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What Does Living a Travelful Life Mean?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

To me travelful is many things … both the obvious and not so obvious. Yes, it means live a life full of travel and adventure. But it is so much more than that.

Travelful also means finding a way to fill your life with travel and adventure even when you can’t leave your home. This became especially important for me this last year after I closed my business and my COVID depression quacked into overdrive.

So how do you live a traveful life when you can’t just hop on a plane? This one took me a while to figure out. Let me share with you how I am now helping myself, and my depression, by living a travelful life even when I can’t travel. For me it is as easy as 1. 2. 3.

Okay … it wasn’t easy … it was ducking hard … but it came down to three things.

  1. Enjoying our community

  2. The mmm factor

  3. Family traditions

Focusing on these three things really helped me to enjoy life more, and keep travel in the front of my mind, even when I couldn't get on a plane and visit some exotic location. I hope these tips and tricks help you too.

Enjoy your community

FIRST … I recognize that I live a privileged life by living in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Sure we had to evacuate in August of 2020 because of the fire danger, but our neighborhood and those we know were all fine. Aside from the yearly threat of fire, I probably live in one of the most beautiful locations someone could ever want to live, with idyllic weather, high variety of outdoor activities, and large number of parks. Within a 1-hour driving radius of my house, there are world-renowned national parks, state parks, hiking, rock climbing, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, camping, beaches … you get the idea.

Itsy Bitsy enjoying hiking along the Falls Creek Unit (August 2020)

And those are just the natural wonders. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the numerous farmer's markets, art shows, music festivals, community theater events, recreation days … you name it, we got it, for free, or low cost.

I know that not everyone can live along the central coast of California, and not everyone can have a State or National Forest for their daily commute and not everyone has the community organizations we do that are constantly hosting events. I’m ducking lucky. I get it. But every community has opportunities to be enjoyed.

Fat Mama Tip: Not sure where to go hiking? Don’t think there are any good trails near you? Check out AllTrails online or through their app. You can search by a known trail, region, or by the city you are in. I even LOVE the fact that you can search for “wheelchair friendly” trails which I always read as TWF friendly! So even if you are not surrounded by world famous parks like I am, you can still find fabulous ways to get quacking in the great outdoors.

Itsy Bitsy is a "rough and tumble princess" ready to run barefoot through a freezing creek with a flower in her hair.

In the summer of 2020, we started to enjoy the abundant State Parks our community has to offer. Our favorite adventures became hiking the Fall Creek Unit part of Henry Cowell State Park and the Porter Family Picnic Area in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. Both offered easy hiking trails that 4-year olds Itsy Bitsy and Codster could do, and access to year-round creeks for some fun, refreshing water play. It felt so good to get outside. I had completely forgotten that travel doesn’t have to be a big to-do. Travel can be exploring the wonderful things your own community has to offer.

Codster and Itsy Bitsy taking a break from hiking (August 2020)

Exploring the State Parks in our own community also reminded me how important it was for Itsy Bitsy to be outside. She learned so much that summer from getting outside and doing. For her a travelful life was all about experiencing new things away from air conditioning and electronic input. She grew so much that summer, and ever since we have been doing more to explore the Parks of California.

Dr. Fabby Note: Not only is getting out in nature a great way to keep up your travelful lifestyle, it's also super-healthy for kids!! Current literature supports a positive relationship between nature contact and children’s health, both physical and mental.

The Mmm Factor

When I travel, I am a BIG fan of sampling the local fare. Whether that is wool from Wales, lavender from Washington, cheese curds from Wisconsin, green chili from New Mexico, or dark chocolate and coffee from Kauai. I also enjoy collecting different knickknacks from my travels, In particular, rubber ducks, cups, magnets, and post cards … plus the odd shelf adornment here and there.

Kauai cacao pods at Lydgate Farms (April 2021)

The point is, when I am at home, and I can’t travel, these are all things that make me think about my travels. They make my life feel full and transport me, even for just a moment, back to where the item came from. It’s the comforting “mmm” as I sip my Poipu Estate Roast Coffee from the Kauai Coffee Co. or the “mmm” of snuggling into my warm wool scarf from Wales on a cold winter morning. The mmm factor.

Recently we traveled to Yosemite, and whenever possible, I would go into the gift shops at welcome centers because I was looking for specific things. A t-shirt, rubber duck (found two awesome ones), patches, coffee mug, trail book … etc. The point is, as an adult who collects things, I had a very clear idea of what I was looking for and what I wanted to purchase. I knew what items were going to give me the mmm factor at home.

Itsy Bitsy did not. Itsy Bitsy would run into the gift shops and welcome centers like an out-of-control cartoon character trying to find something shiny (usually some new toy) that she just couldn’t live without.

Now, I will fully admit that because I grew up on a tight budget, Itsy Bitsy is my only child, and Fat Papa and I like to express our love through material things … we completely spoil our child. However, lately we have been trying to teach Itsy Bitsy that just because you go in a store, doesn’t mean you have to buy something. And more importantly, just because you see something you want, doesn’t mean you need, should, or will get it.

Latest addition to my rubber duck collection (September 2021)

So, we had a really nice teachable moment and four days to practice thinking about a specific item or type of collection that would give us that mmm factor at home. Then, together as a family, we could search out those items as we traveled.

Admittedly this was a difficult concept for a 5-year old to grasp and we are still working on it, but practice makes perfect. Right now I enjoy drinking my Kauai coffee out of my Grumpy Troll mug while listening to traditional Scottish music as I putter around and get ready for a day of writing … or laundry … or errands … or whatever.

The mmm factor is whatever you can have around your home (be it consumable or photos or a t-shirt or coffee mug) that is going to give you a moment of mmm to remember how travelful your life really is. Even when you aren’t able to step outside your door.

Family Traditions

Holiday lights, one traditions that remains unchanged (Dec. 2020)

For my family, traditions are what a travelful life is all about. It was also what made COVID so difficult. So many of our family traditions are wrapped up in BIG travel like yearly trips to the Hawaiian Islands, celebrating just about every long weekend at the San Diego Zoo, and 4th of Julys in Wisconsin. Because of this, it felt like our family was unraveling because our family traditions were unraveling. Even our small travels like going to county fairs, making a BIG to-do about Halloween (our neighborhood gets 1000+ trick-or-treaters every year, but not in 2020), or celebrating birthdays, Hallmark holidays, and anniversaries was thwarted by COVID.

While I certainly can’t wait to restart our yearly trips to the Hawaiian Islands, and it was SO nice to go to Wisconsin this last July before the Delta variant exploded, COVID has taught me to look local for traditions. We have come up with some fantastic new yearly events that will forever be on our calendar, a few are altered from past family favorites, and one is our own bit of crazy that just keeps growing every year.

  • Christmas 2020, when Itsy Bitsy was 4-years old was the first time we introduced Elf on the Shelf. And oh, is hindsight 2020 because that was SUCH a great year to star this new family tradition. The Elf on a Shelf is a great example of having travelful adventures without even leaving the house. Every morning Itsy Bitsy couldn’t wait to see what mischief her Elf had gotten into. And every night I had so much fun scheming up new things for the Elf to do.

Who's up for a holiday scavenger hunt? (Dec. 2020)

It was like planning little trips and excursions every day and I was able to incorporate some of our favorite mmm factors. Our Elf was naughty and would sometimes bring outdoors activities inside, or just be plain old silly. I could incorporate so many of the things I like about travel into the Elf on a Shelf … and it lasted all month LONG!

This is one of my absolute favorite new family traditions and I wouldn’t have started it without COVID because … admittedly … I thought it was too much trouble. Now Aunty Coco and I exchange photos all month and share ideas of what our Elves can get up to during December. So many travelful memories right from our own home!

  • Birthdays in our family are kind of a big deal. We feel like everyone deserves at least one day where they get to be celebrated for being their truly awesome self (it usually extends into a few days). But celebrating during COVID has been hard because, for us, celebrating usually meant a party, plus a family dinner (or two, after all we have at least three families we celebrate these things with), and sometimes even a trip or small getaway. None of this was possible in 2020. So we had to get creative.

The Whale House a.k.a. Fairy House (Oct. 2020)

Like many people, our family created a COVID pod with another family, our better half, the Rakhardts. This was great for us since it meant Itsy Bitsy and Codster were able to play together every day (we do only live a few houses apart after all); but it also meant that when my birthday rolled around and I felt a need to fly the coop, our pod could travel together. So for the first time in Rakhardt-Pod history, we all rented a house together to celebrate a BIRTHDAY! My birthday!

I found an amazing place in Santa Barbara called the Whale House (supposedly it looked like a whale, which sure, from a certain angle I guess it did) but we called it the Fairy House. We made up a story for the kids and told them the house was magic and that we all turned into the size of fairies when we entered. And they TOTALLY believed us!

There are definitely going to be some odd childhood memories around this, but we will deal with those in therapy in 20 years.

The little mini-vacation to celebrate my birthday was a blast. It combined our tradition of making a big deal over birthdays with something new with our closest friends. We could not have chosen a cooler house to stay in. Itsy Bitsy and Codster loved it for how whimsical it was, Fat Papa thought it was creepy and spooky, and the rest of us enjoyed how perfect it was for a family gathering.

Now every time we are at a garden store and Itsy Bitsy sees fairy garden items, she wants to increase our little fairy village in memorial to the Fairy House. She also constantly asks when the Fairy King is going to invite us back for another visit! Such a travelful experience that has really turned me around on the whole Airbnb and VRBO experience. I think we should have more of an emphasis on fun family excursions like this for birthdays rather than big stressful parties.

  • Ever since I was a kid Halloween has been my hands-down favorite holiday. But for some reason when I met Fat Papa I started to become a bit obsessed with pumpkin carving. I don’t know if it is my love of adulation from strangers, the Zen calm of creating artwork that literally decomposes within days, the fun thrill of making something out of nothing, or a combination of all three … But I LOVE pumpkin carving.

Itsy Bitsy's first trip to Bob's Pumpkin Farm (Oct. 2016)

From our first Halloween together to moving into our current neighborhood in 2016, Fat Papa and I went from carving 6-8 pumpkins that first year to carving about 40 pumpkins. That was when we became dubbed "The Pumpkin House" in our neighborhood. And my obsession has only grown.

What does any of this have to do with living a travelful life? How the ducking quack do pumpkins equal travel? Well, let me tell you, dear reader.

Since moving to our neighborhood, we have increased our trips to Bob’s Pumpkin Farm to every weekend in October (sometimes starting the last weekend in September). Last year we hauled 120 pumpkins and carved 67. We are known as The Pumpkin House across our town … and I LOVE IT. The goal this year is to carve even more, but here’s the catch. Our neighbors are starting to get in on the pumpkin action now.

Pumpkin carving has definitely become a family tradition (Oct. 2018)

Last year our neighborhood collectively canceled trick-or-treating because of COVID but many of the people, including us, who do BIG Halloween displays still did big displays. So now that trick-or-treating is back on this year, people are going even bigger and want us to do the same and are willing help!

Decorating our house with my pumpkin carving, has become such a fun family tradition for us that we DO NOT TRAVEL in the month of October. Yet … it is the month when we put the most miles on our car driving back and forth to Half Moon Bay. It is the month I get the MOST exercise traipsing around the I don’t know how many acres pumpkin farm, loading the ducky-only-knows how many pounds of pumpkins in and out of the car, then carving out the 60+ unique faces each year. Oh, and all the carving has to be done in 3-days or else the pumpkins melt.

Just a small selection of our carved pumpkins in 2018

But everyone loves our creations. More importantly, our best family bonding moments are all related to October, Halloween, and pumpkins. Itsy Bitsy brags about how pumpkin-crazy we are. Every year we take a family photo sitting on the same tractor in the middle of Bob’s Pumpkin Farm. We always get lunch at Jersey Joe’s where Itsy Bitsy had her first curly fry. I mean so much of our travelful life is wrapped up in pumpkins and we don’t even have to travel more than an hour away from home.

A few of my favorites from 2019

All of this: the new traditions, the twist on family celebrations, the growing excitement around old traditions ... it all makes for amazing memories that incorporate our travels in some way. It all helps us to have a travelful life without traveling. IT'S ALL TRAVELFUL!

How do you travelful?

What I am trying to say is this … yes, traveling a ton, seeing the world, and having new and exciting experiences will lead you to having a life full of travel. And that is a beautiful, travelful thing. But a travelful, meaningful life is also enjoying the life your community has to offer, the little mmm factors in every day, and creating those crazy fun family traditions that don’t require any reservations at all.

However you want to live it, just make sure your life is beautiful, wonderful, and travelful.


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