One of my favorite childhood adventures was visiting my grandparents each summer in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. I would fly with my parents from Eugene to Denver, then to Tulsa, Oklahoma. From Tulsa we rented a car and drove several hours to my grandparents’ home in Eureka Springs. In Eureka Springs, we spent our days visiting country music shows, touring the Onyx Cave, and having talent shows and Go-Kart racing contests with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Our trips always included eating at southern buffet restaurants, with favorites like mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, fried cornbread, and biscuits. My grandfather took me fishing at Lake Leatherwood, and in the evenings we sat on the screened-in porch watching fireflies and keeping our eyes out for armadillos.
My parents are great explorers, and tales of their pre-parenting exploits were woven throughout my childhood, including stories from the two summers my dad spent volunteering in Ghana and Lesotho, the time a bear followed my parents on a backpacking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains, and the summer that my mom rode to Oregon on the back of a motorcycle.
In addition to visiting Arkansas, summer road trips were a regular part of my childhood. We drove to Yellowstone and saw Old Faithful spout on time. In San Francisco, I saw the Golden Gate Bridge and asked, “what’s the big deal with that?” We hiked in Sequoia National Park and passed a group of black bears in a meadow. We unsuccessfully attempted summiting Mt. Whitney, the lower 48’s tallest peak, in one day. We visited Disney and rode all the roller coasters.
These experiences left me with a passion for travel that has been mostly unfulfilled in recent years while our energy and finances have been invested in raising young kids. But my heart longs for travel and adventure, and so journeys are a constant theme in my dreams. I’m enough of an adventurer at heart that I carefully considered accepting an international teaching job in Kuwait when my daughter was only a few months old. In the end, my husband and I agreed it seemed too big of a leap for a family with a new baby.
I’ve come to accept that travel is expensive and often too exhausting to be worthwhile with a young family. I also wrestle with the ethics of travel when so many in our world live in poverty and struggle just to meet their basic needs. Still I’m hoping to find a way to incorporate adventure more into my life.
This doesn’t have to take the shape of an expensive plane ticket. This summer I’ve been trying to fulfill my thirst for adventure in small ways, such as a weekend camping trip to Belknap Hot Springs, a visit with my husband to the colorful hippie-land of the Oregon Country Fair, and this morning’s family bike ride along the wetlands in west Eugene.
Life can seem so ordinary and routine when you’re stuck in the day to day. I am always rushing through my tremendous to-do list, achieving highly at work in part-time hours, and constantly doing chores and caring for my children when at home. I need to find better ways to achieve balance in my life. My to-do list still needs to be tackled but I need to incorporate time for fun and rest.
The other day I was in the middle of teaching a parenting class, which has been a routine part of my work for the past six months. Suddenly I was struck with an odd sense of anticipation, the feeling I usually only get when waiting for a plane at an airport. I felt like God was telling me that new adventures are coming for me through work, and perhaps in other areas of my life as well. God is inviting all of us on a journey with Him, so perhaps the first step of the journey is listening and the next step is to say yes to the invitation.
About the Author
Ursula and her husband Spencer have two young children, and their family enjoys playing hide-and-seek and dancing in the living room. She works as a communications and events coordinator with the University of Oregon.
You can read more from Ursula at motherbearblog.com.