“Where are you taking us?”
This is a refrain often heard on our family vacations from both the kids in the back of the van and even sometimes me from the front seat. You see, my husband, Mark, has a unique gift for finding the quirkiest, most obscure items to be found throughout the United States. Largest frying pan—we’ve seen it. Smallest police station—check that one off too. We’ve even stayed at one of the Historic Wigwam Village motels. That was an experience we’ll never forget.
He spends hours planning our trips, as well as these side adventures. Chances are, if they happen to fall anywhere near the route of our current trip, we are going to stop and visit. It has made for some interesting experiences for sure.
A Family on the Move
Traveling has always been a big part of Mark’s and my relationship. We both love to see the many things the world, outside of our hometown, has to offer. Both of us have traveled to almost all of the 50 states and a few countries—many together, some on our own.
Even before becoming parents, we said we would raise our kids to be travelers. From the time our firstborn, Maddie, was old enough to travel, we packed her up—along with the portable crib, stroller, backpack carrier, large pack of diapers, and other necessities—and hit the road. With each new kid, we just packed a little more of everything before heading out.
A Wider View
At some point, Mark and I realized that if the goal of us traveling with the kids was to give them a view of the world outside of their own everyday environment, we needed not only to expose them to the quirky roadside attractions he would find, or the more popular vacation spots, but also to provide them with a broader view of the world. We would need to expose them to the reality of what the entire country looks like, not just the fun, pretty, and comfortable parts.
With that in mind, we began to incorporate more side trips to places that would make them reflect and learn. They have touched the remnants of the Alfred P. Murrah Building at the Oklahoma City Bombing National Memorial and have paid homage to many of the sacred sites of Native Americans throughout our land. They have witnessed the beauty of God’s creation as well as the devastating aftermath of a forest fire and other natural disasters, as well as the site of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, during the civil rights era.
These visits have led to important discussions and questions. They have prompted all of us to look inward in regard to what we witness and learn. For that reason, these sites are as important for them to see as the beach, Disney World, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and many other places we have traveled to.
Off to Explore
As our kids are growing, they are beginning to head out on their own adventures. Our oldest has moved away. Alex, our second child, is at college across the country. Riley, our third, is making plans for college and is set on going away, just like her big brother. Kacey, our youngest, has plans for buying land somewhere—maybe close to home, maybe not.
And while it breaks my heart to not have all my kids close by, I know that Mark and I have set the footing for this, and it is a good thing. We have opened their eyes to the great big world out there waiting to be explored. I hope we have also opened their minds to the life lessons that those adventures can teach them.