Intentional Family Living

Intentional living on our last night in Hawaii

What is Intentional living?

We define intentional living as “doing life with purpose.” The decisions we make and the way we do life have everything to do with experiences. Our great joy is to travel, but that’s simply what we do as we live intentionally. Experiences happen here in our home, at school, on a road trip or across the world as we visit new places. There is a strong push for face to face relationships regarding our kids in our family. Social media is not a thing for our teenagers, but we nearly always say yes to in person fun between friends. But y’all, it’s COVID19 times and we are living through a global pandemic. It’s an understatement to say it feels like this has been thrown in our faces.

How we are handling the pivot with intentional living?

Intentional living while hiking together as a family

First, the slow down was a welcome surprise. We were hit head on with the reality of how fast a pace we were running, and it was clear our priorities had become askew. The complete halt in activity and return the basics of life were life giving during a scary and unknown time. Our intentional living took on new meaning. The kids had time to ride their bikes or the Onewheel, go fishing, read a book for fun, and catch up on their sleep. They helped around the house more, went with us as we walked the dog. We all spent hours on the front porch doing work, homework, eating dinners, and talking about everything.

Intentional Family living on day trips during quarantine

As normal life came to a halt, so did the face to face fun with friends. It was heartbreaking to watch our teenagers (and tween) struggle to find a way to connect outside our family unit. We encouraged video games where they could talk with friends over the headset. We allowed more time on their phones to text with schoolmates. We let them do all the zoom calls they wanted. It was an extreme pivot from our typical parenting standards and although we didn’t love it, we did it.

Wishful Thinking vs. Opportunity

Intentional Living at South Carolina state parks

When big changes come, we have a decision to make. We can either sink into a hole wishing for what used to be or we can look forward in expectancy at the opportunities. In truth, we have grieved the things COVID19 has taken from us. All of the plans we made and saved for were scrapped. Because we focus on intentional living, we chose to move forward with purpose.

Intentional living on a day trip

As we cancelled plans we created new ones. Plan B’s were cancelled, but we made the most of it with day trips and nearby adventures. We sought destinations where we could explore outdoors and easily social distance. Friends have become a constant rotation on our front porch where we can enjoy time while taking precautions. We even joked that we need a calendar for front porch invitations because we began to double book! The opportunities have always been there, but as we watched events get shaved off of our calendars, they became more apparent. Shep has connected with neighborhood friends he never had time for in the past. Holland has pursued a new sport while she’s not able to attend ballet class. Rowan has been fishing nearly every day. John has gone down a new avenue for his business so as to meet clients needs during this unknown time. I am continuing to build our business and am able to lay the foundations more deeply.

Creating sibling bonding

Moving Forward with Intentional Living

Many people are talking about waiting for things to go back to normal, but we don’t think that will be our focus. Will things ever go back to what we knew as normal? Well, we plan to continue to celebrate each kid’s uniqueness. There will be travel to come. “No” will be a word we begin to use as we set boundaries for the way forward. Built-in slow family time will become a priority. Face to face relationships will always be encouraged. Making choices that are best for our family will be at the forefront of our decisions making. Open conversations will be welcomed and respectful to all involved. Our home will hold space for anyone who wants to come-the invitation is open. And I suspect the more we reflect the more we will consider.

Intentional living exploring the outdoors

So we maintain a mindset that is grateful and hopeful and push forward with purpose. Some people call this pie in the sky positivity, but we only get one chance to live the life we have. So we choose to live intentionally and gracious do we have fun while doing it!

Making family memories in Maui

Lowcountry Adventure in South Carolina

Beaufort, SC

After more time at home in mostly isolation it was time for another daytrip and we chose a lowcountry adventure to Beaufort, SC. The overwhelming charm of the huge oak trees dripping with Spanish moss creating a canopy across the road are the signals you have made it to the lowcountry of South Carolina. It felt so good to be away from the house for a day!

Beaufort is an adorable coastal town near the southernmost tip of South Carolina. The oak trees dangling with Spanish moss line the streets filled with quaint shops and restaurants. You can feel the water surroundings wherever you are. After all, Beaufort is located on one of the coastal sea islands of South Carolina.

Bike Adventure

We strapped our bikes onto the back of the car before we took off down the road and boy are we glad we did. Beaufort boasts a beautiful and well-maintained 10 mile paved path called The Spanish Moss Trail. It follows what used to be the Port Royal Railroad and traverses around the downtown area, across marshes and through the oak canopies. You can do as much or as little as you prefer, of course. There is a parking area at the end of Depot Road with enough spaces for roughly 15 cars. We were there on a weekday so there was plenty of space, but I suspect it’s crowded on weekends in spring and fall when the weather is just right. Pets on a leash and babies in strollers were utilizing the trail as well by the locals. Although we visited during the peak of COVID19 pandemic, we had no problem exercising social distancing and being respectful to all who were using the trail.

Mid-Day Break Downtown

We chose to continue on our bikes into downtown Beaufort for a mid-day break and lunch. Let me be honest and tell you the ONLY reason we decided to do this is because we were there during COVID19 times. The town was bustling, but not busting at the seams per usual this time of year. We rode around sticking mostly to the edge of town near the water and then ordered an incredible take out lunch with curbside pick up from Lowcountry Produce Market on Carteret St. We each ordered a different salad: The Cobb, The Caesar, and the French and oh my heart were they delicious. The robust salads filled us up and kept us going for the rest of the afternoon. We opted not to stop in any shops as we didn’t have masks and did have our bikes, but many people come downtown just to ebb and flow through the charming boutique shops.

Hunting Island State Park

We still had plenty of afternoon left on our lowcountry adventure so we decided to cross the bridge and head over to one of South Carolina’s most incredible state parks. Hunting Island State Park completely knocked our socks off with its well maintained roads and pristine beaches. We were there on an unusually cool summer day so it wasn’t very crowded, but on weekends and sunny summer days this place fills up quickly. Again, during COVID19 times, things were different. The park was limiting entrance on a first come basis. The park does offer 100 campsites and 1 cabin rental via reservation, but those typically book up in January and are highly coveted. We totally understand why now that we’ve been there! Entrance fees are collected at a manned booth upon arrival ($8/adult,$5/seniors,$4/children 6-15).

Hunting Island Beach

As you can see, we were easily able to social distance. There are small parking areas spread out that can accept about 7-8 cars at a time. Just remember which beach access you walked in on so you can get back to your car! Know before you go, that North Beach has rougher waters and less swimming options due to currents, but South Beach is busier and has the lighthouse you can climb if you’re looking for something else to do. There are facilities with bathrooms available at two different parts of the beach. The park also offers 10 short trails throughout as well as an incredible nature center. If you have young children, teenagers, or are visiting solo you will not be disappointed.

Historical Stop: Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Our lowcountry adventure ended before getting back on the road toward home at the Old Sheldon Church Ruins located off two lane highway 21 between Beaufort, SC & Yemassee, SC. There is no official parking lot and the ruins are on private land so be both careful and respectful. The church was burned during the Revolutionary War and then again by General Sherman’s troops during the Civil War (although some believe it was just ransacked beyond repair). We were there as the light began to fade from the day and it was empty so we stopped to wander and photograph. For all of about 7 minutes we took in the wonder of history right before our eyes. I love how history comes alive as you visit the actual locations.

The Perfect Day Trip

As far as day trips go, this one was perfect. We had a mix of active fun, excellent food, relaxing beach time and a smidge of history all within two and a half hours drive from home. It has been a real bummer this summer of 2020 to cancel all of our other adventures, but we have made the best of the COVID19 situation to enjoy mini adventures closer to home. Next time you are in South Carolina, don’t hesitate to head to the very lowcountry part of the state where we can show off a bit and charm you for good. Beaufort, SC and Hunting Island State Park make the perfect lowcountry adventure!

Adventure for a Cause

Have you ever traveled somewhere without doing any tourist activities or sight seeing? It’s a bit strange to think about, but one of the most authentic adventures I have ever had has been a trip to serve…and nothing more. During the summer of 2019 I traveled to Uganda with a group of 9 other women to the far reaches of the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in the northern part of the country almost to the border of South Sudan. It changed me forever. Adventure for a cause doesn’t have to mean you don’t get anything out of it! On the contrary, these types of trips can grow your heart BIG and are often the most authentic cultural experiences you can have while traveling.

Adventure Preparations

The adventure began as we prepared ourselves and our hearts to go.  We spent months as a team praying for the women we would be sharing life with, teaching the Bible to, and encouraging within the local church there. Our connection came through a wonderful ministry with great integrity and a focused mission called EmpowerOne. They provided us with training materials on the culture and what to expect within the camps. As we prepared our hearts to experience God in a new way, we also got lots of vaccines and perfected our packing skills. Because we would travel on a small aircraft we could only bring 33 pounds along with us to make sure we were safe. Thankfully I’ve always been a light packer, but my biggest challenge was the gifts I wanted to bring along for my translators which took up the most room!

The Adventure of Getting There

It was a LONG 24 hours to get to our destination, which included stops in Brussels, Kigali, and quick overnight sleep in a hotel in Entebbe. When we awoke in Entebbe we ate breakfast and then set off for the local airport. Did I mention the little aircraft? Eleven of us including the pilot took off from a dirt runway at Kajjansi airport and landed 90 minutes later in Arua where we met up with our hosts from EmpowerOne. They were amazing-always taking care of us, always knowing where to go and when, constantly asking how we were doing. Within that first 3 hour bumpy drive up to the camps they became our friends for life. 

The Daily Adventure

Each of us women was given a separate container as a hotel room in the town of Yumbe that included a bed, desk, closet, and bathroom. As much as I wanted to have someone to talk to at night, I was grateful for the alone time to decompress after each day. The days were exhausting both physically and mentally, but the Spirit of the Lord sustained us. Every day was different, but had a similar feel to it. We traveled among the different districts within the camp to teach a women’s conference at various local churches during the morning hours. I did a teaching on the importance of learning the Bible for your own individual faith walk and not to rely only on the church. Later in the week I did a teaching on the Armor of God found in Scripture in Ephesians 6:10-20. Many of the women do not read, but I wanted to impress upon them how they can write the words of Scripture on their hearts to have forever. We also spent most afternoons visiting the temporary homes of the refugee families. It was humbling. It was awe inspiring. It was reality in a part of the world that is so far from us and so far from what we experience. The suffering is real and it is heavy, but I couldn’t help but experience joy. Many were encouraging ME as they praised the name of God and we celebrated with those who came to know the love of Christ for the first time.

The Stories

The stories of the wonderful people we met is what made this adventure for a cause completely worth it. It was an absolute honor to listen to the stories of families who had fled the destruction of war and the real threat of loss of life for themselves and loved ones. Many did suffer loss during their exodus of South Sudan or Chad or Democratic Republic of Congo. They lost spouses, children, parents, co-workers, and neighbors. I worked hard not to show too much emotion in their presence, but it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the intense suffering and loss. These precious people had a family life like yours and mine. They had jobs and homes and things that they had to leave behind, often times in an instant. Praise God for a safe haven like Uganda and the Bidi Bidi Refugee camps. They don’t have much, but they do have safety and our team of women went to give hope in the most tangible way we could. 

When is the Next Adventure for a Cause?

After 10 days of serving in the most culturally organic way possible, I knew I would go back. The plan was for me to go back summer of 2020, but then the global pandemic happened and the camp was closed-nobody in and nobody out. It’s a protection, really, because a virus like COVID-19 would sweep through a place like that and the population would never recover. So, it is with great anticipation that I will return next summer. It’s adventures like this I want our children to experience. My husband has done this trip 3 times and is scheduled to return in October 2020, but we shall see. Our children have interacted via WhatsApp and FaceTime with our friends on the ground there and desperately want to see for themselves. We are prayerfully considering when to take them. If there’s one thing we want our kids to know about travel, it’s that adventure for a cause is always worthwhile!

 

Charleston & Surrounding Beaches

Well known for the exceptional charm and incredible foodie scene, Charleston SC and her beaches have been a token destination for couples, girlfriends, and families alike. The Southern character oozes from the colorful homes, lush gardens with ornate gates, and towering church steeples. The Holy City welcomes visitors from all over the world who amble down the historic streets or ride in one of the old horse drawn carriage tours. 

Carriage Tour Downtown Charleston

There are a variety of places to stay downtown that are perfect for a long weekend. If you want to stay longer, I recommend staying near one of the surrounding beaches and choose a day or two to drive into the downtown area for day trips. In this post I will highlight the many activities of downtown, but also the wonders of the Charleston beaches. 

What’s so Great About Charleston?

People flock to Charleston for different reasons, but this little peninsula is so walkable and so compact that eventually you will end up doing most of the things on this list, of course depending on the amount of time you have. The airport sits just northwest of downtown. If you plan to visit/spend time out at the beaches you will want a rental car, but if you are just there for a long weekend for downtown activities Uber or a taxi would be best. A few ideas of where to stay include The Vendue near Waterfront Park, The Indigo Inn or The Mills House Wyndham, both in the heart of the city or The Hyatt Place near the airport.

What to do Downtown

Fall in Charleston at the Pineapple Fountain

⇒Shopping: The first place you will read about shopping in downtown is on King Street. The long, historic street offers both chain retail stores as well as unique boutique shops. Here are a few of my favorite local spots…

⇒Carriage tour: If there is any activity you spend money on, definitely take a carriage tour. We do this nearly every time we venture downtown, which is at least once a year. Every tour guide is different and you can have a different experience each time. At times we’ve had a very local perspective, one time a humorous guide, and some are super detailed with their history and factoids. Accept that you cannot choose which type you get and enjoy the experience you are given. This is a great activity to do the first day you are in town so you can get an overview of the peninsula and get your bearings. 

⇒Ghost tour: These tours are a fabulous nighttime activity, especially if you are uninterested in the typical nightlife. This is probably not a good activity for littles, but older kids (above age 12) would likely enjoy this a lot. As a small group, you will trek along on foot and listen to ghost stories that coordinate with certain homes and locations. Don’t forget your bug spray.

⇒Garden/Home tour: Another walking guided tour that is one of the most sought after activities, but are typically only offered in Spring (March) and fall (October/November). The Charleston Garden Club and the Preservation Society both offer tours. If you are a garden lover, we also recommend Middleton Place.

⇒Fort Sumter: If you have a history buff in the family the boat ride and self guided tour out to Fort Sumter will give a wealth of Civil War history, not to mention give you wonderful harbor views of the Holy City.

⇒For kids, there will be plenty of fun to be found at the Pineapple Fountain near Waterfront Park, The SC Aquarium, and the City Market. You can take a drive out to John’s Island to visit the famous Angel Oak Tree, too! There are also harbor tours and sunset cruises the kids would enjoy.

Surrounding Beaches

∞Isle of Palms & Beach

Isle of Palms is a an easy drive from downtown, through the town of Mount Pleasant, SC and across the IOP connector. This Charleston beach is a classic destination. The island is made up of predominantly rental homes, some with beach access and some with intercostal waterway access. There is a marina and a wonderful golf course located at a development named Wild Dunes. Our family has vacationed here a multitude of summers and we love the vacation feel and close proximity to Charleston. There are a few restaurants here, but not much of a selection.

∞Sullivan’s Island & Beach

Sullivan’s is adjacent to Isle of Palms and there is a bridge/connector between the two. Sullivan’s is much smaller and is filled predominantly year-round or semi-year round residents. There are rentals available, but most are for month long stays. We love Sullivan’s for day trips because it is much quieter and less touristy feeling. You can make a stop at Fort Moultrie, as well, for a history lesson and sweeping views of the ocean. There are several restaurants on the island, but not a huge selection.

∞Folly Beach

Folly Beach is also a quick drive across the area of Charleston known as James Island. Folly Beach has mostly rental properties and is fairly well built up with a lot of tourists attractions and restaurants, ice cream places, etc. On the far end of the beach is a county park that is beloved. We have never vacationed here, but my parents have and enjoyed it as another, cheaper option for a beach vacation.

∞Seabrook Island

Seabrook is a private island community that hosts beautiful homes that are typically semi year-round residents, a few year rounders reside as well. This island is perfect for those who like to ride bikes, paddle kayaks through the marshes or spend quiet days on the beach. There is no public access to the beach here and you can really tell the difference. If you enjoy the private club and golf feel and want to be in a home to relax and get away from it all, this is a great spot. Getting to downtown Charleston is not nearly as convenient as the above mentioned beaches, but you could make a day trip there. There are a few restaurants available in the community and you can make a quick hop over to Kiawah’s restaurants, but going into downtown Charleston would be a challenge.

∞Kiawah Island Resort & Beach

Kiawah is another larger resort island community that boasts an incredible golf course, a top notch hotel (The Sanctuary) and spa with the most amazing brunch buffet as well as world class tennis facilities. There are some year rounders here, but there are quite a few rentals here. The beach does not accommodate many rentals that are beachfront, but many of the rentals come with a golf cart to get you to the beach. Biking is a huge part of the lifestyle here so bring your bikes or rent some! The restaurants on the island are fabulous and you may not even care to make your way downtown. This resort island is truly like a paradise and is especially wonderful as a romantic getaway for a long weekend OR an incredibly week for a memorable family vacation.

Sunset on Kiawah

Jones Gap State Park Mini Adventure

Jones Gap State Park

After spending months at home we were ready for a mini adventure. The South Carolina State parks system has proven, once again, to be a wonderful outlet for our family. Even during this strange quarantine/lockdown time of the global pandemic we have been afforded the opportunity for a mini adventure. Getting outdoors and enjoying nature together as a family is who we are.

Located about 2.5 hours drive from our home is Jones Gap State Park in the upstate of South Carolina, approximately 25 miles North West of Greenville, SC. We planned this particular daytrip with NO stops and we packed a picnic lunch and snacks to take with us. If there is not a global pandemic causing everything to be shut down you should plan a wonderful morning or afternoon inside the park and lunch or dinner in downtown Greenville, which would be ideal. There are campsites available via reservation, but not every campsite allows fires so plan accordingly.

Boys Rainbow Falls hike

IMG_0654

Jones Gap State Park is an incredibly well maintained park with beautiful shaded trails alongside the ambling Middle Saluda river. If you have the legs and the time we highly encourage you to do the 4 mile roundtrip hike up to Rainbow Falls. You will be in the forest with shade the entire time, although you will traverse some steep sections with steps. We had our pup with us and he was leading the way with such excitement that we made it to the top in less than 2 hours. We were huffing and puffing all the way up, but were able to relax and snack a the falls. The falls were running really good due to recent rains so we weren’t able to go across them to the other side which was a bummer for our oldest who loves to explore on his own in nature. We spent about 30 minutes at the falls taking pictures, eating snacks and climbing around reveling in the beauty of the nature around us. We had the falls to ourselves because the park system was regulating entrance into the park, but this is a very popular hike typically with lots of visitors enjoying the outdoors.

Kids Rainbow Falls

The visitors center is a lovely log cabin where you can get trail information, check in for your campsite or get a souvenir from your mini adventure. Here are a few quick facts for your reference, but we highly recommend you checking out their fabulous website for more thorough information.

  • 18 Campsites
  • 60 miles of trails
  • $6 entry for adults, $3.75 for seniors, $3.50 for children 6-15, FREE for children under 5
  • pets allowed ON a leash at all times
  • under COVID regulations, parking reservations are required Friday, Saturday, Sunday for $5
  • under COVID regulations, park hours are limited to 9 am – 6 pm.

Rainbow Falls

Whirlwind Adventure in France

IMG_4617

Why France?

To make a long story short, John lost his dad very unexpectedly in January of 2016 and had a deep need to travel to France. You know how that feeling comes over you when you realize that life is both short and completely out of our control? Well it hit John like a ton of bricks and thankfully he wanted to work out that emotion in a healthy way-travel. France had always been at the very top of his bucket list. A love of wine and history combined to make France a top destination in his mind. So, in less than 60 days I planned a trip for the two of us.

How We Did (parts of) France in 8 Days

Day 1: We flew an overnight flight into Paris, landing torturously early in the morning. As you may know, the airport is rather distant from the city center so we freshened ourselves up and hopped on the train to head into the city. We took the train from the airport all the way to one of the many train stations, Gare de Lyon, where we stored our luggage for the day and we could pick them up before our train out of the city later that night.

IMG_4613

From there we made our way to Notre Dame and sat in on a very early Good Friday mass, then made our way on foot to Sainte-Chapelle. Two big sights and all before 10:00 am! We managed the subway to the Musee d’ Orsay and spent about 2 hours absorbing some of the most incredible and famous artwork ever known. We lunched at a lovely little cafe we had researched ahead of time across from the gardens and walked across one of the many bridges lined with lovers locks. After a leisurely lunch we trounced over to the Montmartre neighborhood to visit the Sacre Coeur with great vistas of the city. Our final endeavor in the city was to visit the Musee Rodin and wow what a joy for us! Our feet dragging and our eyes drooping we made our way back to the train station for a quick snack, pick up our luggage and to get on the train to Lyon!

IMG_4626

IMG_4636

Day 2: Lyon, the gastronomy capital of the world. I know that’s a strong statement, but our experience made it so true. We loved walking through Vieux Lyon and the UNESCO World Heritage areas, getting lost in all the silk traboules (secret tunnels) and climbing up to the Roman amphitheater for a good dose of history and wonderful views of the city.   Our day consisted of an amazing lunch at Daniel et Denise and walking off all the calories afterward. We had made reservations there a month in advance and I’m glad we did because it was Easter weekend. One thing we were surprised by was the beauty of Lyon at night. Apparently the city is well known for their lighting expertise. Most of the buildings and fountains have professional lighting features that make the city just gorgeous.

IMG_4680

Day 3: Easter Sunday! We attended a wonderful church that offered English translation and it was a beautiful thing to worship in another country and culture with other followers of Jesus. After church we had made reservations for a special lunch at Burgundy by Matthieu that knocked our socks off and absolutely solidified our love for French food and the event of eating in France. After lunch we hopped on the TGV to Nice. We arrived a bit late on a Sunday holiday, so we had a little trouble finding a restaurant that was open, but after a little calling around we dined on seafood pasta at a lovely place near our hotel, Hotel Suisse Nice.

IMG_4687

Day 4: We enjoyed a self-guided walking tour of Nice that we followed from Rick Steves guide to France, which took us to many areas of the quaint coastal city. We adored the cobblestone side streets of the old city where we ate mussels outside in one of the courtyards. We walked up and down the promenade soaking in the sunshine and people watching. After that we hiked up to Castle Hill where there were countless families enjoying time outside on a beautiful holiday. As the sun began to go down, we hopped back on the train to Avignon.

IMG_4692

 

Day 5 & 6: Our time in this area was all about experiencing the wine and the food and the countryside. While we enjoyed the city of Avignon, we spent the bulk of our time visiting wineries and restaurants tasting and indulging in the flavors of the region. Some of the highlights of our time in the area were Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Pape, learning all about the history of the area and understanding the lifestyle of the wine makers.

IMG_4721

Day 7: We decided on a day trip to Arles because we had read about a wonderful walking tour that encompasses the actual sites of many famous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Each stop on the walking tour coincides with location of a well known work by the artist and a plaque showing the work. It’s so great because you can stand there and see for yourself what Van Gogh saw and interpreted into a beautiful piece including Le Jardin de la Maison de Santa A Arles, and Le Cafe. Arles is a bit dumpy and dirty, but there is an impressive Roman theater and  Roman arena there as well.

IMG_4798

IMG_4774

Day 8: Back to Paris on the TGV. We had tickets to go up in the Eiffel Tower on this last evening to enjoy the sunset, but the mechanics that operate the elevators were on strike so the tower was closed to tourists. What a total bummer! It ended up being a rainy evening anyway so we didn’t miss the sunset views we had wanted so badly. Our last goal was to eat at a wonderful French brasserie for roasted chicken, French onion soup, and the MOST delicious profiteroles you could ever imagine. It was the perfect end to our whirlwind trip.

IMG_4812

IMG_4802

Jones Gap State Park Mini Adventure

Jones Gap State Park

After spending months at home we were ready for a mini adventure. The South Carolina State parks system has proven, once again, to be a wonderful outlet for our family. Even during this strange quarantine/lockdown time of the global pandemic we have been afforded the opportunity for a mini adventure. Getting outdoors and enjoying nature together as a family is who we are.

Located about 2.5 hours drive from our home is Jones Gap State Park in the upstate of South Carolina, approximately 25 miles North West of Greenville, SC. We planned this particular daytrip with NO stops and we packed a picnic lunch and snacks to take with us. If there is not a global pandemic causing everything to be shut down you should plan a wonderful morning or afternoon inside the park and lunch or dinner in downtown Greenville, which would be ideal. There are campsites available via reservation, but not every campsite allows fires so plan accordingly.

Boys Rainbow Falls hike

IMG_0654

Jones Gap State Park is an incredibly well maintained park with beautiful shaded trails alongside the ambling Middle Saluda river. If you have the legs and the time we highly encourage you to do the 4 mile roundtrip hike up to Rainbow Falls. You will be in the forest with shade the entire time, although you will traverse some steep sections with steps. We had our pup with us and he was leading the way with such excitement that we made it to the top in less than 2 hours. We were huffing and puffing all the way up, but were able to relax and snack a the falls. The falls were running really good due to recent rains so we weren’t able to go across them to the other side which was a bummer for our oldest who loves to explore on his own in nature. We spent about 30 minutes at the falls taking pictures, eating snacks and climbing around reveling in the beauty of the nature around us. We had the falls to ourselves because the park system was regulating entrance into the park, but this is a very popular hike typically with lots of visitors enjoying the outdoors.

Kids Rainbow Falls

The visitors center is a lovely log cabin where you can get trail information, check in for your campsite or get a souvenir from your mini adventure. Here are a few quick facts for your reference, but we highly recommend you checking out their fabulous website for more thorough information.

  • 18 Campsites
  • 60 miles of trails
  • $6 entry for adults, $3.75 for seniors, $3.50 for children 6-15, FREE for children under 5
  • pets allowed ON a leash at all times
  • under COVID regulations, parking reservations are required Friday, Saturday, Sunday for $5
  • under COVID regulations, park hours are limited to 9 am – 6 pm.

Rainbow Falls

How to Make a Whirlwind Adventure Memorable

IMG_4617

Get to know the Destination Before You Go

In order to get the most out of your time you can get to know your destination before you land there. Look through maps, and read up a little on the history. This will give you a good overview of your destination and ensure you are prepared. You want to get yourself acquainted with the layout and feel of the location so you can hit the ground running when you arrive.

Accept that you Cannot Do it All

A time crunch means you won’t be able to see/do everything. Make a loose plan of the highlights you don’t want to miss. Do what YOU want to do. Just because the guide books list the most popular activities or sights doesn’t mean that’s what YOU must do. Remember that this is your adventure and you are creating your own memories. I often map out which highlights are close to one another so we maximize the time between highlights. If your time is limited to just one day it’s best to choose 3 “must do’s” and 2 “if possible’s”. Depending on your destination, you may need to pre-purchase timed entry into museums or shows, etc. This can help you structure your day accordingly.

Food

Make sure to plan ahead where you will eat so you don’t waste time wandering around looking for what fits your budget and tastes. Again, preparing ahead of time by checking Yelp or another app for the best eats will save you a lot of time and possibly some money.

IMG_4802

Transportation

Whether you are on a road trip or a trip where you are relying on public transport, we think it’s best to do your travel between locations before a late dinner or after an early supper. We have found that those evening hours can often be dead hours so we fill them with travel. Especially for families who may have tired little ones or irritable teens, it’s a good idea to build in some down time. If you are early risers, it may be best to get that travel time in after a good night’s sleep and before beginning your day. Make this work for you and maximize your time well. We love the high speed trains in Europe and their reduced rates after typical commute times!

Know Your Why

Years ago John really wanted to go to a specific region of southern France to visit the wineries there and eat the food. Everything else we did was icing on the cake. We took a whirlwind 8 day trip through Paris, Lyon, Avignon, and Nice. We stayed focused on Lyon for gastronomy and the Cote du Rhone region for wines. We added on Nice for one night-it was crazy, but such a fun experience. We did a walking tour in Nice, ate mussels in the old town courtyards, wandered through the markets and soaked in the sun on the promenade and that was enough. We spent almost no time in Paris because it was not the focus of the trip and we knew we would go back in the future.

IMG_4721

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of a Whirlwind Adventure

It is easy to dismiss the idea of ONLY spending a short time in a destination that warrants a slow pace, but the reality is that most of us often have limited time. Go. Soak up what you can and enjoy what makes your heart sing. You CAN make a whirlwind trip memorable even if you come back a little bit tired. After all, not every adventure is a vacation.

12 Most Valuable Items to Pack for Your Sailing Adventure

Be prepared to have the best sailing adventure by having the right gear. Whether you charter with a hired captain or you captain yourself, you will want to make sure you have these items on your next sailing adventure.

0-3

Sunsail charter in the BVI

  1. Soft Sided Suitcase – you will find it incredibly difficult to find storage for hard-sided suitcases on a sailboat. With limited storage, most of it in the floor containers, you will not have space to store large suitcases.
  2. Polarized sunglasses – there’s no way to escape the glaring sun while you’re out on the water.
  3. Clothespins – out on the water it’s difficult to get things dry so you’ll want these for hanging towels, swimwear, and clothing to dry out in the winds while you sail.
  4. Snorkel mask – unless you want to use the ones the boat provides (ick), but don’t bother bringing your own fins.
  5. Reef safe sunscreen
  6. Quick dry towel
  7. Dry bag/Dry phone case for clothing, shoes, camera and phone
  8. GoPro or other underwater camera
  9. Sweatshirt for when the sun goes down and the breezes blow
  10. Water sandals or water shoes
  11. Powerbank to charge all of your electronics
  12. Biodegradable body wipes because you may not be able to shower every day

2-44

2-45

 

Processed With Darkroom
Swimming with the fishies, photo taken with GoPro

The 2 Best Ways to See Chicago

IMG_1279

See the City From the River

The Chicago River is actually a system of rivers and canals that run through the heart of the city. The river is both natural and a feat of human engineered innovation. by reversing the flow and implanting a series of locks, the river could handle the growing sewage issues as well as meet the needs of the growing city life. The bridges across the river are a beautiful way to walk above the river amongst the cityscape and most have stairs leading down to riverfront walkways with cafes, bars and resting points to enjoy the riverfront.

One of the most exceptional ways to truly see the magnificence of the city is from an archictectural boat tour that cruises down the river. The tours run from May-November nearly all day long, but the best tours are the evening cruise when you can experience the transition from day to night, from sunlight to city lights. It is truly an unforgettable experience that everyone should have. Tourists and locals alike enjoy these tours!


IMG_1222IMG_1285


 

See The City From Above

When you are amidst the sea of skyscrapers it is often difficult to get a feel for the whole city. Taking your view from the top changes your perspective and gives you a grand scope of Chicago from above. You have two options for viewing city this way. First, the observation deck from the John Hancock building on Michigan Avenue, which puts you closer to the lakefront, or the Willis Tower “skydeck” which puts you smack dab in the middle of the Chicago loop. Both do a great job in getting you up really high for fabulous views. Do your research and plan your itinerary according to which part of the city you will be in and what works for your family best. I have done both and find them equally satisfying.


2-6

IMG_1295


 

Chicago is awesome no matter how you do it, but these two unique ways of seeing the city are sure to make your experience memorable and that’s what traveling is all about-creating memories.