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5 Tips from a Roadschooled Teen for Living with Uncertainty

5 Tips from a Roadschooled Teen for Living with Uncertainty
Helpful insights for managing an unpredictable life – at any age.
By: Abby Holcombe

Winnebago View driving down road blocked by fallen tree

Right now, no one knows what’s going to happen and everyone has so many questions.

How much longer in quarantine? When can I see my family and friends? What about school? 

As a kid who grew up on the road, I'm used to uncertainty. Families who move a lot might move a handful of times a year. For me, I move daily. We keep our plans fluid to allow us to migrate to places with perfect water levels for kayaking and warm weather. Good friends and breathtaking scenery put the cherry on top!

Most everyone, especially kids, are overwhelmed with the change in routines, but not me! I never know what will happen next, sometimes I go to sleep in North Carolina and wake up in Nevada. Sometimes we meet new friends who take us panning for gold on the American River and sometimes we look outside the 'dining room' window and see a grizzly bear with two cubs. If you’re lucky, you'll spot a humpback whale on the ferry, notice a herd of muskox on a hike, or wake to a kind French man offering you a basket of croissants (as we did on our Europe van trip). I'm always on the edge of my seat and never know what to expect.


Abby looking out RV window at bears playing in river

Having visited 23 countries and 49 states in just over six years, I’ve learned a thing or two about uncertainty. Here are my tips to other teens (and even adults!) on how to deal with the difficulty of living a life where you have no idea what will happen next.

5 Tips for Living with Uncertainty

Tip #1: Prioritize the Things You Love to Do 

Prioritizing the things I love makes me feel more accomplished and generally happier. It’s important to balance the things you have to do with the things you want to do. If you always do things for other people you won't feel as accomplished, so it's important to prioritize the things you love! My priorities are to channel my creativity in one way or another (painting, photography, or video editing) and do something active - from kayaking to stretching to everything in between, I just try to get my body moving. I keep my priorities flexible so I can adapt them to any environment.

Abby kayaking and holding up paddle with large bird flying nearby

Right now, in isolation, I've really taken to learning more about digital art! Between the Apple Pencil and Procreate app, there is so much opportunity to pass time. I've also enjoyed going through old kayaking footage and putting it together into edited videos. I just recently learned how to navigate Premiere Pro as well. In the few videos I have made, I've noticed such improvement! I like how over time the videos of my kayaking will really show my growth as a kayaker.

While these are the things I love to do, make sure you take some time to figure out what activities you enjoy and prioritize them to fit into your daily routines!

Tip #2: Find What Helps You Regroup & Refocus

I think everyone is anxious about the uncertainty of COVID-19. It's always important to find ways to destress, but especially now.

I was supposed to travel around Europe all summer, kayaking in more than ten different competitions, including the Freestyle Kayaking World Cup circuit. The week I planned to book my tickets, the outbreak started and within the next three weeks my events all got canceled, one by one. I found myself sequestered in Arkansas. It was devastating to say the very least. But as travelers, this happens all the time, right?! We constantly deal with ever-changing road conditions, flat tires, running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, changes in the weather, or finding a perfect place to spend the week, but then realizing you don't have enough cell signal to work. It happens and it’s important to find a destresser that you can use to reset in any situation.


Abby and Tucker laying next to tree reading a book

I have many different activities that I use to reset. I prefer to use kayaking as my destresser because, come on, nothing can beat the cold touch of the waves splashing me in the face! But what about driving days, quarantine, or not being near water? While kayaking is my favorite, writing, art, and listening to music also really helps me step back and regroup.

As travelers, it’s important to find resets that work in every environment because we never know what might happen and where we will be!

Tip #3: Appreciate the Little Things

One summer, we were driving down this long, windy road in middle of nowhere Washington. We were en route to a beautiful boondock spot. We drove for hours upon hours and anxiously awaited the arrival of our relaxing campsite for the night. But as we looked ahead, we saw a giant log blocking the road! We stopped the van and walked over to figure out how to get by. As we got closer, we realized that the log wasn't actually the issue, it was the lack of road behind it! We were almost out of gas and frustrated that we couldn't get to our chosen campsite for the night. But as we looked around, we noticed the soft hum from the river, the gentle chirp from the birds perched above, and the gorgeous scenery. It might not have been our original plan, but I'm so glad that the log forced us to stop and appreciate where we were because it sure was beautiful. We spent the night next to the river behind the log and it was even better than our original destination and surpassed all of our expectations for our original route! The moral of the story is to pause in every situation, but especially the stressful ones, and find the little silver linings.


Aerial shot of View driving down road blocked by log

As for my COVID-19 silver lining, there are too many to count! While I might not be traveling around Europe this summer, I get to enjoy everything Colorado has to offer. From the Arkansas River Valley to the wildflowers in Crested Butte, there is so much to look forward to - let alone the fact that my family and I are in good health!

Tip #4: Find Tricks to Stay Focused

Speaking of silver linings, another silver lining is that as full-time travelers, we already have experience working remotely! Like many of you, I have worked (on school) from the road for more than six years! It can be so hard to focus, but I have found a few tricks that help me stay on task and productive.

I use Google Chrome as my browser of choice. There is an extension called Forest that allows you to enter certain websites you want to avoid in order to stay focused. This way, you can avoid the allure of social media, the black hole of YouTube, and the surplus of random BuzzFeed quizzes for the set time that you need to finish your work. (You can download the Forest app on your phone, too!) This app is a lifesaver and allows you to focus for a set amount of time and reminds you to keep productive if you try to open a blocked website or app.


Holcombe family working in galley of View

It also helps me when I separate myself from any other distractions, so I can finish my work in as little time as possible! That way, I can explore and soak in our travels or hop in a kayak and spend the afternoon paddling with friends! I use my priorities as incentives to complete my work or segments of my assignments. That way, I'm more motivated and efficient and I have time to do the things I love!

Tip #5: Stay Connected

We are all in this together and it is so important to keep in touch with friends, especially now that we are distant! Make sure you’re checking in on your friends! My favorite apps for keeping in touch virtually include Zoom, House Party, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. Whether you're discussing COVID-19 or just saying hi, I think it's so important to stay connected to each other. Even though we are apart doesn't mean we can't still stay close to those we love! 

Just because things are uncertain, doesn't mean they have to be unpleasant! Seriously! My family has built our entire life around uncertainty and you shouldn't let it stop you from doing the things you love.


Abby sitting in orange kayak next to rock

So, hang in there, talk to your friends, stay active, and most importantly, wash your hands!