Have Heart, Will Travel

Life lessons

Some adventures are more pleasant than others

Life lessonsNancy Powell6 Comments

Petunia had a loose tooth for a long time.  This one tooth just did not want to leave her mouth, so it hung on and on, no matter how much she worked on it.  In fact, this particular tooth kind of became its own character in our family, it stayed around so long.

"Is he still there?"  "Yep." "You working on it some more?"  "Yes, but it gets looser and then tightens up again."

These were our conversations about The Tooth That Wouldn't Leave.

So imagine our surprise when we're eating lunch in a little pizza place in the village of Watkins Glen and Petunia comes back from the bathroom with bleeding gums and tooth in hand!  We all celebrated!! 

After being admired, the tooth got set down on a napkin as we finished up.  Ok, let's be real...that pretty much made us want to finish up anyway.  Here the details get a bit fuzzy, but I believe the general consensus is I am the one at fault for scooping up the tooth-holding napkin along with the others and throwing them into the trash.  We walked out to our car, everyone thinking someone else had the tooth.

Fortunately, before we even got in the car, Petunia asked to see her tooth.  After a short round of "Who's on first?" we realized what must have happened. This was unfortunate because Petunia really wanted to keep this tooth.  In fact, she had already decided she was going to write the Tooth Fairy asking if there was any way that she could keep this one instead of giving it up because she had worked so long and hard on it.

Mark said we had to at least know we had done everything we possibly could to recover the missing tooth. So, we marched back inside.  I was not feeling extremely enthusiastic right about this point, if you're wondering.

Knowing we had just left, we tried to do a cursory, nonchalant glance inside the top of the trashcan.  

Just writing that sentence makes me laugh out loud. Better than crying, I guess.

Much to our chagrin, that wasn't going to cut it.  We spoke to some employees and got permission to take the trash bag outside for a full inspection. They even volunteered gloves!  Bless you, pizza employees with hearts!

So, we started The Search.

Might not go down as my favorite memory of the whole year.

Might not go down as my favorite memory of the whole year.

Fortunately this was a delicious eatery and people pretty much cleaned their plates! We were removing lots of empty plates and pizza boxes.  It could have been much worse.

Petunia was a full participant. She really wanted this tooth.  I was a participant, too, but was the only one taking pictures. We didn't exactly want to drag this out any longer than necessary.

Petunia was a full participant. She really wanted this tooth.  I was a participant, too, but was the only one taking pictures. We didn't exactly want to drag this out any longer than necessary.

Mark was the hero who found THE napkin with the tiny little tooth still safely ensconced within its folds.  

There was much rejoicing in the land!!

So, yes, some adventures are more pleasant than others, but some things are worth unpleasantness.

And the journey begins! Or does it?

Life lessons, RV destinationsNancy Powell9 Comments

Nope. Not yet. More stuff to do. Wait a couple days. By "wait", I mean, work your hineys off.

Ok, ready? Let's leave tonight! Oh, we lost the key to the tow hitch for the dolly and have to call a locksmith. Not yet. We don't want to leave for our Grand Adventure "hangry." Let's go to IHOP instead. (True story.)

Let's leave this morning! Loaded up and oh-so-ready to pull out and...guess what? We're missing the adapter so the brake lights will work on our towed car.  No kidding, Petunia and I just waited in the RV while Mark ran to the autoparts store to get one.  

I think at that point I was afraid to go back inside the house. The whole crazy idea of this adventure had started to feel un-real; like we somehow weren't going anywhere, but instead just crossing off a never-ending to do list to be ready to go on a 'someday' that kept moving and becoming ever more elusive.

Somehow, though, on the afternoon of July 16th, we actually set off!  Destination? Didn't have one.

We were seriously spending every moment getting ready to go instead of seeing where we'd go. Well, we did have plans for our original first two nights on the road. When those days came and went with us still at home, though, I just couldn't stop and plan one.more.thing.

So I did some interneting on the road and found Queen Wilhelmina State Park in the Ouachita National Forest. It is amazing!  I feel like after all we have been through the last few weeks, God led us here for a respite. We are spending our first two nights here and I look forward to telling you more about what we are seeing and doing.

We have learned some lessons already:

1. This is not easy. At least we can say with certainty that getting ready to go is definitely not easy.

2. We're not in charge of all the details (like the timing) but God is and His has proven better.

3. It's worth it.

We had  some pretty great driving conditions! Open roads where rolling hills turned into mountains; greenery, a beautiful lake, clear sky...so grateful!

"Journey of the Ligntning Bug"  This photo was taken by Mark, but we know the "welcome" was sent by God.    

"Journey of the Ligntning Bug"

This photo was taken by Mark, but we know the "welcome" was sent by God. 


Counting Days

Life lessonsNancy2 Comments

Do you think one could ever feel completely ready for such a grand adventure?  It is a huge undertaking to leave your home and life as you know it for a whole year, and I believe we could constantly find one more thing to do before we feel "ready" to go. In fact, it seemed for a while that for every item we were crossing off our to-do list that we were adding two! I wish I were kidding.

To-do list

We've been packing, we've been downsizing. We have secured renters for our home for the year we'll be away. We have bought things, sold things, fixed things.

We have taken our RV for a test trip. We learned things, we forgot things, we made things up.

We've had victories. And trials. And we got a lot of experience.

experience quote

I jest!  There's just been a lot to learn and Mark, especially, has had to learn a dozen and one new talents involved in this new lifestyle. Fortunately for all of us, he has an analytical mind, likes solving problems and is a quick study!

But here we are, ready to live in the spirit that is calling us to this adventure in the first place and declare a departure date!

Before we get to our countdown of days, allow me to share with you this video about making the days count.  It's fair to say this is the same heart behind our motivation to examine our values that led to this crazy thing!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOksW_NabEk&w=560&h=315]

So, if all goes well from here on out...or even sort of well...we plan to depart on MONDAY, JULY 13TH!

We even have reservations several hours away from home that night, so you can see we're pretty sure about making that date work! I can't wait to write about first adventures from the road!

You may even notice that fancy basic countdown clock on the side of the blog. We are serious people!  We are going to be ready! No to-dos left undone. All ready!  Repeat it until I believe it.

Wait, is this really happening???

Yes! Because jellybeans.

9 things I want my child to gain from traveling

Life lessonsNancy4 Comments


As I've stated before, one of my objectives in this blog is to encourage families to travel with their children. I enjoy sharing some of our personal experiences and I am glad to offer some tips from time to time that I find make whole-family travel easier.

However, today I want to back up and share what I want my child to gain from such a travel-focused life, and I hope it resonates with some of what you want for your children as well.

I think I could add more reasons or state them differently, but here are the top 9 things I want Petunia to gain from traveling.

1. My time and attention

We do make "family fun time", as we call it, a pretty big priority around here. But let's be honest, there is always work, housework, sports practice, growing a small business, Facebook (for me), t.v. (for her), and living ordinary life that gets in the way of meaningful connection. We still have thoughtful games of checkers and cards, good conversations over ice cream, and plain ol' cuddle-on-the-couch moments. I am not saying we need travel to give our children our time, just that it's a great opportunity not only to give them more attention, but to have deeper talks born out of richer, non-ordinary experiences. Not only did Petunia get the full attention of Mama and Daddy all day on Canada Day when we celebrated it in Ottawa, but we got to speak about what that day meant, compare it to our Independence Day and have all kinds of good talks.

2. A sense of adventure

a.k.a. A willingness to take risks! I want her to climb the mountain, literally and figuratively. I want her to try things she thinks she cannot, but will try anyway because the location demands the chance be taken. (Which, by the way, is how very unlikely little I climbed Mt. Fuji.) There are rivers to raft, strangers to talk to, subways to ride, paths to wander, and I pray she'll have a sense to undertake a lot of adventure. In travel, as in life, I want her to be brave. (To my mother: I will be okay if she leaves out certain adventures I sought to undertake, but you would love the redemption, I understand; so let's just see how things go, shall we?)

3. Compassion

There are many ways to gain and practice compassion while traveling, from giving up your seat to the elderly at an airport or bus, to coming face to face with real need and hurt in the world. When we've traveled out of our normal zone, we've encountered homeless people in cities, desperately impoverished children living in shacks in Uganda and a broad spectrum of people with all sorts of special needs. We want Petunia to know about poverty (including, actually, that it exists in our hometown), loneliness, and the vulnerable of society, and we often use our experiences as springboards into life lessons.  Of course, the discourse and practice of compassion happens fairly regularly around our house (I am employed as the Director of Compassion Ministry at our church, after all) but the world makes a great classroom for further study and exercise.


4. Fun

Yes, just a good ol' time!  Amusement parks, favorite characters, swimming in all kinds of things--hotel pools, water parks, rivers, resorts, lakes--all of it, riding all modes of transportation, interactive museums, picking out souvenirs from nature or unusual stores, playing fun games with friends you meet and keep for two hours, hiking, camping, interacting with animals, whew!  I want Petunia to have FUN! And we want to have a lot of fun with her!


5. An expanded education

It's funny how you're always learning something in travel, even when you're not trying. Architecture, historical markers, fun museums, names of town--everywhere is a chance for you all to learn something together or for you to teach your children. Add to that purposefully putting in a little learning: History in our great cities, geography by studying a map of where you're going, math by measuring the distance and/or converting currency and/or accounting for the time difference back home, foreign language that can be put to practice, social studies, art...and then all types of museums where you're learning facts on any of the widest array of subjects all the while enjoying yourself.  Petunia loves museums, so we're grateful for that extra bit of grace.  We can learn a lot in a classroom (and boy are we grateful that Petunia has had some of the best teachers) but some lessons that stick with you forever are the ones you get by living them out.

6. Healthy self-confidence

I believe there are many reasons that travel raises the level of self-confidence in a person. For one, there's something about going places and doing things that are outside of your comfort zone and living to tell the tale that boosts courage.  Then there are the experiences where you really try something you think you can't do and, succeed or fail, the experience alone can raise self-esteem. Ok, especially succeeding. However, I'm a firm believer that if you succeed at everything then you aren't trying hard enough. Finally, suppose I had Petunia just may find herself someday in a work or social situation where it seems everyone else is smarter, richer and more connected. But when the conversation really gets going and she knows a thing or two about countries, currency, and landmarks from personal experience, throw in some opinions on the best art galleries, or science museums, or beaches or NY pizzerias...well, it might just help self-confidence.

7. Humility

Standing before the mighty rushing Nile, right where it crashes northward over falls that are too dangerous to raft, one can't help but have an appropriate sense of one's own smallness in this world.  Playing with children who will most likely never own a brand new toy in their life, but give you a prized Barbie doll head because they want to give you a gift is humbling.  Gazing up into the sky and still not seeing the tops of the glorious trees in majestic forests shouts in a whisper that there is an amazing, creative author of this world and we are just one, though dearly loved, individual in a great span of time.

8. Good memories

This is different than #4 above. We traveled places for Petunia to have fun long before she would have been able to develop any lasting memory of it. Fun is important in its own right. However, fun lived again through memories, and not just fun but wonder, sadness, excitement, even a little fear, discovery, anticipation...these...these are treasures. I cannot overstate the times a smile has caught my lips unawares or a sudden tightening of the chest brought on by a song, a smell, a sight, hearing a name, or reading a phrase that to me will always be linked to a certain memory of other times and places usually, in my case, experienced through travel. My life is richer in layers because of these memories and I wish for Petunia to have all her heart can hold.


9. A broader perspective

The more we become interconnected through social media, the more I learn about how others feel on a wide variety of topics, many of them ridiculously mundane, but others of great import.  Many times I've read the opinion of someone that I generally find to be well mannered and fairly well educated on an important topic and thought to myself, "They just really have no idea."  And that's not mean; it's just true that, often, they really just do not have an idea of the other side of the argument. It's very easy to live life in a single state or two, grow up with people like you, travel only to places that cater to people like you and then espouse opinions and make declarations on social media or real life without ever understanding where the proponents of the other side of the argument are even coming from. To be clear, in this home, we hold some strong opinions. On the other hand, we want Petunia to meet people and go places that aren't in the least like us or like home. I want her to meet--and know--people of different races, religions, cultures, political parties, socio-economic levels and more.  I want her to have a perspective on this whole wide world and all the people that the issues affect.  I want her to grow up into a young woman who holds her own very strong opinions and beliefs and will defend them, but not because she doesn't realize there are other ways to think.  I want her to confidently go on with her choices because she believes they are right, not because she believes that people who hold differing opinions are dumb.  I want her to grow up and be known for what she is for rather than what she is against.  And I want the same for her parents.

What's on your list?  Please share because I very likely want them on my list, too.

Memory Monday: A wide stretch of soft sand and a STARFISH

Beach, Life lessons, Memory MondayNancy2 Comments

Disneyworld Jimmy wedding Oct 2011 505The Florda beach.

Ahhhh, just typing those words bring about a sense of calm, not to mention the joy that comes from looking at the soft sand and gorgeous light (okay, and precious little girl) in the picture above.

This memory was born  from getting to attend the wedding of a good friend a few years ago. It's the trip that allowed us to add the couple days of Disney I wrote about here.  As we were long time friends of the groom, Mark was a groomsman and I was there just as a guest.  However, to my surprise and pleasure, my past wedding-coordinating experience had reason to be needed and I got to play a role in the wedding, after all.

I was happy to just be useful.  The bride, however, who is gracious and kind, insisted on giving me a necklace for my time. I tried to refuse, saying no gift was necessary, but I could see she really wanted to give it, so I accepted gratefully.

In keeping with the beach location, the necklace I received was a beautiful silver, sparkly starfish.  The piece of jewelry was lovely in its own right, but the bride, who I was just getting to know, could not have known that I love starfish!  I don't love starfish in a 'collect them, wear them, decorate with them' sort of way. I just deep down have a fascination with the creatures because of a story I heard long ago that sticks with me right down in my soul and has had provided the inspiration I have needed to draw upon at uncertain moments.

To close this Memory Monday, let me share that story with you and ask you, please share this post with others if you know someone who might need this story today.

The Starfish Story

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”