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In partnership with KOA

Traveling 25,000 miles to seek new adventures and a sense of normalcy

A husband and wife duo quit their jobs and decided to travel across the country with their 3-year-old son, only to realize that adventure, truly, can be found anywhere

Photo: Jamie Hester

The conversation with my parents went something like this…

“You’re doing what now?” You heard us right. We’re quitting our jobs to travel full time.  

“How long will you be gone?” Maybe a year? It won’t be forever but we’re keeping it open, Dad.  

“What will you do for health insurance? Do you know how expensive it is?” Yes, of course. We’ve already looked into it. 

“What about bears? Do you have spray?!” You got me there, Mom. I’ll be sure to add it to the packing list.

And so went the barrage of questions that any good parent would ask upon hearing that their daughter and son-in-law were suddenly quitting their jobs to travel the country for an unspecified amount of time. And we weren’t just traveling—we were driving across the U.S. in an RV with our 3-year-old son, Hutch.

Selfie of dad, young boy with golden girls and mom all smiling in front of a lake
The Hester Crew: Mikey, Hutch, and Jamie. | Photo: Jamie Hester

As a parent myself, I understood their concern. Our family adventure seemed crazy. After all, our culture has a tendency to instill in us that success comes from dedicating a great deal of time and effort into your career, yet here we were seemingly throwing ours away. But I looked at our time on the road as more of a commercial break. We would eventually get back to our regularly scheduled programming. After all, a break can sometimes make the return that much more rewarding.

Chasing something new

As we approached nearly 12 years in our respective careers (and the same number of years living through long Chicago winters), my husband Mikey and I wanted to chase something new—scenery, ways of living, possibly even a new home base. We both strongly believe that there’s no better way to find a sense of newness than by stepping somewhere you’ve never been before. And while Mikey and I have shared countless adventures in the past, we haven’t always had a 3-year-old passenger with us. With Hutch along for the ride, and an RV to call home, this adventure was bound to be much, much different.

Young boy and father inside an RV in the kitchen with a view of a crystal blue lake out the front door
Making dinner in our RV is easy when you have views like this… | Photo: Jamie Hester

Traveling and exploring are values Mikey and I share and want to pass on to Hutch. Starting a family shouldn’t stop you from doing the things that made you feel happy and whole before kids were in the picture. Sure, kids can make you want to turn the car around or avoid public places altogether, but they can also surprise you with their willingness and determination. Being on the road made me realize this more than ever. When you don’t have access to babysitters, daycare, or even physical space, you have to find ways to envelop your kids into your life.

Since hitting the road last June, Hutch has walked on a glacier. He’s smiled 4,600 feet above the ground on Sedona’s Devil’s Bridge (with my gorilla grip on his tiny hand). He’s seen Old Faithful erupt, gleefully exclaiming, “Mommy, it came on!” He’s eaten his favorite mac and cheese dinner in front of turquoise-colored waters fed by the Canadian Rockies. He’s touched the rainbow of mineral strokes that paint Michigan’s Pictured Rocks Lakeshore. He’s been a really good boy in the Badlands. He’s played in North America’s largest natural sandbox. He’s discovered that hot springs are actually the coolest kind of swimming pools. He’s watched hundreds of hot air balloons color Albuquerque’s clear sky. He’s followed the gentle orange curves of Lower Antelope Canyon. He’s had an advanced course in patience while waiting more than three hours for a Rocky Mountain mudslide to be cleared from the road. He’s traveled more than 25,000 miles through 14 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, and explored 12 U.S. national parks and two Canadian ones. And he’s done it all with us, his parents, leading the way.

The art of surprise

Adventures are not without their unwelcome surprises (like that three-hour mountain mudslide). While it has been incredible to experience that sense of newness that Mikey and I so desperately wanted, it’s also been wonderful to find moments of familiarity and normalcy. And this realization surprised me.

I’ll never forget pulling into the Denver West / Central City KOA Holiday in Colorado and discovering that the campground had both spectacular fall foliage views and full-sized showers (I didn’t have to crouch down to wash my hair). At times, our adventuring felt infinite. We could go anywhere and see everything. Yet some of those in-between moments—taking a longer-than-normal shower, splashing at the KOA pool, even pulling warm clothes out of the campground’s community dryer—felt really, really good. And I think it’s because I realized that we can have both. We can give Hutch a sense of adventure and have a permanent home. We don’t have to ditch our routine in order to enjoy the outdoors. We don’t have to sacrifice good jobs for great trips. As long as we carve out a weekend, a day, or even just a few hours, we can find newness.

Young boy sits on a swing holding a red lollipop in front of a KOA campground sign
Polson / Flathead Lake KOA Holiday in Montana. | Photo: Jamie Hester
Young boy stands on large blue painted chair with a golden retriever puppy
Denver West / Central City KOA Holiday in Colorado. | Photo: Jamie Huster

And while our commercial break is coming to a close, we’re gearing up to lead Hutch on another new adventure this September, one that involves a classroom, a teacher, tiny desks, and afternoon naps. We feel more confident than ever that all of Hutch’s previous adventures have better prepared him for this next one. Plus, now he knows to always pack bear spray. Mom’s orders.

Father and mother told a little boy together and stand in front of a crystal blue lake in Banff National Park
Posing in front of Banff’s crown jewel, Lake Louise. | Photo: Jamie Hester

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