"A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more." - Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Our family of eight just arrived home from a 20 day journey in our RV across 13 states. We journeyed from Somerville, AL to San Francisco, CA and back with dozens of amazing stops in between. This is part 1 of a 4-part series about that journey and how we made it happen. Hopefully it will encourage someone else out there to dream about and plan their own adventure.
To make any great adventure happen, and in this case a family vacation, you have to start with a vision. Think about what you want to accomplish. What you want your family to focus on. What memories are important to you to etch into your children's minds and hearts. Ask the Father to help you see it in your mind's eye. Having a vision of what you want and especially why, will help you plan everything accordingly.
For us, Brian and I both loved traveling and road trips when we got together. For our honeymoon, we flew to Boston, MA, then rented a car and drove up the east coast and back for ten days. We stayed in bed and breakfasts almost exclusively because we like B&Bs better than hotels. We rented bikes and rode them all over the Vermont countryside and hiked a part of the Appalachian Trail in Maine because we like being active and outdoors. We didn't eat at a single chain restaurant, but only dined where the locals did because we wanted to experience things we couldn't experience at home. That's how we like to travel. As our family expanded, we knew we wanted to expose our children to the same types of experiences when they traveled. We didn't want to do the same beach/same restaurants/same condo every year kind of thing. That works great for some people, but it wasn't what we wanted for us. We wanted to expose our children to as many different places and faces and experiences as possible whenever we had the opportunity to travel.
Brian has been a very busy man in the last five years, starting and running a business. I have been very busy, homeschooling and having new babies nearly every year. As a family we have been busy starting and managing a 30-acre farm. So in the last five years we have taken several short trips here and there, but that's all we have had time for. One thing we have enjoyed on long weekends is camping. We like the outdoors, being unplugged, the simplicity of camping and the bonding that takes place when there are so few distractions. Brian used to camp a lot in his former bachelor life, so he has a lot of good quality tent and camping gear which makes it fun. :) But again as our family expanded, the tents simply weren't enough, so we started talking about investing in some type of camper or RV. He researched the cost effectiveness of owning versus renting something like that, and searched online for months for the best quality and price. Finally in the spring, he found the right RV for our family size, at the right price. We bought it from a guy who inherited it when his parents died. His parents had been the only owners and had kept it in impeccable shape. It was low in miles because all they did was drive it to the lake an hour or so away from home, park it for the week, then drive it right back home. Really such a good deal. (I'm kind of in love with the lady, and sad I will never meet her this side of heaven, because she must have cooked a four course meal three times a day at the lake. :) I mean she had two crock pots, a food processor, a juicer, skillets and pots and pans, pretty silverware and tablecloths, candlesticks, even cute little duck napkin rings. IN HER RV! I wondered what all she had at home. Her husband was a well-fed man, that's for sure. I have been a little in awe of her as I've gone through her stuff and packed ours. She has inspired me and I've never even met her.)
Anyway, those are the things that led to our thinking about and purchasing an RV, but the vision for this trip came to me about two years ago. Someone challenged me to make a list of the things I wanted our children to know/experience/accomplish before graduating from Rodgers University (our homeschool). Before leaving the nest, what did I want to give to my children? One of the things I decided was that I wanted them to see as much of this great country as they could, for them to appreciate the high privilege of being a citizen of the United States of America and to understand how rich was the heritage of being an American. I wanted them to see for themselves "from the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee, across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea." Yes, I also want them to see the rest of the world and one of my goals is for each of them to travel abroad somewhere at some point, but at least I wanted them to experience America. I have traveled in Europe and South America just enough to know that, although those places are beautiful and have lots of wonderful qualities, we are blessed here in America. So I shared that vision with Brian and he agreed that it was important.
We started planning the trip in 2012 for "September 2014", which by the way seemed so far away at the time but got here quickly, and then in the spring we had to move it back to August because we found out we were having Rodgers #7 in October and I didn't want to be traveling that far, for that long, in the final weeks of pregnancy. :) At first we just decided the basic direction we were headed (west) and thought of as many major sights we wanted to see in that direction. Of course we said the Grand Canyon, the West Coast, Yosemite. We even thought at first we would go up and hit Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore as well, but there just wasn't time to do it all in three weeks. This time we did more of a southwest/midwest journey, but we would also like to go northwest at some point. Oregon, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are on the "future trip" list. But we had to pare down to what we could truly handle in three weeks, which was the longest amount of time Brian felt like he could leave AMP and we could leave Freedom Farm. Next we got a good detailed US atlas and some travel books on national and state parks. We didn't use the travel books as much as we could have, but the atlas helped us plan our route real well. I will cover our itinerary in detail in the next post.
As the trip drew closer, God gave me a more detailed vision for it. A few things became distinctly important. The first I have mentioned: See and experience the beauty and wonder of the United States of America. The second was this: Tie all of that beauty and those experiences back to the Creator who made it and them with a purpose in mind. Every time you say, "Wow", use the opportunity to thank and praise the Creator. And the third: Bond as a family. There's nothing like being stuck in a 30 foot RV for three weeks. Use it as an opportunity to focus on each other and make relationships paramount. It was with those three goals that we did our final planning. The RV came with a TV, but we never once turned it on. We determined that for the hours we were riding in the car, we would learn about the United States, or about God, or about each other. I brought USA coloring books, maps, puzzles, and games to do. I brought worship CDs and The Jesus Storybook Bible on CD to listen to. And i brought a determination to listen to my children closely and speak into their hearts gently. I began with the resolution that those were the important things, and it helped me keep my focus. Having a vision made all the difference in the world as we began our journey. . . .
Stay tuned for Part 2: Trip Details!