Things I Never Did Before Travel

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Travel opens up numerous opportunities to explore new lands and new parts within ourselves. Each new adventure  we embark on changes us in small ways. I’ve  been mentally cataloging some of the ways our  family’s small, daily tasks have been altered by full-time RV travel.  Life inside a rolling 36 foot box can’t, and shouldn’t be, the same as living in a bricks ‘n sticks back home.

Here’s just a few of the things I’ve been reflecting on this week.

 Before travel I never:


Thought about Finite Resources-

Of course when I lived in a house I tried to be mindful of how much energy or water I was consuming so that I didn’t have to pay a high utility bill, but I never thought about it in terms of their being a limit to it. The RV has a finite amount of water it can hold, and electricity is only available if we buy it (stay at an RV park) or run our gas generator, which we can only store a few gallons at a time.So we quickly became aware of how much we use on a daily basis and we’ve grown accustomed to the quirky changes our daily routines have made.For example:

  • Amps have their limits. Usually we have to turn off most the lights to run the microwave or blow dry our hair. AC won’t work off a battery. I know more about kilowatt usage, and acceptable power payloads than any other mom I know. 
  • Water is precious commodity- 5 showers and 1 round of dishes will completely fill up our grey tank, so sometimes we shower every other day to stretch out our water tanks. Every time we wash our hands or flush our toilets, we are consciously aware that we are that much closer to needing to find a dump/fill station.
  • Free wifi is a premium-We try to only use our portable WiFi hubs for work or online school, so we are constantly on the hunt for free wifi we can use for recreational surfing, watching TV online, etc.
  • Laundry- Machines aren’t always available, so we can’t just throw a load in whenever. We’ve learned to wear things more than once, or make sure it is indeed dirty before haphazardly throwing it in the dirty clothes basket.
  • Sewage. Not a pretty subject, or something I ever thought about back home. I just knew when I flushed it went off to some faraway place that I never had to worry about it. Now that we are in charge of disposing of it in designated places, we’ve become keenly grateful of modern plumbing, and empathetic of those who live in worse sanitation circumstances than this.

Used public resources regularly


Living in a traditional home we are more autonomous and self-contained. Being on the road we’ve needed to rely on outside resources to get some of our needs met.

  • laundry mats- Never used them before, but are a great way to get 6 loads done at once. Not as scary as I’d perceived, and met some really nice people in them.
  • parking lots- Didn’t realize people slept in store parking lots, or that I’d be joining them several nights each month.
  • campground showers- Showering in a public bath house would’ve been at the very bottom of my comfort list before full-time travel. But now, it’s the only time I get to linger in hot water and take the time to shave my legs. (remember the limited RV water?)
  • library- Sure I went occasionally to pick up books for my kids, but I never hung out there. Now, we frequent them in order to get school work done or print stuff off the computer.
  • Chain stores-(starbucks- B&N, Apple store, McDonalds) Once again I’d only visit these placed if I had something specific to buy, but now they are staples in our weekly schedule as they offer free wifi and it’s sometimes easier to spread the kids out in a more spacious environment, and let them tackle their work load. They’ve become good at self-monitoring their learning and schedules.

An unexpected side benefit of our travels is that I believe these experiences have made them more adaptable and resourceful perhaps than their same-aged counterparts. When the time comes I’m confident they’ll be ready for college, missions, voluntary service, marriage, travel and whatever the future holds for them.

Grateful for the really small things

  • Quarters- I never gave a second thought to loose change before now, but quarters have become a precious commodity in our household. Between laundry and toll roads, quarters pass through our hands like water. Finding one in my the bottom of my purse is as delightful as discovering a treasure chest.
  • Streets w/o low branches- Visually, I love driving down tree-lined streets and basking in the beauty of the mature trees. As co-pilot of a 13 ft. tall vehicle, it can be a nightmare navigating through streets riddled with low hanging branches that are begging to rip through the roof of the RV. I thank the heavens every time we turn down a residential street that’s open and clear.
  • Towns w/o low bridges- Growing up in the Southwest it’d never occurred to me that low bridges would become my biggest nemesis once we crossed into the Mid-west and East coast. Most of our travel nightmares have been caused by low bridges, so I say a silent prayer of gratitude in each city we don’t have to worry about clearance issues.
  • Tires- They are an unglamorous part of any vehicle, but the work horse in any situation. We’ve put ours through a lot- Numerous surfaces, weather conditions, and situations. Usually they come out ok, but after 23, 000 miles, 4 flat tires and a cracked rim, I’ve come to appreciate and think about them more now than ever before. Tires are my friends!


These are just some of the ways my awareness levels have been raised through our travels. Each adjustment has brought it’s own teaching moment, and I’m grateful for what traveling has taught me and given my family.

What are some things you’ve done, or do now, that you never did before traveling? I’d love to hear your responses!



St. Louis Gateway Arch

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It’s May~We are in St. Louis, Missouri. Avery wants to do something cool for her 14th birthday.

Since we can’t really have a party, and Hayden’s birthday is a week later, we decided to buy season pass tickets to Six Flags.

Six Flags wan’t open until the weekend, so what’s their to do in St. Louis, Missouri on her actual birthday?

We headed to the Gateway Arch, of course!

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To be honest, I never really knew the background of why the arch was built. I guess I thought it was just an art piece, like The Bean in Millenial Park in Chicago. As I was doing a little research to prep us for our visit, I learned that it was built to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, which expanded our country from the current Missouri boundary out to the Southwest. It also celebrates the Mississippi River as the gateway to the West. The river was the edge of the USA until explorers like Lewis and Clark ventured out into the wild unknown.

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The Movie

As a national park, there’s more to see and do than just visit the exterior of the 630 ft. Arch. There’s an underground visitor’s center, with a museum and two movies available to watch. The main attraction is the ability to ride a special elevator to the top of the Arch and look out the observation windows on each side.

We bought our tickets and while we awaited our departure, we watched the movie about how it was constructed. The movie was created in the 60′s and the video and narration are reflective of that time period. But if you can look past that, it was interesting to see how the Arch came to be.

I can’t believe how resourceful the engineers were in creating such an architectural feat, in such a short 3- year time period. Each leg was built, with the intention of meeting in the middle, but having no guarantee it’d work. The construction workers spent their days hundreds of feet in the air, with no harnesses or safety nets. It gave me anxiety just watching it! It was comforting to know that no one was injured in the construction.

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Elevator to the Top

Our ride to the top was a little nerve-wracking. The cart that transported us to the top was small, similar to a ferris wheel cart.

It’s definitely not for the claustrophobic! After a 2-3 minute ride we were deposited on the walkway at the top of the arch. There’s small windows on each side, so we could see the city view, and the river view. You have to lean forward to look out the windows, and that was tricky for Avery, who has some issues with heights.

I enjoyed the views, and capturing pictures from this vantage point, but it was difficult with the amount of people crammed into this small space. Since there’s no time limit on how long you can remain at the top, elevators can keep bringing people up, even if no one is going down. I would’ve liked to stay longer, but the conditions were getting crowded, so we left.

The Museum

The most pleasant surprise of the day was IMG_2391the Westward Expansion museum. It was an open style setting, and you work clockwise around the room as the displays are set up chronologically.

Starting with the early frontier, mountain men, pioneers, wars, gold rush, etc. The information was in bite size chunks, with a great balance between the written word, photos and artifacts of the time periods.

We’ve seen a lot of museums in our travels, and I’d probably rank this in my Top 10 for how visually appealing it was, and how easy to consume the content.

We ended the day by taking the steamboat for a short jaunt down the Mississippi. It was nice to relax and see the city from a coastal perspective.


The Gateway Arch was worth the day it took to explore it. Even if going to the top isn’t appealing to you,

seeing it first hand is spectacular. The museum and movies are a good way to experience what this national park has to offer.

Have you been to the Arch? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts below, I’d love to hear from you!






Oz Museum in Kansas

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While traveling through Kansas we stopped off in Wamego, Kansas to see the Oz museum. In this quaint, little town of a few hundred people, there’s a museum dedicated to the movie that made their state famous.









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As you enter the museum, there’s different scenes from the movie recreated in various alcoves throughout the building.

Each main character gets their moment to shine.

Besides the vignettes, there’s decades of memorabilia  and artifacts on the movie.





There’s a chair set up in the Emerald City for you to sit in and be “The Great and Powerful OZ” for a moment.

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The museum only took 30 minutes or so to experience, but it was a fun trip down memory lane.

They have an extensive gift shop that loyal fans would really enjoy.

If you’re ever crossing through the plains of Kansas and are looking for a place to stretch your legs and be entertained for a bit, I’d recommend following the yellow brick road to the Oz Museum in Wamego!

Bombs, Missiles & everything Nuclear

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We happened to be in Albuquerque during a very cold spell that eliminated most of our planned outdoor activities. We were only going to be in town for two days, so we reached out to our network of friends and travelers on Facebook to get some new ideas of things to do in Albuquerque. A friend, and extensive traveler, insisted we couldn’t leave without seeing the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. I’m so glad I listened to him. He was right; this was a very cool way to spend our last day in New Mexico. read the rest

Why the Arizona Meteor Crater Rocks…

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The Barringer crater been touted as “The best preserved meteor crater on earth”, and I hoped my kids would find it a worthwhile stop. Luckily the weather held out and we were able to visit northern Arizona on one of the few weeks it wasn’t snowing in February.

Admission tickets get you access to not only the meteor crater impact site, but to a guided tour along the rim as well. Our guide, Eduardo, was funny, friendly, and very knowledgeable about the crater and surrounding area. He made the tour interesting as well as educational. continue reading

Six keys to not overstaying your welcome




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One of the perks of traveling is being able to visit family and friends along the way, but can also be stressful to merge two different family schedules, routines, and lifestyles. As we’ve visited several homes on our voyage across the states, I’d like to offer up some suggestions on how to make a family visit dynamic, and not a disaster.

Recently we crossed through Arizona, and took a detour to visit my brother and his family on the very southeastern edge of Phoenix.  After many days of traveling, mostly in the cold, it was great to be in warm weather, and with familiar faces. We really enjoy our visits with my brother David and his wife Amber, and this visit is a great example of the 6 essential ingredients for a wonderful family visit.

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Petrified Forest: the unexpected surprises when traveling


No matter how much planning and prep you put into a trip, it can be wiped out in an instant if the weather goes awry. We recently re-learned this lesson during our day trip through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert in Arizona.

We arrived at the national park the night before, parked outside the gates, and were fortunate enough to catch the glorious sunset from the roof of our RV. We anticipated great weather the next morning for our “walk among the trees turned to stone”, and I was excited for my kids to get a hands-on science lesson. However, Mother Nature had other plans. We awoke to the howling of gale force winds rocking our RV.

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The inevitable family meltdowns when traveling and how to avoid them


I had intended to sit down today and share how we celebrated our 100th day of travel yesterday. However, today, we had a huge family blow up and I’m not in the mood for writing about happy times. Plus, it wouldn’t really be authentic if I glossed over the bumpy moments and only spoke of the wonderful experiences that come with full time travel.


When tears have been shed and feelings have been hurt and you live in a small space, the emotions can run really high.  There’s not a lot of room for 5 people to find space to “cool down” for a bit. We can’t hide from each other, or go days without seeing each other. Ultimately this means we can’t gloss over our challenges, we must face them, and work on them until we resolve them. Hopefully this will be one of the gifts that come from this adventure. Right now, the grinding down of the rough edges into smooth spots doesn’t feel good, but I have faith we will come out of this stronger than ever.

As I’ve been reflecting, dissecting, and analyzing how these flare ups occur in our otherwise awesome family, I’ve found some clues on how to avoid, or at least minimize these tense moments. And in an effort to spare even one other mother from going through this, I offer my insights in hopes they will help you during your family travels.

My 4 tips are:

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Cadillac Ranch: Graffiti, cows, and new friends

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One of the best resources to modern day travel is the ability to search the internet for user reviews of cities, attractions, dining options, or lodgings. It’s usually through other travelers that I find the fun, funky, off-the-beaten-path experiences.  While traveling along Route 66 from New Mexico to Texas, we got to enjoy one of these moments, thanks to the recommendations of others.

Driving east down the 40 highway, just before arriving in Amarillo, Texas is Cadillac Ranch. As you drive by you’ll see 10 half-buried vintage Cadillac cars sticking out of the ground in the middle of a cow pasture. They are intended to be a public art sculpture created back in 1974 by three men who were part of an art group called Ant Farm.

Although the Cadillacs sit on private land owned by Stanley Marsh, an avid supporter of the Arts, he invites visitors to come in and view the cars up close. There’s an entrance gate to the cars right off the freeway. Also, it’s encouraged to paint and graffiti the cars when you come, which really excited my kids. I mean really, an opportunity to legally graffiti something, what teenager wouldn’t be thrilled?

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Road Trip Tips for Traveling with Kids

Going on a Road Trip soon?

Here’s some ideas on how to pass the time


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One of my favorite aspects of family travel is the time we get to spend together in the truck when we travel between destinations. Technology has transformed road trip activities since I was a kid. While we are well equipped with iPads, iPods, cell phones, laptops, and almost every other electronic to keep our teens entertained and not asking, “Are we there yet?” I’m actually trying to limit the amount of time they are “plugged in” while we are on the road.
It would be easy to let each kid use an electronic device to escape into their own private world, and not interact until we arrive at the next stop, but this trip is about more than just the destinations we are getting to. It’s mainly about the family time and connections we can create while spending this time together.
Here are a few ways that we attempt to navigate the road without the kids being lost in their own “electronic bubble”.
1. Turn off & talk The times we turn off the radio and strike up a conversation with the kids have been so rewarding. The silence gives us the opportunity to ask questions about what they’re learning-thinking-feeling about a variety of topics. Sometimes they’ll ask us questions about our childhood, etc. We’ve had some great discussions that I’m not sure we would’ve had otherwise if we weren’t spending this much time in a vehicle together. Every time you are in a car with your children is an opportunity to connect.

For the rest of my tips CLICK HERE