It's such a great feeling when you meet someone new who shares your same thoughts and sentiments. It was almost like listening to myself when I heard parent and schoolteacher Carrie McWhorter tell me about the impact their road trip travels have had on their family. Carrie and her husband and fellow teacher Owen and their kids Avery, 13 and Stella 11 are on a quest to see all 50 so far having visited 33. It all started when Owen decided to buy a camper, wanting to recreate his wonderful childhood memories with his own family. As teachers with summers off they decided "the quest of seeing all 50 states just seemed like an exciting goal and one that would allow for some new adventures". They've been road tripping ever since.
Carrie and I share the same ideas (although I prefer a hotel room to a camper), that road trip travel helps not just the kids, but everyone connect to other places and our history in a way that is more than somewhere "on a map or a picture in a textbook". Road trip travel and their interactions with fellow campers have exposed the McWhorter family to the diversity of people and places different from their home giving everyone, but especially the kids, confidence in new situations and broader knowledge. In addition to learning new things and making friends at campsites all around the country, they've picked up and shared quite a few tips on the road that they are eager to share.
To save on expenses which can add up, Carrie suggests seeking out free experiences such as ranger led programs at national parks which are their favorite destinations. By camping they also save by preparing their own meals, but they will splurge on a "can't miss" eatery going at lunch instead of dinner. As a teacher, Carrie says that zoo's and museums are often part of a network that grants reciprocal benefits so if your a member of a local museum or zoo, your membership will most likely get you into one of it's partners for free. Carrie also warn the sometimes things don't always work according to schedule, "so leave a little unscheduled time for the unexpected and go with the flow."
For the McWhorter family, camping is a huge part of the family road trip experience resulting in "sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences that are unforgettable". "Family road trips are a shared memory that your whole family will always remember" says Owen, and I couldn't agree more. Some of their powerful memories are the sulfur smells of the thermal features of Yellowstone, the mist and the roar of Niagara Falls, and the vastness of the Grand Canyon. Those places are epic for sure, but the places that rank as some of their family favorites are staying at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and touring Mackinac Island near Michigan's upper peninsula (sad to say neither of which I've seen but you can read about their Great Lakes adventure on Carrie's website by clicking here)
When I sent Carrie my questionnaire, there was one thing she said that really stuck with me particularly since it was coming from a teacher-"We all become students". Road trip travel opens our eyes to so many things-diversity, culture, history, geography, science and so much more. Being out on the road is definitely akin to being in the biggest and most fascinating classroom where we lose ourselves in the moment absorbing more than we can imagine with all of our senses.
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