family summer travel nature

What should families do this summer? Let literature take you on a trip!

The school year is coming to an end. Travel plans are on hold. Summer camps are still in question. What should families do this summer? 

While international travel may not be an option just yet, what about a road trip? What about good ‘ole fashioned playing outside? In the ocean, in the woods, on the mountain trail. Whatever nature you are near, it calls. 

You can get the kids excited with a book about a great wilderness adventure! Read it out loud as a family or listen to the audio version together. You could choose a classic wilderness adventure book, such as:

Your kids will be inspired to play outdoors; maybe you’ll visit a local nature preserve. State and national parks are in the phasing-in process of reopening. Check out the the National Park Service’s website. They have many great resources, such as:

National Parks Family Travel

For my local Florida friends, or anyone planning to visit, check out these books to inspire your next road trip:

  • Scat by Carl Hiaasen. Set in the Everglades, perhaps you’ll be ready to visit Everglades National Park after reading. 
  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. Another story set in Florida, this one in Coconut Grove.
  • The Last Wild Place by Rosa Jordan. A story about the Florida panthers being driven out of their Everglades home.
Florida family travel

What other books do you love that inspire travel? 

I’m putting together a list, and would love to add your favorites! Please leave a comment with your favorite books that have inspired trips!

In addition to the above, I also suggest:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Visit Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, where Little Women was written. They offer guided tours and innovative educational programs, including summer camps and special events.
  • Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Visit the town of Chincoteague, Virginia, including Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island where you’ll see the wild ponies, just like in the book. Enjoy the beaches, lighthouse and museum.
Travel inspired by children's book Misty of Chincoteague

The majority of the books listed here are appropriate for ages 8 and up (check individual titles; The Hobbit recommends age 12+)

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Family RVing: living well while traveling the country

Have you ever had the urge to sell the house and go explore the world? Chances are, you know a family doing just that. We often think of these families as being extraordinarily brave, but my friend Rachel, who spent two years traveling the U.S. in an RV with her family, says, “You can totally do it. It’s not like we’re special . . . we just sold our stuff!” That was how it began for this nature-loving family: they listed their stuff for sale. 

Rachel is a coach and meditation teacher. She is married to Adam and they have two children, Caelan (eight) and Ellie (four). The kids were five and two when they purchased the RV and set out. Now, they have been settled in Salt Lake City for just over a year, but their travel days are not over. With the sale of the RV they spent two years in, they purchased a smaller one, and plan on doing more off-grid travel, visiting national parks without worrying about hook-ups . . . “a closer-to-nature experience,” says Rachel.

Rachel and I talked recently about family, travel and balancing it all: 

Tell us how you came to the decision to sell your house, buy an RV and hit the road with your family. 

A friend of mine said she was going to travel and I thought, ‘Gosh, I wish we could do something like that!’ I had just sold my acupuncture business, our pets had recently passed. It was a culmination of things. Before, there was never a reason to leave. We had businesses, girls in school. But then we had this thought: We can figure out where we want to live by city-shopping our way around the country. We were very intentional about where we wanted to go based on criteria for living there. 

So what were you looking for in a town? 

We had four criteria. We were looking for a small town; it had to be under 100,000 people. We wanted progressive education options and accessibility to nature. We wanted to be on a trail within thirty minutes of home and be within driving distance to a national park. And the fourth thing . . . it must have been mountains! We wanted to be in the mountains. We soon realized that no place had all four things. I thought we’d have that knowing, like . . . this is the place. But it didn’t happen like that. 

What else surprised you? 

Right away, we understood that the trip was going to take longer than expected. We thought we’d RV for a year. But it was going to take at least one and a half to two years to see what we wanted. We needed to stay in places a little bit longer. We realized we needed, on average, two weeks per place. Another surprise came after just a few months, when I went to the grocery store by myself. I came back and looked into my husband’s eyes and said, ‘Honey, we have to get away by ourselves!’ We needed time to connect as a couple. I wondered how we’d let that go for months at a time. And I had forgotten what it was like to have a minute to myself, to have my own thoughts. We have to have that time. When my door is closed, the girls know. I’m meditating; I need twenty minutes.  We also now have one-on-one time with each kid, giving them even just ten minutes that is completely theirs. They love it. 

What did you learn about yourself and your family? 

The first six months, I put so much stress on myself as far as homeschooling. I compared myself to the Waldorf schools we were touring, and I almost quit. It got easier after I let go of the “compare-itinitous” and focused on what’s really important. Friends encouraged me to “just live well.” This permission to just live well changed things. We were going on hikes, and doing all these things. There is only a certain amount of bandwidth for a six year old. Actually, my favorite moments were always in the mundane. Out of two years of travel, the things that stick out the most are simple moments in nature. Just being. We had a picnic lunch one day and Caelan was walking across this log. There was this big mountain behind her and she’s just walking across the log. It happened in a flash, but it’s one of those memories forever ingrained—the colors, the grass, the warmness of afternoon sun.  

Can you talk about balance? Your need to be in your family, and out in the world? 

When we were traveling, I felt like I was buzzing. That was because I wasn’t meditating. As the conscious creator of your reality, you have to take responsibility for being solid. It’s a choice and responsibility. It’s not like it’s easy. It’s a matter of showing up. The world isn’t going to invite you—you have to take initiative to show up how you want to show up. I work to slow down my inner metronome. The rate at which the world is moving is always faster. When we were RVing, I was working in a different career path and it wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I have seen a shift now because I’m doing what my soul is here to do. Now I’m finding it’s much easier to balance family life with my work. Because it doesn’t feel like work and I can weave it in and out in different pockets of life. It’s not work, it’s just me. There is no separation. 

I love that! It can now weave into the whole of your life. It’s not a push and pull! 

Yes. It all comes through who we are as people. How do I do everything? I don’t. I’m focusing on living well. As a family unit, being happy and healthy. I do my stuff while the kids are having their rest time or I’ll wake up early. You have to do what works for you and your family and your values.

What does home mean to you?

The first thing that comes to mind is the sacredness of the family. You have this relationship with yourself, your surroundings, a heartfelt space you can hold. And you can create a physical space . . . it has to come from inside. I want to be intentional about my thoughts, words, actions. If things aren’t aligned with my values, then it’s easy to get outta whack. That sacred solid ground comes from within; it has to radiate out from us. At the end of the day, it’s really all about love.  

To keep up with this family’s adventures, follow Rachel on Instagram. If you’d like a community of support through meditation, breathwork and journaling, check out Rachel’s FaceBook meditation group

This is the second article in a series where we hear from moms regarding family, travel and home. You can keep up by following the the blog (and receive your freebies, including how to create your own unique family travel experience).

Why this family was social distancing before social distancing was a thing

For me, the conversation around family travel inevitably collides with the conversation of home. 

  • How do we create the home we want in the world? 
  • How does travel inform our home processes and can home influence our travel style?
  • What does it mean to be a home-maker in the 21st century? 
  • What has been gained and what has been lost in regards to our most basic element of society: the family, the home? 

I thought I’d ask around. What follows is the first in a series of articles in which I speak with moms about these connections between home and world. 

My friend Michelle runs a birth business in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Jim and they have three children: Jimi (15) Raina (12) and Luna (9). Five years ago, the family found what they were looking for in the Georgia woods: acres of land in the middle of nowhere that included a half-built home for a bargain price. They finished building the house and now they visit on the weekends and holidays. They were social-distancing before social-distancing was a thing. 

Here’s what Michelle has to say about their unique travel style and home life. 

What inspired your family to purchase a vacation home in the Georgia woods? 

Michelle: “Jim and I were longing for land. We wanted our kids to have the freedom to roam. We love our beach town, but we wanted to be able to get away from cars and fences. We both grew up with land. I was raised in an orange grove where I biked and played. I spent summers in Virginia with my family. My cousins and I would spend all day in the creek. We’d come home and make a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and not return until dinner. No one knew where we were, except that we were somewhere in the holler. That’s where I learned to love the outdoors.”

(Jim, who also grew up on a dirt road and rode dirt bikes, later told me: “I wanted the kids to experience freedom . . . fewer rules. And for Jimi to know what it’s like to pee off a front porch. No one cares.”) 

How did you find the perfect place? 

Michelle: “Originally the idea was to find a camper or shed and maybe purchase around five acres. Through LandWatch, we ended up finding an already half-built home on thirty acres. It was a great deal and I fell in love with the wrap-around porch. It’s in White Oak, Georgia, outside of Woodbine, only an hour from Jacksonville. We can be door-to-door in an hour and fifteen minutes—it’s a perfect amount of time. It makes day-trips doable and weekends easy. We go about twice a month.”

What are some of the best parts of having time away in the woods? And hardest?

Michelle: “It’s a place to escape with our family. There are less distractions there. We have no TV, no Wifi. We play board games and ride four-wheelers. We have campfires. One of our favorite family games is hide-and-seek in the dark! We spend holidays there. The only fears we have are of snakes and wild boar, so we wear snake boots and the noise of the four-wheelers scares off boars. It’s also seasonal—in the summer, it’s too buggy to spend time there.” 

What do you hope your kids will gain through these getaways? 

Michelle: “I want them to have fond family memories. I want them to enjoy quality, simple family time. At home, there are always distractions, whether it’s the phone, the dishes or the laundry. We can shut these things out and focus on enjoying family. And secondary to that, I want them to learn an appreciation for the outdoors. We live in a concrete world, and to get away from that is like a breath of fresh air, literally. It truly feels like a breakaway from our normal lives, like a re-set. I feel refreshed, and I see that in the kids.” 

And when parents say their kids wouldn’t know what to do (without their tech) . . . 

Michelle: “You put them in it and they’re ok. You sit on the front porch and rock in rocking chairs together. You can see them soften a little bit, because there’s no distractions there . . . they’re immersed in all those distractions too usually. We have to be intentional about disconnecting so that we can re-connect.” 

“We have to be intentional about disconnecting so that we can re-connect.”

What does home mean to you? 

Michelle: “Home is where my family is. That’s the main thing. When the housing market crashed in 2008, we thought we were going to lose everything. We were at a music festival camping—five days in a tent—when I had an epiphany. I looked around and thought, this is the most important thing . . . if I have my family with me, I’m grateful. Nothing else matters. We have a limited time with our kids. Five years ago, Jimi was just ten, and we thought, ‘if we don’t do it now, we’ll miss a lot of opportunity,’ so we sold a rental property in order to purchase the Georgia house and land.”

This is the first article in a series where we hear from moms regarding family, travel and home. You can keep up by following the the blog (and receive freebies!).