Our family returned home to Arizona two weeks ago after a 6 month motorhome journey around the entire USA. My blog will now be a place for reflection and inspiration based on our experiences from the road!

1. Tenacity

It takes a lot of determination to follow through with a journey such as ours. People will think you are crazy and will tell you to your face. Others will be so intrigued and look at you through googly eyes. They will make bets on how long you will last and some will give you advice on how they think it should be done. Whatever. Do your thing. It’s your heart. Your family. Your dream. God will bless you through it all if you have the tenacity to make your family sabbatical happen. Just remember you’re talking about a very small portion of your life here. What can feel like an eternity definitely comes to an end. I know because I’m home now. Don’t give up.

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2. Flexibility

Obviously you can plan and plot away and things will happen to alter your course. Weather, breakdowns, sickness and the list goes on. If you aren’t ready to go with the flow, then you’d better stay put. Living as a family of six in basically two rooms for half a year is not what I would call easy. By no means were we roughing it, but by no means was it living as usual. Flexibility is the key to staying sane and happy.

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Rainy nights meant eating dinner inside sharing a tv tray.

3. A sense of adventure

If you’re going to take a family sabbatical, you might as well get out of your comfort zone once in awhile. I was apprehensive to go ziplining, caving or anything to do with heights, but I put myself in all those situations and survived. I figured if I’m out here doing this then I’d do it to the best of my ability and amuse my kids in the process. I still wouldn’t say I will seek out ziplining excursions in the future but I can at least say I’ve done it. Our kids are adventure junkies so this piece came easy to them!

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At Whitefish Aerial Adventures in Montana!

4. A nest egg

Yes, you will need some money in the bank if you plan to take off around the country in an RV with your loved ones. Things will happen that cause you to spend outside of your planned gas, food, lodging and entertainment budget. We had minor things break on the rig that had to be fixed immediately, causing us repair costs and hotel stays as well. You do not want to be in these situations and then stressed about the money going out to fix the problems either. You’re already tenacious, flexible and adventurous, right? You will make it through anything, but it will just be easier to do so if you have a nest egg set aside for unforeseen mishaps. Do not let money stop you from taking your dream sabbatical though. We met many a family out there living life together with little in their pocket!

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We got hit by a trailer coming out of St Louis and lost our passenger mirror!
Thank God this was the only time something like this happened as it was very minor.

5. Willingness to be a team player

This sabbatical is not about you or any individual bearing your same last name. It’s about unity. Yes, you will have to put yourself on the back burner for a bit in the name of the family sabbatical. It’s the point, right? You will wake up some days and look around you and “they” will all still be there. No one is going off to school or work. Your days and nights are spent together. It is a definite adjustment and some days feel amazing while others cause you to want to run screaming into the hills. Luckily, when you are surrounded by nature in the campgrounds it’s always easy to clear your mind and regroup. Many times I had to have talks with myself. “Amy, you got this. This isn’t forever. Embrace the day and the moments you have with your kids as it will be gone tomorrow.” My inner coach really got me through and most likely you’ll have to have talks with yourself too. Your personal time awaits you when you get home. Don’t worry it will be there. My yoga mat still functions and my nail tech is still accepting appointments.

6. A sense of humor

You had better be able to laugh if you take on a family adventure like this. The best times we had were when we were all cracking up about something together. Hearing the kids laughing amongst themselves, in between their quarrels, made it all worthwhile. Laughter is always the best medicine and you will definitely need that prescription along the way!

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Enjoying some zydeco music in New Orleans!

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I’m going to miss setting my coffee down in this cup holder in the RV!

I wish you were here with me and could hear all the glorious sounds around my house. It’s the joy of teenage boys playing pick up football in our backyard. The whirring of the sno-cone maker out back as neighborhood girlfriends get back to business as usual like no time has passed between them. Yes, my kids are thrilled to be home and reunited with their buddies. And I have to say, so am I.

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It’s our relationships and daily connections that we all missed while we were exploring the country.  I’m so grateful for the community of friends that we have here in Arizona. One dear pal brought over a wonderful homemade meal for us to enjoy on the night we arrived home while others stopped by, sent excited texts or called to welcome us home. We have been missed and are loved for sure. But, the material piece of being home feels very overwhelming. It’s not easy transitioning back to a house after living out of two rooms for half a year. And especially doing it during the Christmas season. I honestly don’t know where to begin with all of it. It’s why we had originally planned to stay out on the road through the holiday, but I’m really glad that we are home.

My time now is spent getting us caught up to speed with normal life. Registering the kids in school so they can start back to middle school after the Christmas break.  Acquiring all of their sports gear so they can rejoin their respective teams. Doctors, dentist and hair appointments fill our daily calendar this week. My kitchen and I are trying to get to know each other again too. I’m trying to find my inner relaxed camping self and move forward with her at the helm. Slowly but surely everything will fall back into place I’m sure here at home sweet home.

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You gotta love God’s welcome home sign to us!
It totally made me smile and find peace and gratitude for being home safe and sound.

I fluctuate between feelings of complete joy and utter sadness that our epic journey is coming to an end. We drove our motorhome out of our Arizona driveway exactly 6 months ago. Our family of six was full of excited anticipation for what the open road had in store for us. Our story has now been written with 13,000 miles on the RV and 44 new states visited. Home isn’t far off and I’m not sure if I want to jump for joy or ignore what I’m seeing as this has all gone way too fast.

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Tonight, we are overnighting just a couple hours from home in Tucson. I feel like I could shed tears of excited anticipation of all that arriving home means. I miss my kitchen and laundry room. I miss my girlfriends. Our church. The kids sports teams and school. I miss having quiet space around me. We miss everyone and everything that brings meaning to our normal daily lives. But, we did it! We did what we so crazily sought out to do and I couldn’t be more proud of our family.

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The familiarity of this landscape mixed with the dry, warm air feels right. It feels oh so good after spending most of November in cold weather. Let me tell you, freezing temperatures make the camping lifestyle way less desirable!  Although our family is excited and ready to return, we have been reminiscing and laughing about moments made during our cross country trip like we may forget what we’ve just experienced together once we walk out the door of our mobile home and back into reality.

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Our map on the back of Ally B is complete for now. These are the states we visited along this journey. It’s hard not to mark off California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin though, as we have spent time in all of those great states, just not in the RV. I’m still torn on whether we should put those stickers on, because North Dakota and Alaska are our only two states that we have not been to at all…. yet! Thanks for following our journey! More to come once we get settled back in!

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 Can I tell you that it’s absolutely freezing here? I know by the pretty picture above it doesn’t look like it, but it is. Who knew that one day New Mexico could be a beautiful 70 degrees and the next it is struggling to reach 30! I guess it is December…

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We pulled over along the drive into the park so I could prove just how cold it is with these frozen icicles hanging from the cliffs! Brrr… We were happy to get inside the caves to get warm!

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I had booked a Ranger led tour of the Left Tunnel done by only candlelight. It was very different than the mainstream tour we did of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky! I highly recommend that you do a cave tour like this. It only cost $7 for us adults and $3.50 for each of the kids, which is well worth it!

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Unfortunately, we missed the popular nightly Bat flights that happen April through October out of this natural entrance. All the bats have migrated south to Mexico now, but it gives us something to come back here for one day!

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The natural entrance is really cool to see. This hike is more strenuous than just taking the manmade elevator down to the infamous Big Room. The natural entrance and the Big Room are the main hikes included with your National Park admission. There are many other unique hikes you can do for a nominal fee as well.

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We were fortunate to see the hills loaded with desert bighorn sheep and deer on both sides of us as we were driving in and out of the park! So beautiful!