“Whether in love or in the wild, to adventure is to risk, with the outcome unknown.”
Meet Kelly Pyke: mum of two children and wife to Eli Pyke, owner of Zion Pictures, a video production company in Oregon in the USA. In many ways, they are just a typical American family. But they are also a family with a deep desire to live out the above quote: to take risks and to experience love and adventure in wild places.
It was this desire that led them on an epic 10-month road trip around the US and Canada, with two-year-old son, Dakota, and the family dog in tow.
When they set out trepidatiously from their hometown in Sisters, Oregon, sitting at the helm of their new home on wheels, Kelly and Eli were hoping to rekindle their love of outdoor pursuits, to slow down the pace of their frantic life and to instil a love of nature in Dakota.
They were also hoping to rekindle their marriage.
“On a surface level, it was a desperate escape,” Kelly admitted. “Our life at home had gotten so hard and our marriage so strained. I was feeling isolated as my husband was traveling a bunch for work and I was left at home with a small baby. I needed a change that would get me out of that environment before things became any worse.”
Before having children, Kelly had worked as a backpacking guide and at a camp for kids in Colorado for Young Life. When she married Eli, the couple spent a lot of time overseas, mostly in Africa where Kelly directed a child sponsorship program for orphans in Uganda.
After returning home to the US, their lives were soon turned upside down by a miscarriage, the traumatic birth of Dakota, and Kelly’s postnatal depression which crushed her usually spontaneous and optimistic spirit. Before long, they were ready to call their marriage quits.
“Marriage is challenging, because it brings two totally different people together, each with all of their brokenness, wounds, different families of origin, different styles of relating, and different selfish ways,” Kelly said. “Then we are supposed to live together and navigate through this complicated and at times, downright tragic world and live ‘happily ever after’! It’s a brutal set up and one that causes many couples to become disappointed, angry, bitter and hopeless, eventually giving up on each other and the promise they once made.”
It seems almost illogical then that Kelly and Eli decided to further test their marriage by spending 24 hours per day in each other’s company, navigating maps along narrow mountainous roads, managing toddler tantrums and dealing with leaky seweragesystems within the tight confines of their motorhome.
“Yes, living in a motor home with the whole family can be stressful for sure,” Kelly laughed. “But Eli and I needed to reunite as friends again. One of the best ways we had connected in the past was while traveling or backpacking. Long days on the trail or road tripping and exploring gives us space to just be together again and remember why we fell in love in the first place,” she said.
From the outset, Eli knew the only way they were going to afford life on the road was to travel from one job to another in the midst of their family time, so he took his filming equipment everywhere they went. This enabled him to capture many elements of the journey with hopes to make a special family movie about it. But it was their family and friends who urged them to share the film publicly, to encourage other families to follow their dreams, and to not give up during the hard times.
“We decided to share our story because we want to encourage those who are struggling in their marriages to not give up, despite the deep disappointments,” Kelly said. “We want to inspire those young parents who are overwhelmed to not lose heart, despite the endless dirty dishes, runny noses and sleepless nights. We want to empower those who feel trapped by the frantic pace of our culture, or whose hearts are numbed by the mundane everyday ordinariness, to choose to make a change that will bring life again.”
It’s not just the tale of a family overcoming hardship that makes this film so inspiring – the natural beauty they encounter, both fauna and flora, as they traverse the vast continent is enough to make you google “second hand motorhomes for sale”.
Kelly agreed that it was not a stretch to describe the experience as life changing for their family, and she explained how it shaped them all in different ways.
“Dakota learned how to be creative with only a few toys, his imagination came to life as he saw animals, birds and breathtaking sights for the first time. The trip instilled in him a love for adventure, for hiking, for bird-watching, for learning about nature, and for meeting new people, as he was able to talk to the folks in the campgrounds. He also got TONS of time with both of his parents for an extended time,” Kelly said.
“And for Eli and I, it reminded us again that we must have boundaries with culture, technology and the frantic pace of this world… to slow down and pursue connection and restoration on every level – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Our hearts were not meant to carry the trauma and tragedies of so many around the world, but now with technology, we can read about or see this on the news daily. It’s just too much for the human heart to bear. We must care for our own souls better, so we are able to offer love, joy and grace to ourselves, and to others.”
Kelly’s advice for couples struggling in marriage
- You are not alone. Marriage is hard… for everyone.
- Know your story. Because your past is most likely playing a part in your present struggles.
- Have support and community around you that can encourage you when you want to give up. This takes courage to be vulnerable to share your story. But will be a lifeline in down days/seasons.
- Get counselling!!! I don’t know where we would be without all the counselling we have received.
- Humility and forgiveness need to be CENTRAL.
- Love is a choice not a feeling. You must first choose to love… the feelings will follow in time.
- Marriage is a marathon not a sprint. It’s a long, challenging, yet lovely race to the end. It takes perseverance, desire and deep commitment.
Kelly’s tips for making the most of family adventures
- BE KIND to yourself as you begin the process and know that everything won’t work out perfectly, but that’s why it’s called an adventure!
- Slow down. You have the freedom to say NO to activities, sports, clubs, etc. Live at a pace that is healthy for your family.
- Do not compare your family/children/spouse/yourself to other families. We are each unique. Comparison is the thief of joy and gratitude.
- Look into the eyes of your children and spouse. Make eye contact. Read their faces. Practice being present.
- Have boundaries with technology – turn off the TV, computer, cell phone. Make space for silence and creativity.
- Encourage wonder. Don’t miss the small things that are all around us.
- Celebrate… a lot. Big things, small things, holidays… get creative and make them special.
- Take lots of photos, then make a photo book and look through it a lot with your children to remember all the good times and all the times you overcame challenges together.
- Laugh more. We often take life way too seriously. Focus on living each day with intention and love so that if it happens to be your last day, you will die without regret.
- Say yes more than no. Try to structure your home, your pantry, your schedule, etc so that you can say yes more than no.
- Make it about TEAM. Invite your kids in: dream together, plan together, make decisions together. This will make them more invested the journey.
The Far Green Country is in the final stages of post-production and will be finished mid-May. To view the film before its main release, you can pre-order/back it on their Indiegogo “crowdfunding” campaign.