Not every adventure has to be grand

Not every adventure has to be grand

As homebodies who love sitting around the house reading (or honestly watching Marvel movies and playing board games or video games), we’re nevertheless still recovering from last year’s Year of No.

Many years ago now, I wrote about my Summer of Saying Yes, and while out of practice (because everything was cancelled last year), this summer I’m trying to go beyond simply saying “yes” and looking for ways to venture out that can make the regular weeks of summer feel special—not just our vacation week. We can gear up for a grand adventure, sure. So why does getting out of the house on an ordinary Tuesday feel so hard?

Between school sports, various camps, and a couple of summer jobs (more on that soon) it’s easy to feel like everyone is plenty busy and we just need to get through each week. But in reality, we’ve typically only had one or two kids (out of our four) busy with plans at any given time, so Will and I have been looking for activities that are within reach but still feel special.

In Don’t Overthink It, I share a story about a special outing for popsicles. (It appears in Chapter 12: Let’s Splurge.) Read it to get the whole picture, but in short we did something with visiting family that wasn’t far-flung or too out of the way for us, but was different, fun, and memorable. That night was four years ago, and my kids still talk about it all the time.

We’re channeling that same energy to make memories in 2021. This summer we finally checked off an adventure we’ve been meaning to try: a kayaking trip about an hour from home. I say “finally” because we’ve had this jotted down as something we’d like to do for years, but on any given weekend I tend to think, What a pain, let’s stay home. (We like staying home, so that’s easy to do.)

The weather was on the chilly side and the water level was low—we had to get out and push in a couple of places!—and not all of our kids would say they want to do it again. But we did it, and we’re all glad we went. And, nearly two months later, we’re still talking about that trip all the time.

Leaving the house may feel like a pain, but once I’m home again, I’m nearly always glad I went out. That’s why I went to a garden tour with a friend on a blazing hot Saturday and Will and I bought tickets to an evening event at our new botanical garden. (Where I got to meet a few podcast listeners. Hi, friends!). We’ve headed to the park to hike instead of just walking the neighborhood again.

Will’s taken our kids mountain biking at the cool park that’s thirty minutes away instead of the one basically in our neighborhood. And sometimes the makings of a fun summer outing couldn’t be simpler—like giving the kids some money to spend at the local businesses within walking distance from our house. Spending money is fun when you’re young—but being independent and buying your own treats is even better!

We still have a few memories we’d like to make this summer. We have several Big Events we’re looking forward to, but I’m also thinking about the smaller, ordinary adventures. I want to go get ice cream downtown and walk the bridge to Indiana. I want to picnic for one of the free concerts down by the river. I want to visit the new restaurant we’ve been talking about trying all year, and take the whole family for a bike ride at a faraway park we rarely visit but enjoy when we do.

I’d love to know: what not-so-grand adventures have brought you joy this year? And what sort of memorable moments are you planning for the rest of this season?

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41 comments

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  1. Janean says:

    Pretend you’re visiting your own hometown. Take the official tour of the local attraction that you think you know. Consult the city tourism bureau for ideas.

    • Debi Morton says:

      We did this with our three sons who were young at the time many years ago. Those sons are all grown now with children of their own. We lived in Dallas at the time, and we took a week of vacation and did various sightseeing activities in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. It was wonderful to sleep in our own beds every night, but not to cook all week. After having breakfast at home, we’d head out, often with a picnic lunch, and usually had dinner out which we could afford to do since we weren’t spending hotel dollars. It was a delight!

  2. Nanette Stearns says:

    My niece and her husband have been living nearby for the last several months (she is working full-time remote so is living with her paternal grandparents for a while). Every weekend, we go to our local Farmers Market and out to brunch. It’s been 25+ years since I’ve had close family living nearby so this is a huge treat. I’ll miss them when they move on in August. If they weren’t here,I’d still go to the market but not as regularly. Last weekend I went with friends to an outdoor performance by the American Ballet Theatre. We are huge performing arts fans so this was an incredible experience after 15 months of few live performances. It was a logistical challenge but we’re glad we went.

  3. Vanessa says:

    I love it! I also feel the same about how hard it is to actually do things as it does take work and effort! We just visited a farmers market, a game store, and a bookstore over July 4 weekend and it was awesome. We’ve wanted to go but moved just before everything shut down so we’ve been waiting. It is oddly nice to go places again.

  4. Monica Wilson says:

    We love taking local adventures and I usually will post them on Facebook. People are always telling me we do such fun things! You just have to keep an eye out for events and places to see in your area and then make the effort to go. We are always happy we do! We live outside of LA, but we have driven to the beach or mountains just for breakfast. We have tried out many of the restaurants that opened unique outdoor eating areas during Covid. We enjoy visiting gardens and nurseries. We love summer concerts in the parks. Just keep your eyes open for the new and different!

  5. Karen says:

    We have lived in Richmond, VA for 13 yrs and have always wanted to do a White Water Rafting trip through downtown. It is the only urban river with class III-IV rapids in the US! This past week we did it!. We drove all of 15 minutes and had a blast with neighbors on our local river. So glad we got out of the house too.

  6. Halley says:

    This is such a great point! We moved during the pandemic, and recently made the effort to go back to a favorite park and ice cream shop near our old house. My son was absolutely ecstatic and still talks about it – worth the twenty minute drive!

  7. Edie says:

    Instead of playing a board game at home, we went to our local game pub and played. We got snacks for our kids, drinks for us, and played a new game from the pub’s game library. It was simple but the change of scenery made it special. My kids can’t wait to do it again.

  8. We live in a remote part of a tourist town. Can you imagine? Last night we went out looking for the hot air balloons to land. They had already landed, but any drive down any country road here is beautiful. FIelds of first crop Hay, and chickens on farms, and donkeys protecting goats…it is all outside our door. Sometimes we will stop for a slushie on the way home. I’d just like to do more night evening, drives this summer. It is time to step away from the porch and baseball TV FOR A bit a few times a week

  9. Lee says:

    Thrilled to hear I’m not the only one whose theme, sadly, is “What a pain, let’s stay home. (We like staying home, so that’s easy to do.)”
    I plan to adopt your very easy plan—Say Yes More Often—and hope for improvement. Thank you!

    • Meg says:

      Okay, thank you both because I thought I was the only one and there was something wrong with me! The pandemic made it worse. Now that we’re vaccinated, my husband had to drag me out to the mall and force me to buy 2 birthday presents for myself! Ha! Then our son planned a surprise visit and got tickets for us to go the races at Churchill Downs. I came that close to staying home cause it was rainy off and on. They dragged me out and we had a great time! And didn’t get rained on. I need to remember that if I make a little effort, it will be fun!

  10. Kasey says:

    Ride bikes somewhere you would normally drive! The library, out to breakfast, etc. The bike ride makes it more fun. So does packing picnics instead of eating at home!

  11. Jessica says:

    After missing it all last year, we went to our city’s farmer’s market last weekend. We all had a surprisingly fun time, and my kids talked about it the rest of the day. We didn’t stay too long, but I let them pick out a breakfast item and we found some new vendors. We brought home some fun pastries, coffee, and memories.

  12. Bernadette says:

    Beach day with my girls every week during the summer. We live less than an hour from Lake MI, but we’ve never made a habit of going, until last year. Also, getting ice cream on the way home from the beach, and eating a simple picnic of baguette, cheese and fruit at the beach. I also bike 30 miles early every morning except Sundays. It’s just so good for my soul and body. Another yes has been going to the movies. It’s all small adventures. We can’t do big summer adventures because my husband runs his own roofing company. We’ve gotten really good at small summer adventures.

    • Ann Perrigo says:

      My favorite memories from my childhood were those impromptu visits to Lake Michigan planned by my mom and the mom next door. They would pack a lunch or we’d stop on the way home for foot-longs and a root beer. We’re going to the beach, kids—get ready!

  13. Carolyn says:

    Love this topic, Anne! Two things: #1. We’ve had a ton of rain recently. But despite it, we hopped in the car and drove 25 mins. to try a new ice cream shop we’d heard about that rivals our standby. (It’s now our new favorite!) We topped it off with a drive home on new country roads we’d never travelled. #2. During the pandemic, when my homebody self HAD to get out (and if *I* felt that way, I know my family did!), we hopped in the car and rotated around the 5 of us, deciding when to turn and in which direction. We got out of our funk and into fabulous new Denver neighborhoods we’d never seen in 20 years living there!

    • Rebecca says:

      Love this. Do share your favorite Denver ice cream spots! We live near Nuggs and default there, but always open to others. 🙂

  14. d says:

    I have four kids too but they are so spread out in age that it’s hard to do something all together. I’ve decided to take anyone in the house on a given adventure day, but I’m not staying home if one person can’t join us. So far I’ve had them all on a canoe/kayak adventure, and three of them on a hike to the waterfall with swimming adventure. I am eyeing a third adventure to do some spelunking a couple hours south of us, or maybe a historic house tour that’s 30 minutes away but we’ve never done. Long live summertime!

  15. Susan says:

    For myself, a little outing I have started doing regularly is packing a lunch on the day I am doing errands. Mainly so I am not tempted by fast food, but also so I can eat my lunch at the picnic tables by the river downtown. This is smack in the centre of my city, so it is a central point on errand day. And yes, I bring a book with me.

    This question also makes me think of the annual holiday we take with my sister’s family. About ten years ago, after our parents passed away, our families started meeting at a camping resort in the next province for the first week of August. Her son is eight years younger than our youngest son, so we have gotten good at activities that work for all ages. Boating, bikeriding, bowling, games (lawn and board), local sandcastle building competiton (which we won one year in the Family and Friends Category!), readers visiting the second hand bookstore, ice cream at the best place in town……simple family excursions, making family memories.

  16. Angela says:

    We love going on day hikes, kayaking, and paddle boarding within an hour or two of our home. Any of them feel like a little adventure.

  17. Holly Hurst says:

    I recently signed up for annual memberships at the museum and a nearby botanical garden to try and get out of the house more. We also went kayaking for the first time while out of town and now I’m considering buying a kayak so I can go at home 🙂

    I also occasionally scan Facebook Events for interesting things happening nearby. I was able to see the Van Gogh Experience through this and will be doing the Friends Experience (Atlanta) in a few weeks from this.

  18. Denita says:

    I recommend Bernheim in Clermont for an afternoon trip. I used to go there all the time with my camera when I lived in Bardstown. Also, the Ghost Tours in Bardstown were great fun for all ages.

  19. Jo Yates says:

    My husband ate homebodies (actually maybe a bit agoraphobia). Running errands & getting groceries is still an adventure for me! We would rather stay home with our dog because their lives are so short.

  20. Beth says:

    My husband and I have been taking our 18 month old daughter to a state park about an hour away from our house. We’ve been twice this summer since she loves it so much! She loves exploring and there is a creek with a shallow part where she can wade and pick up rocks and sticks. There is also an old-fashioned general store nearby that is over 125 years old with milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, and homemade fudge. It’s the perfect little day trip for us!

  21. Rachel says:

    We recently made an adventure out of a trip to the Central city library. We being my husband, 5 yr old son and me, we also invited our friends who have a 4 and 2 yr olds. We drove to a nearby mall and took the bus into the city bus exchange and then walked over to the library.

  22. Carol says:

    When our kids were ages 3-12 we would go on “coin toss trips.” The rules were
    1. heads turn right
    2. tails turn left
    3. stop anywhere that looks fun or interesting
    4. arguing means mom decides
    We had some great adventures doing this around the Richmond, VA and Des Moines, IA areas. I miss those days! I’m still tempted to try this with my husband, but he’s not the adventurous sort!

  23. Malissa says:

    I have a 6yo who has ADHD, plus a 4yo, a 2yo, and am pregnant with my fourth in this blazing hot heat wave and drought we’ve been having here in the west and I can say that I’ve regretted almost every outting we’ve been on so far this summer 😆😭 *this too shall pass!*

  24. Joless says:

    All the local adventures sound glorious! We’ve had a summer of being away every weekend for 3 months (mix of short and longer trips – WFH/UK holiday allowances allows us to be away a lot) and whilst it’s very lucky to do this, I’m longing for more gentle adventures! 😊

  25. Ruth says:

    My not-so-grand adventure which has brought me joy this past year? Meeting up with my fabulous sister-in-law to walk our dogs in the woods near her home and enjoying brunch at a terrific garden centre (which is conveniently situated at roughly the half-way point of our walk).
    It really is the simple things in life. 🙂

  26. Allison Smith says:

    I just went kayaking for the first time ever (I’m 50!). It was unexpected invitation and I jumped at the chance. It’s not often that I get to do something totally new. It was awesome!

  27. Katie says:

    This year we bought a membership to the zoo in Waco (1.5 drive for us) and it’s been so fun. On a random weekend we’ll be bored and just hop in the car to go. We’ll pack a picnic lunch for the zoo, and then usually get something to eat before heading home. I’ve taken my 4 (5 and under) kids by myself on a day when my husband was working. It was tiring (especially since I was pushing a stroller and carrying my 2 year old for the last half) but it was an adventure that took up the whole day.

  28. Katie says:

    I absolutely love this idea! Kayaking is one of my favorite things to do and I’m so glad you got to experience it with your family.

    We have had frequent thunderstorms for the past few weeks, so they have cancelled some of my plans, but I took my standup paddleboard out on a nearby lake, I’ve gone biking along the Erie Canal, and I visited the Corning Museum of Glass and made some windchimes for my patio. Outdoor yoga is on my list for this summer as well as attending some outdoor concerts where a friend of mine will be playing the french horn.

  29. Gretchen says:

    I love this post! We got two tandem kayaks over the winter and have tried to get out on the water with our two sons as close to once a week as possible in order to create a rhythm of doing it. We have also made a point to get to the zoo, botanical garden, and we have plans to visit at least 5 new dog parks with our dog just to switch it up and see what’s out there.

  30. Ellen says:

    My husband, friends and I are patrons of our local village library and enjoy the fun and informative library activities offered on a regular basis. Ours is a regional library system that shares free admission tickets to local art galleries, museums, social events, tourist attractions and the like. We take advantage of these fun activities without “breaking the bank.”

  31. Susan says:

    My 23-year-old daughter and I went on the local garden tour, even though it was pouring buckets during the last few stops. We were the only people in the gardens at those stops, and they were some of the best of the day! Yes, my shoes were totally squisy, but it was well worth it.

  32. Suzanne C says:

    I recently enjoyed a trip to a new-to-us library and lunch with my mom. (I paid for an out of county library card and it was a fabulous investment!) And I’m always down for a trip to our local nursery.

    My nieces live down the block from me and, while it’s seldom possible to take all of them somewhere at the same time, I’ve been able to find a few simple things to make the summer more fun, like an inexpensive splash pad, a giant bucket of sidewalk chalk, and a bubble machine.

  33. Karensa says:

    Great thoughts on gently getting out there!

    Locally I have a couple of friends that I have been meeting up with – we started last year (as Covid buddies). We usually meet for brunch or lunch and then try out a new park / area to walk. With things opening up, we are branching out to nearby towns to explore. On a latest excursion, a friend and I visited President Polk’s only remaining residence in Columbia, TN. We learned so much and the gardens were lovely too.

    For an adventure a little further out, my husband and I wanted to participate in 4th of July festivities in a location not as crazy as the ones around us. So we ventured to Louisville area. We did the fireworks at New Albany riverfront, did brunch in Louisville next day and made it to Carmichael’s the next day before they closed at noon and then did some gaming at the casino, topping off the day with a steak dinner. A wonderful weekend!

  34. Nikki S says:

    We made a list of outdoor things to do and indoor things to do (for when the heat and humidity are too much for us delicate flowers). While some of the indoor things have been slow to reopen (it was a lot of small museums), we have managed to try three new hiking trails, a Japanese house and garden, and a new-to-us (giant) used bookstore. (Which, unfortunately, while slated as an indoor activity was unairconditioned!)

  35. Evelyn Cruze says:

    I find this interesting as our little county(population wise and approx. 70,000) reported 360 new civic cases this week alone, about 1/4 of all since Feb 2020! My hubby and I are in our 70’s and fully vaccinated, but only leave home when necessary and with masks in place. This entire pandemic is horrible and filled with risks we chose note to take, as we both also have medical issues that put us at greater risk. We get our adventures at home with our three fur babies!

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