This month marks our 2-year nomadic anniversary and our journey as the 5freespirits living in our 31foot travel trailer we lovingly named Story. Well there was that 8-month stint we had moving back home, renting a house last year so Alex could get his virtual consulting business up and running while the kids returned to routine of school play dates and sports (but that time was also well spent catching up with friends and planning our future route of life on the road). You see once you get a taste of freedom from the rat race, a taste of travel, sense of adventure etc, it is really hard to get back into the norms of society without feeling lost or out of place. Plus this world is so big and we’ve only just begun to explore what’s out there!
SO off we went again where we fell in love with the East coast Canadian charm and may put down roots when/if we desire to settle. Then crossing in to the USA we found ourselves constantly followed by wet and cool weather. We had several plans changed and re-routed our trip a few times in hopes to escape the non-stop rain this past fall. We even drove 7 hours straight in one day like crazy people to Galveston Texas only to be flooded out of our campsite! Let me tell you living in a tiny space in shite weather tested our moods, our waistline (no hikes and hello wine and ice cream with movie night) and our bank account (you just can’t be cooped up that long without going nuts so out to the movies, museums, exhibits etc.) On the plus side, during that horrible wet fall we enjoyed reading and watching many classics with the kids for the first time and are proud to say our kids are well versed in the Avengers series, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and several awesome childhood 80’s and 90’s movies! Ha!
But at last sunshine hikes and the outdoors returned to us once we hit the desert in west Texas surrounded by mountains, desert life and plants, other nomads escaping the rain and a truly dark sky at night! It was in Davis Mountain State Park where we encountered our first wild javelina, I took the kids on a mountain hike by myself for the first time (we did awesome despite Alex’s panic attack because there was no cell service for 4 days). Alex also took us up to the MacDonald observatory to look into space through extremely expensive telescopes at star bursts, planets and other space nerd stuff that was light years away!
Then it was off to Arizona, probably in my top 3 fav states as I haven’t’ been to all 50 yet, but AZ is awesomesauce!!! Sedona’s hiking on the Red Rocks just filled my soul and worked off those rainy day kinks I had been harbouring, plus we spent our first Christmas in our trailer with a fellow traveling family we had met while exploring Kartchener Caverns (really humid caves with strict park ranger staff that de-lint your clothes before entering).
This time around, we’ve taken it slower spending on average 5-7 days in one campsite and have met more fulltime travelling families in the process which is incredible to see the kids make instant best friends as they can relate to similar lifestyles and having crazy, hippie and cool parents! Lol
Shyla met her pen-pal in Usery Moutain State Park near Phoenix (learned there is a desert tortoise, boys found a dead rattle snake and we did a junior ranger mountain lion hike) which was a precious experience in itself to see my once shy, self-conscious daughter who couldn’t spell to save her life (still working on it, but much improved), commit to writing a stranger once a week and then get to meet her face to face! Speaking of growth Lennon has read all the Mr Dogman and Captain Underpants books in remarkable timing, learned how to make and use a bow and arrow (still has no real sharp point as he is our little clutz still) and despite his reluctance to do his school work this kids memory would put anyone to shame!
Madden is a hiking marvel being able to hike up to 7 miles (our max so far) without being carried! I mean if you think about it, he’s doing at least double the steps we are with his cute, chubby 4 year old legs!! He’s also mastered how to write his own name, conquered the alphabet and is beginning to read early words thanks to his big bro and sister now being his teachers as well 😊 There’s so much pride and sense of accomplishment when you home-school and see what your little humans are capable of, what they’re achieving and how they learn. Sometimes I’m terrified I’m screwing them up or I’m afraid I don’t know what I’m doing as a teacher, but then I have days like yesterday where I watch my kids smiles as they work together to build a rock bridge to cross a river, to announcing ”we’re going north because there’s moss on this side of the rock”, to the 5 miles of hiking in the Californian desert while identifying igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks (thanks to all those visitor centers at the national parks, it’s like free curriculum!) Well at least I have the confidence they’ll be able to read a compass and map one day if the gps fails!
My life as a 5freespirit no longer feels like a vacay, this is my reality, my life where yes, I live in a trailer, my kids shower twice a week unless we have a full hook up (unlimited running water), I do coin laundry (home-school tip! - get your kids counting quarters), we use paper plates more then real dishes, my husband’s office is our bed, kitchen, the truck or our picnic table and everything we own is in less then 300 sq ft! But living this simple life with less stuff and more time has giving us the chance to see so much!! In this month alone we’ve seen a 900 year old cliff dwelling, 300 year old petroglyphs, explored natural wind caves, saw a big horn sheep in the desert, stood a few feet from baby seals on a beach, a wild barn owl in a palm grove, a real desert oasis, wild dolphins ‘surfing’ the waves in the ocean, Alex was cornered and assaulted by three javelinas in Sedona and lived to tell the tale! We also hiked over 45 miles of awesome terrain in two different states, smelled wild desert flowers (thanks to all that rain), found a dead tarantula, watched a blood moon eclipse (that was just me and it was cool), swam in a natural hot spring fed pool in palm springs, watched a jack rabbit run like a dog (they do!) and that’s just what I can remember (maybe I should ask Lennon ha!).
Soooooooooo here’s to living wild and free for the past two years. Happy nomad-versary 5freespirits, I can’t wait to make more memories, check more off the bucket list and keep on adventuring!!
Well there’s a reason people are drawn to the east coast of Canada and I can see why. Although the west coast is beyond gorgeous and has the lure of the Rocky Mountains and varying scenery changes from desert, to cities to redwoods and the coast of California, BC onwards, the east coast is just damn peaceful and quaint. Everywhere we’ve been so far the people are above and beyond friendly, funny and helpful. Those kind hearted helpful people you hear about seem to live in the east coast for sure and that in itself makes you feel safe, comforted and at home. In New Brunswick we explored the Bay of Fundy, the highest tide in the world and the flowerpot islands you see in national geographic magazines. It was definitely cool to explore the sea floor and knowing in a few hours where we were standing would be swallowed up by the sea under 50 feet! Shyla and I decided there we would start collecting rocks from every new place we go.
We then went to PEI and is it just me or is Prince Edward Island trending? Do you know people going there for a holiday? I swear so many people I know are checking it out and it’s no wonder why. Its beautiful red beaches and sand and its quaint calm coast sheltered from the open sea made it a great vacation spot to spend on the beach. I loved checking out the Anne of Green Gables stuff, but mostly to see where Lucy M Montgomery wrote this famous story, her birth place, her fight to get the book published because the ‘Men's Club of Canada’ at the time thought it was a child story and worse about a girl child no one would read it! HA! It was a great learning lesson to my kids about perseverance especially for Shyla who ate up the tours and the history of this great author. Oh and the carriage ride at the Lake of Shining Waters was definitely worth every penny. We even met up with another traveling family going on a round-the-world adventure. I love collecting new travelling family friends to keep in touch with and share the like mindedness of ‘world schooling adventures’
So back to moving out east…so NB good, PEI even better and then we hit Cape Breton and boom it was love at first sight! First of all, if you haven’t been, GO NOW and you’ll see what I mean. The peace and calm of this natural gem of land just fills your soul with natures gift of natural beauty and tranquility. The coast is still calmer and warmer waters then most ocean sides we’ve been to considering its location and the water so clear the beaches are pristine!!! No garbage cans or litter anywhere! We surprised the kids with a joint 5 day vacation in Margaree Harbor with our friends from back home and their kids and it was a fantastic week of beach, friends and fun! They showed us this unbelievable gem of a beach called Chimney Corner Beach (look it up!) where we found wild lobster hanging out in the shallows along with many crabs, hermit crabs and oh of course a young bald eagle who fished his fresh meal in front of us! I mean I can’t even describe the natural wild beauty of this place, it’s that amazing. The kids dove into the Acadian and Celtic heritage with Shyla dancing on stage a traditional Cape Breton ceilidh and meeting a few Acadian friends along many of the beaches and small towns we explored. Shyla met a French girl who showed her how to dig up clams when the tide goes out and Shyla was so delighted she spent nearly two hours non-stop gathering clams!!! The boys could forever fill buckets with hermit crabs and chase baby lobsters from the shore. We looked into buying an oceanfront property in Cape Breton on the south west coast and for right now we definitely want to keep exploring the world before putting our roots back in, but when we do Cape Breton’s coast is calling us for sure!
Along the Cabot Trail we then stayed at Cheticamp in Cape Breton’s National Park which was beautiful as we took in a few picturesque hikes with scenic lookouts over the ocean cliffs. We ran into another fun traveling family in Cheticamp, but never really got to introduce ourselves as we were leaving the next day. Ironically, the very next day when we arrived at Ingonish Beach (a few hours down the road on the other side of Cabot Trail) we bumped into the same traveling family on the beach!! How crazy is that? We spent the afternoon and evening hanging out on the beach as our kids played. Madden finally had a little buddy to play with his own age and we all enjoyed the incredible weather and beach of Ingonish.
The Cabot Trail is spectacular with many awesome hikes we did along the way picking wild blueberries and raspberries, talking about their ancestors who arrived from Europe by boat to the shores of Nova Scotia way back in 1700’s. How cool is that? Oh and of course miss Shyla turned 9 and we went whale watching! We got so close to see a few pods of pilot whales and hear them breathing as well as watch their sleek bodies glide in and out of the water! We were also lucky enough to see a proud bald eagle, jelly fish and seals on our tour as well. The wildlife is plentiful and of course I could not leave without seeing a moose and that we finally did along the Cabot Trail, a female eating grass and she was magnificent. The memories I am making with my kids on this trip so far have been immeasurable! At a 553ft mountain peak over the Laurentian Trench we as a family watched the sunset after an amazing day of exploring Cape Breton. I mean it’s been a magical time out east that I’ll never forget. We’re now in Halifax where we showed the kids Pier21 and told them of their ancestors who had arrived by ship to this harbor. They were somewhat curious, but mostly wanted to run down the boardwalk and find ice cream lol.
I am one lucky gal I tell ya that much. I haven’t even thought of anything else except the glorious time I’ve been having and how grateful I am to be apart of this 5FreeSpirit pack. Cape Breton we shall return…..
So not going to lie the second time heading out on the road lacked the WOW factor that the first time had for me. I guess it’s like most things in life that once you’ve done something once it’s kinda the “been there done that” mentality plus this time I almost felt guilty. I had doubtful and guilty thoughts this time about taking the kids away from school and their friends meanwhile trying to get back into the swing of living in a trailer again (200 sqft of shared space) when something amazing started to happen. We just started rolling again, getting into rhythm of making snacks for our daily hikes, exploring together, getting all tanned and sandy from the summer beaches we’ve visited so far and looking forward to the next stops we will be visiting. All this worry and doubt quickly vanished and now I am truly HAPPY and feel ALIVE again and so very very grateful we are doing this.
Things that are different this time around is a new truck upgrade to a 2500 dodge ram and what a difference that vehicle has made on gas savings and easier towing and less stops! We can move quicker which is a total life saver because who wants to be in a long car ride with 3 kids longer then you have to right? Also we personalized our trailer a bit this time with a bedroom ‘reno’, it’s amazing what a little paint (ok a shit ton actually 6 coats!!!!) can do to lighten up our space. I’m loving our kid’s bunkhouse with a Dr Seuss wall decal and the kids love their personalized bed space. I have no idea why we were so afraid the first time to touch the trailer. Honestly if we could hire someone to paint the entire trailer we would do it in a heartbeat! Painting the trailer walls especially the almost black cupboards turned out to be way more work then Alex and I want to do so the rest of the trailer will stay in its original colours for now LOL. Lastly and probably the biggest change is, Alex is working from the trailer now and I have to keep the kids busy and quiet which is not always the easiest thing to do, but so far we are managing so keeping our toes crossed it keeps running so smoothly.
Alex has all his gadgets and antennas on the roof to get a better wifi signal. We look like legit full-timers now! LOL. And while Alex curses over lack of internet in some places, I on the other hand have read a 1400 page book and not watched one ounce of tv, Netflix or anything at all since we hit the road 20 days ago. Besides thinking of “what the hell is happening with “Offred” from the Handmaid’s Tale” I’m loving the disconnect again.
So the first few weeks of readjusting is over with and I’m really loving this lifestyle just as I was the first time around. This week in Maine we’ve done over 12 miles of hiking and swam in the freezing (12 degree) Atlantic ocean! I LOVE LOVE LOVE watching my kids climb mountains, jump in waves, spend quality time together making incredible family memories.
Yesterday Madden carried a caterpillar in his one hand all the way down a mountain hike we did and talked to it the ENTIRE descent (over 1 hour) only to lose it while we got into the truck!! Lol I love watching Lennon and Shyla play name all superheroes in order of the alphabet while we hike and make up games together using their imagination. Last week we were in Old Montreal and besides the beauty of the old city and seeing my kids speak some French and learn a bit of Canadian history in the flesh, Shyla and I got to see a Barbie Expo with over thousands of Barbie dolls dressed in designer clothes, clothing from different eras, movie star remakes and more…it was sooo much fun and my inner child was squealing! At the end of this week we head to the Bay of Fundy and I am super stoked to explore the East Coast of Canada together. So here’s to my first blog on round two of 5freespirits and looking forward to all that is to come! Thank God I didn’t listen to those voices of doubt in my head! Xo
Its been almost exactly 10 months since we've been back from our previous 7 month RV journey and we've decided to do it all over again! It seems almost perfect that we're starting this next journey off on Canada Day as we had so many fond memories of last years Canada Day where we spent it in the beautiful Jasper, Alberta...to now kicking off our much anticipated East Coast adventure! We've been out East before, but never with the kids so we're really looking forward to showing the kids the beauty of Canada's East Coast including PEI, Bay of Fundy, Cabot Trail and so much more.
This journey will be slightly different than the previous one given that we'll actually be true 'full-timers' this time around meaning we don't really have an end date in mind and I'll of course be working virtually as we travel while Wendy will be homeschooling the kiddo's as we move from one amazing location to another. We feel pretty fortunate to be able to do this again, but this day and age you can run a business from almost anywhere as long as you have a decent internet connection so why not try something fun, exciting and different?
The 10 months we spent back in our hometown was really fantastic getting to reconnect with our close friends and family. That is definitely the biggest drawback to this lifestyle in that you can't bring your friends and family with you wherever you go so there certainly will be times where we'll miss everyone...so thank God for Facetime/WhatsApp/Skype etc. It helps for sure! We'll miss you all, but looking forward to staying connected at least virtually. Shyla and Lennon have even decided to stay in touch via the traditional snail-mail by sending postcards every once in a while. We'll see how long that keeps up, but I think its pretty cool that they want to keep in touch by writing their friends letters.
I'm sure some of our friends and family are pretty surprised that we decided to do this AGAIN! But the truth is, despite having a great time when we returned home, visiting and hanging out with everyone, we also continued to long for more fun and more incredible travel experiences. Even when we managed to previously achieve such an incredible life-altering goal of quitting the 9-5 job, buying an RV, traveling all across Canada and the USA and opening my own business we still wanted more!! I guess that's the great thing about life...when you achieve something meaningful and rewarding, it shouldn't end there right? I mean how sad would that be if once you achieved an incredible goal you just packed it in and had no more dreams to fulfill in life?? That's just not how it works...at least not for us. We've just made our dreams even bigger this time around and I imagine once this adventure ends there will be another huge one waiting around the corner.
So for those of you interested in our tentative travel plans...below is our general route and itinerary of where we'll be. After this East Coast loop we haven't yet fully decided where to next...we just know we need to avoid the winter :).
As our 7 month journey slowly comes to a close, our kids wanted to look back and look at their most memorable moments. It was fun looking back and revisiting all that we did during this incredible adventure. Lots of precious memories that we will never forget and now that we know we can do this kind of trip we are now planning our next one! The kids found it quite tough to agree on which places and experiences were best so we opted to provide a full list in no particular order. There was literally too many places to list here and I'm sure when if I ask them the same question tomorrow the whole list will be different again! LOL! Here goes...
Santa Monica Pier & Pacific Park Amusement Park, California
By far the most fun we had while visiting Los Angeles was at Santa Monica pier. The pier is a picturesque place right on the ocean at the end of the famous route 66. The big attraction (other than the amazing ocean beach) is the Pacific Park and amusement rides that sit right on the pier and ocean. Fun, kid friendly roller coasters and carnival-type rides for the kids to enjoy. A great place to spend the day and night chillin' at the beach and heading into the amusement park to burn some of the kids' energy.
Jet Skiing on Lake Havasu, Arizona
Racing Dune Buggies on the famous Oregon Coast
If you ever get the chance to do the Oregon Coast, we highly recommend going to see the famous dunes near Florence and Dune City Oregon. We lucked out and got an amazing campsite at Honeyman State Park just outside of Florence and found a place where we could rent dune buggies to go 'have a rip'! It was a blast roaring around these huge dunes as high as small mountains and quite steep! By far the best moment was when Wendy managed to get her dune buggy stuck within the first 5 minutes of being out there and we had to call a guy to pull her out with their 4x4 truck! After that, it was an awesome time ripping around the dunes and the kids loved every minute of it!
Summer Snow Tubing in Whistler & Exploring Vancouver
The Old Tucson Cowboy Show, Arizona
Rush Mountain Adventure Park, Keystone, South Dakota
Climbing & Exploring the Redwoods of Northern California
Northern California and all the amazing redwoods were such fun for the kids (and the parents). Having an opportunity to walk amongst these giant trees and climb on top of those fallen giants was just so much fun! Madden was in heaven as most hikes were filled with slugs and snails, while Lennon and Shyla loved climbing up and over some of the largest trees in the world. By far our favorite time was finding a cool swimming hole on a river where a massive redwood tree had fallen creating a natural bridge across the river and a great shady spot underneath it to enjoy the gorgeous weather. One thing is for sure that we are not done visiting this part of the world...Northern Cali we will be back to see you again! Can't get enough of the Redwoods!
Alcatraz & Exploring San Francisco
San Fran was such a cool place to visit especially with kids. From the Exploratorium, to the crazy hilly and windy roads to the home of Full House...there was just so much fun for the kids! Alcatraz was a particular favorite and to be honest, I wasn't sure if they would enjoy it or not. It was a bucket list place for Wendy and I and I just hoped the kids would behave enough so we could enjoy it! Instead, Madden fell asleep while Shyla and Lennon listened attentively to the audio tour and they just loved exploring this interesting and spooky place. San Fran was such a great time overall and we wished we had more time to spend here...which means we'll be back!
Tubing Down The Guadalupe River, Texas
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, Alberta
This journey has brought great memories to all of us on what seems almost everyday. Looking back over the 7 months we've spent in this tiny space makes me so happy to see how our kids have bonded with each other, how many amazing things we've experienced, met so many fantastic families and how we've grown as a family. Its been priceless. Now that we have a taste for this kind of life, we can honestly say that this is only the beginning for us. Plans are underway for our next adventure. Stay tuned for 5FreeSpirits part 2 the sequel!
Ok so we obviously love this camping life and being outdoors as much as we can. Our family unit is closer, marriage is better, health is better, spirits are up and stress is down so this 200 day milestone is a celebration to all we have done so far and what is yet to come. I'm so proud of my husband for taking the leap with me and my kids for adapting so easily to this lifestyle change and all of us really for going after what we want in life. Its not easy to go against the grain of society, but let me tell you once you do it and just go for what you truly want, it is the most fulfilled feeling I have ever felt in my life (well next to having my kids of course). I feel like I took the blue pill in the matrix and now I have a glimpse to what is truly living your dreams and doing what you want with your time.
I just want more now. More freedom to choose and design my own lifestyle, more travel and adventure, more meeting people from all over and learning about everything that interests me. I look at what I used to call my life and I think "holy shit, I wish everyone could feel this way!" This must be a taste of what successful people talk about like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris to name a few favs. I feel like I know a secret and feel free of social constructs, free of stress, free to choose what to do with my time; which for me is the biggest relief and joy I've discovered along the way. Think about it. How fast does time fly in your life? I know it goes quick, and I especially felt it back in my suburban life which by no means was awful, it was just a calendar filled with daily activities, obligations, appointments, Alex's work schedule and lists of to-do's that were never ending. I did not feel satisfied. I felt time escaped me doing things that kept me busy, but not fulfilled. I got grumpy, tired and depressed that i was not spending time the way I wanted. I was looking for a purpose, but my mind and energy was always elsewhere. If time is one of our most precious resources, why the hell was I wasting it on clutter that kept me from reaching my potential to be happy and fulfilled?
You know that saying on the back of those jeeps those who wander are not always lost. Well that speaks to me because I love wandering, I love learning, I love adventure and freedom and this for me is my happy place. I do not feel lost, but I feel saved and my life feels my own and my time my own. We have put the travel bug in our kids minds, encouraged them to be curious and explore and opened our eyes to a different way of living that we thought we would enjoy and now our goal is to make it happen permanently! Travel with our kids has so many pluses and we are hooked! Even homeschooling is more enjoyable then we originally thought and we just want to keep going, learning and exploring the big beautiful world we live in. Europe and Asia are on our lists of places to visit and even Iceland and an Antarctica cruise will happen too. We still need to finish our Canada and US adventure by hitting the East Coast and the US Eastern Seaboard. I think life is so worth living with pure joy when you have goals, dreams and go after what will fulfill you. I'm so grateful we have done this trip and with only two weeks left before our return to home and those we miss and love, it is bittersweet. I see this next chapter as a planning chapter and charting out our next few years of how and what we as a family want to accomplish to grow and feel fulfilled. I do believe everything happens for reason and God/the universe puts people and experiences in your life to help you move towards your dreams. I cannot wait to see what adventure lies next for our freespirited family as we continue to learn and grow in life. I encourage my children to go after what they want and be bold in life because life is meant for living not waiting, so take risks, take leaps just go for it and you will only grow for the better and maybe find a piece of your puzzle that was missing:)
Happy 200 days on the road 5freespirits!!! Woot Woot I am so proud and grateful
Glacier national park is yet another fantastic animal and nature refuge we are so blessed to have stayed in and explored during this wanderlust adventure of ours. It's full of incredible hikes to sooth my restless soul and fulfill my need to be one with nature. Honestly, I cannot say it enough, but being outdoors, truly outdoors, puts my mind at ease, brings me into the present moment and creates joy to my state of being. I can see it in so many of us as well. I mean we never encounter grumpy hikers or campers and my kids are always happier playing outside and letting their imagination and adventurous sides take over. Glacier park had fantastic mountains to surround us, beautiful lakes to swim in after long hikes and we just did exactly that our entire time there. Hike, explore, swim, play and enjoy the wildlife within the park repeat!
Highlights from our time in Glacier
In mid-July our journey finally brought us to Banff, Alberta and looking back we were quite lucky to have visited here prior to the effects of the devastating wildfires tearing through BC. Apparently, shortly after we left, Banff had some wildfires come close to them as well and the smoke started to cover the skies from the wind blowing in from BC. We were quite lucky to avoid this unlike so many that have been significantly affected by these huge wildfires. Tragically, there are several places that we stayed in BC that are now under an evacuation order and we can only hope the fires don't reach them.
The drive from Jasper to Banff took us through the beautiful Columbia Icefield Parkway which is one of the best drives we've done while on this journey. It ranks right up there with California's Highway 1 and 101, B.C.'s sea-to-sky highway and the Oregon Coast. The biggest difference of course is the enormous snow covered Rockies, glaciers, waterfalls, abundant wildlife and pristine turquoise lakes along the entire drive. I think its my favorite drive so far! Such a great drive to do in the summer...I may want to avoid it in the winter though LOL.
For the first time this trip we managed to meet up with a friend from home which the kids (and us) were so happy and excited for. Our friend Adele met us for a few days in Banff while she was en-route to visit her friend in the Yukon. It was great to hang out with a friend from 'home' for a change even if it was only for a few days...the kids were of course ecstatic to see her and spend time with her.
If you only have a limited amount of time to spend while in Banff I highly suggest going to see this incredible and picturesque lake. Thanks to our friend Katie for the reco! The water here is as turquoise as you can imagine as it just finished melting a month prior to us getting there. As a result, it was a chilly 34F!! If you can manage to bring your own canoe/kayak here you'll save yourself $90 an hour!! We weren't so fortunate, so we had to drop the money to go out on the lake, but regardless this is an absolute MUST DO. Just the most beautiful scenery you can imagine with crystal blue waters, glacial waterfalls, majestic snow-capped mountains and gorgeous wildlife all around you. This was perhaps the most memorable event during our time there.
Summer time is such a beautiful time to visit Lake Louise, but its also the most busy as you can imagine. The weather was incredible, most days in the high 20's which was perfect for us! In order to get to Lake Louise they setup shuttles a few miles out and forced people to park there instead of further congesting the area around Lake Louise itself. The only way to drive close to it is if you are staying at or have a dining reservation for the Fairmont Lake Louise hotel. In our case, we opted to book a dinner reservation there which let us park right at the hotel and make it a bit easier for us. A side note...dinner was excellent at the Fairmont Lake Louise for those interested. The view from the hotel is spectacular and its probably one of the most famous Canadian tourist photos in Canada. Regardless of how busy this place was, its pretty cool still to actually go see it in person and walk along the shores of Lake Louise.
Banff Springs Hotel
We booked ourselves in for a lunch at this hotel while in Banff and we were treated to some interesting ghost stories of this historic place. Apparently (although not entirely confirmed), one of the ghost stories of this hotel was the basis for Stephen King's famous movie The Shining. According to legend, there's a room in the hotel where some unspeakable murders happened many many years ago. After the hotel tried to move past it, future guests staying in that same hotel room reported seeing and hearing blood on the walls and people screaming. This happened so often that the hotel finally decided to close the room forever! They plastered over the door and wall-papered over it to make it seem like there was never a room there when in fact there still is! Its a fun and cool little experience to walk this hallway and stand outside where this room once was! Wendy gave her best impression of Jack Nicholson standing outside the room ("Its Johnny!") LOL! There was some other eerie stories about ghosts elsewhere in this hotel so if you're into the supernatural this is a famous spot to hit while out in Alberta.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The Cave and Basin is a cool little place located just past Banff Springs hotel and as we learned, was the birthplace of Canada's National Park system. Years ago, two men found the natural occurring hot springs here and wanted to buy the land. The Canadian government also needed money to extend the railroad out west and saw this hot spring as an opportunity to bring people and raise money for the railroad. The result turned into a nationally recognized reservation of land and the birth of Canada's national park system! How cool is that? The kids enjoyed walking into the cave to see the natural hot springs and they even got to learn about the history of the cross Canada railroad. Lots of fun and lots of Canadiana culture for the kiddies!
Overall, Banff and Lake Louise was a great place to visit, especially if you have never been before. Now that we've been here - we'll probably choose to stay in Jasper again as it much less busy there and you still get the amazing Rockie Mountains with crystal blue waters and tons of wildlife roaming around.
Its been several weeks since we were in Jasper, but we had such a great time there I've been itching to write a few words about one of Canada's most beautiful national treasures. We had the pleasure of celebrating Canada's 150th birthday here as this was one of the things we were so looking forward to doing on this journey and we weren't disappointed. Several years back we took a cross-Canada train ride which happened to stop in Jasper for a few hours. Side note...the 3 day train ride that connects Vancouver to Toronto was another pretty cool experience, but that's another story. Nonetheless, we only got to spend a few hours in Jasper while the train re-stocked and we very much hoped to return to this beautiful place.
When we arrived this time, we were greeted with sunny warm weather, an incredibly beautiful park with wildlife in abundance everywhere, glacial lakes, alpine forests and wild wild wilderness everywhere you turn. It was the first time on our journey that we encountered a bear just hanging out on the side of the road munching on some berries and paying no attention to us. We also managed to see tons of elk just roaming around in various places and tourists were getting WAY too close to them to try and get their pics. Our campsite was completely dry this time (no electricity, water or sewer) for about a week which was a challenge for us I can tell you, but we still managed pretty well as I was able to turn on a generator every once in a while LOL.
There are so many things to do in Jasper that we could've easily spent a few weeks here. We had to prioritize our sights so we first chose to take a gorgeous boat ride on Maligne Lake which included a brief visit to Spirit Island. Maligne Lake is Jasper's most turquoise glacial lake and it was spectacular actually boating on it. This was a serious photo opportunity as these are the most famous pics you always see of mountains with a brilliant glacial blue lake. As the story goes...Canon and National Geographic have taken the most famous shots here. In addition to Maligne Lake, we also opted to to spend a few days at the beach since the weather was hovering around 30C each day. We chose to head to the beach at Edith Lake which was a great choice, not too busy and met some great families to hang out with and splash around with. Edith Lake is a glacial fed lake with lots of paddleboards, canoes and kayaks to rent if need be. To be honest, it was a bit brisk, but when its 30C outside who cares really especially when you're swimming in crystal blue water that you can see straight to the bottom while being surrounded by the Rockies?
Next up was the famous hike of Maligne Canyon, a beautiful series of waterfalls that you can see up close using the various bridges that span the canyon. A great hike but a little arduous if you want to see all the waterfalls as its quite the descent! I think there were 6 wateralls in total although we only managed to see 4 of them. Finally, we wanted to go see the famous Edith Cavell glacier which is apparently a MUST see in Jasper. Unfortunately, when we showed up they closed the road up to the glacier due to heavy Grizzly activity. Apparently a very aggressive Grizzly mama was protecting her cubs along the roadway and this was causing some problems for hikers LOL. As much as we wanted to see the glacier...I'm fine with missing it if it means I can avoid an encounter with a protective mama Grizzly!
Finally, and perhaps the most memorable experience for us in Jasper was the 150th birthday celebrations for our wonderful nation Canada! Thousands of folks gathered in the central park in downtown Jasper and people from all over Canada and the world were there. We met some folks from Wales, England, USA and of course tons of Canucks from all over Canada. It was such a great time to reflect on all the great things that make this country so incredible. While we were there during the Canada 150 celebration, we felt compelled to write about the things that we love so much about being Canadian. If you missed it you can find it here.
I was really surprised by the quality of fireworks in Jasper and the length of the show given we were in a pretty small town. The show was one of the best we've seen anywhere! Even when we spoke with some locals they said the fireworks each year for Canada Day is just as epic as this year! The only issue that we found was that we had to wait until 11:30pm for the show to start since the sun doesn't really go down until then when you're that far north! It was a major challenge keeping the kids (and us) awake for that long! Other than that little...this trip to Jasper will be one to remember for a long time!
Wow how has it been 6 months already? Today marks our 180 day consecutively on the road! Woo hoo! The time has absolutely flown by since we started our journey back in January. It feels like a lifetime ago, but yet the time has just flown by! We've certainly got many mixed emotions now that we're on our way back home to Burlington, Ontario. We've been spending a lot of time reflecting on what we've experienced during our time away, what our life is like now and what it will be like when we come back to our home town in 4 short weeks. We're on the last leg of our journey and quite frankly we're really thinking hard about whether we can and should continue this type of lifestyle or whether we should go to our old life in the burbs. There are so many pros to this type of lifestyle that it really is hard to go back to our old life now. Once you get a taste of this sort of freedom you wonder what you've been doing all these years? That said, there certainly are some cons to this lifestyle which can be quite challenging to overcome albeit we have met numerous families that have done it and never looked back! From our perspective there are three main obstacles that we struggle with for this lifestyle; 1) How to earn a decent income while living remotely? 2) Being away from our friends and family and 3) Whether we have the discipline to keep up homeschooling as the kids get older? To be honest, the last two are easier to solve than the first one LOL.
But this blog post was not intended to dwell on the obstacles to this lifestyle, rather I wanted to dedicate this post to all the amazing things we achieved while on our amazing RV journey! It really was enlightening when Wendy and I pulled this list together and I hope it'll serve as our own motivation to go do it again OR find a way to make this lifestyle permanent!
Wendy's health (and mine) has dramatically improved:
Wendy's health has almost returned to normal despite some pretty rough autoimmune issues that came to a head mid last year. We almost didn't do this trip as a result of it, but in my opinion, this journey is one of the main reasons she's back to good health! Clean eating, exercise and no stress certainly can change your life around in a hurry. Not to mention the amazing people at The Living Proof functional medical office that helped properly diagnose and treat Wendy! Thank you! As a result of Wendy's dietary changes, I too have managed to drop about 30+ pounds. Of course the lack of stress, regular exercise and general happiness with this life has certainly helped as well!
Being one with nature
Our days typically consist of at least 2 miles of hiking/exploring, sightseeing, swimming and/or biking. The kids still give us a hard time when we start the hikes, but within about 15min they get preoccupied with the wonderful scenery and nature that surrounds them. Sticks, bugs, rocks and dirt is all in abundance which is all our kids need to find some fun. Our hikes often get interrupted by beautiful waterfalls, mountains, lakes, rivers, impromptu swimming stops, wildlife and the odd boulder to climb! (see my previous rock climbing adventure from Arizona)
Kids have grown socially & academically
We normally dedicate a few hours each day homeschooling in both French and English with the kids in order to keep up their academics. They've become accustomed to doing this without having rigid schedules and routines and without the morning rush that we're so used to when we're back home in the burbs. Shyla has grown a fondness of 'homeschooling' which is nice, while Lennon still needs a nudge or two to get his done. Not surprisingly, a lot of their learning has actually come from the amazing places we've visited. National and provincial parks, monuments, city excursions, museums etc. have provided great learning experiences for them on wildlife, nature, history and geography among other things. The change in georgraphy alone has given the kids an appreciation for the different types of people, culture, climates, wildlife and weather that exists across the US and Canada from East to West and North to South. Its also hard to measure how much they've grown socially, but this area too has been a huge step change for them. In each new location we go to, our kids now go up to other kids to introduce themselves, build little friendships and simply play together. Back home, our kids tended to be quite shy and kept close to their primary circle of friends rarely venturing outside of them to meet new kids. Check this off as a plus for us!
This one caught me by surprise a bit because I thought our marriage was already pretty strong. But its tough to measure how much closer Wendy and I are with one another now and our communication is much better than it was. I guess a 31ft x 8ft space will do that to you! LOL. IN all seriousness, previously, our communication with one another was drowned out by the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. We couldn't find time to listen to each others day as we were both so busy with work, watching the kids, taking them to school, all their kids activities, family errands, obligatory gatherings etc. Since we've been on the road, we are truly spending every minute together, collectively watching and playing with the kids, enjoying each others company with little to no distractions. If there's one thing we miss though, its our adult evenings out every once in awhile. If we do this longer term we'll need to figure out a way to squeeze some of those in!
Memories and experiences
In 6 short months, we've traveled to 12 US states, 2 Canadian provinces and drove over 6000 miles (and we're still not done) and not surprisingly we have made some incredible memories. Whether it be tobogganing down the brilliant white sand dunes in New Mexico, trying to wrap our arms around the biggest Redwood trees in the world in California, canoeing in crystal blue glacial lakes in Alberta, driving dune buggies in Oregon, taking in the sights of San Francisco, hiking Cathedral Rock in Sedona or standing atop the Grand Canyon, we have had some pretty awesome life-changing experiences.
No schedules and the ability to design each day
This was one major thing we were looking forward to on this trip...the lack of a fixed schedule! While we tried to live up to this, we realized pretty quick that if you want to see some of the most amazing sights (Jasper, Banff, Yellowstone, Glacier Park etc.) you really need to schedule them well in advance. So apart from scheduling our general path of our road trip we have been very flexible along this journey. If we don't enjoy a particular park or location we move! If we find out about some other awesome places we really need to check out we change our plans! We absolutely love this sort of flexibility. Each day is a new day with new adventures. No pre-determined schedules for kids' programs, appointments, errands etc. and it has been AMAZING!
Living in the moment
Our lives before starting this trip was a good one. We had a beautiful house, great friends, great neighbours, stable job, spent time with the family and just got on with life. Yet despite all these things, we would still ask ourselves "Is this it in life?". "Is this as happy as we can be?". "Is there anything that can make us happier?". When we asked ourselves these questions we often dreamed of traveling and spending time with our family in various places around the world. We would often say, "I can't wait to do an awesome RV road trip some time". This (and so many other experiences we had on our bucket list) were things that we were looking forward to accomplishing in our retirement. Nobody does these things before then? Or so we thought. The problem for us was that Wendy and I both are people who live in the moment. We weren't living in the moment which was why we were constantly asking ourselves these types of questions. I didn't realize this until we spent time reflecting on our journey this past week. I can honestly say that there hasn't been even one day this entire trip where I've asked myself "is this it in life?" or "is this as happy as we can be?". The reason is because we are both so unbelievably happy living in the moment each and every day. Not wishing about the things we want to do one day but rather getting out there and DOING THEM!
Meeting other traveling families
We have met so many amazing and interesting people while we've been traveling. More than that, we've met numerous families that share the same beliefs and passions in life as we do which is just incredible. At the very least its nice to know we're not the only crazy ones out there LOL. A few of the families we clicked with so much that we just had to find ways to meet up with again. Coincidentally, we have managed to connect with multiple times throughout our journey as our routes criss-cross across the US and Canada. There's the Stuckey family from Arkansas/New Jersey whom we met up with in northern California, again in Washington and then once again at Glacier National Park, Montana. Such a great family to hang with and our kids loved playing with theirs which was so much fun! We also met a lovely family from Texas area while we were in Florida (The Zimmerman's) whom we connected with again in Clearwater, British Columbia as they were on their way to Alaska and we were heading to Jasper. Another family we bonded with while in Florida was originally from Martha's Vineyard. Our families gelled so well we stayed in touch and reconnected in Tucson, Arizona to share road trip stories while the kids played together. These were some of the more memorable families we met, but to be honest we have met some fun and amazing people in virtually every place we went. Its been so much fun meeting and getting to know others on similar journeys!
Best sleeps ever!
I don't know if its the fresh clean air from being in the wilderness, the lack of stress, lack of schedules, VOCs from our trailer OR all of the above, but we have been getting the BEST sleeps of our lives while on this trip!
Despite some of these amazing accomplishments/achievements above, we are still finding it difficult to make this a full time lifestyle for us (for now). If we can figure out a way to overcome some of our obstacles we mentioned then I think you'll find us out on the road again traveling in no time! For now though, we'll be heading back to our home in Ontario in 4 weeks time and I think we're feeling a little bitter-sweet at the moment. On the one hand, it'll be amazing to see our friends and family again after our time away (we really do miss everyone so much) AND on the other hand, we'll be moving away from a lifestyle that has changed us so profoundly for the better in just 6 short months. Now that we've had a taste of what life REALLY has to offer us I can assure you it won't be too long before we're back out living it up every single moment we can! Life is short go RV'ing :)