Using travel to foster an attitude of gratitude

An attitude of gratitude

November and Thanksgiving is the season we  typically focus on gratitude. I’ve reflected back on our efforts as parents in developing an attitude of gratitude, and how we are using our family travels to develop it even more.

You can read my 4 tips HERE.

I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments below!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

What was I thinking? The pain & pleasure of our tubing adventure down the Provo River

In theory it sounded like a good idea. What better way to celebrate the 4th of July than to lazily float down the Provo river on a tube? I mean, we’d be in the great outdoors, enjoying the breathtaking mountain scenery, staying cool by the refreshing water, spending quality time with the family.  It sounded like a picture perfect holiday for our family. I booked our reservation, and off we went. Little did I know what I had signed us up for.

The drive through the Provo Canyon is beautiful, there’s even a sighting or two of waterfalls. The Provo River runs alongside the freeway, and the view just added to our excitement of floating down it soon.

Once we checked in and got on our life vests, we were ushered onto a bus that drove us about 6 miles up the road to our launch site.

It was such a hot day that I had intended on dunking myself in the water before getting in the tube so I’d be wet and cool as I was floating, but the current was so strong, and the drop off from the riverbank was too steep, so we had to just jump into our tubes and get going.

Initially it was smooth sailing. Hayden and I held hands so we could stay together. Dino and the girls formed a cluster. However, it didn’t take long to realize that trying to stay together while braving the rapids, or the assault of branches from the overhanging trees, was a navigation nightmare. Some of the currents would take us over towards the banks or sharp rocks, and I couldn’t paddle away with my hands and hold onto Hayden at the same time. We eventually had to let of each other and just try to stay near each other. Over time the differences in our size & weight, and the varying currents we each got caught in, created a wide gap between each of us. Tubing became a solo experience, except for the brief encounters with strangers who passed us by.

Floating solo wouldn’t have been so bad if it was a leisurely experience where I could bask in the sun and drink in the magnificent scenery that was passing me by. Instead, I found myself in a death match with the river. You see, there’s multiple currents in play at any given time. One minute you are effortlessly, joyfully, safely floating down the middle of the rive. Then the river bends, or the current shifts and you are now rapidly being flung towards the river’s edge and within moments you are entangled in shrubs or sharp rocks, even long sharp branches and logs that ominously project from the water. Your only defense is to try to duck ‘n dodge sharp objects, and then find something sturdy enough to push off with your feet and hope you can paddle with your hands and you’ll get back into the middle “lane” of the river. Sometimes that worked, but sometimes the force of the push and the paddling set me on course to repeat the same treachery on the other bank. It became a ping pong match, and I was the ball being tossed from side to side.

This didn’t happen just to me. Hayden fell victim to the same cycle, and so did many other innocent travelers beside us. It felt like a hybrid of those silly, cruel game show contests like “Wipeout” or “Fear Factor”, where you do something dangerous and people watch you and laugh when you fail. I didn’t sign up for this, and there was no prize waiting for me at the end, and I was beginning to think this was a mistake. Even in my frustration I couldn’t complain because this had been my idea- I had organized this day trip and sold my family on it! They were probably going to be giving me an earful as we drove home.

The only people who seemed to be enjoying themselves were people with paddles- the rafters, kayakers, and veteran tuber who brought their own oar to steer with. Oh what I wouldn’t have given for an oar! While they gracefully journeyed down the river, we poor saps were resigned to flailing around with what little bit of our arms that could reach the water. The water was so frigidly cold that we couldn’t keep our hands in for more than a few minutes of time as they turned numb and it was painful. For the most part, the water was shallow, so you can get out at any time, but the current is swift, so if you lose your grip on your tube, it’ll easily keep going down the river without you.

The strain on my neck from holding my head up to see where I was going, and the paddling with my arms in an attempt to stay on course was exhausting. I decided to surrender to the current and just relax for a moment. I rested my head on my lifejacket and silently soaked in the scenery. After an hour on the river, this was the first 5 minutes of tranquility I’d had all day. Of course, I was eventually thrown into another embankment, but it was a glorious 5 minutes!

Mercifully, Avery caught up with me and showed me her trick of sitting up in the tube and paddling/steering with her legs. It was a better method of navigating and my kamikaze occurrences were greatly diminished.

The most spectacular part of the day was when a local rancher guided 5 of his horses to traverse the river right in front of us. He was riding one, and holding a lead rope on another, but the other 3 were free of harnesses, and just followed along behind the others. They splashed through the water and up the other side. Hannah & Avery were so close that they could reach out and touch the foal that was following her mother. That moment was worth the previous agony we’d gone through.

After about 2 hours our journey came to an end, and we hopped off back at our starting point. Our legs were numb from the continuous exposure to the water, and our arms were weak from the paddling, but we managed to drag our tubes up the riverbank and deposit them at base camp.Once out of the water we realized that our arms had suffered sever chaffing along the inside of our elbows and forearms from the constant rubbing of wet skin on rubber when we paddled. The hot, dry air made them sting intensely, and all I could think about what how I now empathize more with babies when their bums get chapped. Where’s diaper rash cream when you need it?

Weary and ready to be done, we snapped a photo to mark the occasion, and we gratefully climbed into our dry, safe car.

Exhausted, we skipped the idea of going to a restaurant and just drove home. The allure of a shower, hydrocortisone cream  and vegging on the couch for the rest of the evening superseded our desire for dining out. Luckily we live in an area where we can stand outside and watch fireworks go off all over the valley, so there was no need to leave our neighborhood to complete our celebration of the 4th of July and our good fortune to have survived the tubing expedition.


After reading about my experience of tubing the Provo River you might be thinking, “No way, will I do that!” Or you might be thinking, “That would be so easy, Shannon is a wuss!”

After having some time to reflect, I can see how it could be more fun now that I know what to expect and can prepare better. In fact, as we were driving home, tired and in pain, I told Dino that we should do it again under these conditions: A) Have an oar to paddle while in the tube- OR- B) Go in a kayak or raft so we are sitting upright and have possession of an oar. His reaction clearly indicated that it won’t be happening anytime soon, but I’m sure he’ll come around eventually.

In the meantime, here’s my tips for how to make your trip more enjoyable:

  1. Make a reservation during weekends and holidays- Luckily I had called ahead the day before because when we arrived they were turning people away as they had rented out all of their tubes for the day.
  2. Bring an oar- Have something to paddle & steer with. It will help you avoid the pain we went through so you can actually focus on the fun of tubing.
  3. Go during heat of the day- The water is very cold! It wasn’t like other rafting trips I’ve been on where you can jump in and out of the boat and swim around in the water. It’s snow run off, and it’s frigid cold. Going during the heat of the day will make it tolerable, versus going early a.m. or late p.m. when the sun is behind the mountains.
  4. Wear water socks- The water is shallow and very rocky. Protect your feet when you get in and out of the water.
  5. Wear sunglasses-  Not only will this help with the blazing sun in your face for 2 hours, but it will be some protection against sharp projectiles should you find yourself headed towards the river banks or low hanging shrubbery that likes to snare unsuspecting tubers.
  6. Don’t attempt w/kids- The water adventure company we used clearly stated that kids under 14 and under 100lbs. should not tube alone. I would definitely adhere to the advice of “Teens & older” rule. If your kids are younger, rent a raft and have a ball- don’t use tubes.

As I wrap up this post, I’m curious to know what your tubing adventures have been like? Have you had similar experiences or is this an odd occurrence?

Do you have tips of how to make it a better experience? Perhaps you know of a river that we’d enjoy for our 2nd tubing attempt?

Please leave your comments below as I love water sports and would like to redeem myself from this experience!

See you at the next stop,


What’s new at the Denver Zoo

With 3 kids who love animals, we’ve spent more time at zoos in the past decade than most people spend in their lifetime. Currently our oldest daughter is even a docent- volunteer at our local zoo in Utah. So when we got the chance to visit the Denver Zoo, we couldn’t pass it up. Yes, most zoos house just about the same varieties of animals, but we soon discovered Denver has some unique elements that are pushing the boundaries and setting new standards for zoos across the nation. Stimulating, naturalistic environments and eco-friendly operations are just a few of the advances the Denver Zoo is committed to mastering this year. This level of dedication isn’t new to the zoo, in fact, it began over a 100 yrs. ago when the zoo was initially created.

It all began with a special gift to the mayor of Denver back in 1896, a black bear, named Billy Bryan. That was the humble beginnings of  what is today one of the most popular zoos in the United States, the Denver Zoo.

What makes this  80-acre facility located in the center of City Park of Denver so unique is the how cutting edge and forward thinking it’s been since its inception. It was the first American zoo to use naturalistic habitats, that was over 100 years ago. Now, it’s utilizing trash and animal waste to power portions of the zoo and create one of the greenest zoo environments in the world. This zoo has consistently been a trailblazer in advancing education and advocacy for  animals, and it was a pleasure to see it up close during our visit.

Did you know that when you visit the bear exhibit you are seeing a national historic landmark?

Bear Mountain made history by becoming the first naturalistic habitat of its kind in North America. Its construction was based on giant plaster casts of rock outcroppings from an area near Morrison, Colorado, and was designed to simulate the animals’ natural habitat. It was built over 100 years ago, and still houses animals today.


The award winning Predators Ridge

Another example of advances the Denver Zoo is making in the zoo industry is Predator Ridge. Predators Ridge is an example of what accredited zoos nationwide are trying to achieve – larger, more naturalistic and educational exhibits. This exhibit features 10-foot tall mounds for lions to survey their surroundings, electric hot rocks for warmth and a separate maternity den for mothers and future cubs to enjoy. Other native animals like hyenas are rotated through the enclosure to give the lions a more enriching environment. Because of it’s realistic nature this exhibit received awards from the AZA, and remains one of the highlights not to be missed when you visit.


The brand new Toyota Elephant Passage

By far, the biggest and most impressive exhibit is the new Toyota Elephant Passage that opened June 2012. It houses 3 elephants and many other Asian species on the 10 acre property. It’s set up in a manner that allows the elephants to rotate through 3 different spaces, giving them a change of scenery and stimulation and freedom to roam that is unprecedented.

Besides the positive impact this new exhibit has on the animals, it’s having a positive effect on the environment as well. The new Toyota Elephant Passage turns human trash and animal waste into energy. The innovative gasification system will convert more than 90 percent of the zoo’s waste into usable energy to power the exhibit, eliminating 1.5 million pounds of trash currently going to landfills annually. Hopefully their example of how to create the best possible environment for the elephants, and save energy doing it will be an example other zoos will follow.

Quick Tips for your visit:

  1. Go early-  The animals are usually more active in the early morning and early evening, so if you want to see them moving around, get there as soon as it opens.
  2. Map out the live shows firstSome of the animal shows, feedings or live demonstrations are held only once per day, so arrange a plan that ensures you get to see them, and fill in the time between shows with exhibits that are open all day long.
  3. Feeding Lorikeets-  If you’d like to experience the fun of feeding lorikeets from your hand, and have them land on various parts of your body, do this early in the day. They are hungry in the morning, but after eating from the hands of numerous visitors, they are full by the afternoon. My kids loved this when they were little, and it makes for a great photo opportunity as well.
  4. Stay cool & hydrated- While there are some shady areas to rest and eat a picnic lunch, the majority of the paths are not shaded. Likewise, the sea lion show is in direct sunlight, and there’s no seating- you stand while watching it. Be prepared with hats, sunglasses, perhaps even an umbrella if you are senstive to the sun. Water bottles are $2.50 a piece in the zoo, and you’ll probably need to drink several during the day so plan that into your budget, or bring your own water bottles and refill them as needed.
  5. Be kind to your feet- As in most zoos, there’s several hills to walk throughout the zoo, and it’s a fairly big distance from one side of the park to the other. Be kind to your feet and wear proper walking shoes. It pains me to see women walking from one exhibit to the next, clearly  uncomfortable in their high heels. Forgo making a fashion statement and enjoy your time with the animals.
  6. Take advantage of the Education availableThe zoo’s website has an abundant amount of information available to prepare you for your trip. There’s guides to animal conservation, educational programs for teachers and students, and a teen program for those interested in more in depth knowledge of animals.

So as you can see, if you are in the Denver area, the Zoo is worth the day trip to explore it. It has a lot to offer both young and old, animal lover and environmentalist alike.

Have you been to the Denver Zoo? What was your experience like? What’s your favorite animal exhibit? Leave your thoughts in the comments below~ we’d love to hear from you!

We are grateful to the Denver Zoo staff for their hospitality, and to Visit Denver for arranging the opportunity.

Episode #1- Vegas, baby

In a moment of serendipity, Dino and I were invited to speak at a multi-level marketing conference in Vegas during the week of my kid’s spring break.

We headed down to Las Vegas, with kids in tow, to start documenting our travels over the weekend.

We wanted them to get used to being in front of a camera, and seeing our travels through a new lens.

We’ve cut together a first draft of our inaugural episode.

You can watch it HERE.


And as always, if you like our content, please feel free to share it with your friends and networks.

Health & Happiness,

Dino & Shannon

JAMAICA- Where the seeds were planted

This is where it all began. Back in May of 2008, exactly 4 years ago this week, we embarked on our first international vacation as a family. With freshly minted passports in hand, and a single carry on suitcase, the kids were bursting at the seams to head off on our family adventure in  Jamaica. They were terrific travelers, and handled the long flight, long bus ride, and customs check in with ease. I was surprised and relieved that my kids were so adaptable and forgiving of all the bumps in the road that can happen while traveling.

We did the typical tourist route, we stayed in an all-inclusive Beaches resort in Ocho Rios for a week.


The girls go their hair braided.










We spent hours upon hours at the beach, or at the pool. It was heaven.











We were spending intense quality time together as a family, and we weren’t getting sick of each other. Of course the environment we were in helped, but there was something magical about learning, playing, exploring new adventures together that made my heart sing.











We were having a lovely time riding banana boats, kayaking, and snorkeling daily. My kids didn’t spend much time with the other vacationers, they gravitated towards the staff & the locals. They were curious of the culture, the people, and what life was like outside of the resort.











We wanted to see more of Jamaica, but we weren’t brave enough yet to strike out on our own with little kids in a country we weren’t familiar with, so we opted for 2 off property expeditions. We wanted to go tubing down the river in the rain forest, which was in the middle of the island. As we were taken in vans about 2 hours inland, we got to see the “real” Jamaica. How the employees of the resort lived after they left their 9-5 job at the resort.

There were similarities to our life that my kids could identify with; children playing in the street, laughter, dogs barking, older men sitting on their porches watching the days activities. It was Sunday, and the sweet old ladies were dressed in their Sunday best, headed off to church. I will always remember they wore beautiful hats and white gloves, just like my mom did back in the 50′s. It felt like a flashback in time, to a generation I’d only seen in the movies. It was quaint, and I wanted to get out of the bus and go meet these people, and get to know them better. To spend a day in their life and see what we had in common, and what they could teach me.

And then their were aspects of Jamaica my kids weren’t expecting; like the poverty, and poorly dressed children in some parts of town. The half constructed homes of cinder block with no roofs on them that were occupied in spite of it. It was heartbreaking to them and they wanted to know why it was that way. Not knowing enough about the country to offer an intellectual response, I couldn’t give them an answer.  I wanted to know more myself.

The sites and sounds and food and people we encountered that week were new,  strange, delightful, and fun. It stirred a deep curiosity to see more, to do more for our global brother and sisters; both at home in America, and in other exotic places.

It was this experience that planted the seeds of more travel- more family experiences to uncover the beauty of this earth and its inhabitants.

When we came home we started planning a full time trip around the U.S. in an RV. We were already homeschooling, so education wouldn’t be a challenge. Dino was managing a large investment fund that would finance our travels. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

Then in the fall, the stock market crashed. Our investments were wiped out in the down turn of the economy.

Our travel dreams were squashed.

It took us a few years to rebuild our life, and during that time our dream lay dormant. The kids would often talk about Jamaica, and how they wished we could go back. Or at least travel somewhere new. The travel bug had bitten them as well, and they wanted to get out on the open road. Dino and I just couldn’t see how we’d make it happen. We’ve had a few trips since then, Bahamas, Cancun, Southern California,  and other domestic jaunts, but none have quenched the thirst for long term exploration.

As we were building up our business, we met someone in our same field of work as a coach and author, and she was living our dream of full time RV life with her family. She gave us some tips of how we could do it as well. Immediately the spark was reignited. This time it wouldn’t be extinguished.

The more research I did, the more confidence I got. The resources available online are amazing. People are so generous with their information and support. We could see a path for making this lifestyle a reality.

Our dream became non-negotiable.

The seeds planted back in 2008 in Jamaica had sprouted in our minds, and the roots grew deep into our hearts.

We had to convert our dream into reality. And so our journey begins.

Do we have all the details narrowed down? No. Do we have all the funds secured? No. Does it feel extremely vulnerable to announce your cause-movement-advneture to the world without all the answers? Absolutely. And yet here we are. Unable to contain our passion, we are declaring our intention and come what may.

A lot has happened in our lives since May 2008, but one thing has remained a constant, when we align ourselves with our passion, God works out the details. We are in his hands from now until departure day.