Last year, Bee and I went on what we called our “Big Adventure”. It wasn’t really that big compared to what we’ve been up to lately but instead the was the beginning of the wonderful journey we’re now on.
When spring arrived in Seattle, we were more stir crazy than normal. Not only was the winter long & dreary but I had just finished dealing with treating yet another medical flare up. As always during the trying times of my disease I am hit with the realization that I may soon fully lose my eyesight. I’ve already dealt with declining cognition for a decade and I knew that the degradation of my optic nerve probably wasn’t far behind seeing as my “new normal” is only 70% of what it used to be.
So every time I recover I’m reminded “life is short – so go live it”.
One thing I’ve always dreamed of was traveling and seeing the wonders of the world. I had spent some number of years imagining all the things I would see with my You Can Do It Sisters (more on that in a future blog post). My email and facebook feeds were a who’s-who of inspirational bloggers and travel writers. I had voiced my wanderlust to enough friends that no one was left unaware of my longings.
Well Spring 2012 was going to be different! With the prodding and support of my husband, I was encouraged to leave my comfort zone. He wanted me to test venturing away from my safety net of friends and family in Washington State. And to do that he wanted me to TRAVEL!
So in less than a couple of weeks, we threw together a haphazard itinerary of a road-trip that Bee and I would take to drive from Seattle down to see Hubby in the Bay Area. Normally when we make this trek we always take I-5 as its called by Seattlites (also known as “The 5″ to the California peeps). The drive is fast, straight, and doesn’t offer much in the way of getting “off the beaten path”.
Big Adventure Travels
Knowing that I love National Parks, Hubby suggested that I take a different route to California that would take me by park units I haven’t seen. So I set upon heading east and cutting down through Idaho and Nevada before heading north from SoCal to the Bay Area. Then when all was said-and-done I would head back up to Seattle to recover.
As we set out we had no goal. No time frame. We just packed up and hit the road.
As we set off on our great road trip, we stopped anywhere and everywhere that interested us. Bee had definitely grown enough that now, at the big age of 4-years-old, she was able to express her interest or disinterest in particular sights. This was a growing point for us. No longer was it about me just leading the travel planning but Bee was now just as involved. Some of her favorite choices turned out to be places I would not have originally chosen. For example, while visiting Nancy Sathre-Vogel and family in Boise, Idaho, Bee asked to visit the Warhawk Air Museum.
The Native American Connection
One thing that surprised me the most was the ability for Bee to stitch together larger concepts and ideas while we went along on our trip!
It began when we saw the sign for the Wanapum Dam Tour off the side of the road in Vantage, Washington. We stopped for what we thought would be a tour of how hydroelectricity and dams are created (a random passion of Bee’s). Sadly the tours were temporarily shut down due to national security threat but interestingly enough there was a Wanapum Heritage Center also located on the site.
Inside the facility we learned about the Wanapum “River People”. There were displays and exhibits which explained about their ancestry, heritage, important impacts they had on the development of the region, their struggles with the federal government, and their attempts to pass on their traditions to a new generation.
It was a great introduction to a topic of Native Americans for Bee.
Further down the road in Richland, Washington, we stopped at the CREHST History, Science, & Technology Museum. Mainly focused on the development of atomic technologies and the Hanford Nuclear Facility, there was a small portion of this museum that that highlighted the environment, animals, and native peoples of the area.
The next day we stopped by the Sacajawea State Park located in Pasco, Washington. Unlike the other locations which had scale models, this one has and Interpretive Cultural Center with full-size, walk-in replica! While focused on Shoshone Indian Sacajawea, the discussion of her life and how it related to the Lewis & Clark Expedition across America added more pieces to the puzzle. Mainly discussing the colonialism of Western cultures and how it intersected with Native populations.
To end our time in Washington State, we visited Whitman Mission National Historic Site. This was a culmination in the different viewpoints and stories we’ve seen of the interaction between native peoples and the new emigrants to the area (explorers, traders, missionaries, and settlers). The relationship between the Cayuse natives of the Columbia Plateau and the Whitman missionary family was a tense one. While coexisting for a decade, there were tensions that ran deep between the two cultures. When a measles and cholera outbreak there was a hostage situation and then a massacre at the Whitman homestead. This lead to the Cayuse War and the near decimation of the Cayuse culture.
Those Hidden Opportunities
The road trip of our lifetime lead to new opportunities and learnings about Bee & I.
Bee surprised me with her threading together of complex ideas. While I didn’t expect any retention of each site, I was amazed that she’s connected the heritage, the conflicts, and the cultural differences between Native Americans and the Euro-American Caucasians. She was able to communicate about daily life of the native people of the area. She retained information on reasons why the cultures had problems connecting including language, beliefs, health, and traditions. It was truly astounding to see such a little girl understand larger philosophical and historical thoughts.
Bee was able to build upon this topic as we continued our travels through the Western United States. It was at this time that I realized that she would learn more about life from roadschooling or worldschooling. This was such an amazing leap of thought for me as it was not the “typical American childhood”. I knew, though, that this was infinitely better for her style of learning than sitting in a preschool classroom making macaroni art projects.
The trip proved that, while still challenging with my illness (we had to cut it short due to yet another flare up), we were able to accomplish seeing and learning about new things in the world. And while this set out as a chance to try to make my dreams come true, it highlighted the fact that Bee has her own dreams and goals. It encouraged me to let Bee in the lead sometimes to follow her own passions. I guess one could say that we learned so much about each others abilities and desires. In the end it helped solidify our family towards an unschooling focus in locations around the world.