TBT to That Time I Roadtripped Across The United States.

TBT to That Time I Road-tripped Across The United States.

Well, the first time.

I've mentioned it before, but I thought I'd share the story. And the ridiculous photos. So here it goes.

Nine years ago, during my senior year of high school, I was all set to go to college like a good little girl. I even had a roommate lined up. We were discussing our dorm's color scheme in between classes. But then something happened. Through friends at church I kept hearing about this wild and crazy cool ministry school in Redding, California where students were getting their lives changed and having their faith in Jesus ignited in a way I had never experienced. I was intrigued. Something inside me leapt at the thought of abandoning all good reason and just going for it. Moving to California. Having this experience for myself.

So. I decided that if there were ever a time to completely changed the course of my life and try something outside the box, being 18 and straight out of high school seemed like the best option. It took some major convincing to get my parents to okay such a bold move. My dad wasn't pleased. California was far. And he had worked very very hard to provide for all his kids to go to college, and here I was... asking to instead to go an unaccredited ministry school as far away as possible within the U.S. I mean, I kind of get why he wasn't thrilled. He's such a good father and he just wanted the absolute best for me. But I explained to him what I had heard about this place and all incredible things that were happening at this school and church, and after we both visited and spent some time out there, I felt absolutely sure. It was definitely a place that I wanted to immerse myself in and a program that I wanted to experience for myself. Dad consented. Mom bought me laundry detergent. It was decided.

The thing is, the more I talked to other people, my friends and family members who were also interested in the school, the more we all got excited and there was a bit of groupthink going on and suddenly - I found myself in the middle of a wonderful, vibrant gang of outside-the-box souls who were, indeed, on board for the adventure too. Before I could even finish laughing about the irony of it all, my sister and her husband, a couple of my friends, a couple of my cousins AND my boyfriend (yes, in case you're wondering, that's STEVIE) all decided that we were in on this gig together - we were going to trek across the country and go to ministry school. Together. We were going to take out loans, find jobs, invest in some camping gear and just do this California thing. It was an enormous risk. It was probably going to change our lives forever. It was very possibly going to ruin some of our best-laid plans for stability, security, savings and career trajectory. It was going to abandon all of our hopes for the American dream. Abandon all normal.

It was going to be SO. MUCH. FUN.

I can't tell you how many people thought I was joining a cult. The college advisers at my private high school couldn't really figure me out.

Why an unaccredited school? Why??

But I had my safety net of people and I had my goals and most of all, I had that incredible feeling of peace that trumped all the whispers and judgements of those who didn't understand.

That's a really long way of saying that in August of 2006, I hopped into my '97 Honda Accord with Stevie by my side, and we (along with our 4-car caravan!) began the road trip of a lifetime: from Georgia to California. Two weeks. All the states. And ALL the awesome stops in between.

Our caravan consisted of 7 people and we all took turns picking out destinations that we wanted to see along the way. We did some of the obvious sights, like the Grand Canyon and Route 66. And we did some super weird ones, like catching the dancing ducks at the Peabody Hotel and driving through the Petrified Forest. Logistics were crazy. If we stayed at a hotel, we would all hunker down in one room (to save on cash!), which included two dogs and all our bikes. Because we couldn't very well leave our bikes hitched to the back of our cars in the parking lot - there are looters lurking! But hotels weren't the norm, we also did a good bit of camping. KOAs became a friendly stop, especially as we entered the West. And I'll admit that we bathed in more than one body of water. I told you- we did some super weird things. And kind of quickly slumped into hippie life. And when I say that, I mean it. I found mud in my hair weeks later from the Colorado River "bath".

I could talk for hours and hours about this trip, but I might as well just show you.

Loading up.

The Peabody Hotel, Memphis. Famous for the ducks.

Beale Street strolling, Memphis.

Blues City Cafe (BARBEQUE!!!), Stevie giving me a wet willie in front of Wet Willies (he's a gross boy), and BB King's Blues Club. We did Memphis pretty darn well.

Oh yeah, we went to see the King, too.

Most of my "on the road" shots were something like this.

That's my bro and sis-in-law's vehicle ahead. Along with their dog Abby. And their cooler.

Kansas is full of hay. Just full of it.

Entering Colorado. It was the first time I had ever seen the Rocky Mountains and I FREAKED OUT.

We hiked a 14er up to Kite Lake (no we didn't hike the whole thing - we drove to the trail head), but it was one of the scariest things I've ever done. Because we didn't take the trail, and instead FOLLOWED THE DOGS up the face of the mountain. The rocky part. The dangerous part. The top two photos should give you an indication of the terrain we covered. All I can say is that I was praying and crying through parts of the hike. And then we got to the top and saw people taking the trail down the other side of the mountain and we were all like, WHAT THE.

We made it! Along with my Kelty backpack, Stevie's graduation gift to me that year. I still use that bad boy.

We had a lot of time to chat. Like, a lot. We played the game of , "tell me something I don't know about you!" and by the end of the trip, we pretty much knew everything. EVERYTHING. About each other.

Rainbows are a good indicator on a road trip.

That's my girl. My first and best car, Audrey. May she rest in peace.

I mean, yeah.

I remember this because everyone ordered beer samplers and I COULDN'T. Oh the days of underaged-ness.

I remember Stevie remarking that he had never seen the speed limit set to 75. I'm telling you, the West is WILD.

We camped and mountain biked in Moab, Utah visited Arches National Park, and I was kept awake by coyotes those nights. These are the things you don't forget people.

Isn't it crazy how fake this looks? It was real. REAL I TELL YOU.

And then we made the obligatory stop at the Grand Canyon. You can take a moment here. I know.

We found ourselves on Route 66!

From there we hightailed it through the rest of the stops, including a brief visit to Las Vegas. For some reason I didn't have any photos from Vegas... I guess what happens there truly stays there.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Redding, California? Ate at In and Out. I was convinced I would live there forever. Right there. In the parking lot of that glorious fast food joint. HAVE YOU HAD THE MILKSHAKE?!!

Across the Country.

I lived in Redding for two years, and had the privilege of forever altering my life for the better. Stevie and I still believe that our time in ministry school was the best investment we could have ever made in our relationship and marriage (8 years in June! Crazyyyy.) And my bond with these incredible people that I trekked out there with? To this day, it's pretty rock solid. Nothing brings you together like sharing bath water in Lake Powell and brushing your teeth together in a crappy hotel bathroom at 4:30am. I have taken this drive several times since 2006. In fact, I have trekked back and forth across this country 4 times now. But nothing was quite like that first time, when I took the Kerouac cruise with this incredible group of friends and we devoured the sites and cities that make this nation great. And every time I think about this trip, I want to do it all over again.

TBT to That Time We Escaped Winter to Surf in Puerto Rico.

TBT That Time We Escaped Winter to Surf in Puerto Rico.

It was really, truly, very cold in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the unbearable month of February, which can be an almost hopeless time in that town. Not close enough to spring to believe that the warmth could ever again penetrate my paled, dry skin again. The days turned dark at 4pm. The blizzards continued to howl their wrath down upon our top-floor apartment. I would stare out the window in horror, praying to God that the weather would calm enough just so I could scamper across the street in my gigantic puffer coat to snag a bag of coffee. Forget about groceries. The dirty slush caked up on the sidewalks, making the 8-minute walk to the subway to get downtown to work almost impossible. Impassable. Inconceivable.

I needed a break. We needed a break.

For a couple of Georgia-born kids, the winter was really beginning to take it's toll. A toll on our souls.

So what did we do? We cozied up in a quilt, got on Hotwire, researched flights, and booked a couple of ridiculously cheap tickets to anywhere warm. Spring break was next week. We had. To get OUT.

And that "anywhere" turned out to be Rincon, Puerto Rico. The trip that saved our sanity in the midst of yet another torrential nor'easter blizzard.

And this was a seriously, seriously adventurous trip.

Our hunger for fun and adventure even surprised us. We hiked to mountainous waterfalls. Swam with sea turtles. Snorkled in the coral reef. SURFED FOR THE FIRST TIME. Had the raddest time with our great friends and seriously considered not getting on that return flight back to reality. It just felt so good to be surrounded by sexy Spanish accents, hot hot heat and gorgeously exotic views. Throw in the fact that we took barefoot walks on the beach every night to a little shack on the water where we watched the sun set, ate fish tacos, drank cheap margaritas and talked about LIFE, and well, we were ready to drop our anchor right there in paradise. We sat out on that beach for hours, talking about the future as if it wasn't already happening to us. As if we weren't living the dreams we had so long dreamed about. As if anything was possible.

Yes. Stevie's shirt.

Surf's up!

Hiking with friends in the tropics.

Of course there was a hidden waterfall.

Of course Stevie had to jump off the hidden waterfall. These were the days of pre-baby risk taking people.

Obligatory lip smacking photo. Because PUERTO RICO!

Yeah, Stevie wore that shirt a lot. It was like being married to Jimmy Buffet for a week.

Looking back on this trip now, I have to laugh at the incredible bliss we felt. Sometimes you can't possibly appreciate the level of adventure that you're experiencing until you step away from it, take a moment to observe it, and then step back into current life, refreshed with vision. A bit of perspective awakened. This little last-minute escapade to Puerto Rico came at a time where we needed that fresh perspective, needed a contrast, needed to see each other in a different light. Needed to see ourselves in a different light. Thank God that light was from the sun and not another halogen lamp.

Life is a little different these days. Instead of taking spontaneous adventures to sunny islands, we are taking a few hours every other week to have a quick dinner date in our sweats. It's normally fajitas at the local Mexican joint, and the margaritas aren't quite so cheap. But they taste better than ever. And I wouldn't change this season of life for anything! Because I know our adventurous days aren't just behind us, they're looming somewhere ahead, too. Those adventures are still brimming on the horizon of our hearts, waiting for us to take another dive into the joyous spontaneity. And I can feel myself readying for another season of "anything's possible!" Thanks, Puerto Rico, for giving me that bit of reprieve a few years back. And thanks for the memories, because they're living on in my head and spinning up all kinds of adventurous momentum in my heart.

Here's to ALL of our adventures. May they live on.

TBT to That Time We Went to Kenya.

TBT That Time We Went to Kenya.

My sister-in-law just got back from a trip to Africa. 

Hearing her retell the stories from her adventure brought back so many memories from the trip that I took to Kenya many years ago. I was 18, living in California, attending ministry school, and had the privilege of joining in on a mission trip to Nyahururu, Kenya. Stevie and I were engaged, our wedding was just a few months away. It was part of our school's program to send students on a mission trip, and when we looked at the long list of countries that were options, I only saw "Kenya". I just wanted to go to Kenya. To this day, I don't know why it stood out to me so strongly. I never thought much about traveling, especially to Africa. But when I saw "KENYA" on the list, I knew it was the place I had to go and serve. Little did I know, it would just be the beginning of many, many adventures.

I told Stevie, "Go wherever you want on your trip, but I'm going to Kenya!", to which he responded, "Alright, well I'm going with you."

And we did! We loved our experience there SO much, mostly because the people are the most beautiful kind. The sunshine literally smiles out of their eyes.

We divided our time between the local church, ministry school, orphanage, and community at large. Sharing our faith with people we didn't know. Discussing our differences. Realizing the similarities. Sometimes agreeing to disagree. Sometimes praying together. Sometimes witnessing miracles occur. Sometimes laughing together, eating porridge out of coffee mugs while standing in the burning hot sun. Sometimes weeping together, holding hands and hearing horrendous personal accounts of the Rwandan genocide. Hearing stories like that from people younger than myself, well, that cuts deep enough to make you really think. And really pray.

Our time in Kenya made a long-term impact on Stevie and myself. Though it's been 8 years since we spent time on the ground there, we still feel extremely connected to the vision of the orphanage that we visited. Stevie eventually got a job with the orphanage, properly named Heroes of the Nation, and he worked remotely on projects for the organization from our home in California.

Heroes is a special place. If you're interested in learning more about the largest orphanage in Kenya, boasting the best test scores, a self-sufficient business model and children who believe they will grow up to be leaders in their country, you should check it out and consider a gift.

I purposely didn't post any of our photos from the orphanage, because I don't want to be presumptuous and share photos of the children without each of their permission.

Thompson Falls.

The Masai.

Although we spent the bulk of our time in Kenya in the village of Nyahururu, a gorgeously lush little hamlet tucked up in the mountains of the famed Thompson Falls, we did manage to take a trek down to the Masai Mara. This was where we had the incredible opportunity to visit with some of the Masai tribe. Can I just say that these people are suuuuuuper stylish? They're gorgeously tall, they can jump so high, and they just have so much inherent personal style. That might sounds weird, especially coming from someone like me (I have no authority on fashion), but you could just feel an incredible presence about these people. They stood with proper posture, proud of their heritage, adorned in the brightest colors and chiming jewelry. They were kind enough to show us around their village and share some of their tribe's traditions. Like how they start a fire from scratch and how to build a hut out of cow dung. Think about it - that's pretty impressive. And they jumped. THEY JUMPED SO HIGH.

Perhaps one of my favorite memories from our time with the Masai was at the end of one of the evenings, after dinner. Everyone was relaxed, out of the "put on your gameface, we're in Africa!"-mode. We were just getting ready to go to sleep in our tents, but someone thought it would be a good idea to hook up a laptop to a very sketchy, sparking outlet and watch the movie Nacho Libre. All I can say is, laughing with a few of the Masai while watching Jack Black act like a fool, all in the middle of this rugged, world-renowned National Park... well, that's a memory that no one will ever be able to take away from me. It's emblazoned upon my mind for, pretty much, forever.

They can jump SO HIGH.

See what I mean about style? SO MUCH STYLE.

The Safari.

It was in the Masai Mara that we spent two days on a safari. It was unforgettable. Tearing through the whispy pridelands in an open-topped SUV, feeling the rush of the wind and gawking at the most incredible animals in the world. Truly. IN THE WORLD. I could try (and fail) to describe what it was like to be 2 feet away from a dozen lionesses, but I will just let the pictures do the talking.

I call these sausage trees, but they are actually some kind of fruit tree. Not sausage at all.

Yeah. That's a lion.

A REAL lion. In the wild. In her natural habitat.

I was in complete awe at her beauty. Yes, I was thoroughly afraid for my life. Absolutely.

Now these guys. They are the happiest animal!

It's kinda like me and Everett. Kinda.

Family time!

Stevie took all these photos. I think he should quit his job and JUST TAKE ANIMAL PHOTOS forever. He's the best.

This is the briefest of overviews. There are so many more stories about this particular trip, ranging from hilarious to surprising and everything in between, with about 1000+ more photos, too. There is no way to share it all here. But I wanted to share some of these photos because even though it was several years ago, this trip was stunning and impacting. Life-altering. For me personally and for Stevie and myself together. Just two kiddos, learning about the hugeness of the world and how our dreams and hands can be part of some positive change. Every year we talk about going back. And I know we will!

Thanks for letting me share this throwback trip! Be on the lookout for a few more TBT trip stories in the month of April... cleaning out the hard drive has led me to rediscovering some oldies-but-goodies. Happy TBT, friends!