Hey and welcome to a new blogpost of mine!
At the Easter weekend my host family and I started a two week long road trip along the U.S. west coast. We saw 9 different states in 15 days. (Washington – Oregon – California – Nevada – Arizona – Utah – Idaho – Wyoming – Montana). My host mom and I have been designing and planning this trip as our own little Amazing Race, since my big Host Kid, her and I are obsessed with watching the show, and it was his birthday during the trip.
We had different clues for him where to go (both my kids didn’t know any of our destinations, it was a complete surprise for them) and tasks for him to do in all the different locations, like eating rattlesnake pizza in Las Vegas, shovelling horse poop, or taking selfies at Hoover Dam.
Our journey started in our home state, Washington, and on our first day we drove all the way down to California and had an overnight stop north of Sacramento. The next day we drove to Sacramento and met the puppy raisers of our service dog in a park.
After that we went to Yosemite National Park and met my host dad’s mum, he hadn’t seen in over a year, and that I never met. It felt so good to meet extended family and to be accepted unconditionally as a new family member. Here we spent two nights and we enjoyed the beautiful nature of the National Park. With those gigantic trees and big rocks it was easy to feel like a small person compared to the wonders of mother nature.
When we left there we went to Las Vegas for one night. In the evening we had a helicopter tour over the city and it was simply magnificent to watch!
The next day it was my big boy’s 14th birthday and we left for our main destination: a dude ranch in the middle of nowhere in Arizona. When I first heard that we’re gonna go there I was kinda shocked, because I would have never chosen a dude ranch or Arizona as my destination to be honest, but it was totally worth it! I would have never thought that I’d get that attached to the ranch, the desert, the weather (Usually I am the first person to say she doesn’t like heat and summer), the people there and the horses. I have never been horseback riding, but I always kind of wanted to and it really was like a dream come true. I didn’t take lessons there – it was more like a learning by doing experience – but we went on trail rides from day 1 and built our way up from walking to loping and it was so much fun and I already miss it. My horse was just amazing and I am so thankful that my amazing host family made this possible for me!
Other things we did here on the ranch were cleaning the horses, swimming, archery, we had a golf cart tour, a hummer tour, a stagecoach tour and we even had the opportunity to sleep in an old prairie plan wagon. Since I was named after Laura Ingalls Wilder (maybe you know the show “Little House On The Prairie”) and she is the reason why I always wanted to go to the U.S., so you can imagine how happy I was!!
The day we left the ranch was a little sad for me, but the places we saw on our way to our next destination were just as amazing as the experience on the ranch.
We drove by Walnut Canyon, and saw native American caves in the cliffs, and horseshoe bend, a place that I feel like every Au Pair visited during her experience.
The same day -yes it was a long long day- we arrived at our place close to Zion National Park. The next day my host mom and my big one went on a Jeep tour, while my host dad, my little one and I went canyoneering, which was so much fun!
After two nights here we went on to our next, quite spontaneously planned, destination: Yellowstone National Park. But not after an even more spontaneous stop at Bryce Canyon National Park that we decided literally 30min before we got there. What a day!
In Yellowstone we saw lots of geysers and we even saw Old Faithful erupt, and we had a traffic jam IN the park caused by a herd of bison on the street.
From Yellowstone we went to Missoula, MT and there we had our last overnight stop before we drove back home to beautiful Tacoma, WA.
It was a long trip and I am super thankful my host family made that possible for me – though at times it was challenging. It is not easy to be squished together in one car for such a long time, and it is not easy to constantly hang out with your host family. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love them and think they’re my perfect match, but being stuck together 15 days can cause more stress than our “normal” home life.
I had some tough moments with my little one (11 y/o), this trip was a whole new challenge for us, but we both made it. We survived. My go-to for the car were definitely headphones and music! This way I had a lot of me-time, time to calm down and recover.
The key is communication: Talk to your host family when you’re not feeling good, or if you’re having a problem.
At some point my socializing batteries were just empty. It can be hard to not have as much time for yourself to fill up your batteries again, but now that we’re back home I still wouldn’t wanna change a thing about it!
Highs and lows are completely normal and still I am so thankful for all the experiences we had, even the bad ones, because they make us learn and they help us to find ourselves just as much as the good ones.