PHOTO: A closeup of Colorado asphalt and the road ahead. (photo via Flickr/Max and Dee Bernt)
Michele Harkins is currently on the ultimate family road trip.
Last year she sold her home, bought an RV and hit the road with her husband and two children. The Harkins are traveling all around the U.S. while Michele also homeschools her children and runs a home-based travel franchise.
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This hard-working mom and travel agent said that 2017 is the perfect time for others to take a throwback road trip too.
“There is never a bad time to make memories with your family,” said Harkins, a Dream Vacations Franchise Owner. “Spending time with family, having fun is a great stress reliever. Get away from social media and live life in person. Gas is inexpensive right now, so the cost of driving to a location is economical. Spend some quality time with your family relaxing and learning new life lessons. How many more summers do you have with your children while they are still young?”
We had a chance to ask Harkins some questions about her experiences:
Why did you decide to sell your house, homeschool your kids and travel across the country?
Most people admire the bold step we took and wish they could, but they also think we are crazy.
We hear things like, “that is awesome, but I could never do that”. It takes a BIG step of faith to sell everything you own and go from [a] 4,500 sq. ft. home to about [a] 450 sq. ft. home on wheels.
A dream without a plan is just a wish. We decided for our family that we would live with no regrets and take the bold step to see the country while homeschooling our kids. Our family is closer than it ever has been, and we have become a tribe! We have seen and done things we never would have back home in our safe suburban mini-mansion.
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How are you managing your business from the road?
What better way to become an expert on travel than by traveling.
I like to call myself "the traveling travel agent". It takes discipline and creativity, but I love it! I get to meet new people all the time and usually our conversations center around travel.
How do you pick what destinations you are visiting and what sights to see?
We hold family meetings and discuss what is on everyone’s “bucket list”.
My daughter had swimming with dolphins on her bucket list, so while in Florida visiting grandparents, we spent the day at Discovery Cove and she got to swim with a dolphin.
Each family member gets a say in where they would like to go. Right now, we are heading across the lower part of the US making our way to California!
What is the #1 spot that families must visit in the U.S on their road trip?
I love centering around National Parks, and not just big ones everyone has heard of. A National Parks pass is a must. Did you know for the anniversary of Canada’s Parks, you can get a free 2017 Canadian Parks pass? So we may venture up there and take advantage of that.
There is a great app called RoadTrippers that is free and will help you plan your great, big road trip. They even offer suggested routes.
What has been your favorite stop on the road trip and why?
I have three favorite spots on the road: One was Cape Cod in Massachusetts. We loved exploring that area. We did a whale watching excursion right before sundown, and it was breathtaking. The whales were so close to our boat that you could feel their spray on your face, and they were playing and breaching all around us.
We also loved Bar Harbor, Maine and hope to get back to spend more time exploring. It has stunning scenery. Lastly, we camped at a park near Marathon in the Florida Keys that was so relaxing and stress-free. Not only was the water and the palm trees gorgeous and all around you, but the tropical breeze was amazing.
I have never felt so relaxed in all my life as I did in our three weeks there. We all said we were sad to go.
Well, I said three, but I must add one more: We celebrated my son’s 13th birthday by living at Disney World for nine days in Fort Wilderness. If I could live there full-time, I would. There are so many free things to do without going into the parks.
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Any advice for other families who are taking a road trip?
The biggest challenge we have is getting our kids to put down their electronics. We bought several things to have in the car to facilitate family interaction as well as learning on the road and having fun.
Interstate Bingo is a hit. We also got National Geographic’s Road trip book about the states. When we come to a new state, my youngest grabs the book and we try and guess what the state bird, nickname and flower is. We also recommend a backseat organizer for both seats: It comes with a cool fold down desk. As we travel, we listen to Focus on the Family History CDs.
My final advice is to remember that life is more about the journey than the destination. Don’t sweat the small stuff that may take you off course; You are right where you are supposed to be. Everything happens for a reason.
Some of our favorite memories are inside jokes that only our family would understand and come from crazy things happening.