There was a time when all I ever did was daydream. I was around 13 years old, and I’d sit in my closet for hours, looking in the floor-length mirror and pretending I was a famous country music singer. This was the era of the Dixie Chicks and Shania, so I’d tousle my hair, lean back, and belt out my best version of “Cowboy Take Me Away” before my sister would yell from downstairs to keep it down. I pretended I was a jet-setting superstar, always on the go, traveling in my tour bus from one sold-out show to the next.
That spirit of exploration and adventure stayed with me all throughout my newlywed years. My husband and I took five major road trips before we had kids. We spent one week circling Arizona and Utah, one discovering New England, one to New Mexico, and two in the Pacific Northwest. We didn’t travel with an itinerary. We asked the locals where to go, and where to eat. We booked hotel rooms on the fly and stayed up way too late exploring back road haunts.
Then, we got a little older. Babies came and jobs changed and all of a sudden, we weren’t quite as flexible to just pick up and leave like we used to be. We couldn’t take off work for a week at a time and besides, who wants to load up a Pack-and-Play and a gazillion other baby items, then travel around in a car for seven days listening to cries in the back seat? Road trips are awesome as a couple. They’re less so as a family, though I have a feeling that’s just the stage we’re in.
So we stifled our itch to discover new lands. We stuck with taking once-a-year weekend trips to the closest beach, and even that was a stretch. The first time we tried, we found ourselves not 12 hours in, with two sick babies, one giant ear infection, and three canceled nights at the Airbnb.
Yet, I say all of this as a preface to my next point: We aren’t giving up. We firmly believe there are ways to see the world, even as a responsible adult who still has to work and pay bills and raise children. While it might take a little more logistical strategy, it’s not impossible, and it can actually be rewarding when we do it right.
As we round out 2017 and enter the new year, my family and I have vowed to go on more adventures together. We adore our little home in our little town, but my babies have enormous imaginations and I owe it to them to reveal that I do too. Here are three simple ways we’re going to make that change, starting now.
1. Make actual plans. We’re so good at saying, “Oh, we should go to that festival!” or “Wow! That place looks really beautiful and we should go someday.” We’re awesome at talking about destinations and events, but less stellar at actually putting the steps in place to go see them. So next year, we’re doing a little more pre-planning so we don’t miss the things we want to do. I’m going to make a DIY travel map like this My Postcard tutorial explains. I’ll buy the thumb pins and we’ll make it a family endeavor to pinpoint places we want to explore, then look at our schedule to see when we can make the journey.
2. Budget, budget, budget. Nothing derails an adventure quite like sitting down to figure out the costs and finding that you’re way in the red. We’ve been there, and it’s heart-breaking. Instead, we’re going to stick with places we know we can afford, and then find ways to cut back in the months leading up to our trip, so we can spend a little more comfortably when we get there. For us, that means that while I’d love to sit in a private cabana on the coast of Bora Bora, that’s probably not in the cards right now. But, I can find a lovely coastal destination that’s a little closer and a smidge less luxurious, and we’re ready to take the plunge. One easy change that really helps us save? Eating in more. We’re bad about picking up drive-through on the way home from work and while a paper-sack cheeseburger might not cost much at the time, those expenses add up.
3. Travel in a group. One of the most inexpensive, yet fun ways to travel is to go in with a group of people and divide all of the costs. Thankfully, my husband and I live super close to family, and we’re tight with all of my siblings and their spouses. So next summer, we’ve made plans to rent a house at the lake for a week. An expansive $2,000-per-week cabin is way too much for us as a couple, but split eight ways? Totally do-able. Besides, it’s fun to travel with all of my best friends, and we’ve always got a few built-in babysitters ready to help! Consider asking some buddies or relatives if they’d like to go in with you. Then, allow them to be involved in the decision-making processes. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can afford the more people you bring along!
While these aren’t ground-shaking tips by any means, they’re easy-to-implement steps that can get you a little closer to living the adventurous life you’ve always wanted to. Just because I’m 30 now doesn’t mean that I’m not still that teenage girl on the carpeted closet floor. Though I finally realized that a screeching owl sounds better than my singing voice and I’ll probably never be the next Faith Hill, I still have big dreams! So here’s to growing up, finding our way, and going off the beaten path every once in a while, however that might look.