You’re never too old to share what you did over the summer, be it a trip to a dude ranch, international travel, taking your first-born on college visits, or welcoming new members into your family (both humans and animals). While we usually write about financial planning and investment-related topics, we thought it would be fun to share a little bit about what we were all up to outside of the office. Read on to learn about our 2019 summer adventures!
Our family’s summer was chock full of activity, but what clearly stands out most was our trip to a dude ranch in southern Colorado. This type of vacation has been on my list for a long time, but I’ve routinely been outvoted by the rest of the family and their desire to simply relax on a beach somewhere. So, this year I just went ahead and booked it (plus a beach week) and we set off on a dude ranch adventure, not fully knowing what to expect.
This ranch is so remote that it lacked cell and internet service, which turned out to be a huge bonus. No devices in our kids’ hands for an entire week kept us present – enjoying each other and nature. As they say, be where your feet are! For seven days we woke up to 50-degree mornings, climbing up to 80 degrees with sunshine (and no North Carolina humidity). We were each given a horse for the week and went on long rides most days. We fly-fished, hiked, went whitewater rafting and just enjoyed the beautiful outdoors. Fantastic food didn’t hurt, and we were able to meet some wonderful young wranglers and ranch staff from all over the country. Full disclosure: my horse tried to kill me (aka two different involuntary dismounts), but even that didn’t take away from the experience. I think my kids will remember this trip for the rest of their lives.
This summer was filled with a lot of fun experiences, but a couple of things stick out. My husband, Graham, and I headed out west to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado in early July. We spent almost all our time there hiking, and we were able to summit a few mountain peaks. It was also the second year in a row that we spent the 4th of July on top of a mountain in the snow - which is a bit different than the kind of weather we're used to in NC for the 4th of July!
We also took in a few foster dogs over the summer. We have 3 dogs of our own and have been fostering for about 4 and a half years now. We tend to focus our efforts on bully breed / pitbull-type dogs and often take in dogs with medical issues. We took in a pup that fit both categories earlier this summer and had the pleasure of watching her heal and transform, and then get adopted. The neat thing, though, is that The Dodo (a national animal-related media outlet) did a video story on her transformation. The video was then subsequently used by The Dodo and NBC to promote National Clear the Shelters Day in August. This was definitely a highlight of my summer! If you'd like to see her transformation and learn more about her story, you can check out the full video here.
This summer season was full of good memories and included checking off two items from my and my husband, Nathan’s, bucket list. First, we brought home our first puppy, Piper! Piper is an English Cream Golden Retriever and she is now five months old. She has been the best addition to our little family. We have loved taking her to parks, visiting our families in Virginia, and teaching her tricks. We have wanted a puppy for three years, so to finally have her home has made for one of the best summers.
The second item checked off our bucket list came when we visited the Grand Canyon during our trip to Arizona. We love visiting national parks and seeing the Grand Canyon has been something we have always wanted to do. What made this trip even better was that two of our best friends from college also live in Arizona and joined us for the day! While at the park, we hiked down into parts of the Canyon, had dinner in the Grand Canyon Village, and ended the evening watching the sunset in the Canyon. Pictures can’t do justice to how beautiful and vast the Canyon is. While we got to spend a week visiting many places in Arizona, Flagstaff was one of my favorite cities to see. I highly recommend visiting the Grand Canyon and staying in Flagstaff – it’s such a fun little mountain town!
The highlight of our summer was the amazing trip my family and I took to England and Sweden, which formed the bulk of my sabbatical. We mastered two public transportation systems, including one in a foreign language; visited numerous castles, churches and museums; braved new foods (the kids didn’t particularly care for fish-and-chips); saw a 500-year old Swedish warship; re-learned the metric system on the fly when refilling the gas tank of our rental car; and spent time with friends and cousins that we haven’t seen for 30 years. We also went meta one day and ate Swedish meatballs in an Ikea…in Sweden!
In theory, this trip made a deep impression in our kids’ minds, as they expanded their horizons and saw different cultures and ways of life. But in the moment, their big takeaways seem to be the indoor trampoline park where we spent a couple of rainy mornings (Yoump!), the bunk beds from our hotel right before our return trip home, and my reaction when they accidentally locked my computer in the hotel safe and forgot the combination. But we’re playing the long game, and trying to ignore the fact that when my son had to draw some of his memories about his summer experiences for school, he drew a 5-minute water balloon fight he had back in June and didn’t mention our trip at all. Skol!
The highlight of my summer was taking my daughter, a rising junior at Chapel Hill High School, on several college tours in the Mid-Atlantic. Our whole family piled into the car for a multi-day road trip to visit some schools that my daughter had on her radar.
We visited Duke, NC State, University of Maryland, William and Mary, Georgetown, and American University. (Don’t worry UNC fans, we’ll be visiting Chapel Hill in October since we only live a few miles from campus!) All the schools were within driving distance, which was a big plus for our family. I had taken for granted how many great colleges there are in the North Carolina and Virginia area. On our visits we chatted with families who had driven from as far away as Michigan and Illinois!
I forgot how exciting it was to set foot on a campus for the first time and it’s such an experience for high schoolers as they contemplate the next step in their academic journey.
Of course, my daughter was very interested in the buildings, dorms and dining facilities. I was more interested in the cost of attendance and the courses of study.
I tried not to be the overbearing father, but I did point out the campus libraries as places where she would (or should) be spending a lot of her time. I also tried really hard not to give my opinion as to what I thought was the “best school” since she’ll need to make up her own mind. But she always wanted to know what my wife and I thought about each school.
This is our round 1 of college visits and we’ll be planning a second round of visits in the summer of 2020 – probably to some smaller less known private schools on the east coast with my personal hope of my daughter landing some merit based financial aid!
Every two years, my wife’s side of the family hosts a family reunion. This year, 27 of us convened in Rhode Island, where several family members live. I look forward to this multi-generational gathering, as it is an opportunity to pause from my routine and to share time with extended family that we don’t see often. We even got to meet the newest family member, our 8-month old cousin from California.
For two and a half days we talked, laughed, ate good food, played games, and enjoyed the waters of the Narragansett Bay. I particularly enjoyed watching Nora and Andrew, my two children, bond with their cousins.
After the reunion, we took the train from Providence to Boston to spend a few days taking in the sights and sounds of Beantown. Our stay involved a mix of taking in the city’s history along with visiting some of the more contemporary attractions. I particularly liked touring the USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young and walking along the Freedom Trail. The kids thought those sites were okay, but the aquarium, children’s museum, and running in the Boston Common were their highlights. We also took in a Red Sox game, which Andrew loved and Nora tolerated—although she enjoyed the ice cream.
Our summer trip to the northeast was a memorable one filled with family, fun, and new experiences. While the details of the trip will fade with time, my hope is that the feeling of sharing new experiences and being with family will stay with us for years to come.
While we can’t speak for Maggie regarding what her summer highlight was, we have a pretty good guess. Maggie and her husband, Chad, welcomed their second child (another girl), Juliana Frances Wilkins, into the world on July 13th. Maggie, Chad, big sister Vivian, and Juliana are all doing well and settling into life as a family of four. Maggie is on maternity leave for three months and is expected to return sometime in October.