Florida Keys Bring Big Decisions

Today is our last day of a month long stay in The Florida Keys. We have enjoyed our time, and given that this is the longest we’ve stayed anywhere in 8 months, we surprisingly never got bored. I might be the only one of my nomadic loving family, but I’m not quite ready to leave. Not only have I loved the mostly warm days, being next to the ocean, and the friendly people, but there is still quite a bit that we didn’t do. However, we did do a lot!

We traveled to Key West three times. We went once with Dave’s mom and sister, where we visited the southern most point, but didn’t wait in the line to take a picture that was about 40 people long. We tasted our first bites of key lime pie while in the area, walked on Duval St. where we oooo’d and awed at some of the most incredible art galleries that I’ve ever seen, and we spent time enjoying the playground at Truman Waterfront Park. The next time we went was for my birthday. That day we went on a two hour glass bottom boat tour, where we got to see and learn about The Barrier Reef. We also attended the sunset celebration that happens every night in Mallory Square, where there are buskers, food vendors, and lots of jewelry and art vendors. We tried sitting down for a birthday dinner, but quickly found out that Key West on a Saturday night is not only very busy, but it is not exactly kid friendly, so we ordered some appetizers, listened to a little bit of live music, which Key West is known for, and went home. The third time we went to Key West was for our epic day at Dry Tortugas National Park and another sunset celebration with dear friends. We put all of the Christmas money that our generous family gifted us in December towards this trip. While the day can seem expensive, it includes your admission into the park, a two hour ferry ride each way, and breakfast and lunch, so we found it worth every penny. If you missed our pictures and description of the island, you can see it on Facebook and Instagram, but I will tell you that it was a day none of us will ever forget, and if you get a chance to go, do it! Our only regret is not planning six months in advance so that we could camp on the island, and I don’t tent camp, so that says a lot! Can you even imagine the stars from out there?!?!

During our time in The Keys, we visited a turtle hospital, which was very educational and fun for all of us. We spent a couple of days at Bahia Honda State Park, which is known for turquoise waters and great snorkeling. We saw manatees almost daily that hang out near the docks at the marina in our RV park, and learned that they are a protected species. They like to hang out at the docks because people give them fresh water, which they love, but this causes major problems for them since it puts them at great risk of being hit by a boat, the primary cause of death and injury for them. The girls got lots of homeschool done, including building the solar system, growing crystals, journaling about their daily experiences, and continuing their new math program that we’re all enjoying much better. Dave and I did a little beachside yoga and even snuck in two date nights. We met lots of new friends, one of them took Dave and the girls out on his boat to fish as I write this. We had two sets of full-time travel family friends join us at our RV park, and met up with several others that were nearby at different parks. We even got brave and hosted our first full-time family fire. The adults love talking about all things travel lifestyle, while the kids play classic games like “Kick The Can” and “Ghosts in The Graveyard.” Having this community has been the single most important addition to our travel lifestyle, and if we didn’t have it, I don’t know that we would be having the mostly positive experience with this lifestyle that we are.

That being said, as we always try to remind people, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. When we were less than 10 miles from our RV park, our trailer broke in the same place it broke while we were in Canada in September, leaving the trailer resting on the wheels. This obviously makes the trailer unable to be moved, so we had to slowly take it to a mechanic that didn’t specialize in trailers, but was knowledgable enough. Because this happened on a Friday afternoon, we didn’t get the trailer back until the following Monday, meaning we spent three nights in a hotel. Once we arrived at our RV park, we were put in a very tight spot between two sites, and we didn’t have much room to even set up a few chairs, let alone put our awning out. However, we had a pretty amazing view as we drank our coffee in the morning with the ocean right across the street. In order to keep the same problem from happening to the trailer, we took it back to the mechanic after ordering some additional parts that were meant to stabilize the trailer and take some pressure off of the wheels. While at the shop, the mechanics tried lifting our 16,000 pound trailer with a very small forklift and the trailer slipped off of the prongs, resulting in a hole in the trailer, rippled siding, a small bend in the frame, and the flooring in the storage compartment bowing up. This now means more time in a hotel when it hopefully gets repaired next week in Tampa Bay. To say the situation was stressful and disheartening would be an understatement. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that the repairs are minor, even when the mechanic shop is taking responsibility and will pay for it. It’s just a big inconvenience when it’s your home that you have to take in, not just a car.

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All of this has definitely weighed on our minds during a time that we told ourselves and the kids that we would make a decision as to whether or not we will keep traveling when the year is up. We have been exploring this conversation as a family since November, even putting it to an anonymous vote at one time. On that day the vote was 2 in favor and 3 not in favor of continued travel. The next day, the vote changed to a unanimous yes to continued travel, and this has been a consistent pattern for us every day since then. Sometimes we’re all in, some days none of us are in, and most days, it’s mixed. We have often wondered why we are not one of the many families we meet that absolutely LOVE this lifestyle, and if we’re missing something or doing something wrong. We LIKE this lifestyle every day, some days we LOVE it, but we never hate it. We can always find and see so much greatness in it, but for us, there have been many trying days. Sometimes I wish that we had been like many full-time travel families that homeschooled our kids prior to our trip, but because we didn’t, our kids miss aspects of going to school, mostly things like choir, sports and their friends. I also think we’re a bit different because both Dave and I are working, (Dave much more than myself,) in addition to me homeschooling the girls, and many people living this lifestyle “unschool” their children while only one or neither of them work. I think that often people start living a lifestyle of full-time travel thinking it’s like a permanent vacation, but life is still happening, it just looks different. School and work are ongoing, you still have to do laundry and grocery shop. We still do “Saturday things,” like clean the trailer, wash the car and BBQ dinner. Many things are better, like Dave and I feel that we socialize with adults more now than we did in Colorado because in Colorado, everyone is so busy that they don’t have time to socialize. Of course, seeing all of the amazing places we’ve seen is the best part, and that’s honestly the biggest piece that makes us want to keep traveling-there’s so much more we have yet to see. So, long explanation longer, we really have no idea what we’re going to do. What we do know is that none of us can imagine going back to “normal.” We are going back to Colorado from mid May to mid July so that Dave can work, and support his incredible staff there during their busy season. Miyah and I have a trip scheduled to go to Denver next week for a few days, and it will be interesting to see what our perspective is like after going “home” for the first time in 8 months. For now, we will continue on our route as planned and enjoy it for what it is. Tomorrow we make our fist turn north since September, and in about two weeks, we will make our first turn west (other than a quick detour to Asheville.) We are very excited to meet Dave’s parents in Alabama at Gulf Shores, and then head to New Orleans. There, we will celebrate Miyah’s 15th birthday, which is very fitting since our girl loves all things music and spirituality, both of which are a big part of “The Big Easy.” We will then head to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, and then backtrack east for an RV entrepreneur summit in Alabama. The girls will be able to attend a two day session about how traveling kids can start a business, and Dave and I will attend talks from successful travelers making money while blogging, being Instagram influencers, selling on Amazon, and flipping vacation homes, just to name a few of the topics. Once the summit wraps up, we will cover the largest amount of distance in the shortest amount of time that we’ve ever done, as we head to Phoenix over the course of four days so that we can arrive in time for my Juice Plus conference, and for Jaelyn to spend her birthday with family and friends in Arizona. Before heading back to Colorado, we’re going to explore parts of northern Arizona, including Sedona and The Grand Canyon.  Last, Dave and I are leaving the kids with my parents while we take a much needed break from the kids, and fly to Hawaii to celebrate Dave’s 40th birthday. Hawaii has been on my list of dream places to visit my entire life, so I kind of feel like it’s my birthday too!

We will keep everyone posted once we make a decision about what the next chapter holds for us, but for now, there is no better way to end this post than with our favorite part:

 

Finding Joy-

Terra:

Favorite Moment-During low tide, you can walk from our RV park, under the interstate bridge and through the water to a small island out in the ocean. We got to do this incredible walk with a family that we met at our first FTF rally in Canada, which made it even more special. It was also great because Aubree has an almost comical, but very real fear of crabs, so she doesn’t like walking in the ocean and it was really awesome to see her summon up her courage to walk out there.

Finding Joy-When the trailer got dropped, I was so mad, like instant tears, super angry mad. A few days before that I had a travel friend reach out to me for some advice when she was involved in something similar and I told her to find the lessons and the joy, and I went back and read my own advice. I took a walk, looked around me and knew that in the grand scheme of life, this is nothing more than a bump in the road, and my perspective changed.

Dave:

Favorite Moment – For Terra’s Birthday this year we went to Key West.  We spent the 1st part of the day on a glass bottom boat, touring the barrier reef.  We saw all sorts of fish and coral.  After the boat ride we caught the sunset celebration at Mallory Square.  This celebration is one of a kind, street performers, music, and great people watching all right on the shore with boats, beautiful views, and a magnificent sunset.  Then we wove and danced our way through the crowds to dinner out.  It made me feel good to plan a day that she enjoyed.

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Finding Joy-  Also Terra’s Birthday.  Near the end of a picture perfect birthday, I had planned for us to go to an iconic bar/restaurant in Key West called Sloppy Joe’s.  I had called ahead to make sure that we didn’t need a reservation, that they had live music, that it would be kid friendly, and finally, that they had some gluten free options.  Check, check, double check.  We show up at the restaurant at 6:30ish and it is not really a restaurant, nor is it kid friendly.  More like a kid free bar.  Plan B – we walk around Duval St trying to find an alternative place to eat.  When we finally find one, the staff seems put off by our dietary restrictions, and the menu is limited.  We end up eating a few quick appetizers (mediocre) and leave still hungry.  Then we drive back to our campground, about 1 hour away.  I felt bad that the end of the birthday did not go as planned.  However, the rest of the day was fantastic and I know Terra had a great day and did not get too hung up on dinner not working out as planned.  

Miyah:

Favorite Moment-Snorkeling with my friend Isabelle at Dry Tortugas.

Finding Joy-After we got the trailer back when it broke down and we got to our campsite, I was just so relieved to be in The Keys.

 

Jaelyn:

Favorite Moment-Going fishing today! I especially like it when I was the first one to reel up a fish and when I pulled it up it was like, “Woah, I caught a fish!”

Finding Joy-The day before we were going to Dry Tortugas, I got a fever but my mom prayed over me and gave me lots of Juice Plus and the next day I wasn’t sick anymore.

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Aubree:

Favorite Moment-Hanging out on the beach and I tried snorkeling at Dry Tortugas.

Finding Joy-I went fast with my mom out to shell island, even tho I was scared and there was a shell trading post and I got a little conch shell.

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