It was over 13 years ago when my husband and I wrote down a family goal of providing our children with the gift of travel. Our goal then, as it is today, is to provide as many opportunities as we can to see the wonders our great nation has to offer. While it may still seem like a far fetched goal, we plan and plot out our trips in hopes of traveling to as many of the continental states as possible before our children graduate high school.

When it comes to trips and vacations, spontaneous and unplanned are two words that hardly find their way into my vocabulary. For me, every vacation or getaway is planned – and planned meticulously. For my husband and eldest daughter, “adventure is out there” is more their style.

“Yes, let’s go.”

For the extended, activity-free, Easter weekend, we planned a college visit for our daughter in Western Nebraska and then a third trip back to the Black Hills. However, when my husband spontaneously suggested we drive to Yellowstone rather than go to Mount Rushmore, immediately our daughter said, “yes, let’s go.”

In an uncharacteristic fashion, I quickly agreed. I was actually excited for the spontaneous 1,700 mile detour from our original plan. Already 6 hours from home and another 10 hours from Yellowstone, we began our “quick trip” to one of our national treasures. Yet, I knew this would be an adventure our kids would not forget as nothing was planned, including where we would stay each night. We vowed to get as far as we could, find a hotel, explore the area quickly, and then continue the next day.

This spontaneous road trip provided many moments for our family to create memories. From waiting patiently for Old Faithful, to taking pictures in front of each new state sign, the memories we created will make for great conversations for years to come. Even picking out the state collectibles became an adventure.

Our two daughters collect one small item from each of the states we visit. One collects stickers, and the other collects keychains. Naturally, our son decided he wanted to start collecting something to remember our travels. In typical 10-year-old boy humor, he started with the ridiculous idea of collecting moose’s poop, but soon realized he would not be able to find that in every state. For the next 30 minutes, he browsed postcards, snow globes, patches, magnets, playing cards and finally decided upon lapel pins, which is perfect for him. For the next hour after his purchase, he figured out all of the states he has visited, and how many pins he would have to buy so he would be caught up on his states.

Our Family Adventure

When the weekend was all said and done, we traveled 2,100 miles in the course of 75 hours. Yes, sometimes the confines of the pickup truck felt quite cramped with all five of us having our earbuds in at various points in the journey. Yet ultimately, we all loved the trip! The spontaneity of changing our original plans allowed us to create new family memories. We added two more states to our visited state’s list, and it was a great reminder for all of us to enjoy the moment. For myself, someone who plans out virtually everything, it was an awesome opportunity for me to not worry about the next stop and to embrace the fact that “adventure is out there.”

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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