Thinking Recursively

We hit the road in exactly four weeks and one day. Yikes.

No, we don’t know where we’re going yet.

I recently engaged in a discussion with a good friend of mine on the idea of recursion and recursive thinking. This is a complex idea rooted in a process calling itself. For example, a recursive definition is one which uses the word or concept being defined in the definition itself. Recursion pops up a lot in computer programming discussion where it is often initially described as the process of solving larger problems by breaking them down into smaller, simpler problems. 

I know I’m oversimplifying this concept, but since my discussion with Lisa, I have been thinking a lot about this idea of the recursive mind, of problem solving by first breaking things down into smaller problems. It’s sort of obvious, right? That in order to answer the big questions, we first have to answer all of the smaller building block questions? But it doesn’t stop me from initially feeling overwhelmed by the big questions, like…where do we go first when we drive out of Maine in four weeks?

So using recursive thinking, we begin by identifying the smaller questions:

  • Q: Where do we want to go? 
    • A: West. West. WEST. Anywhere that has mountains or canyons or whitewater or desert. Anywhere that gets us access to outdoor space and wilderness, preferably somewhere where I can begin to dip my toe back into the world of outdoor education and guiding


  • Q: What are our limitations? 
    • A: If we want to live in our camper, then we have to choose somewhere that won’t freeze (our tanks and water lines aren’t set up to handle freezing and cracked tanks/lines are just no fun!)
    • A: Justin will be working as a travel nurse, so somewhere that one of the agencies he’ll work through has a job
    • A: That job can’t be night-shift work (we tried the night shift thing…it doesn’t work for us- it’s not good for our health, happiness, or marriage and it’s a job deal-breaker)
    • A: That job can’t stick us in the middle of a city where access to the outdoors means driving 3 hours in traffic…getting outside is the entire purpose of this whole exercise, after all!


  • Q: What other considerations factor in?
    • A: Temperature considerations mean that our best bet for camper living means going somewhere also frequented by “snowbirds”…this means heavier competition for jobs, fewer pay incentives, and more expensive campgrounds
    • A: I have family in central Texas and some family matters that would be easiest to resolve in person



I think Austin is where we are going to aim for our first three-month assignment. If we can find Justin a travel nurse job. If we can find camping. If we can get the pieces to align. Cross your fingers for us.

In the meantime, we have four weeks and one day to take care of the 6,479 loose ends here. We have a truck bed to build out (we have landed on a very similar design to Becca Skinner’s #HappyTheTruck) and will be hammering away this Sunday in 20-degree weather! I have my last wedding of the season on Saturday (it's gonna be awesome!). We have paperwork that needs to be scanned and organized to accommodate our soon-to-be-fully-paperless life. We have some lingering camper-life questions to research and resolve (any recommendations on wifi extenders? the best methods for solar-ing out a camper? outdoor shower set-ups?).

Oh, and holidays to celebrate. And friends to spend some time with. And...And...And....

And we’re back to recursion…when the overwhelm begins, break it down into smaller problems. Simpler problems. Handle the small stuff and the big stuff begins to resolve itself. Recursion is my new best friend.

So maybe Austin…February-May…that has some serious possibilities...