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 :)
After leaving our family in Vancouver we got to visit Whistler and this time in the summer! Whistler is awesome-sauce! I mean if you love any type of extreme outdoor sports or just nature at it's best, this is the place for you any season. Alex and I actually got engaged in Whistler near Shannon falls (a picturesque waterfall on the route to whistler from Van City) 13 years ago in the springtime and had loved our time there. We also got to visit in the middle of winter with Shyla and Lennon when we lived in Vancouver and got to enjoy snow tubing which is beyond awesome. I have a video of us snowtubing down a MOUNTAIN (not hill!) and I giggled so hard from nerves and sheer fun I might have peed a wee bit! lol Besides the obvious skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports it's known for, this time, in summer we got to see it's busiest season and I see why.
Picture this, beautiful mountains surround you, some are still snow capped, you're in a summer dress because it's 30 degrees out and sunny and yet kids, teens, adults from all over the world (yes its a busy tourist spot for a reason) are getting off the gondola rides from the peaks after enjoying an afternoon of skiing or snowboarding in their t-shirts!! Then at the bottom of the hill is the village filled with shops, restaurants galore and people enjoying the weather, beauty and atmosphere which is Whistler. I mean you don't have to spend a dime and just people and nature watch and I guarantee an amazing time. The vibe is so chill and friendly, people are just loving being there and I totally loved our 5 day stay camping in the area and our day in the village itself. I got to eat scrumptious chocolate from the Rocky Mountain Chocolatier (hello!!), bought myself some summer clothes from Aritzia (yeeessss shopping was a must after months of wearing same hiking gear), the kids played at a real cedar playpark/house, we enjoyed an amazing nacho platter with extra olives and guacamole while sitting at the bottom of the BMX hill (Lennon's eyes were glued and his heart broken as he had to be 8 to try it) and of course we did the Peak-to-Peak gandala ride (amazing views from extremely high heights, but not good on my nerves) between Whistler and Blackcomb mountain peaks. It really was a perfect day in the village for us 5freespirits and we even met another travelling family who love whistler so much they spend 6 months every year there so their kids can snowboard in the winter, spring and early summer!
As for our campsite in the area we stayed at Whistler RV Park & Campground and let me tell you it had INCREDIBLE views you cannot beat. We literally were backing on to the mountain edge and saw over all of Whistler and the surrounding mountains. The fellow campers were in the greatest mood and I realized it's because it was the end of school and start of summer holidays now. I do recommend staying at this RV park as it's close to everything you need and the views are absolutely worth it!
We spent a day at Rainbow Park on Alta Lake. This beautiful lake was friggin COLD, so cold that when i went all the way in to swim to the floating dock my lungs started quivering and you know what, Lennon was swimming next to me with blue lips but he insisted! lol You know you're Canadian when.......lol. We literally loved this day so much we spent sunrise to sunset (which is freaking 11pm in the summer on the west coast!) enjoying it. We took epic Canadian beer commercial-worthy pics of Alex and I jumping off the dock into the ice cold fresh water and the kids played in the sand and water while making new friends. Another traveling family spent the day with us too which made for awesome adult convo on how this full-time RV life is amazing, how to keep it up, exchanging tips on everything and anything and of course a bit of political talk (I mean with Trump in power it's just always coming up).
All I have to say is if you haven't gone to Whistler yet, please do add it to your bucket list as I promise it's well worth it. Oh I should also mention the remnants from the 2010 Winter Olympics that Vancouver hosted are still present in the village where the athletes competed. To be able to stand on the podiums and see our beautiful flag fly with the mountains in the background and a black bear moseying along the peak was just icing on the cake. Love Whistler, love my country and get your butt to see this wonderful outdoor haven!
Vancouver City Visit
Have you ever been to Vancouver and area before? Well if not, I cannot tell you enough how fantastic this city is! I mean how can you go wrong with it's great seafood/sushi restaurants, the natural beauty of being a coastal city surrounded by the rocky mountains and all the amazing parks and sites to visit! We had the pleasure of living there for 6 months in 2013/14 where we did a ton of exploration of Canada's 3rd largest city. The Vancouver Aquarium in my opinion is still my favourite out of all aquariums we have been to so far and thats a lot! Stanley Park is an incredible place to visit for a day trip, but you can't see it all in that amount of time as it has amazing bike/walking trails throughout, scenic overlooks of the harbour and city, fantastic gardens, splash pads, playgrounds, totem poles, restaurants, ride-on miniature train (highlight for any kid and big kid at heart, plus its decorated for christmas and halloween) and much more! Depending on the time you're visiting you should also check out the whale watching options. We decided to jump on a whale tour from Steveston Harbour (Seabreeze Adventures) and for several hours we were out watching some amazing wildlife. It was so fantastic to see a family of 5 or 6 orcas gracefully swimming in the ocean. We also managed to see so many bald eagles and also some sea lions. We were told that at other times of the year you can see humpbacks and grey whales...but this time of year its the orcas.
The Telus Science World is a MUST do for any family visiting and I spent countless days there when Shyla and Lennon were little, it was a godsend on those damp and dark winter days that Vancity can bring. Of course there is the infamous Granville Island which is a hot spot for local eats, the market is always full of foods, crafts, music, and everything else to be expected at a large indoor/outdoor market. It also has great restaurants and street performers as well as a kids indoor/outdoor play area complete with kids clothing, toy and hair cut stores! There are great shopping and restaurants districts as expected in any major city and it never feels overwhelming in my opinion like Toronto or larger cities do. It's a short drive to the border for US shopping as well as to many mountains for skiing and all outdoor activities and Whistler is only an hour drive away too. Yes, Vancouver is almost perfect really except for the winter. After our time living there from October to April 2013/14 I was so glad this time around to be visiting in the summer. Winter in Vancouver rains and it rains and it bloody hell rains A LOT! Plus if its not raining it's dark and I have learned the hard way I need sunshine or this lady gets down. So I implore you to visit this great Canadian city which has a special place in my heart always, but try to go during summer :)
Even though we had been to Vancouver already we still decided to re-visit the big sites previously mentioned so the kids and us could relive the memories there and to introduce it to Madden. The highlight of this part of our journey was spending quality time with Alex's cousins in Pitt Meadows, a suburb of Vancouver. It was great to catch up and live in a house for the 9 days we had together. To have unlimited hot water, other adults to speak to (sorry Alex) and just to see our family and be with them was so much fun and relaxing. I cherish them so much and the kids had an absolute blast hanging out with their cuzs' and playing with their dogs daily. We had our trailer in the local RV shop to repair a roof tear that happened in the Redwood forest so timing was perfect! Thanks again Eddie, Anne, Nicole and David, baby Maya and Aaron for having us and hope to see you guys sooner than later xo
What an entrance we had arriving into the state of Oregon from California. First off, the weather dramatically changed to overcast and damp. It was beautiful in an eerie vampire type of way. It was one of most memorable drives that we can now laugh about, but at the time it was no joke. The windy turns and dips in the road along the 101 were quite a feat for our 31 foot trailer and we were pretty stressed out wondering every few minutes if our trailer hitch and front end of the trailer itself would hit the road. Once we pulled in to a gas station where we discovered you cannot pump your own gas anywhere in Oregon (its actually against state law), we did in fact bottom out 3 times trying desperately to get out of the gas station! The entrance and exits were sloped pavement inclines unnoticed by cars or anyone not towing. Man did we look ridiculous pulling two 10 point turns with a trailer and yelling at each other trying to find the least grade to get out of that bloody gas station. It was definitely not meant for trucks or trailers. Then as we mosied along getting over the recent scratch of our hitch along the gas stations concrete, we hear Lennon tell us he HAS to go #2 NOW!. At this point we are on a barely 2 lane winding mountain road with no shoulders to pull over and no gas stations or towns for the next 30 minutes! So desperate times call for a thick plastic bag and a man-made latreen in the backseat of the truck all the while Alex is concentrating on not driving off the cliffs edge or bottoming out on the not so trailer friendly road! lol
After all that road trip drama we arrive in Sunset Bay campsite only to discover there is zero wifi and zero cell signal anywhere. In fact most of Oregon campsites are complete dead zones. Hence the very late Oregon blog as we got quite behind on our blog and way behind on netflix shows! lol However, Oregon was a beauty! Despite the few hiccups that we now chuckle about (Lennon proudly tells everyone he pooped in a bag in the truck) we really loved the outdoor wonder Oregon had to offer! From tide pools, lush greenery, dune buggies, mountains and tons of water falls! Check it out!
The tide pools were definitely the highlight of our Oregon stay. The kids LOVED poking anemones to see how sticky they feel, catching tiny crabs and sea snails, to splashing in the tiny pools of water the tide left behind. The star fish spottings, the waves crashing, the seals on all the coast lines and the dramatic misty, low cloud cover falling over the densely lush forests that lined the coast. It was amazing! The weather turned around for us too during our stay as we got a few hot sunny days as well as the dark misty ones you come to expect from Oregon.
We rented dune buggies in Honeyman State Park and of course that was a TON of fun! That state park was a great campsite with an awesome kids park and close to the small picturesque fishing town of Florence. We walked around Florence and enjoyed talking to the local crab fisherman and sampled local produce as well as window shopped of course. I really loved the fresh local produce and it was interesting to see the medicinal marijuana shops everywhere we drove. The laid back outdoorsy feel we got from our time there was really nice. Though at times frustrating to have no connection to our devices, to me it was nice and quiet evenings, Alex on the other hand started to twitch after a week. lol Oregon is beautiful for sure and really has a ton of outdoor beauty to explore for free. My favourite spot was Cape Cove where we spent the entire day exploring the tide pools, the beach itself and the caves along the shore that were tucked underneath the old and scenic Heceta lighthouse (built 1888) that watches over the cove. Cape Cove also had a great little hike out to the tide pools and two great spots; Devils Hole and Thor's Well. Both these places look amazing with the powerful waves crashing in and around them. I even managed to get way too close to the Devils Hole and got absolutely drenched when a HUGE wave came crashing in! Lesson learned...we all had a great laugh and Alex of course captured the entire event on his iPhone LOL.
Shortly after Cape Cove, we ventured inland to Silver Falls State Park near Salem. This was a wonderful park with some really spectiacular hikes. They are famous for their 11 waterfall hike which takes some crazy amount of miles to do...so we opted to visit the first three which took us about 3 miles and it was absolutely stunning! All in all, Oregon was a wonderful place!!
After spending over 4 months traveling throughout the US, we can't help but miss our beloved Canada and all the amazing things it has to offer. We often take for granted our country and this trip has more than anything made us love our country even more if that's possible! To celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, Wendy and I decided to make a list of all the things that we love about our beautiful country. I'm sure you all can relate to some of these yourselves.
10. Friendly Folk
Yes its true. We say 'sorry' a lot. We're all very polite and that's a good thing! Nuff said.
No Canadian list is complete without hockey on it. Seriously, there's nothing more exciting than the Stanley Cup Playoffs or watching Team Canada. And now that the Leafs finally have some promise again I think its time for a parade down Yonge Street in the near future LOL.
8. Sparsely Populated
For some, they may prefer densely populated places. For us, however, we absolutely love the fact that Canada is the second largest country by area on the planet and it has almost 10 times less people than the US. It means that we're never too far from the wilderness and open spaces. The wilderness here truly is 'wild' and we absolutely love it!
7. Affordability (relative to the rest of the globe)
Ok ok. I know we will get some of our friends saying that we're wrong on this one, but seriously, for anyone that has traveled extensively I think you'll agree that Canada still has a very high quality of life and affordability when compared to other western nations. When you look at places like London, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles, San Fran or NYC I think you'll see that Toronto, Montreal and Calgary are all way cheaper! Vancouver may be the one exception, but when you factor in food and other living expenses its probably still way cheaper than most other major global cities.
6. Delicious Seafood!
From the West Coast's incredible sushi, scallops, crabs and clams to our East Coasts amazing lobster you just can't go wrong. How lucky are we that the rest of the country gets to benefit from all this amazing seafood and all the great fresh fish in between. Wendy has had some dietary restrictions recently that has prevented her from eating seafood and I know she's dying to get back to tasting our amazing seafood!
5. Its Natural Beauty
This goes hand in hand with being so sparsely populated. There is still so many places in Canada that feel 'untouched' and when you combine this with all the natural elements that have carved this land over the last million years and you get one incredible landscape coast-to-coast!
4. Free Healthcare
Ok. So I'll be the first person to say I wish our healthcare was faster and more efficient, but can any of you imagine life in a world where healthcare wasn't a public right for all of us? A world where unless you have a good paying corporate job you don't receive the healthcare you deserve? Me neither. Sure there are ways to improve our healthcare (a dual system or similar), but when I got sick in the US during our travels I can't tell you how lucky I was to have insurance. The first thing I was met with at the emergency room in Texas was 'how will you be paying for this?'. After filling out an abundance of forms they finally decided to treat me. When we get ill in Canada I can't tell you how important it is to NOT have to think about money and insurance in a time of need. So this one goes on our list for sure!
3. The Amazing Wildlife
Whales, moose and bears oh my! Ok so its not the Serengheti, but wow, how lucky are we that we have such incredible wildlife in our backyard? From humpback whales and orcas to wolverines, bobcats and the mighty Grizzly...we are so unbelievably lucky to have such a diverse wildlife.
2. Overall Safety
Yes I think this is something we absolutely take for granted as Canadians. Even our largest cities have for the most part very very safe streets. There is some truth to Michael Moore's documentary, that there are places in Canada still where residents don't even lock their doors! I'm not saying crime doesn't exist (because it certainly does), but relatively speaking we live in a very very safe country thanks to the 'friendly folk' here in Canada among other things.
1. Freedom to speak you mind
I know this may sound cliche, but its absolutely true and its never been more important than right now. We should consider ourselves very lucky to be living in a country where having a differing opinion is simply that! With the rise of nationalism and polarizing politics around the world, I thank my blessings that we live in a place where differences in thought or opinion aren't met with violence and intolerance. Regardless of which political party is in power here in Canada these rights and freedoms are the same across each of them and our political platforms are never so polarizing that violence easily erupts. We love you Canada!
Happy 150th Canada!!!