Spending 10 months traveling around the United States with Jared and the kids was like winning an academy award: it was life changing in a totally awesome way, and it wouldn’t have been possible without help.
This post is my thank you speech…
To everyone who opened their home to us.
Ilina put us up in her guest room and her children offered up their bedrooms to Devin and Emma. She treated us to her amazing cooking, took us to some of Raleigh’s cool museums, and introduced us to a restaurant whose desserts were so good we still tell people about them. However, all of that paled in comparison to her graciousness when we figured out we had our dates wrong and asked at the last minute to extend our visit an extra day (and then I broke pulled her shower curtain down.)
Roger and Rachel Reynolds let us park in their driveway during our pit stop in Richmond. They fed us homemade pizzas and poured love all over the kids. I didn’t know Rachel or her husband well before this stop, but I left humbled by their generosity and their loving spirits, especially in the face of the fairly recent loss of their little girl.
As summer came to an end, we found ourselves running from a hurricane and abandoning all previous plans. Pauline realized we were reservationless nearby, and offered up her home via Twitter. Without hesitation, we turned the RV towards Cleveland, a city Pauline would help us learn to love. Pauline and her husband made such an impact on us, and her children stole my heart instantly. I’m looking forward to a return visit someday.
Once we realized we were going to be in Cleveland, I sent an email to my old college roommate and asked if we’d be able to get together while we were in town. She immediately invited us to stay with her in her one bedroom apartment. While we were there, she taught Emma how to sew and made us homemade lasagna good enough to convince Emma to give up being a vegetarian. Even in her small home, we felt totally welcomed and comfortable.
I already knew that Becky loved us, but I was still amazed and grateful when she opened her home to us for an entire month. Not only did she put Jared and I in the master bedroom, she spent all of her spare time showing us her city and introducing us to her family and friends. Even after giving up all that time for us, it didn’t feel like she was ready to kick us out when it came time to leave. (Although, now that I think about it, I haven’t seen her since!)
After thinking I had said goodbye to Faiqa in Florida for a long time, I was beyond excited when she moved to Memphis and we realized we’d e able to visit her during our trip. She and her family of four shared their two bedroom apartment with my family of four for two weeks – and it was wonderful. (We’ve actually stayed with them a couple times since then as we made our way back and forth between Iowa and the South.) I only wish she had moved somewhere that I want to live, because not living near each other is going to suck.
I remembered to email Kim that we were heading to central Alabama about two days before we were planning to arrive. Despite my horrible manners and planning, Kim and her mom, Miss Betty, let all of us stay in their beautiful lakeside home for a few days. Kim let the kids make themselves at home in her fully stocked kitchen, introduced us to her family at a bonfire, and showed us all our first cotton field. She also let me use a shower that rivals anything I’ve ever experienced in a luxury hotel or day spa. (Trust me, it was worth mentioning!)
When we hit Southern California, we pulled up to Kendra’s house. I think she might have been the very first person to invite us to her house when I first announced our trip! We were so busy hanging out and enjoying the steak they fed us, I forgot to take a single picture. It was nice to be so completely taken care of for a couple of days.
I also don’t have any decent pictures of Lisa and I from our stay in Reno, which is especially tragic since a love of photography is something Lisa and I share. I do, however, have photos of me using her sewing machine to work on a project from my Life List. Lisa and her husband hosted us for over a week, and Lisa’s husband introduced the kids to all sorts of cool things while we were there, including falconry, blade making, and archery. It was basically like camp for them, with better food.
To everyone who fed us.
In addition to all of the people who let us stay with them, we were also blessed by many people who brought us breakfast, cooked us dinner, or invited us out to a food truck festival. Thank you for sharing your communities, friends, and pools with us.
To the cities that gave us free passes and lodging.
Most of the tourism boards, hotels, and attractions who hosted us did so because of my travel blogging on various other sites. However, the generosity that they showed in including my family helped make this a remarkable trip for all of us. Also, travel companies who work with travel writers make it financially possible for people like me to live our dream, so I am especially grateful to these folks.
A special thanks to: Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, Visit Myrtle Beach, Visit Philly, Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, Mystic Country, Positively Cleveland, Lake Erie Shores & Islands, Visit Pittsburgh, Hocking Hills Ohio DMO, Memphis CVB, San Francisco CVB, Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, Visit Petaluma, and Visit Salt Lake.
To our families.
Our parents supported us with their words at times and their silence at others. They gave us money, gift cards, and a place to come home to when we got road weary. They called to check in, came out to visit us on the road, and reminded us how much we were capable of when we wanted to give up. Jared and I are very lucky to have three sets of parents (ah, the modern family!) who love us.
To our friends at our surrogate home in Florida.
It’s almost impossible to live in the United States without a permanent address. To help make our dreams happen with as little red tape as possible, our friends Courtney and Memo literally made their home ours for the last year. They sorted our mail, deposited checks, and broke the news when the IRS decided to audit us a few weeks after we’d left. When we arrived at their house, at our legal residence, earlier this week, the feeling of having come home was instant. I hope that connection remains, no matter where the United States Postal Service says we live.
And to our sponsor.
Before we took off, I received an email from a Twitter friend who happened to work for a book publisher. The publishing group she represented sold books about travel and great educational books for kids. She wasn’t sure how, but she thought we might be able to work together in some way. A handful of conference calls later and we had a signed contract and a check for thousands of dollars in the mail.
I was so amazed that the people at Baker & Taylor had believed in me and believed in what my family was doing enough to be a part of it. Their support, both financially but also in spirit, was so encouraging. The books they sent to various mailboxes along our route enhanced the kids’ first year of virtual schooling and our experiences in cities around the country.
Cue the music…
I know I’m forgetting someone, and I know this post is long. For those of you who read it so that I could share my gratitude and honor some of the people who played an active role in our life-changing trip, thank you. And thank you for reading all along, for commenting to tell me someone cared, for liking our Facebook page and making our message relevant, for sharing our story and posts on Twitter, and for emailing to tell me that you were following your dreams, too. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. A thousand times thank you.
All of you.