Finding the Rhythm of our "Life-Space"

Wow, day 14?!

I’m sitting in the back of the RV with my head tipped towards the window, as we take a straight shot on Highway 9 past flat, endless fields of yellowed grass. We just wrapped up our last workshop in Washington and will soon be crossing the border through Idaho and into Montana, where we’ll be staying tonight before our next workshop tomorrow morning.

I’ve lived in California my entire life, but it’s amazing how being on the road this summer makes the entire country feel so intimately close, so accessible. We have everything we need for the next 12 weeks snugly fit inside a 26-foot-long mobile home, and even though we have our visits and workshops all planned out, it still feels like anything could happen.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve fallen into such a rhythm as a team. The night before every workshop, we’re like a well-oiled machine composed of little assembly lines for packing materials into envelopes and pressing stickers and stamps into notebooks. And while our hands are at work, our minds are ticking away on the curriculum — we’re rehearsing our designated leadership section for the workshop in our heads, and chatting about how the upcoming community will be unique from the last.

The hour before every workshop, we’re renovating the space. Whether we're inside a children’s discovery museum, at the headquarters of an early-stage start-up, or at a summer camp facility, we’re dedicated to making each room our own, just for these two hours. Chairs are moved, laminated packets and envelopes are distributed, easel pads are hung in key locations around the room, and the music begins to sound.

But this rhythm that we’ve found as a team falls far beyond the boundary of our work — it encapsulates our personal lives just as well. Our RV is just as much a vehicle for transportation as it is a workspace and a home, and entangling all these areas of our lives has been one of the greatest and most interesting creative challenges that we’ve faced so far as a team.

Before embarking on our road trip this summer, most of us had to interact as teammates first and friends second. We were united by common goals, dreams, and passions — for adventure, for travel, and of course, for using design to make as much impact as we could in the lives of young girls across the nation in 14 weeks. Our work was long and arduous, but completely self-started and motivated. Because of the nature of our focus, it was sometimes hard to find the time and space to invest in each other as friends, too.

Living together on the road means spending time together 24/7. Our RV is truly a “life-space” — it’s where we fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning, laugh, cry, drizzle extra honey on each others’ yogurt and fill up each other’s water bottles to the brim, prep workshop materials, share old family stories while sitting cross-legged on the RV floor, host “team meetings” where we say things like “fridge sticks” and check in on the toilet contaminant, and even sometimes work out. (You’d be surprised.) And immersed in this life-space, the lines between “teammate,” “coworker," “sister,” and “friend” have become increasingly blurred, in the best way possible. 

One of the key lessons I’ve learned so far is to always cultivate an honest environment. Each of us has our own unique and personal needs, both in the workplace and at home, and this summer, it’s been critical that we (1) recognize what those needs are, and (2) vocalize our own needs and respect those of others. Much easier said than done, but it’s a learning point that we share as a team.

I never expected to feel this way so quickly — like the past 2 weeks have felt like 2 years, and these three other incredible women that I’m driving with have become the kinds of people that I can’t imagine my life without.

I can already tell that this summer is going to be transformative in beautiful ways for our group… and it's just the beginning :)

Until next time,


Beginning Reflections on the Road

As we drive our rig through Oregon, I am finally starting to feel a greater sense of purpose as to what our cross-country trip signifies. For most people, they see see four peppy girls in a colorful RV, running leadership workshops with games, activities, and a kid-friendly designed curriculum. Sounds like a blast, and looks like a blast… because, well it is.

However, what people see on the outside is only a small part of what we are actually getting to experience and fulfill. Our workshop is designed to reach a variety of girls from all sorts of backgrounds. One of the first activities of the workshop includes a brainstorm relay where participants write down problems that they see in their hometown, and in the world. The more workshops we run, the more it has become obvious, and in most occasions vocalized by the kids themselves, that the problems being written down are things they have seen, or personally experienced, in a short lifetime of no more than 16 years. Everything from depression, child abuse, drug addiction, death of a loved one, chronic sickness…you name it.

Completing these workshops has been extremely inspirational for our team. The urgency and severity of the problems lead the girls to some of the most beautiful opportunities to be leaders of social change, and to believe in their capabilities as compassionate people. For some girls, it is the first time they felt they took a part in something of greater meaning, which in turn, helped them change their perspective on the future. Our workshops, so far, have been impactful on the girls we work with based on the feedback from organization leads, workshop mentors, and all of our participants. That being said, we still have a significant amount to learn from the middle schoolers we will meet over the next three months.

The beauty of it all is that we are helping create a network of girls that can rely on one another to believe in their missions, and connect with those that seek the same type of encouragement as they make the transition into young adulthood.

- Natalya