Hi there, my name is Jen and it’s nice to meet you! I’m happy you’ve stopped by and allowed me to share my family and our adventures with you!
To introduce us all, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning…
My husband Chris and I met in a very small town called Orono, Maine while we were grad students.
Our lives did not involve travel.
We lived in tiny old apartments and spent our days studying – me waitressing on the side, Chris playing hockey on the side – eating mostly frozen pizza for dinner.
After we got married, we decided to go all out and do a big tour of Italy for our honeymoon. Basking in that joyful honeymoon glow, we fell desperately in love…
And the Tuscan countryside.
And the Amalfi coast.
Exploring stunningly beautiful places for the very first time, we reawakened those feelings most of us lose after early childhood:
And a sense of adventure.
Despite the difficulties of flying and the frustrations of finding our way around new places, we were done for.
Our wanderlust just grew and grew from there…
We made our way through the countryside of Normandy without any ability to decipher the French road signs.
Just relying on the rental car GPS (this was before iPhones and Google map apps), we got lost down a few one-lane, dirt-road corn fields.
In Waipio Valley, Hawaii, we made a harrowing drive down the narrowest and steepest “road” I’ve ever seen – all winding curves on the edge of a cliff – only to be blocked by wild horses.
But the secluded black sand beach at the end was the closest I’d seen to paradise, taking my breath away with its lush green cliffs, waterfalls, and tropical flowers.
We dashed through the streets of Paris in the pouring rain, the Eiffel Tower flashing its spectacle of shimmering lights to guide our way, and gorged on a three-michelin-star dinner that ended with a bill for half a month’s rent (worth every penny!)
We hiked the Canadian Rockies to glimpse glacial waters that were the most stunning crystal blue we’d ever seen.
In England, we slept in a breathtaking Neo-Gothic castle in the rolling countryside where Shakespeare once lived.
We saw the sunset with our bare feet tucked into the warm, white sand beaches of Maui.
And then we watched the sunset again from a whole different perspective – above the clouds! – from the very high peak of Maunakea.
Our family of two became three!
Our bundle of joy (and energy!), Trevor Micheal, came bursting onto the scene in 2016.
We call him “Tru,” which is short for Trevy-Tru, his original nickname.
He calls himself “Ver,” which is all he can pronounce so far.
This is the point in the story where I finally figured out that it wasn’t a location on a map, but rather the life experience of becoming “Mama,” that would offer my greatest adventure of all.
Tru has brought me to all the deepest depths of exhaustion (four months with no sleep) and public humiliation (toddler tantrums: need I say more?) and worry (choking, and staircases, and electrical outlets, oh my!)
But also the highest reaches of laughter and love.
Trevor once slipped a tiny, chubby hand into mine – little dimples on the knuckles, a little crease on the wrist – looked up into my eyes, and said “Mama.”
And I realized that my love for Trevor was so immense, it had transformed the most mundane, everyday moment into one of the greatest of my life.
But for me, that overpowering love came tied up with another emotion I’d have to call desperate fear. It came on suddenly and shortly after he was born.
I was afraid to drive with Tru (the possibility of an accident!)
I was afraid to go to the drug store with Tru (all the germs!)
I was afraid to eat in restaurants with Tru (what if he starts screaming? and everyone glares?)
I even gave up on the long walks I used to enjoy (I hated when he started crying at the half-way point).
Travel was out of the question. I could barely run an errand without fear.
I felt such an overwhelming sense of duty and obligation, and I knew it was time to settle down. Our traveling days were clearly behind us now.
While Chris commuted an hour to work each day to support our family, I spent the majority of my days all alone in the house with Tru. I felt safe from disaster and embarrassment, but I also felt miserable.
When I shot cute pics of Tru, I stood behind the camera in the same ratty sweats I’d worn the day before.
When I prepared snacks for Tru, I snacked too. And I held onto all of the 40 pounds I gained during pregnancy.
When Tru cried for the 10th time in one day, I frequently broke down and cried right along with him.
In taking on the often overwhelming new responsibility of being “Mama,” I had abandoned my old self completely.
And then, during the most ordinary of moments, it finally hit me one day. I was playing children’s songs for Trevor and randomly landed on “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. It was like the volume suddenly blasted (although it didn’t actually), I heard the line so distinctly, “tell me, now, when did you last let your heart decide?”
And I actually felt tears sting my eyes when I realized I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d made a decision based on my hopes instead of my fears.
Here I was, wanting to teach Tru about following his dreams, and modeling the polar opposite behavior in my day-to-day life.
What lessons was I teaching my son, in the way I was spending my own days?
So I decided to try to find the courage to listen to my heart. If not for me, then at least as an example for Tru.
I told Chris I missed the old days and asked if he wanted to start traveling again (he did!)
And that’s how this travel journal, Our Journey Of A Thousand Miles, was born.
The Idea Behind Our Journey Of A Thousand Miles:
Our family is committing to one full year of traveling – toddler in tow!
We plan to follow our hearts (despite the many roadblocks of traveling with little ones) and explore new destinations that call to us.
And we’ll update this travel journal – recording the highs and the lows – all along the way.
What happens when you “let your heart decide?” We plan to find out!
What “Following our Hearts” Means To Us:
The way I see it, there are only two ways to make decisions in life. The first way – following fear – is to make a decision based on anxieties, concerns, and obstacles that have come up in the past. Since becoming a mom, I’ve made most of my decisions based on worries. The second way – letting your heart decide – is to focus on what might bring the most happiness and laughter and fulfillment. My goal with this travel journal is to find the courage to not let fear stop us from doing what we love.
Why We Decided To Do An Online Travel Journal:
1.) We’ve amassed a million photos and videos (5,500 and counting!) since Tru was born, and we wanted to create an online photo album to celebrate our memories. There’s no way I’ll ever get around to printing and creating a bound album!
2.) I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for two years, and I’m desperate to do work that interests me again! I enjoy photography and writing. So, again, I’m “following my heart” and hoping this travel journal will help me learn and grow creatively.
3.) As I mentioned above, we’re committing to a full year of traveling where our hearts lead us. Hopefully this journal will encourage us to stick it out for the full year, come what may!
Our Four Travel Goals:
1.) To Take Small, Simple Steps Along Our Journey
Chris and I are excited to share our joy of travel with Tru, but we plan to take this adventure one little step at a time. In other words, we’re not kicking off this journey with a $5,000, 23-hour flight from our home in Boston to Sydney, Australia!
In fact, I came up with our travel journal name, Our Journey of a Thousand Miles, from the quote, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” We are starting out with small, simple trips. Flights that are just a couple of hours. Road trips that take us just a few states away from home. We’ll still spend the majority of our time at home, but with lots of 2-7 day trips along the way.
2.) To Listen To Our Hearts Instead of Our Fears
I’ve found it’s so easy to let fear cloud my hopes and dreams. It always seems safer to stay locked inside my own home, not ever trying new experiences, not ever risking embarrassment, not ever reaching for more.
A road trip with a toddler is often a huge struggle. As is flying. And eating in restaurants. And sleeping in hotel rooms. And travel gets more expensive as we add to our family. Our goal is to not let anxiety cloud our decisions. And instead follow our hearts and trust that it’s safe to travel wherever they lead.
3.) To Commit to One Year of Travel
We know traveling with a toddler is just asking for calamity and mishap! Therefore, we’ve made a one-year commitment to see this experiment through. We’re not giving up, despite anything a sleepy, hungry toddler in meltdown mode can throw our way!
The lesson we hope to teach Tru: just get back up when you fall down.
Past the one year mark, we may continue if we find that we are loving the journey!
4.) To Create Family Memories
Some experiences will be exhausting and uncomfortable and messy. But those memories may one day become family legends and silly inside jokes. And they will be worth it for those other experiences that will be joyful, and beautiful, and full of laughter.
This is all inspired by you, Tru! In life, this unsettling world can flip you upside-down without warning. But your heart will never stop calling out for you, and my biggest hope for you is that you listen for its answers. And that you never let the fear of falling stop you from trying (you just get back up, after all!)
To anyone reading, thank you for coming along for the adventure and allowing us to share with you! We’ll see where Our Journey of a Thousand Miles leads us…
Sunflower Field Photo Credits: Brooke Whicher Photography