Friday, June 15, 2018

Family Traditions

One thing that I believe is important for a family to have is a tradition.  I personally like to think of traditions as shoelaces; they are what tie families together.  Corny, I know.  Growing up in a military family, travel became familiar to me.  I very much enjoyed road trips (with the exception of the one time my brother got car sick and barfed all over me in Flagstaff, Arizona).  I enjoyed seeing new things and being in new places.  Travel was what brought us so close together. 
Grand Canyon National Park

When my son born, he embarked on his very first cross-country road trip at a whopping one month old.  From that point on, he's practically grown up in the back seat of my car.  Living in California when he was a toddler, we had access to amazing scenery and I knew we had to see and do as much as possible, since we were only set to be there for a few short years.  Right before his first birthday, I decided I wanted to take him to his first national park: Yosemite.  This is where our tradition began.  I made it my mission from that point and each year since to visit a new national park with him.  Right after his second birthday, we made it to Sequoia National Park where he experienced his very first camping trip. 

The third year, I was on the fence on what to do.  I was going through a divorce, but I was determined to not let this tradition I had started slip away from us.  Seeing how much I needed the time away with my little boy, my mom ordered a hiking pack for herself and said, "When are we leaving!?"  She joined us on a trip to the Smokey Mountains.  We sampled moonshine in Gatlinburg, photographed bears in Cades Cove, hiked until our legs turned into Jello, toured the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, and got to drive a hefty chunk of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

Year four, my brother stepped in and we took Declan to the Everglades.  Ironically, this is a national park my brother and I had been to when I was the age that Declan was when we were taking him.  We did the classic airboat tour that all the tourists do, stopped for a photo at the nation's smallest post office, and went on a tour through Shark Valley with one of the most hilarious tour guides.

In the summer of 2016, I married Randy.  We had been friends since meeting in 2010 and he had seen all the travels I had taken Declan on through posts on Facebook.  By the time we began our chapter together, he knew how important this tradition was and now it became his turn to join in on the adventures.  Park number five for Declan (one for Randy): Big Bend National Park.

First Bluebonnet blooms of the season

Mouth of the Santa Elena Canyon

It's our motto!

Always a fan of a museum exhibit, no matter where we are
Trail sodies

I have to say, West Texas is beautiful.  So much so, that this year we made it to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  AND as a bonus, since it was so close, we made a day trip up to Carlsbad Caverns and after touring inside the cave, we got to watch a bat flight before leaving.

Happy hiker

Believe it or not, we were actually hiking in snow flurries

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Quintessential family photo in front of the park entrance

I have no idea what next year will hold for us, but what I've found over the years is that the best part of this tradition is finding something to appreciate in my own backyard.  So often, I get lost on Instagram or Pinterest looking at photos of places outside of the United States, finding myself envious of others for not having the ability to see and do things in other countries.  But then I reflect on all that I have done with my family here and realize just how fortunate we all are for our own experiences.  We've gained a wealth of knowledge in regards to our own nation's history, we've made amazing memories, and we've learned how important having extra socks on every trip are.  

So whether it's a big tradition like what we do, or a small one, start a family tradition.  Tie those shoelaces; keep close to your loved ones.



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