Permission to Chill

Long term travel is not for everyone. Living out of a bag, switching time zones, bouncing from place to place for months at a time. It can be stressful. It can be chaotic. It can be overwhelming. Perhaps even more so when you travel with kids, but especially teens with their specific needs.

An important part of a our travel plan to reduce the stress and disruption is to plan plenty of down time. I found that constantly going about as a tourist or traveling all day and then jumping right into exploring takes too much out of us for an extended period of time. Years ago I resolved to give us plenty of time to relax. It is just as essential to our travels as the adventures are. It is also another reason why we prefer slow travel – allowing ourselves the time to live in a place as opposed to just visiting a place. Many travelers are on a constant loop of go, go, go – but outside of seeing all the touristy aspects of a location, so much joy can come from giving yourself permission to relax.

Now it is an expectation and my guys’ need to balance the fun with the “chill days” is real. We recently spent a few days camping along the coast in Olympic National Park. It was a few hours drive from our current location, then three days/two nights at a campground. Limited facilities never mind practically no cell service and absolutely no electricity. Needless to say, this adventure took them completely out of their comfort zone. I expected it, but was still surprised how stressed it made them to be without their screens.

The planned two days of down time after this mini-trip-within-a-trip was exactly what they needed to restore everyone.  What do you use to keep everyone tuned into the traveling?

 

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Meeting the Pacific Ocean

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

I grew up on the east coast of the United States. I’ve lived my entire life along it. For decades the furthest west I’d even been was to New Orleans – which is to say, not west at all. The past few years I’ve traveled westward. We spent some months in Phoenix. I had a weekend in San Francisco. Even had a stop-over in Salt Lake City. But I had never spent any real time along the west coast.

It is a place that has held my dreams for years and I have so looked forward to being here. My father always told me not to get my hopes up because it leads to disappointment. But in this one instance, I am going to have to disregard that advice. We are here in Vancouver, minutes north of Portland, Oregon, and it hasn’t disappointed – not in the least.

We’ve been here exactly one week and already we’ve had the best adventures. We found a landscape that was so mesmerizing the boys thought it was from a video game. We hiked to the lower and upper falls of a waterfall along the Columbia River Gorge. And yesterday we drove to meet the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

My big boys didn’t exactly understand my excitement with the day. They said that my fascination with nature had officially gone too far and that it was “just a big body of water.” I couldn’t help it, though. To spend your whole life on one coast of the country to then find yourself all the way on the other side of this massive land mass was a pretty big deal to me. And, oh my, it was a brilliant first impression.

When doing a quick Google search of the Oregon coast you’ll find rocky beaches, fog-ladened forests, turbulent coastlines, cliffs, surfers, tide pools, and trees so large and massive they command respect. I actually felt a bit of pressure – self-inflicted –  not knowing precisely where to go to see it all while not being overrun with tourists. A hard task this popular time of year, I found.

Fortunately, the weather was on my side and hiking isn’t something that the masses tend to spend their time doing while exploring a coast. When driving west from Portland on US-26 there was a steady stream of cars heading east. I got slightly giddy thinking of everyone leaving the coast before we got there. The weather was dreary – a bit blustery – which deterred most people but was exactly what I was looking for.

We drove straight to Ecola State Park, north of the picturesque Cannon Beach, to start our day with a hike. The reviews of the hike were excellent so I had high hopes. My first view view of the ocean was from the parking lot. That in itself was exciting for me, but the trail held so many more wonders that I soon replaced that initial view with some real stunners.

We spent six hours hiking and walking along the beach. It London-misted (drizzled), was foggy, was windy, and even cleared up long enough for me to sunburn. It was like the coast was putting on a weather-show for me so I could see it all in one day. Everything was so perfect at the park that I scrapped the rest of the plans for the day and enjoyed every minute right where we were.

I can’t post all the photos from the day, but here are a few. None of the photos have been editing in any way – this is exactly how the camera captured it.

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These two are from the same general spot but under different weather. The contrast is amazing.

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Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point Utah

Do you ever find yourself in a place where you know you could spend many days of your life visiting? We stumbled, literally, into such a place during our travels in Salt Lake City recently.

After visiting two exhausting museums at Thanksgiving Point (the first was a science museum that wasn’t too keen on acknowledging the science and the other was a playhouse disguised as a children’s museum), south of Salt Lake City in Utah, we found ourselves in the majestic Ashton Gardens. I’ll probably never be sure if the peace that I found in the gardens was a result of the long and mentally and physically exhausting hours we spent at the museums previously, or if the gardens themselves just exude an innate peacefulness. Regardless, all I wanted to do when we walked into the gardens was take off my shoes, lay down in the grass, and read a book. Pure bliss.

My big guys weren’t feeling it the way I was, though. Aside from their frustration at the pseudo-science museum topped with the extreme chaos of the children’s museum, strolling through gardens was going to take all the patience and tolerance for their mother that they could muster. Needless to day, only one of them successfully managed the rest of the day. The other was shooting darts at me from their eyeballs. My decided obliviousness probably didn’t help matters.

The garden itself was amazing. Every section of the garden is designed in a different style. There was an Italian Garden, a Fragrance Garden, Rose Garden, and a Secret Garden, just to name a few. There are 15 themed gardens in total and each was just as fantastic as the others. I fell in love with the carousel, Italian Garden and the Fragrance Garden. For those of you that know me personally, the fact that I enjoyed the Fragrance Garden will come as a huge surprise since I typically detest the smell of flowers.

Here are a few of the photos from the day.

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Charming area on one of the paths near the beginning of the garden.
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Waterfalls. Behind us they have a grass amphitheater.
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The upper level of the Italian Garden.
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The Italian Garden from a distance. They have weddings on the lawn here.
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The Fragrance Garden
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Inside the Secret Garden. There were fountains in here, as well.
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We walked for a bit with our toes in the grass.
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Little relaxing in the grass contemplating life (lol) after a few hours exploring the gardens.
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This whimsical beauty was such a surprise.
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Close-up of the horses and their flowers in the carousel.
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The Rose Garden
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The Rose Garden

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