I have a faraway friend who's an everyday friend. We're perpetually mid-conversation, always caught up. We call one another with a question, with a sentence, with five minutes of words on the way to somewhere just around the bend, down the road a bit; it's okay. It's all good. I talk to her while I eat my sandwich, brush my teeth, bathe my kids and yell at them. I call her when I need to cry or cuss or brainstorm or vent. I know her number forwards and backwards like a top-secret code, like an oft-used, access code to acceptance.
She'll love me no matter what.
I don't know how to explain the gift part, the miracle part, of our relationship...which is most of it. Time (almost twenty-one years) has a lot to do with it. But I can offer: face time accentuates it, and this element in particular requires ingenuity, sacrifice and--where rubber meets the road--work, which is alright because work isn't drudgery, always.
In recent years, it's been less complicated for my friend to travel, and she's done most of it. Jim had an extra week of time this year, though (unused paternity leave), so we decided to pack up and drive a minimum of twenty-seven hours to visit my friend. As you probably already know from reading here, Jim and I have a thirteen year-old, a four year-old, a two year-old, and a seven-month old. We also have limited, financial resources.
To follow: the story of our action-packed trip (six states, eight days) and how our family of six made it for approximately $1300...or $800, depending upon how one looks at it. I'll elaborate more, later.
Brandee's and Jim's Travel Trips
A wise man once said: he who fails to plan, plans to fail. I'll admit readily that, by nature, I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. It's expensive and wasteful to be that way. In the months and weeks before leaving on our trip, Jim and I planned carefully. For example, before leaving:
- Jim reserved rooms at hotels that 1) offer free breakfasts and managers' receptions and 2) have refrigerators and stoves in the rooms.
- We decided to eat lunches and dinners primarily from our cooler and inside our hotel rooms. We shopped our local grocery store for food and drinks to take with us.
- We bought lots of snacks, coloring and sticker books, etc. from the Dollar Tree.
- I spent hours scouring the Internet for free and/or cheap activities in the areas we were visiting.
- Jim purchased a Groupon for one activity.
- I prayed earnestly about every aspect of our trip.