We often hear stories of people who have suddenly caught adventure fever and cast off their old jobs and thrown away their former lives to take off on some exotic journey without the slightest idea where they are heading for, how long it will take or what lies in their future. Some part of me wishes we could say our story is as romantic, dramatic and spontaneous as that… but it’s just not. Those who know me know I rarely make a decision without thoroughly analyzing every angle and each alternative. This trip was no different. So now we want to share with you all how and why we decided to leave our jobs, press pause on our lives and set out on an adventure to explore all 59 U.S. National Parks.
As we mention in our About Us page, the whole thing began in April 2014 when we were hiking a trail in Kansas City one spring, itching with cabin fever after a long winter. We were talking about bucket lists and I said visiting all the National Parks was on mine (at the time we had no idea there were so many!). Our imaginations started to run wild as we talked about how awesome it would be to see all of America’s most incredible landscapes. But unfortunately my pragmatism likes to throw in a wet towel to smother these types of fantasies. I thought to myself, “yeah, it would be really cool, but it’s next to impossible with how spread out and remote the parks are. We’d basically have to devote all our vacations from now until we’re 80 to visit all those different places.” But then we thought… what if we just went all in and hit them all in one big year-long trip?!
Unlike most trail talk daydreams, this idea stuck with us. Over the next few weeks we talked about it with each other and built it up in our heads more and more. We began researching all the U.S. National Parks and where they were located. It was a shock to find out that Alaska alone had 8 (4 without any road access), Hawaii had 2, U.S. Virgin Islands had 1… and the kicker… American Samoa in the middle of the southern Pacific had one. Not necessarily the simple cross-country road trip we had envisioned! We also researched whether anyone had ever done one big tour of all 59 National Parks before. We were surprised and excited to find nothing like the trip we were planning. Then a week after the initial search I ran across a post from a couple announcing that later that month they were beginning a tour of all 59 National Parks in 59 weeks. I felt like they must have read our minds. What’s more, they were from Kansas City! At first I was bummed that we weren’t exactly the pioneers I’d expected, but then I realized it’s always good to have fellow adventurers to learn from. These fellow adventurers turned out to be our friends Don and Shelly from 59NationalParks.com.
Even after we had personally met Don and Shelly and heard their experiences from the trail, the adventure seemed too far-fetched to actually be possible for us. There was a stretch of a few months when our trip fell off the table. It seemed too crazy, too irresponsible and much too expensive. But the trip just set up camp in the back of our minds, refusing to be forgotten. At this point, I feel like either of us could’ve easily dissuaded the other. Or we could have easily stopped bringing it up and it would gradually drift back into the dreamland from whence it came. But one of the biggest reasons this trip has become a reality is because Elizabeth was just as enthusiastic and willing as I was. So finally we had to do the only thing you can do when faced with a difficult decision… make a pros and cons list.
Here is the raw pros and cons list that we came up with:
- Adventure of a lifetime
- If not now, when? No regrets.
- Possible traveling/blog sponsorships
- Develop communication and promotional skills
- Experiencing beautiful nature
- See America’s best spots (many we wouldn’t see o/w)
- Break from the rat race
- Inspire others to embrace nature and adventure
- Challenge ourselves individually and as a couple
- Routing the trip so we skip winter weather
- Cost: money, car miles, health insurance
- Opportunity Cost- delays life: MBA, kid, savings
- Travel fatigue, taking for granted
- Spouse fatigue?
- Rough lifestyle – no beds, no comforts
- Missing family
- Can’t get all 59?
- Already been done
- Storing everything (inc. Dozer)
- Unexpected- Emergencies, family issues, etc
Looking at the cons, I realize that a lot of them come from a place of fear – fear of uncertainty and fear of not being up for the challenge. The only two cons I think either of us put real weight on is the dollar cost and the opportunity cost of a year of traveling across the country, into the wilderness of Alaska and across the ocean to Hawaii and American Samoa. But Elizabeth and I grew up in families that like to challenge the mold. In the end I think our true desire came through and the pros outweighed any possible cons. Now we just had to turn a dream into a reality.