Interview with Matt and Cristen of the Keyword Adventure Podcast
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
The ocean is unpredictable. She can be a cruel torrent of waves one day and a relaxing getaway the next. That’s why Matt and Cristen of the podcast Keyword Adventure always set sail together as a family along with their son Eric. From high winds to boat generator fires, this family has been through thick and thin and have only grown stronger from it as a result.
For the latest episode of the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy speaks to Matt and Cristen about travel, parenthood, and why your greatest mistakes are sometimes the greatest lessons learned. Together, Matt, Cristen, and Eric are on an all-out mission to explore the world by foot, bike, RV, and sail.
For being a man who loves the ocean, Matt grew up in landlocked Springfield, Mo. He grew up mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, and then later traveled around the country after college working as a biologist. After getting burnt out with the corporate lifestyle, Matt returned home working odd jobs.
He would meet Cristen while working at a local outdoor gear shop in Springfield. It was only fitting that the two went rock climbing on their first date. A year and a half later the two got engaged and had their son, Eric.
“So we had the kid and everybody's like, ‘Okay, your adventures are over.’ But we weren't really willing to accept that,” says Matt. “Yes, life has changed, but the adventure certainly wasn't over.”
In fact, Matt and Cristen took a 20-hour road trip to Arizona when Eric was 6-months-old. But as Eric grew, the couple noticed some atypical characteristics. After some tests, Matt and Cristen discovered that their son had a high-functioning “genetic uniqueness.”
“It was kind of like receiving a diagnosis without a prognosis for the future,” Cristen explains, “They simply didn’t have any information on this specific condition so it shows up like autism. Eric is a very smart and capable kid so it was like getting hit by a truck.”
Determined parents and adventurers, Cristen and Matt decided to raise Eric the best way they knew: in the outdoors. Cristen said being outside has a very calming effect on her son.
“He’s just so much more in the moment,” she says.
Crazily enough, Cristen and Matt got this shocking news while they were on a trip to Florida. As parents, Cristen and Matt’s minds were certainly racing, but Eric was still the same bright child they’ve always known. While in the Gulf Coast they taught him how to swim and they could just see his eyes light up.
It was right there that Matt and Cristen decided that they had to show their boy the world. After their visit, the couple purchased an RV and began planning their next trip. But just like life, journeys always have their share of hiccups and snares.
There was the gross time Matt got covered in sewage after the RV had a septic tank malfunction. Or the time Cristen fell off the dock while pushing their sailboat out to sea. Then another instance when the boat generator caught fire!
“At the time, there was a lot of cussing involved and it was incredibly difficult to fix,” Matt admits. “I had my arm contorted with this weird tool trying to get the starter to work with a mirror and a couple of flashlights balanced around.”
But no matter the challenge, Matt and Cristen came out stronger and wiser than ever. With every mishap there is a new lesson to be learned.
Matt calls sailing an “active mental game” that requires great flexibility and resilience. It can be a scary and sometimes dangerous activity that will take you out of your comfort zone, but it will make you better for it.
“It’s just one of those things where you learn to adapt to the situation. If something unexpected happens you’re just going to have to rise to the occasion,” Cristen shares. “We might get mad at each other here and there, but doing these things brings you back together in such a constructive way.”
Travel has certainly helped Matt and Cristen grow stronger as a family. But even all the snafus aside, the happiness that the wanderlust brings to Eric’s face makes it all worth it. One memory that Cristen remembers is the first time Eric saw the ocean when he was a little over a year old. She says it was like he was electrified, simply enchanted by the sea.
“We actually had to stop him because he wanted to toddle straight down into the big waves off the east coast of Florida!” says Cristen, “But he had no fear. That memory will always stick with me.”
But if there’s anything to be said about the plucky family of Matt, Cristen and Eric, it’s that the family that travels together certainly sticks together. Whether it’s a blown septic tank or a boat generator fire, sometimes the only thing you can do is embrace the challenges and make it a funny story for later.
“It doesn’t have to ruin your day,” Matt says, “It may frustrate you and maybe you should go take a moment…but sometimes taking those baby steps and the process of learning about the adventure is just as fun as the adventure itself.”
Matt and Cristen have plenty of more sailing stories! You can read and listen more on their podcast, Keyword Adventure. As for their full talk with Jeremy Lux, check out their interview on the Life in Motion podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.