In January 2020, we hit the road for a 2-week road trip around the Southeast. Will had used some of his paternity leave when Little Bird was born, but he saved half of it for later in her first year when we hoped to go on a grand adventure. We spent hours in October planning a 4-week adventure that would have taken us out West in April 2020, but we canceled that trip in December when Will’s job became uncertain, and we are so glad we did! COVID would have really put a wrench in those plans. Instead, we revised our plan in the matter of a few days and planned a shorter 2-week trip in January.

I’ve started calling that our alpha-trip or the trip that showed us we can do something people think is a little crazy – I mean, who takes a road trip in January with an 8-month-old and a dog? Obviously, we do!

In those 14 days, we drove 2,800 miles, traveled through 10 states, stayed in 8 different cities, and visited 3 National Parks, 2 National Historic Places, 2 National Scenic Parkways, and 3 beaches (in sub-40°F weather – this may be why people don’t road trip in January!). We were always on the move, and setting up and packing up every couple of days was truly a chore. And yet, we have never felt more connected as a family. We found a routine that worked, and we rolled with the unpredictable, primarily the weather.

We learned so much on that trip. Will learned that no matter how many times you put up and take down a Pack n’ Play, it is still a unique struggle each and every time. We became efficient at tag teaming a baby and a dog rest stops and gas stations – when the passenger seat became a makeshift changing table with all the necessities tucked away in the glove box. We learned even more about how easy-going Little Bird is and how, even then, she observes everything.

Even when Little Bird was brand new, we never limited our adventures to accommodate her feeding or napping schedule, we tried to always be prepared and make adjustments as we went. However, it makes me laugh thinking back at the places that girl ate in those 2 weeks: the Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs, on a bench in the Country Music Hall of Fame next to the wall of gold records, beside a creek in Smoky Mountain National Park in the middle of a 2-mile hike, and inside the USS Yorktown next to an airplane, to name a few. We went into parenthood hoping that our sense of adventure would adjust to having a baby and I’m so glad we didn’t stop exploring the world out of fear of the unknown or unpredictable.

In so many ways, the greatest gift of our trip was the confidence we gained as parents and our ability to parent together. We also realized that we travel well as a family and that it is something we wanted to do more.

The first conversation we had about making this leap of faith happened just 2 days before we’d originally planned to leave for our trip out West. No doubt the plans we’d dreamed up for that trip were fresh in our minds as we still felt we’d missed out on an amazing opportunity. So, making this lifestyle change was a combination of the dreams we had for the trip we never took and the confidence we gained in those 2 weeks in January. Knowing what we want to do and see and feeling like it is actually something we can do is incredibly powerful!

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