I will never claim to be an expert on anything, but one thing we do is spend lots of time vacationing with little people. While opportunities have changed from the days we biked cross country, climbed 14ers, and kayaked Lake Superior, we will never regret taking our children on wild adventurous vacations. In fact, we are forming childhood memories that last a lifetime. Additionally, this is the investment we cherish now more than any earthly possession. We have 18 precious years to spend with them before their lives continue without us. DON’T WAIT. We understand naps and schedules just like everybody else, but children adapt better than we do. The more you get out, the more pliable your children will become. Pliable kids grow into resilient, happy, and versatile adults.
As another new year begins, I thought it was a good time to encourage you all to invest in your memories. There’s always a reason or excuse to put off an outing or dream vacation until ‘next year,’ but your time is now. The older kids get, the harder it is to prioritize your own plans. We encouraged one family of friends with four very active kids to join us on a trip a couple years ago. They knew it would be hard to fit in to their busy summer, but sadly, also realized it was the last summer they could do it. Because they moved so quickly, they were able to squeeze in every activity they wanted to do and more… in a very short time – no regrets! Our oldest is not even in middle school yet, but he already has commitments for summer band and cross country camp that we are skipping out on as we prioritize our own family plans. We hope to continue finding ways to spend time on family trips, but I envision it getting more difficult with every passing year. Be creative.
On the flip side, the kids aren’t too young. They will still get their naps, some way, somehow. We were always worried that upon returning, their schedules were lost, only to discover they easily fell right back into their former routines. There have been years we have considered talking ourselves out of certain trips… forest fires in Colorado, a home addition in progress, too many things on our plate, or fear of flooding our basement again. Yet we have never regretted it – I can’t imagine having lost some of those memories by succumbing to the stresses of life. Yes, they may not remember, but you will… and you will have pictures that help develop memories… and they will ask about them often. No, they might not walk or hike well. True, you might have to carry them. In reality, this works to your benefit. We have had a much easier time carrying kids around in a backpack instead of talking them through a mental battle of how far we are hiking… and, we got some extra exercise with their weight! If you don’t have one, we have two – ask me and you can borrow them.
No matter what, money is always hard to come by. I don’t particularly like to talk about it. It’s a sensitive topic and one that I will always say first and foremost is completely personal. What may be important to you may not be to me. I understand – I have only met a few people in my lifetime as frugal as me. We are proud of the discipline we have used since we were married in 1998 to set ourselves up for financial freedom, and happy with the options that are open to us now. If it’s important to you, prioritize it. If it’s not, skip it. Make tough choices. Give up cable TV for a few months or even more, stay away from your favorite store, skip going out to eat, put away the credit cards for awhile, or find a way to make a little extra money. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Perhaps the most difficult factor is time. Early in our marriage, my husband had summers off as a teacher, and I worked year round, longer hours as an environmental engineer. I went to an extreme, going back to school to get my master’s degree in teaching – probably the most critical decision to our happiness. If it’s something you really want, make it happen. Work your time off around holidays to boost your vacation time, take a mini-trip close to home, or follow websites like theflightdeal.com. We miss living in Colorado like crazy, but didn’t really see living there as a viable option with all our family in Chicagoland. When an $80 roundtrip airfare deal to Colorado pops up, we can make it happen and get by with a day or two off work. Upon looking back over 2015, both Chuck and I agreed this trip was our best memory of the year… spontaneous, unexpected, and blissfully fun. With good friends who take us in and supply us with gear and transportation, the trip ends up costing us less than a ski trip up to Wisconsin. Find what works for you!
If all of this is not a priority for you, there is no pressure to do it. This was simply a way for me to encourage others to jump outside their comfort zone and make things happen in 2016. If it’s not a vacation, make it a day trip – places like Matthiessen State Park and Indiana Dunes State Park are only an hour away from home. This may be less than your daily work commute. Camping works best for us because it’s affordable, beautiful, and fun for us to spend time outdoors, but maybe a water park or Disney resort is more your style. All of us our different and that makes the world a special place. Find your happy place. You won’t regret it – I promise.
Don’t let life get in the way. LIVE 🙂