We are first time RV’s. We’ve travelled to South East Asia carrying everything we need in backpacks, we’ve explored Europe for months with carry-on only, we’ve camped our way through the Western States in a VW van, but this is the first time we have traveled in a proper RV. Let me tell you, this is not camping, this is glamping. We literally have everything we need. We are traveling with a tiny home. I even have a little oven, which makes me ridiculously happy.
We made it to Manitoba! It has only taken us a month to get this far. At this rate, we should be done exploring Canada by December. Ha! Canada is so huge and there is so much of it that we want to explore!
Another National Park was on our radar, Riding Mountain National Park. Having heard nothing of it before this trip, we spotted it on our map and did a google search. The pictures looked great and it was sort of on our way with a slight detour, so we thought we would give it a try.
We entered the park from the North Side. The road was one of the most terrible roads we have been on that wasn’t an off road mountain road. Wow. It felt like the road we took from the Thai border into Cambodia! Not a first good impression. But as we know, first impressions can be wrong….
Eager to find a place to camp for the night, we explored Moon Lake Campground. Meh. Not impressed. The sites were uneven, and the picnic tables looked like they hadn’t been maintained since the 70’s. So, while we do like it with less crowds, we thought we would make the trek to the South end of the park to the popular Wasagaming (Wa-Sa-Ga-Ming)Campground. Ugh. Not impressed again. The unserviced sites were again uneven, unweeded, and unraked. And while we are just fine with rustic campgrounds, when we are paying $27.40 per night to basically park our vehicle, I expect the picnic table to be washed.
By this time we were all very hangry. Hangry is a real and dangerous thing in my family. Before we all either started crying or yelling, we decided to be-line it to the beach parking lot, make a quick lunch of cheese and crackers and then reassess our options. Life is always better on a full stomach.
Before we left on our journey, we became members of Harvest Hosts, which is a really cool membership program for RVers. Farms, wineries, breweries, and businesses can list their properties on the website and then members can request to camp overnight on their properties. Camping is free but it is expected that you will purchase something from their business. We think this is an awesome idea (seriously, I need to think of something like this for a new business). We love getting a free place to camp and we are more than happy to support local farms. If you sign up, tell them Amy from Worldschool Adventures told you about it!
Our first night in Saskatchewan was spent at a Harvest Host property. We camped in the parking lot of the Western Development Museum in North Battleford. We probably would not have otherwise visited this museum as it was not on our radar, but because we camped there, we were happy to check it out. What an interesting museum. We learned a bunch of new things about the history of Saskatchewan…they were the first province to introduce medicare, the first province to have credit unions, and they invented Canola oil in Saskatchewan. The museum was huge, with the indoor displays giving a fantastic timeline of history and the outdoor museum built like a mini town where we could peek into old houses and shops and imagine life 100 years ago.
Soon after leaving Jasper we encountered our first problem with our motorhome. We were driving along at a good clip down the Yellowhead Hwy when we heard a strange sound and felt like we had run over something. My first thought was that the bikes or scooters had come off the bike rack and we had lost them on the highway. But it was not the bikes, it was a blown tire!
No problem, my dependable and capable husband took out the spare tire, his tools, and jack and prepared to switch out the tires. Unfortunately, the tire jack, which we bought at a garage sale before our trip but didn’t test on the motorhome, was busted. Hydraulic oil sprayed through the O-rings. As we pumped it up and it would not hold pressure. La-sigh. Luckily we have BCAA (AAA) so we called to get someone out to help us. It ended up taking three hours of waiting on the side of the highway for help to arrive. The tire was changed in 15 minutes. Ugh.
We LOVED the Rockies. From the time we first saw them in the East Kootenays to the time we left them in Jasper we were in awe. No wonder millions of people come to these towering, snow-capped mountains each year. We explored Kootenay National Park, Banff National Park, and Jasper National Park which all border each other.
Unfortunately, the weather for almost our entire time in the National Parks was rainy. My friend Josee says that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Well, we had bad clothing. My spring jacket soaks in the rain instead of repelling it, and my kids, well, they have decent spring coats but refuse to wear them. They always opt for their hoodies much to my dismay, saying, “It’s FINE mom!” Mike also had an unexplained pinched nerve in his back that started giving him trouble a few days before. This meant that we didn’t get in as much hiking as we would have liked. We kept most of our hikes to the well-trodden 5km or less hikes but we still saw jaw-dropping scenery and enjoyed some amazing camp spots!
The idea started when our oldest son turned 12 last Fall. We had a family meeting where we talked about what the next six years would look like for our family. Twelve felt like a big deal to us. It is that in-between age where you are no longer a child, but not yet a teenager. Twelve means there are only about six years left with our oldest son at home. At our family meeting, we asked our children where they wanted to travel to next. Surprisingly, they both said they wanted to travel across Canada.
Traveling across Canada presented a problem financially. Going across Canada meant traveling in the summer months. We make most of our money in the summer with Mike’s carpentry business, our popcorn vending business, and our imported clothes business. But even though we had no idea how we would ever pull off a trip across Canada, we pretty much committed to it in our mindset then and there.
Next came the planning. Over the next few weeks, our minds went into overdrive….How could we make enough money to travel if we did not work in the summer? We own a camperized VW Van but it is getting way too small for our family of four. With both our kids in their pre-teen years and the size of small adults, camping in our van for months at a time simply would not be feasible. So what would we travel in? If we traveled in the Summer, that would mean not traveling in the winter because financially, three to four months at a time is what we can save up for. Would we be willing to give up a warm weather winter abroad?
Our family of four spent the fall of 2017 in the beautiful city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We scrapped our original plan of spending four weeks there, as we fell in love with the city and ended up extending our trip to nine weeks. We would have stayed longer if we did not already have other plans for winter!
Some people track their time, some people track their calories, some people track their steps…I track our money. Call it an obsession, but one of the reasons we are able to live this lifestyle of extended travel and have a home base is because we are always aware of where our money is going. Knowing how much you spend and what you are spending it on is, in my opinion, the easiest way to start spending less on things that don’t really matter. I use an app called Trail Wallet to track our travel spending and I highly recommend it to other travelers.
The FREE six-month visa to Mexico for Canadian and American visitors make Mexico an easy country to visit, and to fall in love with. There are not many countries that offer such a long visa at absolutely no cost (I could probably count them on one hand!) The ease of entry, the reduced cost of living, the ease of finding rentals in Mexico, and the gorgeous weather make Mexico a hot spot for North American vacationers, expats, digital nomads, and snowbirds!
Our family decided to drive from our home in British Columbia, down to Las Vegas to visit with my sister and then catch a plane from there to Mexico. Originally we planned and booked for five weeks. Well, within two weeks of arriving in San Miguel de Allende we extended our visit another month, and we would stay longer if we hadn’t promised our children that we would come home so they could ski this winter.
Yes, we love it here, and that surprised us! I had heard a lot of good things about San Miguel. Indeed, I already knew four families that had settled here! But you know when you hear of those popular tourist destinations and they just seem TOO popular? That is how we felt, we wondered if it would be TOO easy, TOO overrun with tourists, TOO many expats. While there are a tonne of expats and tourists here (most of the tourists are domestic) they are here for a reason. It is beautiful!
So what do we love about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico?
We have experienced some really jaw-dropping festivals around the world. We’ve lit lanterns in Thailand’s Yi Ping Festival, watched the Ogoh Ogohs dance in the streets of Bali at Nyepi, and witnessed the self-mutilation at the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. Experiencing the Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is right up there on our list of awe-inspiring cultural experiences.
Each year, Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. It is believed that on these two days the veil on the spirit world is temporarily pulled back and the spirits of loved ones can come back to this world to visit. November 1st is when the spirits of children return, November 2nd is when the spirits of adults return. For the most part, this is not a somber occasion, rather it is a full-blown party! After all, what spirit would want to return to sadness?
The main part of the celebration comprises of making a shrine to the spirit you are welcoming back. The shrine will include pictures of the loved one, favorite foods, favorite items, flowers, candles, drinks, and more. The alters are to help the returning souls feel welcomed and show them that they have not been forgotten. Most alters are placed in the home, but some are placed for public display as well.
The seed was planted right after we finished up with the 2017 Family Adventure Summit. Most of the organizing team was still at my house and we dove in deep to the huge task of planning the 2018 summit in San Miguel de Allende. Brainstorming and inspiration come much easier when enthusiastic minds are able to collaborate in the same space and feed off each other’s energy!
That is when Mike and I started to think about coming down to SMA this year. I’m the Logistics Coordinator and Social Media Manager for the Family Adventure Summit and planning would be SO much easier if our family could swing a trip down to Mexico for this year’s Day of the Dead. Experiencing it this year so we would know what to expect and plan for next year would be so helpful!