veteran homeschoolers. We discussed the local birds, trees, and flowers. We were briefed on the family tree. We were taught piano. We were fed.
Along the way we were camping along the Natchez Trace, but because of a tornado threat, our afternoon with friends turned into an overnighter, of course with delicious food, endless kid snacks, toys, space, and reprieve from the weather. That overnighter turned into a broken arm and a welcoming and generous community who helped us patch it all up.
This month of driveways continued into Georgia, another state of abundant friends and family. The magical driveways continued. We made new friends, deepened old ones, invaded space, broke bread together, played, removed the cast, and lived life together, if only for a day, or a weekend. Friends made homemade bread, homemade pizza, steaks, vacio, ribs, casseroles. We wandered or golf carted their neighborhoods. We played in their parks. We borrowed books. We learned yet another way to live life that was fascinating, challenging, and rich.
The Joy and Challenge of Travel (And All its Various Glories)
As I mentioned before, boondocking has its own set of challenges, yet a counter set of glories that outweighs those challenges. Similarly, living in driveways came with its own set of challenges. First, we were never really on our own schedule – when we ate, when we explored, when we slept. We were absorbed by others’ rhythms, lifestyles, eating habits, and preferences. Second, we were constant consumers. Though these friends and family seemed to give abundantly and freely, that reliance on someone else can often feel hard to sustain. We have a tendency to want to earn our keep. We want to trade. It gives us value, it makes us not feel needy. Yet we could never trade enough; the host always won. We were constantly receiving. And third, our noise volume, our arguments, and our messiness was on full display, not hidden in the confines of our own house or our own walls. It was a vulnerable existence sharing so much space with others.
Yet all these challenges had another side to their coin. They all came with some glory. And, as is most often the case, the glories won. The glories are what we took with us. The glories are what we remember. By living in a driveway, sharing so much and so regularly, we got to know each other more intimately. By being absorbed into another set of rhythms, we were taken on the adventure of another family’s life. By receiving so frequently and with such regularity, we were taught hospitality, learned how to receive, and made promises of how our future selves would give, host, and welcome people into our lives. Our vulnerabilities and our messiness were received, forgiven, accepted; which is more deeply satisfying than a shallow, pristine version of ourselves being accepted. We left each driveway not only feeling loved, but feeling grateful for the opportunity to know and love someone else.
People are busy creatures. Putting down what you are doing and being with another human being, one you might not even know that well, is a gift. When space is made for you, when you become the priority, you are ascribed with value. And though food is a close second, there is no gift like the gift of time, space, and presence.
Our journey has taken us to some of the more jaw-dropping, hard-to-reach, once-in-a-lifetime places, but as we left our time across Mississippi and Georgia, we started to wonder: Was our time in driveways more awe-inspiring? Did these relationships blow us away more than glacier peaks? Does the magic of relationship outweigh that of grand vistas, rainbow sightings, afternoon storms across the Rockies in the summer? It’s hard to measure their significance, but it’s safe to say driveways have been some of our more majestic stops.