It’s taken me four days to even get my sea legs enough to sit down and write.
Today is day four. We’ve been on this crazy amazing lake for four days (five counting the travel day), and the amount of stuff I want to tell you might make this the longest post ever.
Even though this isn’t my first time on an outdoorsy like camping vacation (my craziest camping trip was Kenya Africa) – this is the first time I’ve ever committed to a solid 9 days of real life escape to the high desert climate of Arizona… with our four year old William in tow.
No internet. 18 people. One houseboat.
The first thing I want to tell you is that if you haven’t tried to really unplug from the real world – no internet, no news, no email, no social media – try it. Your brain frees up enormous bandwidth. For me who works online and regularly answers over 100 messages a day, I honestly bought back 90% of my brain’s bandwidth when we rolled up onto the desert-y beach for the week.
This has both amazing consequences and unintended ones.
The amazing ones you probably know – things like resetting your rhythm to the sun, living in the present moment with the people you’re with, more time to think, etc. The unintended consequence of all this brain power?
You have time to really let all those repressed thoughts rise to the surface as you stare at the stars. Hard emotional thoughts you ignored as the busyness of life took hold.
I have this high powered, fast moving brain – in a completely foreign environment. Times that by all the other successful people I’m with? It’s a lot of brain power sitting on a boat in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure how it was for everyone else, but for me? It brought up a whole lot of stuff I don’t normally pay attention to.
For the first four days, I couldn’t go two hours without trying to figure out what time it was. All the phones are jacked because there is no internet first, but secondly, we’re right on the timezone line between mountain time and pacific time so it’s always a toss up on what time you’d get when you asked. And I got a ton of shit from everyone because it mattered to me what the REAL time was. They were all like, “Why does it matter?!”
Literally..two phones next to each other at dinner one night.
And it was a really good question. Why did it matter so much to me? Everything I do runs by the clock, and without it, I was completely lost.
The thought of trusting my own instincts to guide me (and also to guide me parenting William) felt scary and unknown. For those of you who have children who are monsters when they are tired or out of their routine, you understand why I chose the word “scary”. I pushed through the discomfort and as each day passed, I asked the time less and less. It’s now day four and I no longer need to know what time it is to wake up, go to sleep, or eat meals. I just feel my way through it, for me and William. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is.
Sleeping under the stars will probably go down in history as one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. Being a New Englander, I haven’t ever been able to sleep outside. It’s either too humid, too buggy, too stormy, or too cold. Here? There are no bugs that bite. No humidity. Just miles and miles of water, red rock, and stars. I feel my body resetting every night I sleep here.
I want you to imagine for a minute, 15 entrepreneurs all on one houseboat together. Every day is like a new reality TV episode. We had Lake Powell Day 4 – the day Nick successfully climbed the steepest rock you’ve ever seem. We all watched from the lake below, as he became the tiniest speck against all the rock. He definitely didn’t bring a walkie talkie, enough sunscreen and water, or even a shirt…but it didn’t stop us from listening to James narrate his descent in true David Attanboro fashion. We all peed our pants laughing, which didn’t matter because peeing in the lake is perfectly acceptable.
Several entrepreneurial endeavors have popped up in our new lakeside economy. Sophie (age 10) has started a floatation rotation service business. She hops in the lake and gets paid every time she tows someone on a floatie back to a prime spot (near the dock, in the shade, etc.). She hustled Brian out of 40 bucks yesterday since she rotated his floatie over 35 times in our afternoon floating session.
The days revolve around floating sessions. Think three or four hours of talking, laughing, and drinking – on the bluest most beautiful lake water (temp 87). It’s the closest thing to heaven I can think of. We drink hard seltzer – called White Claw. So much so it’s become a verb. You yell to whomever’s on the dock and say, “CLAW ME!”
Peppered between float sessions – we do all the water sports. Wake surfing, wake boarding, slalom, paddle boarding, jet skiing, kayaking…
And then, because it’s a bunch of a-level players in the water, it turns into headstands ON the paddle board (really it’s just Brandon who can pull off this incredible feat). Nothing is ever just status quo.
Brandon and Kaelin hosted this trip, and if you’ve never watched them surf…you should. It’s impressive.
It’s funny when you’re in close quarters like this – there’s only a few hours a day of electricity, limited toilet paper, fuel, ice, and of course – throw in some toasty daytime temps of 95+ degrees, the rules change.
Things you’d never normally do – sleep in a wet bathing suit, taking communal outdoor showers, sharing beds and blankets with people, drinking sangria for breakfast (it’s really just a fruit salad with wine)… you find that the rules you live by in your real life, are just arbitrary principles you set up for the life you have.
And if you change your life, you can change the rules.
That’s been a huge aha! for me. If I want to spend more time not caring about the time, or spend more time not worrying about your house being perfectly clean, then change your life so you can create new rules that make that as normal as breathing.
In this environment, it never dawned on me not to sleep in a soaking wet bathing suit. I was hot, it was evening, I was tired, and so that’s what I did. And I woke up ready to swim.
We have a few neighbors here on the lake. Since we’re in the middle of nowhere, every new houseboat that shows up – draws intense interest from us all. There’s a territorial-ness about our little beach on the lake. So much so that James and Kaelin have concocted an elaborate plan to scare off any new visitors. It might involve stacking the long and slender white claw hard seltzer cans into what looks like a bomb, and a giant avocado and sauerkraut slingshot. I can neither confirm nor deny. What happens in Lake Powell stays in Lake Powell.
Our neighbors have attempted to barter with us a few times. Mostly for toilet paper. We did share one roll, but last night – they drew on James last nerve. He walked over there to politely ask them to turn off the flood light on their boat, and accidentally walked into a costume party. They were dressed up like the Kardashians, and even gave James an Oscar for coming as Darth Vader (they were drunk – he simply had on a Star Wars t-shirt).
Everybody has a job on this boat. Jeff is our sheriff. He’s always patrolling the beach, announcing the impending windstorm, chasing after air mattresses that blow off the sundeck into the water.
Yara has two jobs – she’s the featherer of the nest – making everything cozy and comfortable. When she’s not the nest featherer, she is a dangerous fly hunter with a salt gun.
Steve is our resident Stevearita – he can turn ANYTHING into a Margherita. Also…the catcher of one lonely fish. Didn’t stop us all from trying, but he caught only one the first day.
And of course, Kaelin and Brandon are captain and captainette….
Roeme is CAPTAIN!
All of us have distinct personalities that show up and perform well in different circumstances. Just like in business, it’s important you have the right person for the right job. If you asked me to check the water level of the lake to make sure our houseboat is anchored properly, we’d be screwed.
I’m keenly aware of the fact that I can even write all these adventures because Kaelin, Brandon, Steve, Steph, and Jeff are expert adventurers that know all things boats. The amount of logistics are insane. From locating the right beach, rationing electricity and ice and fuel, anchoring down our boat, towing all the extra water toys, and finding this epic location, without them, I wouldn’t get to experience this great grand adventure.
Also, I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience what a desert hurricane is. I can’t remember what day it was – it was the first day I decided to see if William could handle sleeping outside too. He’d been in the boat for the first two nights, and it took some persuading of Alex, but we decided to give it a go with William. We managed to get him to sleep despite the noise and fireworks. And about 10 minutes later, the wind picked up. Like REALLY picked up. So much so that our night plans of a campfire were completely demolished in exchange for all of us holding down our mattresses so they wouldn’t fly away. One still did. Twice. And some of the gusts were so strong and so loud, Alex and I spent our entire evening using a blanket to create a makeshift tent to blunt the wind.
Notice the rope. Our attempt to hold the bedding down. We’ve essentially roped our kid to the boat. LOL
Alex and I just looked at each other as we spent our night tenting William and agreed…this is what it feels like to protect your young. It’s just your family against the elements.
I’ve only taken a few photos. Mostly my phone stays in my room, barely charged. I randomly get text messages in the middle of the night. The best guess is that a satellite flies overhead and beams down messages from the real world. Once in a while I can get one out. Or… we get a service run on our two trips to the Marina.
This post to be continued…
Jeff just drank a Monster with a bee inside, and got stung on the ROOF of his mouth. Off to go find my children’s Benadryl so he can chug half the bottle.
Okay I’m back. It’s now day six. Took me two days to get back to writing. A lot’s happened…the biggest thing is we’ve moved the boat. We’re now at a totally different beach and canyon, re-invigorated by all the new stuff there is to explore. Giant rocks to climb, crystal clear deep water in a private little lagoon, and cave-like taverns of inlets to kayak through. We didn’t intend to move, but by the end of day five, we ran out of drinking water – and had to head back to the marina (about a three hour ride in) with the big boat… so we decided to camp out in a new place.
No one got dehydrated don’t worry. We have enough hard seltzer on board to hydrate the population of Utah.
The wind continues to show us who’s boss at night. It rips up about sunset and flings full length sundeck lounge chairs and heavy mattresses right into the water like it’s nothing. You know, Kaelin and Brandon warned us about the wind. But it’s not until you lose your bed that you quickly learn how to rope your linens in place. Sleeping on a wet mattress is no fun.
I think it was yesterday that we all hit our stride. Everyone now has nicknames. Kaelin is ponytail. I am Lampshade22. Lampshade because of my hat, and 22 just because. Who knows. There is one person here called Canyon Shitter because… well. Pretty sure you can figure that one out. When you put James and Kaelin in the same vicinity, the amount of shit talking is insane. It’s 100% pure entertainment watching the two of them banter back and forth. It’s like a sport. Our nicknames are going to be sealed tonight at the campfire, and then – there is no changing.
William is being stretched, I can tell. I found him in his bed last night – blankets covering his ears, slowing rocking back and forth. I think he was trying to drown out the wind and fireworks. He woke up today pretty tired. My mama heart feels like it’s ripping in two watching him cut his teeth on nature and learning how to face less than ideal circumstances and still thrive. The other part of me knows that he will go back to Connecticut and be so much more resilient. I’m really proud of how few meltdowns we’ve had.
Yesterday I stretched too. Literally. On a tube. On the back of Brandon’s boat. While I hung on for dear life screaming profanities at everyone laughing in the boat, as well as Yara who was next to me on the tube laughing at my wimpyness. I wouldn’t say it was fun being flung around on a tube going a million miles an hour – but I will say I’m glad I did it. For the photo. And even if all I learned is that I really don’t need speed in my life in order to have an adrenaline rush.
It’s so hard to explain how you bond with people when in the wilderness this long. When you see someone peeing off the side of the boat, you just walk on by as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Because here…it is. So is waking up essentially next to 15 people. We’re all in one big bedroom called the second floor of the boat.
There are three more nights. Kaelin explained that we would hit our stride about halfway, which is partly why the trip is as long as it is. And she’s right. We have hit our stride here on the lake. We’re making memories that will last a lifetime.
To be continued… it appears there is a chainlink floatie parade led by a paddle board, swimming to shore for homemade tostadas, and I will not be last in line for dinner tonight.
Day seven. Last night around the fire, I had the distinct privilege of hearing one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. My sides hurt from laughing. The problem is I can’t share it on this post. There are too many things that must remain in the desert sands of Lake Powell.
William now has a calendar on the wall of his cabin to track the days. He kept asking me how many more sleeps, so I drew a calendar on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall with bandaids (cause I’m scrappy like that). He’s now announcing the date each morning.
Clearly he is just like his mom with her timezone addiction.
Tomorrow, we return to civilization.
There are hundreds more stories I haven’t had time to share. Stories of nature showing us who is boss… people getting stuck in canyons and needing a jetski rescue, me trying to swim unsuccessfully in the waves and wind and needing to be thrown a rope. Stuff that reminds you that we are small and God is big.
Stories about the first ever annual White Claw Pong Tournament.
Stories about firework blisters as big as your palm.
But mostly they are stories about how fast people bond when taken away from the outside world, and only have each other to be with. I’m so grateful I have the family, friends, and team to be able to experience this adventure.
All the really good photos are most definitely the work of Brian Burt, our resident photographer, drone flyer, and firework starter. Do not attempt a houseboat Lake Powell vacation unless you have the distinct privilege of hanging out with boss people who know what the hell they are doing. Remember that whoever you go with, will learn your sleeping face, and most definitely, your peeing in the water face.
This post was written live, in real time – in the wild. It’s missing BIG huge chunks of the vacation for one reason…I was living it. <3