Overcoming Challenges as a Nomadic Newbie

A flood of tears blurred my vision as I crouched in the parking garage. I picked shards of glass out of the soup that’d just fallen, oblivious to the bustle of passing cars and shoppers. Crying was the last thing a reasonable person should do, but in that moment I thought:

What the hell am I doing in a Tennessee grocery store parking garage with tonight’s dinner now a broken mess of glass filled soup at my fingertips?

Hours earlier I’d parted ways with my parents who came down from Ohio to see us off on our quest, and the homemade soup was a parting gift my mom had cooked just for us. “So you have one less night of cooking to worry about,” she’d said.

And there it was. On the oil-slicked concrete.

Somehow it slipped as I was arranging our week’s worth of groceries in the cooler, our last task before departing the city for Hot Springs National Park.

We’re storing a lot of our food in reusable glass containers in an effort to cut down on trash. Here’s some homemade trail mix from the bulk food section.

The incident was a stark realization: my life had changed so much in just one week.

I could hear my mom saying a German proverb that means “Shards bring luck,” and silently apologized to her for the clumsy moment. Sure, it can happen to anyone anywhere, but when everything in your nomadic life is rationed and measured, a little bit of soup is a big deal. The fact that soup is such a homey and comforting thing from my mother only made matters worse. I couldn’t just go make another batch – the soup is way too complex for the ingredients in our cooler.

Don’t cry over spilled milk you say? As Nashville fell behind us I realized something else: I wasn’t just upset about the soup. It was simply a trigger moment, releasing all the built up emotions of our first overwhelming week on the road. Positive and negative alike.

This quote came to me:

Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.

I pondered it moodily, staring at the endless stream of sun bathed highway that carried our little home on wheels westwards. Andres remained wisely silent and turned up the music. The Steel Woods lyrics sang out: “If we never go, we will never know what’s beyond these county roads.”

That line happened at the perfect moment, reminding me why I was in the parking lot of that Nashville grocery store in the first place. If I stayed in my comfort state of Ohio, I would never explore my full potential. I would never lead the kind of life that combines all my passions for creativity, environment, and travel. When you get caught up in the slip-ups, it can be easy to question what you’re doing. Especially if it’s something as unusual as living out of an Outback for an extended period of time. But no matter how many bumps in the road, I know it’s a road I have to take. I can choose my reaction to the bumps along the way.

Choose to cry over broken glass and wasted soup, or believe that shards will bring me luck.

Candlelight dinner at our campsite in Mammoth Cave.

That incident feels trivial now, miles away from the city. Maybe it was just an overblown freak-out moment. We later pulled off into a golden green countryside and everything felt normal again. I’m sitting at a dark campsite with spring night bugs chirping around me and the occasional owl hoot in the distance. We’re camping in Natchez Trace State Park on the way to Hot Springs, delighting in the rustic details that make up this beautiful country.

I embrace my status as a newbie in this nomadic lifestyle and focus on all the goodness I’ve encountered so far. We’ve been graciously welcomed by folks who’d just met us, danced ourselves giddy, listened to such wisdom from generous hearts, and smiled with the realization that we can adapt as we go.

The best thing to do is see each and every moment as a gift.


  1. I may have felt a lump in my throat while reading this. I kinda wanna hug you for dropping that soup! But I bet it was a good release of tears. ..a much needed one 🙂 May you continue to stay inspired as you and Andres go through this journey. I’m sure there will be a lot more precious moments in store, and it will overpower the bad ones. Be safe, you guys! And i’m looking forward to more stories. <3

    1. Thanks Sassy! That’s so kind of you, yes I definitely needed a hug in that moment! We love that you’re following the journey 🙂 Very true, we should always focus on the precious moments.

  2. Beautiful story Karla. Props to you guys for stepping out on this incredible adventure. The Natchez Trace is beautiful and you guys will love the hot springs. The campground at the national park is cheap and super nice. Quapaw baths are really cool there. Plus, if you go to the hotel in town where Al Capone used to stay they will let you go up and see his room (find the manager, we went last month). Anyway, best of luck to you guys.

    1. Thanks Heath! Yes we are definitely enjoying the $10 camp, settled right next to a stream and it’s peaceful. Appreciate the tips, we’ll definitely check out the baths and hopefully get to see Al Capone’s room too :-). Cheers!

  3. Yikes, yeah, glass and the overlanding life don’t really mix too well… Better off getting those reusable plastic tupperware things. I’m sure you’ll come to find that everything that can break or spill or leak, will end up doing so. I’ve been astounded at times with the messes that have been occurred in the back while on the road. At least you won’t be doing much 4×4’ing!

    1. Yeah we are quickly learning that! I am trying to make the glass thing work to reduce plastic use.. but we’ve already broken two glass containers. Ha, mobility + glass = disaster.

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