LAYTON -- Wearing tan chinos and a baggy dress shirt, Roan Poulter climbed into his new 38-foot motor home, where his wife and two kids were waiting. He seated himself across from them on a couch. Together they envisioned what the next year would hold.
In less than a week, Poulter and his family will embark on a 13- or 14-month trip that will take them across the country. From the sun-stained neighborhoods of Los Angeles to the ocean-sprayed coasts of Florida, and everywhere in between, they intend to discover what America is. But they also intend to unearth truths about themselves, and that is why the journey, in this case, truly is more important than the destination.
"I have a feeling I won't end, and my family won't end, as the same people we were when we started," Poulter said.
The genesis of the idea to take the cross-country odyssey began innocuously enough. He and his wife, Karrie, had filled their home with possessions. But over time, they began to realize the possessions actually were owning them.
"We were overwhelmed," Karrie said.
So they began to sell things, one by one. And as the clutter was cleared, they found that it was freeing. That led to a question: What would happen if they put their Ogden home -- which they'd spent seven years remodeling -- on the market?
Within two days, they had an offer. The plan to journey across America was hatched.
"We're like junkies," Roan said. "Our drug is stuff. We'd never get rid of everything without that carrot (the trip) in front of us. It's kind of like withdrawals."
Roan admits the decision to sell nearly everything he owned, take a partial sabbatical from his job working for a local defense contractor and travel the country was a big leap. Before his co-workers knew he was taking the trip, he began giving them possessions he hadn't sold. They worried it was a sign he was suicidal. Though he assuaged that fear when he told his co-workers his plan, many people still think he's crazy.
"People tell me I've lost my mind," he said. "But just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong."
While he admits the decision is tinged with shades of mid-life crisis, Roan says it felt like a natural conclusion. He and Karrie have always shared a desire to travel, and they've always wanted to show their kids the world. And with Aleksa, 15, and Kaden, 13, quickly growing up, they feared this might be their final opportunity.
"This is always what I wanted to be, as a parent," said Roan, who also is a published author and while on the trip plans to finish a novel about a family that takes a motor home trip through South America. "It's my dream to be able to be there to watch my kids experience things for the first time, and this is my last chance to do that."
Initially shocked, his family quickly embraced the idea. Even at their young ages, his children understand it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And though there will be challenges -- they are leaving their friends and have had to enroll in a virtual academy -- the sense of adventure outweighs them.
"We're very excited to see what it's all about," Aleksa said.
Adds Kaden: "I'm not a big history buff, but I want to see the museums. I want to see the old, ancient stuff."
While there are destinations they plan to see, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Bumbershoot music and art festival in Seattle, they have no set itinerary. They want to "taste the cultures" of the places they visit, Roan said. They want to let the journey develop organically, experience the unknown and find real moments tucked underneath the surface.
"We just kind of have this feeling we're disconnected from the country," Roan said, later adding, "... To really experience a place, you've got to stumble into little local places, where you meet people who have been there a long time."
Despite the excitement, Roan acknowledges he also is nervous. At times, the trip won't be easy, because of circumstances both foreseen -- 30-second showers will be the norm, and their electricity is finite -- and unforeseen: "I have teenage kids."
There's also the chance, slim as it might be, that the road doesn't provide the happiness and freedom he thought it would.
"Maybe I'm going to realize that all that stuff (I owned) was making me happy," he said.
But instead, he hopes, they will find America, and they will discover themselves, and they will emerge from the journey changed. And who knows? Maybe they'll even stumble upon a place that tugs at them and won't let them go.
"It would take something pretty special for us to (move from Utah)," Roan said. "But that's not to say that place doesn't exist."
Contact reporter Bubba Brown at 801-625-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BubbaBrownSE.