Words and Photos by Courtney Soule - See more adventures on their Instagram (@little_happy_camper)
When you first become a parent you are told to enjoy every moment, because it goes by too fast. And after surviving your child’s first year you realize they were right! You are looking at your partner, and you keep asking each other where did that year go? Time only speeds up, and then the next question you are asking is how do we make it slow down? How do we create meaningful moments with our kids? How do we carve out quality time instead of just quantity?
When everything got shut down, I think everyone re-evaluated how we spend our time. Are fully scheduled weeks really drawing our family closer? Are all the activities that we put our kids in really benefiting them? Or have we been brainwashed into thinking if our child does dance, soccer, and piano lessons they will be ready to jump into the competitive world and be successful? What if all our kids really need is quality time with their family? What if all our kids really need is a good old fashion family road trip where you sing along to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack loud and off key?
It wasn’t until the world shut down that my husband and I realized that we had made ourselves so busy that we didn’t really spend time together as a family. We realized how great it was to not have something scheduled for five out of the seven days of the week. I had been so busy with work that I hadn’t noticed all of the growing my son had been doing. He was reading to me and showing me his math problems, and I realized what I had been too busy to notice…my kids were growing up and I was missing it.
When everything slowly started to open back up I slowly saw our schedule start to fill again. I was starting to get anxiety as I saw our weekdays fill back up again. I dug my heels in the ground and started to say no. No to things I didn’t really want to do, and events that weren’t going to provide the quality family time that I had grown to love.
My husband and I started to talk about what we wanted our family to do, and the memories we wanted to create for our kids. And it was adventuring. Going places, and experiencing the remaining pockets of the “Wild” that still exist. We wanted our boys to run and explore the world around them. To be wild and rambunctious without anyone telling them “shhhh”. When we saw the van build of the Doc Holliday it was the goal we started working towards. We could see the dream that this van could provide. It was big enough for our family, it had the essentials for all of us to travel, and camp comfortably. We could see the epic family road trips, and adventures we were going to have together!
We just finished our first official family van trip, and it was everything we dreamed it was going to be. We have three boys (ages 7, 4, and 1) so I can tell you that it wasn’t perfect, but the dream of all of us being together was. My boys saw the milky way for the first time, because the light pollution where we live doesn’t allow us to see it. My two eldest sat quietly and drew the Sedona sunset as the grown ups drank a glass of wine. We sang loud and off key to Route 66 as we drove Route 66. I wiped tears away and kissed scrapes better as we walked the Trail of Time at the Grand Canyon. I watched my dad and my middle child sit together on a vortex as he quietly explained why this place was so special. Yes, my one year old did cry at 3AM and woke up everyone in the van, but the next day we all fell asleep at our dispersed campsite with the windows open while we heard the breeze through the trees and my husband strumming his guitar. This was the quality time I had been craving, and this is the quality time that I will MAKE time for. When it came time to go home everyone was quiet, until my eldest said “I’m not ready for the trip to be over. There’s more places I want to go!” It was good to hear that it wasn’t just my husband and I trying to force our kids to have the same hobby as us… they loved it just as much as we do.
We immediately started planning the next adventure. Were we going to find hot springs off the Eastern Sierras, hike in the steps of dinosaurs, or go up the Oregon coast to find One Eyed Willy’s treasure? What is amazing about this country we live in is that every state has its beauty and treasures. And I don’t think I’m going to have enough time to take my kids to all of them. But, my hope is that they love adventuring so much that they will want to take their families to the places we didn’t get to, and maybe some old favorites. And, if my husband and I are really lucky, maybe we will get to come along on some trips. Maybe we walk with our grandkids along the Trail of Time and think back to when we took their dads along this same trail. I’ll count the year markers and teach them how to say the big numbers, like one thousand eight hundred seventy million, just like I did with their dads all those years ago. It was a commitment to purchase a van, but one we don’t regret. Our van named, “Doc Holliday”, will become a memory maker, and will provide family stories as the years go on. We are very thankful for the dream that Off Highway Van brought to life, and maybe they can do the same for you!