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As we prepare for our upcoming adventure to visit all National Parks in one year, it is fun to look back on how we got to this point. How did we come to this decision to take a huge plunge into spontaneity and (kind of) irresponsibility and drive around the country for 12 months? Well, as we explore our pasts, this kind of lust for the outdoors makes sense.

Cole and I both grew up in families that valued play, nature, adventure, and activity. We had parents who turned off the TV (rather, never turned it on to begin with) and pushed their kids outside to enjoy the wonder within reach. And, when it came time for a longer vacation, took their kids to places to explore, to hike, to swim, to float, to climb. These are the types of parents we both had, and these are the types of parents we also hope to be someday.

As for me, Elizabeth, my family was the epitome of active. With four of us girls, there was always plenty to do and explore. My parents live on six beautiful acres, including two acres of woods, that provided endless opportunities to get muddy, stung, poison ivied, scraped, and tired. AKA opportunities to have an amazing childhood.

Our outdoors adventures throughout my upbringing fall into two major categories: exploring at home and exploring on the road.

At home

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A big yard and two acres of woods and a small apple orchard were plenty for us to make use of, but my parents went above and beyond and also built us a playground and a treehouse. This is where we spent the majority of our evenings, weekends, and summers.

I don’t have too many memories of being cooped up inside. Instead, my fondest memories include digging up old bottles and cans from the “junkyards” we found in the woods, having “water wars” in the driveway, and hooking up my gigantic dog to a wagon and calling it our Oregon Trail adventure.

As we got a little older and slightly more mature, we transitioned from imaginary play to sports. With a pretty evenly-matched two-on-two setup we had in place, sports like basketball, volleyball, ghost-man baseball, and even football often took up our time. I have such fond memories of playing in the backyard and I know these adventures have shaped my love for the outdoors.

On the road

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When we weren’t making messes around our own house, my family sure did love our summer vacations. My mom is an ace at finding amazing lesser-known spots around the country where we could hide out for a week.

Solitude was always a theme, and I appreciate that.At the time (and still now, a little) all we wanted to do was go to Disney World but I’m glad we spent time exploring those more remote locations. Road trips for us included destinations to the mountains, waterfalls, beaches, cabins, campgrounds, creeks, and almost everything in between. Every summer, camping in the Lake of the Ozarks in our pop-up camper with extended family was one of our favorites.

No matter what we did, being outside as much as possible was the goal. Locations like Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks and the tip of Texas to visit my grandma’s winter home might not have been the most popular tourist attractions, but they were some of our favorite spots. I can’t wait to get the chance to see some of these places again and drag Cole down memory lane next year on our ultimate adventure.

These memories and experiences serve as more than just memories and experiences. They are the building blocks upon which we have crafted this dream of seeing the most beautiful spots in America. Without the love of outdoors instilled in us from a young age, we aren’t sure if we’d have the guts to take on something like this. But thanks to our parents and siblings, the love and passion is there. And thanks to the support we get from each other, this dream is reality.

Read about little Cole growing up here.

 

Written by Elizabeth