When I first became a teacher, I had no idea what a perk my profession would turn out to be once I became a mom. I went into teaching because I love children and couldn’t wait to educate them, but once I had children of my own, I was able to be at home with them since we share all the same breaks. Coincidentally, I am married to a fellow educator, so we have all enjoyed special family time together over the years. We decided to make these moments even more special by creating a goal of taking our daughters to all 50 states—and that’s just what we did.
Orlando, Florida (2006)
We started them young, then mapped out a yearly summer vacation—primarily road trips. As parents, we wanted to expose them to as much as possible: big cities, museums, history, adventure, and the wonders of nature. So, within our travels, we have taken them to 15 major cities, 12 national parks, all the major mountain ranges, a temperate rainforest, a tropical rainforest, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and countless state parks, small towns, lakes, rivers, and many, many souvenir shops.
Grand Canyon, Arizona (2009)
Chicago, Illinois (2012)
Of course, being teachers, we wanted them to learn about all the amazing sights and would often stop to read the various historical plaques at monuments, museums, state parks, etc. But we also wanted them to take risks and try new things. We’ve taken them mountain biking, snow skiing, water skiing, parasailing, snuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, white water rafting, horseback riding, hiking, and more! Some of these risks were just plain fun, while others were challenging to say the least.
Mt. Wheeler Peak, 13,065 ft., Great Basin, Nevada (2016)
Admittedly, there were some states that were just a quick stop, but we always found something to see. You’d be amazed at what you can find right off the highway. Who knew Shoshone Falls, Idaho is known as the Niagara of the West? And just a quick detour off the highway can find you dining at Mystic Pizza (from the well-known 80s movie) in the quaint fishing town of Mystic, Connecticut.
By now, you may be wondering how two teachers can afford to do all this traveling. Not to state the obvious, but we both work additional jobs to save for our summer travels. We also drive older cars and live in a modest home. We are more about life’s experiences than life’s treasures, because these experiences are a treasure to us.
Maui, Hawaii (2018)
This summer, we traveled to our 50th state: Hawaii. Our daughters are no longer little girls, but young women about to take on the world on their own.
And here’s what I hope they learn from all of our summer travels:
Dream Big: This may sound cliché, but that’s exactly what this adventure has been—a dream come true for me. We are teachers on two teachers’ salaries, but we worked hard to make it happen for our daughters. We didn’t take couples trips or girl/guy trips; we saved and made them family trips. I want them to have dreams of their own and work hard at making them come true.
Grit: Otherwise known as perseverance. Climbing a mountain is tough! Biking down a mountain is tough! Kayaking in rough water is tough! But you don’t get far in life without pushing yourself to the limit. I want our daughters to have grit to get through the hard stuff in life and make it to the other side. Life has a way of throwing us all a curve ball (or two), and I want them to persevere and come out even stronger than before. I want them to know that being afraid is okay, and sometimes even good for us.
Gratitude: We have seen amazing oceans, waterfalls, mountains, canyons, wildlife, trees, flowers, and different cultures. And we appreciated every bit of it. There are so many beautiful things to see and do in our country—we literally stopped and smelled the roses! We have also felt thankful for this time we have spent together as a family. I want our daughters to always take the time to feel gratitude for the beauty and people around them.
Spread Aloha: While in Hawaii this year, we learned that “aloha” means more than just hello. It is all about spreading love, peace, and compassion. We have met many wonderful people during our travels. No matter which side of the political fence you sit on, no one can deny that our country is made up of rich cultures, beautiful sights, and amazing people. I want our daughters to spread that love, peace, and compassion for all—it just might make our world a little brighter.
Live Life: We are not stopping here! We will continue to travel—look out national parks, here we come! We will also continue to live in the moment and put away our cell phones to enjoy time together. But I know with a 19- and a 16-year-old, our summer travels may start to look different. I can only hope as they embark on their own adventures, they will continue to explore, learn, seek new experiences, and live life!
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