Kent, Connecticut

Halloween was our last full day in Kent and it started with getting a carwash. After a month of driving The Beast through several states and the twisting New England roads, she needed it. The nearest carwash was 30 minutes away, in New Milford, and it was trips like this that made me miss being 10 minutes away from everything (especially Trader Joe’s!). We waited outside, Eleanor and Lucy already wearing their costumes, along with a mom and her daughter. The two, too big vehicles, rolled out of the tunnel, and off we all went.

Eleanor and Lucy took horseback riding lessons twice a week. The stable was at the bottom of the hill that winded up to our house – past the endless rows of New England stone walls built when everything we could see was farmland.

Taylor, the kids’ riding teacher and daughter of the stable owner, invited us to their annual Halloween party. The horses and their owners dressed as Star Wars characters, farmers, and puppies, and when we arrived, a familiar little girl said, “Hey, I saw you at the car wash this morning! I’m Grace!” Grace told Eleanor and Lucy that she liked their costumes – a cat and Medusa (Brooke was teaching Greek Mythology around then). I told Grace that I liked her costume, too – she looked down at the football jersey she was wearing and said, “I’m not wearing a costume.”

Later that day, we went to a pizza place we liked, watched a parade of Halloween themed floats that were created by the local artists, and had the feeling that this is how community starts.

Lucy and a piñata at the horse stable
One of the floats built by the Wassaic Project
Dinner at The Lantern Inn in Wassaic, NY.


We hiked and went on day trips: New York City, Rhinebeck/Poughkeepsie, and New Haven. One day we went to a Flea Market. At the outset Lucy said she wanted to find a Littlest Pet Shop seller and sure enough, she found one.

\Appalachian Trail, Cobble Mountain, Kent Falls, and taking back the red and white hat : )

Kent Home

The house was owned by friends of family, a couple from Brooklyn who bought a country house in January. They quit their day jobs and today make a living telling the future.

(pull the toggle!)

From the top of a hill, we watched fall flow through the mountains. We watched the fog roll through the hills as we drank our morning coffee.

At the bottom of the hill was Mountain View Farm, first established in the 1700’s and today is 3 acres and run by a small family. Twice a week we’d visit the shed/shop and buy eggs, pork, kale (lots of kale), garlic (garlic grows well here), and anything else that was in season.

Weigh the veggies, list what you bought, write your name and leave some money. That’s it.

And at the very bottom (the tippy bottom, as Lucy says) was a creek. We fished, unsuccessfully, and climbed rocks, successfully.

In the mornings I would run. The fog would lift just enough and sun would squeak over the hills just enough for me to jog up hills and sometimes through the trails. Turkey were awake, deer too. Several times I saw what I think was the same hawk, or a a large owl – it flew gently between the same trees. Once I could have sworn I saw a bobcat, or a large cat – it was being chased by crows.

We cooked hotdogs, ate s’mores and gazed up at the stars. This house, this town, this was a good place to be.

School and Work

When we left, our kids were still registered in their school district. This meant they could have been remote learners like the rest of their class. But, traveling gave us something new – school outside of 9 to 2, outside standard curriculum. Brooke, God bless my dear wife, could teach our kids using our location. She, they, could use days in new ways.

Working nomadically is nothing new for many at Automattic and this home made it an easy transition. The desk was large, the chair comfortable, and the wi-fi strong. As an added bonus, the room was heated – unlike the sunporch at home (old home? former home?) I packed a bag with my Macbook, a laptop stand, a Lume Cube light, wireless keyboard/mouse and some notebooks. When you really stop and think about it, it’s wild that you can earn a living with nothing more than the things you can fit into a backpack.

Take your kid to work, no longer once a year.

This was a very long post and I could continue further. Living in Kent, living in the hills, this was all new. It was fulfilling. We’re in Florida now but before I write that post, let me leave you with some more horses – Bentley and Chewy.

Fishing with Slugs

When was the last time you read a book that you loved as a kid?

Since we’re on the edge of the Catskills, I thought it would be fun to read one of my favorites, My Side of the Mountain. I dreamt of living on the land and at one point did run away from home – all the way around the block and into my backyard fort. But, discouraged that nobody was looking for me (and hungry), I went home for a snack. Running away requires a plan, or at least Oreos.

In the book, Sam runs away because there are just too many kids in just too small of an apartment. He builds a home in a tree, trains a falcon, makes acorn flour pancakes, and eats the fish he catches.

Eleanor and Lucy, just like me at their age, felt the tug of inspiration. They found slugs under a stump, formed a fishing pole out of a stick, string, and clothespin, and went down to the creek to find dinner. Eleanor didn’t catch anything…

and Lucy felt so bad for the slugs had to let them go…

but none of this diminished the joy of making something out of nothing.

The Bass Note

Recently, my friend Omar asked me how we decided to do what we’re doing. Did we wake up one day and come to the conclusion that we should sell our house, pack our things, hit the road? Was it more than just a whim? If you know Omar, then you know this is a silly question since a few years back he saved up a bunch of money in order to quit his job and travel the world for a year. Whims don’t just happen.

Brooke and I met in college. We married young and moved into a low ceilinged garden apartment in La Grange Park. The buildings were old, heated by boilers and the pipes ran right above our heads. In the middle of winter we would sleep with our windows open.

Leaving LGP, Brooke distinctly remembers looking in the rearview mirror of our U-Haul and swearing we’d never be back. Our apartment in Roscoe Village, a tree lined neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, was 15 steps from a coffee shop and our neighbors became our best friends. We adopted a dog who spent half her day perched in our front window and the other half running across the courtyard to our friend’s apartment where she’d sit as we played euchre.

We bought a condo in Bucktown and Eleanor was born a year later. Now, when we’d take a walk, we’d walk to a park to push our baby in a baby-swing. Dinners would happen earlier than before. We lost touch with the latest and greatest the city offered.

The apartment was on the third floor and there wasn’t an elevator. We loved the condo but sometimes it would shake when a big truck would rumble by. Around this time we started to think about baby number two, as well as trudging up three flights, carrying Lucy (#2) and Eleanor, holding onto Sadie’s leash, with a bag of groceries hooked under one arm.

So, we moved back to La Grange Park. Ha!

For eight years we lived in a small but wonderful home that Brooke masterfully renovated. We raised our girls, marking their height on a wall in Eleanor’s room. They started school and met friends, we met friends too. Good friends that we would meet to skateboard with in a cul-de-sac. Friends that, by happenstance, booked a trip to Spain the same time we did. We met in Girona, wandered tight ancient streets and ate ice cream.

Brooke and I love to travel. The thrill of discovery and being somewhere new. But in our twenties we didn’t. We didn’t have the money and it didn’t fit the plan. After having kids though, that changed. We wanted them to appreciate the world outside of the Midwest. So we stayed in our small house on too busy of a street and spent anything extra on experiences, experiences that got us wondering where home really could be. A question we’ve asked ourselves countless times, a question that hasn’t gone away.

There’s this teacher named Rob Bell. He has a podcast and in some of the episodes Rob talks about the bass note. The low hum. “Something within you that knows the truth in you” he said on one episode. He suggests we try to listen to “a life that’s been speaking to us this whole time.”

The pandemic hit and for the first time I stopped traveling for work. Brooke lost her job, but she’s a masters educated educator who can teach our girls. And amidst it all there was the low hum that kept getting louder. So when one of us said “Should we sell our house? And then travel the country for a year?” the other one, without question, said “I was thinking the same thing.”

So here we are, on a journey, trying to listen to the bass note.

When things are closed

We were at the Yale bookstore because we were on the hunt for a lobster roll, and Eleanor was hot. The day was warmer than we expected, and Eleanor was in long sleeves. Areas being closed by COVID stifled our stroll through the campus. The Rare Books Library. The not so rare books but the probably still great library. Many areas were closed off only to students.

So we found ourselves in the book store, buying post-cards (and not a t-shirt as it happened), and asking the person behind the cash register for pizza recommendations. “Pepes. Sally’s. Modern. This is where you go for New Haven Style pizza. And by the way, the IKEA just opened back up, so you might want to check out the IKEA as well.” We went to Modern.

But wait, the IKEA? You’re recommending a visit to the local IKEA? Sure, it just opened. But, IKEA? Looking back on the day this is the black cat walking in front of you, the ladder you just walked under, the mirror that just smashed.. We should have felt the energy shift when we took her recommendation, ignoring my friend David’s, and ate at Modern.

The pizza was greasy. There wasn’t a park nearby. We ate it in the back of The Beast (as we’ve started calling our large vehicle). The beach wasn’t charming. We didn’t even bring the girl’s bathing suits. The historic homes closed at 4:00. A farm nearby closed at 2:00. We went to Trader Joes and picked up peanut butter, nuts, milk, and snacks. 

And this brings us back to the reason we drove to the coast. Lobster roll. Yes, Connecticut isn’t Maine or Rhode Island, but we midwesterners were excited. Fresh lobster is exotic. Where we come from, it comes from a fish-tank – claws rubber-banded with those small thick rubber bands. 

Lobster is also seasonal, and the lobster shop was closed. 

But this time, we didn’t push on. We learned from the week before – on our second day we spent too much time at the Falls, drove to a place that was closed, and chose to take the scenic route (my call, bad call, too dark, too mountainous, I kept waiting for a deer to hit us). 

This time we packed up and went home. We didn’t get home too late, so we ordered good take-out. We started a fire. And looked at the stars, observing again that night just how many there are. Brooke saw a shooting star, so did Lucy.

We won’t get every day right but we’re learning how to make the most of each one.

Midwest in the Rearview

That was easy, we said, pulling into Niagara falls nine hours after leaving Chicago. We’re going to be great at this. Our car packed better than I expected (a layer of Rubbermaids topped with duffles and baskets). The kids did great – watched shows, read, played games.

And hey, that first day was pretty easy. Our first stop was Elkhart, IN – the town where RVs are born (and then delivered to driveways by very large storks). In the travel-center, the hot dog spinning machine was broken. A panel was removed exposing insides (that’s how the sausage is made, I chuckle silently). It’s decently complicated and looked to be stumping the maintenance person who was referencing instructions on YouTube – just like the rest of us! A father and son are wearing camouflage. Lucy’s wearing a camo shirt too. Soon we realize it’s hunting season.

Indiana goes by quickly, Ohio takes longer. It’s all farmland except for the occasional tree that managed to escape its flattening fate. We picnic outside an eerily empty rest area, eat pb and j, and keep rolling.

A stop at Starbucks sends us through Cleveland, a seemingly fine town that will forever be remember as the city Brooke spotted a Bald Eagle. It flew yards above our head as we slowly drove onto an onramp connecting us from one highway to the next.

Lucy slept a little. Eleanor didn’t. This is typical.

Lucy, for reasons unknown to us, has always wanted to travel to Pennsylvania. “Where are you most excited to travel?” we’ll ask. “Pennsylvania.” is the quick response, often stretched out to Pennnnnsylvaaaaaania. There was much cheering when we crossed the border and moments of awe when we drove next to Lake Erie.

Trump signs have been a common part of the landscape. Trailers painted. Homemade items of all kinds. In PA one large sign stood in front of a cross, mostly blocking out the cross – that ancient form of capital punishment. Maybe that was the point.

New York. Full of vineyards. I had no idea. Day one ended with Chipotle and a night at the Hyatt Place Niagara Falls. We’re sufficiently frightened of COVID and avoid humans as best we can. The room we stayed in had been empty for four days. We wiped it down. Ate our dinner and saw the falls at night.

We slept and then day two. Day two was hard.

Staging Week

For the last week we’ve been in…Elmhurst, IL.!8 miles from home. We’re really doing this whole travel the country well so far.

We’ve spent a a week figuring out what can be brought and what needs to be left behind was needed. We’ve also spent much of the week like this:

Whoa boy, we’re going to have to figure out how to stay organized, real fast.

Goodbye, Hello

“We should see if we can sell our house,” we said. “Test the market,” we said – right before drum beat of Netflix. The girls were asleep. We slept on the idea. And then, a few days later, our house sold in less than 6 hours to the first person that toured it over Zoom.

So here we are, about eight weeks later, saying goodbye to our home of eight years. Hello to an open-ended adventure. Hello, hello.

Next week we head East for mountains, farm country, maybe the ocean. We don’t have it all planned out. It’s like mapping an unmapped part of our psyche. What’s life like when you don’t have a plan?

Stay tuned, swipe up, right, left, wave your hands in the air.