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Our Family Travel Journal, 2020–2022.

We embarked on our very first overnight adventure as a medical caregiving family in May 2020. Over the past two years, we have extended our travel, both in terms of length of travel and distance from home, and we have learned a lot about what it means to travel while caregiving and how best to provide care on the road.


 

May 2020: Snoqualmie Falls, WA


Our very first trip! Malachi was 2.5 years old, and we realized how desperately at that point we needed to shake up our lives and disrupt our caregiving routine. We knew that we had the skills and ability to travel while caregiving; we just needed the confidence! We wanted to give Malachi more world experiences, and we wanted to take back that freedom of movement for ourselves.


That first overnight adventure to Snoqualmie Falls was only 30 miles from home. It was a small risk. It was a mini trial run. We stayed in a hotel and invited Malachi's night nurse to join us. That was a big help! We learned a lot on that trip and enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was the perfect launch-point for our family travel goals. (Read more about our trip here.)



August 2020: Mukilteo, WA


Mukilteo was the first trip we took as a family without nursing support. We decided to play it safe and again plan a trip close to home. Mukilteo is located about 25 miles north of Seattle, right on the Puget Sound. We stayed at a hotel overlooking the water and just down the street from the historic Mukilteo Light, a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) listed lighthouse structure. In total, we spent three nights exploring the area, enjoying the local coffeeshops, restaurants and creamery. We played on the rocky beach and explored local parks.



September 2020: Issaquah, WA


Another close-to-home excursion, the city of Issaquah, Washington, is located within the greater Seattle metro region. There is a cute, historic downtown area, which was fun to explore with Malachi. This was another early trip we used to gain experience and learn more about what it takes to meet caregiving and medical needs while traveling.



July 2021: Tacoma, WA


We greatly enjoyed a long weekend stay in Tacoma in the summer of 2021. I was scheduled to speak at a fundraiser event benefiting Seattle Children's Hospital, and we decided to make an adventure out of the opportunity. We enjoyed a couple of warm afternoons in local parks and explored much of the area by car. We drove through the historic downtown area and had fun visiting both the Dahlia Trial Garden and the Bridge of Glass, a one-of-a-kind pedestrian footbridge decorated with work by American glass artist Dale Chihuly.




August 2021: Burlington, WA


We upped our travel game in late summer 2021 with the purchase of our first recreational vehicle, a Winnebago Minnie Winnie camper. We immediately took to the road and booked space at the Burlington-Anacortes KOA. As a fully work-from-home family, we could stay to camp and work as long as we wanted. It was fantastic! We spent a full week hanging out at the campground, working during the day and spending our afternoons outdoors enjoying the campground amenities, including a fun "mining" attraction, playground and inflatable bounce houses.



October 2021: Kent, WA


The month of October 2021 marked the beginning of a 5-month stay in our camper as our home underwent bathroom renovations. We stayed at the (now permanently closed) Seattle/Tacoma KOA in Kent, Washington. (The location was later bulldozed to become a giant warehouse. Sad -- I know.) We had a fantastic time at this campground. Leading up to Halloween, the camp managers went ALL OUT decorating. There were inflatable Halloween characters at the front of each pull-in site, and the clubhouse location was transformed into a spooky walk-through haunt.



July 2022: Salt Lake City, UT


The summer months of 2022 presented a new challenge: It was time for my husband to consider traveling again for work. While his current job is a full-time work-from-home position, as someone working in sales, there are times when he will need to travel. This was obviously put on hold for most of the duration of the pandemic, but eventually, we knew, he would be traveling a handful of times each year.


As one of only two caregivers of a child who requires around-the-clock medical support, planning to spend any large chunk of time away from home is a logistical nightmare and, quite frankly, bordering on impossible. Malachi's needs necessitate the presence of two full-time caregivers. That is our reality, and we know it. We embrace it. But that doesn't mean it is not difficult -- especially when you consider that most parent-caregivers also must work in order to provide for their family and, sometimes, "work" means travel.


We knew it would come to that eventually. There had been many discussions around that point over the two years since Jason accepted his work position. We knew that we would need to find a solution. These were hard conversations because there was no obvious or easy solution.


Eventually, we came to realization that, in most cases, travel for one of us would mean travel for all of us. If Jason had to travel for work that would mean that we would all need to tag along. That in itself is not a huge deal... for most families. Of course, because of Malachi's medical needs and the equipment that he requires to travel with him, we are unable to fly or take the train or any other form of public transportation. (Also, there is the reality that the last place you want to be when you have a medical emergency is somewhere 36,000 feet in the air.)


So, it all came to this: travel for one of us would mean travel for all of us, and travel for all of us would need to happen slowly, progressively and with wheels on the ground.


Yup -- road trips.


How exactly this will look in the longer term is still a big question for us. But, for the time being, and for the foreseeable future, we will need to travel in our camping trailer to "deliver" Jason to the site of his work meetings. Right now, this looks like many days to several weeks of road travel each year, working and slowly moving in the direction of a scheduled meeting location.


It is CLEARLY not ideal. Given our family circumstances, however, it is our only realistic solution outside of Jason starting to search for a new job.


Our first attempt at this plan was a massive failure. Of course, it was! How could it not be?! We had no idea what we were doing. We had never planned for that type of long-distance travel. But, in July of 2022, we decided to give it the old college try -- driving from Seattle, East to Nashville, Tennessee, and then north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before setting our sights home again. (We clearly did not just dip our toes in the water for this go-big-or-go-home itinerary!)


To our credit, we made it all the way to Salt Lake City before turning around -- much farther than I expected us to make it. Obviously, Jason did not make his meetings. Malachi's medical needs meant that we made two unplanned visits to children's hospitals along our route: once in Boise, ID, and another to Primary Children's Hospital (pictured below) in Salt Lake City. (There were no emergencies, but two equipment failures that we needed to address at a hospital clinic.) And oh my god -- it was sooo hot! Temperatures were sizzling, and Malachi absolutely does not do well in hot weather. It was all too much. Turning around was the right choice.



(By the way, Primary Children's is a gorgeous hospital built at the top of a hill overlooking all of Salt Lake City. Malachi's visit to the clinic was coordinated by his care team at Seattle Children's. The staff and providers at Primary were fabulous -- super welcoming and helpful for our little traveling family.)


July 2022: Twin Falls, ID


On our return trip back to Seattle, we stayed overnight in the Twin Falls area of southern Idaho. The Snake River canyon is the obvious draw. There were some pretty wild views. It was definitely worth the stop -- 100% recommend spending the day.



July 2022: Bend, OR


We stayed the next few nights at a forested campground outside of Bend, Oregon. It was a quiet little spot -- a nice campground. We would absolutely visit again.



July 2022: Portland, OR

Portland was the final layover on the return trip from Salt Lake City. We stayed at an RV Park on a little island in the middle of the Columbia River. Technically, we were on the Oregon side of the state divide. The property was located right along the river's edge and featured a well-maintained walking path.


While our first out-of-state venture with Malachi did not go as planned, we ABSOLUTELY learned some valuable lessons.


  1. Know your caregiving limits. If hot weather makes travel more challenging, either plan ahead to address those issues or wait for temps to cool.

  2. Know your distance limits. If you have small kids or others who have a hard time with longer travel days, plan ahead to address that issue as well. Either break the total distance into shorter travel days (i.e. less time in the car each day), or plan longer travel days with 2-3 days of rest time between each driving day.

  3. Know your equipment. We were total RV newbies when we began our long road trip out of state. We quickly learned that having a camper without an additional vehicle is a major limitation in your ability to experience (and thus, enjoy) the places you stay. We were already researching trailer options that we could get for trade-in of the Winnebago before we even pulled back into our driveway at home. We wanted something that we could tow, unhook and leave at the campsite while we took off exploring.


August 2022: Birch Bay, WA / Canadian International Border


We purchased a new Heartland Sundance Ultra-Lite trailer in August and took off a day later on a maiden voyage. We headed north with the trailer in tow to Birch Bay, Washington, just barely south of the US-Canadian border. The area around Birch Bay is seriously gorgeous. We explored downtown Blaine, Washington, which was cute and historic, and we visited Peace Arch Park, an international park area that spans across the boundary line separating the two countries.





August 2022: Camano Island, WA


Camano Island is an island in Possession Sound, which is part of the larger Puget Sound, northwest of Seattle. There is a single main road that runs from the island to the mainland of Washington state. We enjoyed driving around and visiting local parks, including Cama Beach State Park, which we hope to visit again next summer. Cama Island Coffee Roasters was also a highlight -- Recommend a visit!



August 2022: Seaside, OR


We spent five nights on the Oregon Coast in the lead-up to Labor Day weekend. It was the perfect way to bid adieu to the summer season. We had a blast exploring downtown Seaside and making short trips to visit the nearby cities of Cannon Beach, Pacific City and Tillamook, where we met my parents and grandma, who drove north to meet us from their beach home in Lincoln City, OR.






September 2022: Granite Falls, WA (Paca Pride Ranch)

A weekend getaway to Paca Pride Guest Ranch offered a unique camping experience. It was fun to stay on a working farm/ranch property, and Malachi LOVED the roosters. (Me, not so much. I grew up with roosters. Not a fan. They're kinda mean....) The alpacas were adorable, of course, and the property owners were warm and welcoming and very knowledgeable about all things Alpaca. We learned a lot.


Unfortunately, the late summer and early fall months in western states are prime wildfire season. We ended up leaving two nights early when the wind picked up and a fire over the ridgeline began to pose a bit of a threat to ambient air quality. I wish we could have stayed longer.



October 2022: Chehalis/Centralia, WA


In our two years of camping experience, I have grown certain of one thing: October is the BEST camping month. Yes, it is just my opinion, but this whole blog is full of my hot-take opinions -- so there....


The 2022 school year started off with a bang! Life was busy. We were working hard to get Malachi's schedule established as he reentered school services and in-person therapy following the 2.5-year hiatus that was the COVID-19 pandemic. I had just resigned from full-time employment, too, to stay home and support Malachi through homeschooling and therapies. I was working hard to launch a nonprofit organization and was writing more, which I enjoy, but still having a hard time making the transition from full-time working parent to full-time homeschool parent, who also happens to work. (There is a different, and it was a difficult change.)


All that to say: We needed to break.


Plus, wildfire season was still raging, and the air quality around Seattle totally sucked. It was terrible. So, rather than stay home and suck in the burned ashy remains of Evergreen trees, we packed up the trailer and headed south to the area around the two cities of Chehalis and Centralia. We stayed for four nights in a campground in a rural area, surrounding by beautiful trees with changing autumn leaves. The nights were crisp, and the days were just the right type of warm for October. It was lovely -- just what the doctor ordered.



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