The Effects of Traveling from a Young Age

The Effects of Traveling from a Young Age – as told by the voice of Rockonliving’s eldest daughter, Kayah (age 16) for her English 101 Class.

Our family trip to Stonehenge, England

            Everyone, at some point in their lives, has to take a history course. One reads and learns of the absolutely horrific events of the Holocaust and the conquests of the Roman Empire, but it is a completely different experience to stand at the entrance of Auschwitz or to see the Forum from the Colosseum.

They become a part of oneself.

David by Michelangelo
Family trip to Italy

Participating in travel from a young age can completely transform someone. The act of traveling opens boundaries and enables one to gain different skill-sets in addition to being immersed in one’s destination.

Travel requires a great deal of planning, and bringing children along during travels may sometimes seem unnecessary or even wasteful. However, travel can help with strengthening one’s social skills, cultivating one’s critical thinking abilities and developing healthy lifelong habits, in addition to nurturing one’s sense of self and expanding one’s worldview.

Pompeii, Italy

Social skills are an important part of communication in life, and travel helps to refine these. Some people have a certain hesitation or reservation when asking for directions, about food allergies, or things they need, but there comes a point when one needs to know certain things. Travel forces some to go out of their comfort zone to ask someone about what they need, cultivating communication skills, which can only be improved through actual conversation.

Friends I made from all over the world while studying at Oxford University, England last summer.

Additionally, social skills not only develop one’s ability to ask for the things they need or want, but they also allow for friendships to develop. Many people are in the same situations: they are a little awkward with other people or they might struggle to make friends. Travel is an excellent way to cultivate one’s social skills, to meet people from all over the world and to develop lasting friendships.

However, travel can be unpredictable.

During our trip to Yosemite, our car was broken into and my entire backpack was stolen. Even though that happened, we still had an amazing trip.

Consequently, traveling develops one’s critical thinking and problem-solving abilities: skills one uses constantly when traveling and back at home. There are many times when critical thinking is essential to traveling, such as when one is lost, when one’s gate or terminal changes, or when one’s flight is delayed or ahead of schedule.

Many travelers find themselves lost or disoriented when traveling to a new location. Understanding or learning how to use maps to effectively determine one’s location is vital to having a safe and easy trip.

Furthermore, various locations have many different methods of travel: train, underground, airplane, taxi. One’s critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are sharpened to figure out how to use different methods of travel, such as determining which train to get on, or which terminal to be in. Most importantly, people can use critical thinking to apply their knowledge of history to their location to create a deeper, contextualized understanding of Earth.

Likewise, traveling can establish good habits and behaviors that will serve one for life.

Traveling often requires seemingly extraordinary amounts of sitting around, such as at the airport, on an airplane, taxi or train. These experiences can teach people the valuable skills of having patience and not complaining.

When traveling in groups and deciding what to do, often there will be disagreements between members. Experiences like those can create a flexible, easier-going mindset, enabling people to adopt more of a go-with-the-flow mentality.

Additionally, traveling can be very expensive—meals, hotels, Airbnbs, transportation and extra things, like souvenirs—it all adds up. A large aspect of travel is money management, before and during the trip. However, money management is an important life skill to have as one grows and learning how to effectively do so from a young age will only be beneficial in the future.

Moreover, traveling expands one’s worldview and opens one’s eyes to different cultures and customs, all while developing a sharpened and more unified sense of the world around us.

Eiffel Tower, Paris

A huge benefit of traveling is being exposed to other cultures: beliefs, language, cuisine, fashion. Learning of different people’s beliefs can challenge one’s own beliefs and can open countless barriers.

This challenge allows people to grow into the best versions of themselves.

When traveling, one may encounter a difference in language. However, it does not have to be a barrier: if one takes the time to learn a little bit about the culture and language of their destination, they may be able to communicate in a foreign land. This increases one’s language skills and allows for more interactions between people.

Furthermore, traveling can teach people to care. When one visits a new location, they develop a special relationship with it, so when something good or bad happens to it, they may react in a very personal way. Seeing different cultures of the world before one’s eyes from a young age opens the mind and allows one to see the world as a whole. This grows one’s ability to think on a global scale, which is needed now more than ever.

In conclusion, traveling from a young age has many benefits that span over a multitude of areas. Not only does travel expand one’s worldview and potentially challenge one’s beliefs, but it also benefits one’s social and critical thinking skills, establishes strong, lifelong habits and encourages one to grow into a more confident, true version of themselves.

When one can cultivate those from a young age, it only sets them up for a brighter future.

The world is connected—now more than ever—and travel helps to develop a well-rounded citizen of this world.

Earth is facing unprecedented problems, which is requiring people to work together on a global scale, like never before. Travel can create a sense of empathy and universal humanity, which can pull apart barriers and allow humankind to partner together on this unparalleled scale.

One question: where to next?

Until Next time, RockonLIVING, friends!

Visiting Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks

The beauty of the United States National Parks

Visiting the National Parks is an experience like no other. Our family has traveled to Europe and stood in awe of history from previous civilizations that date five to six thousand years ago. However, when you visit the National Parks out west you are looking back in history millions, millions, of years ago. It is nature on steroids, geology in motion and a sanctuary from our fast-paced- technology-laden society. In this post, we will share our experience exploring Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

COMING SOON! The collaborative and creative juices are flowing here at Rockonliving and we are excited to announce that we are working on creating travel guides for the places we visit with more detailed information. For example, does the Octagonal home below interest you? In our Yosemite Guide, we will provide booking, contact information, pricing and things to consider booking this home in California. These guides will also include feedback and input from all the members of the Rockonliving family! We hope to share our lessons learned and make it easier for you to begin your Adventures! We are excited! The blog with be evolving soon – Stay Tuned!

Adventure! One of our family’s favorite words!
The was hung on wall pointing towards the door at our Squaw Valley Air B&B.
We took this as a good “sign”

As we shared in our previous post, our adventure to California started a little rocky with the theft of three of our five backpacks within 20 minutes of our arrival. If you want to hear more about that experience and our Top Ten list of things to do when you are robbed on vacation we would invite you to visit our website for the article, “Visiting Yosemite National Park – and being robbed within 20 minutes of arrival to California. Good Times.” If there was a “good time” to be robbed, for us it was nice timing in that we had a cushion of 4 days at the front end of our journey to Yosemite where we had rented a way cool octagonal home in Squaw Valley.

Each one of us had a different experience and were processing the robbery in our own way. This home and location provided us with a feeling of safety, beauty and space to discuss, cry and reflect on what occurred in Oakland. We used this time to rest, recover and replace stolen items. We felt so fortunate the owner of the home was kind, sympathetic and helpful to our situation.

Below are some pictures of the home and location. The closest town or shopping was about one hour away. If we had not been robbed, our original plan was to shop upon arrival on the way to the house and then other than a trip to the Sequoia National Park, enjoy the views, local hikes and evenings of family connection.

However, due to the need for us to replace entire wardrobes, glasses, contacts, toiletries, and electronics we ended up spending a couple of our days “in town” handling business.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia National Park,”The Land of Giants” was the balm our family needed. The trees in this park are larger and older than you can imagine. The tallest tree being some 300 feet tall. If you know me, you know I am a forest bather and lover of all things trees. Walking among the giant trees and taking in all the scents of cedar, pine and the forest was intoxicating.

I have an essential oil named “Hinoki” recommended in the book, “Forest Bathing – How Trees can Help you Find Health and Happiness” (beautiful book, highly recommend) by Dr. Qing Li that I recognized immediately upon entering the forest.

This park was super easy to navigate. Our family takes our time during exploration and if a guide book recommends 2-4 hours, you can bet we will take the full four hours (and then some.) With that said, our visit lasted about 3 hours. While the park was “busy” we never felt crunched or rushed. To describe the time in this park as a sacred moment with Mother Nature would be an understatement.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: WiFi is terrible in National Parks. But, that is good, right? Even in the “WiFi Lounges” we were not able to secure reliable service.

Yosemite National Park was by far the most beautiful park we have ever visited. While I feel like I am cheating on Yellowstone National Park making this proclamation of love, let me explain. Yellowstone National Park (see previous posts), to me, was an experience of time travel and natural geological experiences you cannot even begin to imagine. I felt like Yellowstone had so many cool “things” to see – mudpots, valleys, geyers, animal life.

But, Yosemite, my word…breathtaking motion picture dream-like “experiences.”

Every single time I looked up I could not believe what I was seeing! It felt like being on a movie set, unreal. Huge boulders, stunning light, winding water, reflection pools, hikes to die for , the Milky Way, and thundering waterfalls. When I say thundering waterfalls, I mean it! If you have visited Niagara Falls, you know what a large waterfall can look like. Yosemite? Multiply, magnify times 100! They may not be as wide as Niagara Falls, but their height and sound dwarfs them. If you have never visited, it is hard to describe the strength and sound of a incessant thundering waterfall – it a natural white machine of cracking, thunderous roaring sound. Luckily for us, due to record-breaking precipitation the previous year, many waterfalls that had not “run” for years were in their full glory. For perspective, one guide stated runoff this spring was up 300%!

Curry Village vs. Half Dome Village? While we were visiting Yosemite there was quite a bit of confusion over some of the names in the park. We showered, rented bikes and shopped at at Half Dome Village which was formally known as Curry Village. While the actual village has new banners with the “Half Dome Village” name over the prior name, many signs throughout the park and in guide books do not! This lead to some confusion with tourists and we found ourselves helping others reorient numerous times. Other changes in names of iconic landmarks in the park led to increased confusion. For example, the historic Ahwahnee Hotel became the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

We also sensed a little bitter/sarcasm with employees over the name changes as many felt it was most likely temporary while Yosemite National Park settled a 12 million dollar trademark lawsuit with a company called Delaware North which previously had served the parks concessions and had lost the contract.

After our return home to North Carolina, and upon the writing of this blog I am happy to report a settlement was reached and Yosemite has been allowed to reinstate all prior names in the park! Hooray!

The People. During our week at the park, we experienced peak crowd times and then moments where there wasn’t another soul for hours. Generally, during the day in the main areas, where there is public parking it can get quite congested and the shuttles (free) can get sardine-ish. However, if you just rent a bike, hike off the main roads just a wee-bit you can find yourself in peace and quiet. Our family’s favorite time was when we rented bikes and could explore and get around without crowds or need for shuttles.

When planning your adventure to Yosemite two huge factors to consider are peak tourists times and California’s winter weather. Ideally, a wet winter will increase the Spring runoff and waterfall action!

Yosemite offers free public transportation (shuttles) around the park. If you are driving into the park, I would highly recommend parking your vehicle and walking, biking or using shuttle to get around. At the beginning and end of day we noticed a line of traffic at both times. Most times, you can hop on and off shuttles pretty easily. There were a few times we had to wait for a couple shuttles until we could board.

DEATH in Yosemite. I know in my post about Yellowstone National Park we discussed the number of deaths that occur in Yellowstone. Almost all deaths are ALWAYS due to poor decisions and not following the rules or using common sense. However, people if you take anything from this semi-cautious mother, Yosemite’s death potential completely, 100% eclipses Yellowstone. NO joke. If you don’t believe me, just google the number of of deaths that have occurred in Yosemite this month, that’s right folks, this month. And other than a rock slide at El Capitan it was the VISITORS FAULT . 9/10 times their deaths are due to trying to capture a selfie or an amazing “shot” that ends in death – not injury, death.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: While I think every single person (if they can) should visit Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park, I can not underscore, highlight or emphasize safety! Even my husband, who many times view “rules” as “recommendations” heeds caution.

Many of the mid-level to strenuous hikes have components that if caution and common sense are not exercised it can end in death. As a matter of fact, two days before we hiked Vernal Falls (strenuous, scary and AMAZING) 3, THREE people died in a tragic, unwise decision for a photograph that resulted in a domino effect of death.

The National Park Rangers are straight up Rockstars of Earth and will not, do not, babysit or micromanage the parks. They post signs of caution and there are some handrails and guardrails in the most dangerous areas to encourage good decision making, but there are no rangers stationed in all the areas of the park yelling, cautioning or keeping people from doing dumb things….so dumb things happen. People die in Yosemite – a lot. So, my point? Follow the rules in the National Parks and exercise good judgement when visiting or serious death or injury will/can occur.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: BE SAFE KIDS! If you are careful , Yosemite National Park is an experience like no other. I hope you visit there someday – put it on your bucket list today! For a point in case on safety, see the photo my daughter took at Moro Rock Trail (below) and witness the young girl that made my family so scared and nauseous at her decisions we had to leave. (And, yes, agree it is an amazing pic, but DON’T do it.) The granite on the boulders is slick – smooth – and unforgiving. Don’t be this girl and you will have an amazing experience.

If you should get injured out on trails or while exploring, there is a onsite clinic open from 9am-5pm. However, if you are in a remote area of park you most likely would need to be extracted by a helicopter. The closest real medical facility to Yosemite is about 1.5 hours away in Fresno.

We rented an RV for the first time and camped inside the park. While I had major reservations about renting, driving, handling, maintaining, dumping and hooking-up the RV, I wish I hadn’t. While it is a big vehicle to handle and navigate, it was not as difficult as I anticipated.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Reserving a campsite in Yosemite is NO JOKE! Reserving spaces at this park is equivalent to trying to score tickets to the best rock concert on the planet. YOU MUST PLAN TO MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS FIVE MONTHS AHEAD ON THE 15TH DAY OF THE MONTH AHEAD OF YOUR VISIT. So if I was going to camp in Yosemite December 12th-19th, I would need to be on my computer on July 15th at exactly 10am Pacific Time sharp.

Even knowing this and having all our research done – 20 potential campsites selected, four computers and our fingers ready to pounce at 10am sharp – we were grateful, grateful y’all, to have finally secured sites for our visit – and this meant we had to move sites every single day.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: If you are going to camp, you must do your research early, formulate a plan and be ready to roll FIVE MONTHS AHEAD OF YOUR VISIT ON THE 15TH DAY OF THE MONTH AHEAD OF YOUR VISIT.

We were told that sometimes there are spots they keep open for visitors on a first-come-first-serve basis, but being we were traveling from the entire other coast of the U.S.A in a RV this was a risk we could not take.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: If you are camping at Yosemite, you must learn the Legend of Elmer. Trust us.

In addition, there are ‘rustic” cabins and tents on raised floors available for reservation as well. Because we were RV’ing it, we did not explore this option or process, but may in the future. While we were grateful to have campsites for our entire visit, not moving every day would be nice.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Yosemite has AWESOME washers and dryers available for use at Housekeeping Village. At the time of our visit a wash was $3.00 and the dryer was $0.50/10 min (took us 45 minutes to dry a load). They sell boxes of detergent at laundry mat for $0.75/box and if you want softner you can snag some sheets at the general store adjacent to the laundromat. There are a TON of machines for use and nice area for folding. The shuttle has a stop at Housekeeping.

If you are camping you are going to want to shower. Yosemite has nice shower houses and generally are about $5.00 per shower/towel.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: While we are not saying this is what you should do, but after we paid for our initial towel, we may or may not have received advice from a young pool employee we will call “Gene Fowler” and we may or may not have reused that towel multiple times to go in and out of shower. Once you know the code to the shower house, at least for us, it stayed the same all week…your bath towel and code are your ticket to warm water people.

Normally, I am the driver in our family. I would describe Quinn as a “Buddha-drive.” He drives in the moment with little regard or anticipation of what is coming next – much like he lives. It’s an admirable way to be. He merges at the last minute and always trusts all will work out….and, it does…

I, to keep it short and sweet, would describe myself as the best driver. I will leave it at that (and NOT an admirable way to be.)

Based on the facts above, it was assumed I would be the one driving the RV– until we got to the rental place and I panicked and it was unanimously agreed 100% I would not be driving!

This is what I discovered on this trip. While I am the best driver (I credit this being taught to drive in Cleveland where I think the best drivers on planet reside.) I discovered on this trip, Quinn is far braver than me (better equipped to drive the RV) and should be the one teaching our children to drive. Not me. The “best” in an area are not always the best teachers, just sayin’. Ask my kids.

ROCKONLIVING TIP: Mosquitoes & Bees. If you know me, you know I FREAK out at the thought of stings or bites from our little friends. In all fairness, I am allergic, ok? The guide books indicated that depending on the time of year mosquitoes can be quite a nuisance and to pack spray at all times. Our experience was surprisingly delightful. At our campsite we had no difficulties with bees or wasps. And, due to the huge runoff from mountains during our visit there was little to no stagnant water and zero mosquitoes. If you are planning on visiting, I would just keep this in mind.

The campgrounds are surprisingly quiet at night! There are generator hours from 7-9am, 12-2pm & 5-7pm. There are quiet hours and NO FIRES after 10pm and they enforce these rules strictly.

To recap, if you are ever given the chance, please visit Yosemite National Park! Rockonliving’s favorite excursions were: El Capitan hike, Glacier Point Stargazing experience, Mist Trail/Vernal Falls Hike (very strenuous), Half Dome (we did not do the hike), Cook Meadow, Mariposa Grove & Mirror Lake Hike. Consider renting bikes for the week to allow for quick, easy exploration around park and best way to avoid too many people.

Until our next adventure, RockonLIVING Friends!Vickie

Rockonliving Damn Delicious Meal Planning

When we began homeschooling, one key element to our day that wasn’t even a blip on my radar and I totally underestimated was being the cafeteria lady. While this subgroup of humans (homeschoolers) poses a unique challenge to meal planning, this topic is relevant to any one that, well, eats food. So, I guess everyone, right?

If you homeschool, or stay at home with children it can feel like you are in a constant state of food prepping, serving and kitchen clean-up purgatory – hell. Too dramatic? Stay with me…

Ya’ll, this book has revolutionized our kitchen! Meal planning always seemed so overwhelming, daunting, and this book has delicious recipes with easy to follow directions. Have food restrictions? No problem! Like many, we have several family members with various dietary concerns (gluten-free, vegan) and I have found it easy to substitute and modify as needed. It is simple. (my love language.)

I love that she explains how to and how long you can store meals once prepped and then how to freeze and/or rewarm your meals. While she doesn’t recommend a particular storage container, the images in the book sent me on an Amazon search and I am pleased with my container choices. However, I wish she would have provided links to containers to have saved me time looking on my own.

My containers stack in the fridge, allow for reheating and you can write on the lids with a dry erase marker to help family members with special dietary concerns find “their” box.

For my family of five, I am finding it takes me about 4 hours to prep (not including grocery shopping) breakfast and lunches that last about 3-4 days. I did the meal planning and food prepping on my own for the first two weeks as I wanted to understand the process well before bringing in the rest of my family to help.

Now, my plan is to grocery shopping on Sunday morning and have all five of us in kitchen to help chop, slice, wash, prep food and start to put in containers for the first few days of the week. On Wednesdays, I will do another mini-prep to get us through Thursday and Friday with fresh produce and the opened space in our refrigerator.

Rockonliving Tip: Do you have a summer herb garden nearing the end of its season? Consider taking a little time to chop and prep them to last all year! I was so excited to use some of our Lakeshore Farms Thyme crops from last summer to create these super yummy potatoes!

Another bonus of the way the meals are prepped and stored is they are portable for the days when you need to grab and go.

The time put up front in meal planning and prepping allows our family to have an ease to the day’s flow. It is so worth the effort! What makes this momma so happy is limited time standing in the kitchen during the day pulling meals together and decreased precious time cooking during school hours with minimal clean up required.

Meal prepping is proving to be instrumental to one of my overall goals this year, and that is finding ways to streamline processes to allow for more space and time for more doodling in the margins of life & I thought I would share! Till next time…

Rockonliving friends,


Rockonliving’s Top 10 Essential Travel Items

(Hey Rockonliving friends! Look who has joined the fun? This post is a share from Quinn!)

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I am passionate about travel. I am passionate about new experiences. As a result, I am often on the go and away from the every day life lived in my home. Regardless, if I am traveling for weeks at a time in a foreign country or for just a weekend away, there are 10 items that I travel with always!  The women in my family may have a different top ten, however, as the only dude here, these are my top 10 Essential Travel Items!

  1. My ID. Either a passport or driver’s license. This is probably a pretty obvious one. It’s great to have on you in the event you forget who you are. 😊
  2. Money. I will always carry a credit card and cash. I typically use my credit card as often as I can so I can easily track expenses and also accumulate more miles which supports our future travels. I will also bring a debit card to withdraw money from an ATM. Internationally, you will receive the money in the foreign currency and the exchange rate is often better than at a foreign currency exchange vendor. When traveling, especially to a foreign county, be sure to call your bank and credit card companies and let them know your travel dates. Often with international travel, I will talk with my local bank and try to get a small amount of the foreign currency that I will be heading to. It is good to have usable money in the foreign country before I can make it to an ATM. Not all foreign currency is quickly available at my bank and they may need advanced notice to acquire the funds.
  3. Toiletries. I always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, lotion, razor, contacts and glasses.  I actually have a separate small travel toiletries bag that I grab and go. This way I know I always have all the necessities.
  4. Clothes. Duh. Of course. However, I am very selective with my choice of clothes that I travel with. My clothing selection is of course varied based on where I am heading. If I am heading to a hot tropical location or snowboarding, there are 2 criteria that my clothes must meet. First, I plan to layer my clothing. To be honest, I have a narrow comfort margin for temperatures. I don’t like being too hot, and I don’t like being too cold…just call me baby bear. Layers allow me to dial in on the perfect comfort level. Layer up if you are cold or remove layers if you are warm. Second, I love pants, shirts, and jackets with pockets. I am very pragmatic and with pockets, I can carry more items. I have a style of pants that I love so much I bought two of them. I use this style of pants with all travel, especially international, because they have many pockets and some with zippers. These allow me to carry passports, boarding passes, my wallet, at times toiletries, ear buds, and whatever else I need. The pockets with zippers are an extra defense against pick pockets commonly found in foreign countries.  

I have a pair of shorts which have come to be known as my “Period Pants”.  We enjoy amusement parks and big roller coasters! Many parks do not allow lose items on rides and require you to rent a locker. This is highly inconvenient, and we find visiting amusement parks without a backpack or purse makes life so much easier. As a result, I get to carry all my family’s accouterments like their money, IDs, lipstick… and tampons and pads.  Lucky me. My “Period Pants” are shorts with multiple pockets which have repeatedly been stuffed with feminine hygiene items. Yes, pockets are good.

5. Hats. I shave my head. As a result, I need something on my head to keep in warmth and/or avoid too much contact with the sun. Baseball caps, beanies, bandannas, buffs… whatever it is, I need something that I can put on my head. During the summer I am more partial to a light weight, washable, fold-able ball cap.  The other seasons I will usually wear a light-weight beanie hat. 

6. Money Belt.  I have had the same money belt since I went to China about 25 years ago. This money belt has a secret pocket with a zipper on the inside where I will carry large increments of money. The money is always on me, secure and safe. In addition to serving as secure bank, this belt also holds up my pants! Who knew! 

Love this money belt!

7. Back packs. My family and I are big fans of traveling light. Putting everything you need in a backpack allows you to be hands free during travel and forces you to pack smart and get really clear on what is important and what is not. People are frequently asking us about how a family of five travels internationally for weeks with only 1 backpack each.  This is a great question and a great topic. We will post more on this topic soon.

Simplify your travels.

Often, I will also travel with a small light weight, collapsible backpack.  This doesn’t take up much room and can really come in handy. I will often use this small pack to carry items I want quickly accessible on the airplane too.

8. Water bottle. I always travel with a steel water bottle. I drink a lot of water and want access to water at all times. A refillable water bottle allows this, as well as reduces the use of disposable plastic and paper cups…#winning. 

9. Supplements that keep me healthy.  Typically, I take a variety of supplements every day to support me in optimal health (more on this later). When I travel. I often will not take all my usually daily products with me, however there a few items I travel with always.  One is called BioVegetarian.  This is a wonderful supplement that is has anti-viral, anti-microbial and immune boosting botanicals.  The next is a product called Reboost.  This is a blend of homeopathic remedies in tablet form taken sublingually.  These two products have saved me time and time again form getting sick.  I will also travel with Vitamin C. C is a classic antioxidant that boosts immunity.  I take these products with me, always.

BioVegetarian keeps us healthy!

10. A pocketknife. Usually I travel with a Leatherman Skeletool. This pocketknife has a knife, bottle opener, pliers, flat and philips head screwdrivers, and wire cutters. This has come in hand so many times. Of course, I don’t travel with this when flying because we now carry on our backpacks and do not check any baggage. Depending on the nature of an adventure we are having, I may even purchase an inexpensive pocketknife once I arrive at my location. For example, when we went to Yellowstone, I purchased a pocketknife once we got off the plane, picked up our rental car and then did some shopping for supplies. A knife and tools easily accessible (your pocket) have been hugely convenient and helpful.

The Leatherman Skeletool

There it is! My list of the top 10 Essential Travel items! I hope this helps you in planning and living your best adventure. Please offer up any other items that are essential to you when you travel. I would love to learn from your experiences!

Rockonliving friends! Quinn

Rockonliving Update!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Rockonliving is growing! The collaborative and creative juices are flowing here at Rockonliving and we are excited to announce that we are working on creating travel guides for the places we visit with more detailed information. For example, does the Octagonal home we mentioned in our Yosemite trip interest you? In our Yosemite Guide, we will provide booking, contact information, pricing and things to consider booking this home in California. These guides will also include feedback and input from all the members of the Rockonliving family! You will hear from Quinn, Vickie and our teen/tweens share their input on traveling. From the more practical adult input to perspective of a 10 year-old that wished to do nothing but “buy cheap crap” in Paris! We hope to share our lessons learned and make it easier for you to begin planning your Adventures! We are super excited! The blog is evolving and launching soon – Stay Tuned!

Visiting Yosemite National Park – and being robbed within 20 minutes of arrival to California. Good Times.



This was a special moment of release Kayah caught on camera between Quinn & I when we finally had squared away the robbery in Yosemite.  Nothing like healing in Mother Nature.


Twenty minutes after arriving in Oakland, California we were robbed.

After a long day of travel from coast to coast, our family decided to stop for a quick bite at Chipotle just outside the Oakland Airport.

When we pulled into the parking lot we had zero, zilch, suspicious vibes of the location – it was the middle of the day, in a busy strip mall, with lots of small quick places to eat. Our Spidey senses were not even tingling.

5 burritos and 20 minutes later we came out to a smashed window and our first family robbery.


If you all know our family, you know Quinn LOVES to travel light and his rule is everyone gets to pack/bring one backpack – that’s it. This delights him.

When we went into Chipotle, if the tag from the rental company wasn’t a beacon enough to thieves, the five huge backpacks tucked in the trunk of the vehicle was like a flare on the Titantic directing them to our goods! Doh.

We were literally 25 feet from our vehicle! In a matter of seconds, our window was smashed and the desperate little thieves grabbed three of the five backpacks.

Yes, the loss of electronics was a bummer. However, the real bummer, the real hassle, was the loss of things like this: two teddy bears of irreplaceable sentimental value; the glasses and contacts that would require us finding an eye clinic in the middle of nowhere to have new glasses and trial lens contacts made;  the loss of two sets of retainers which due to the length of our vacation meant over the next three weeks our teeth would move and shift; The $375 Epi Pen…


Family Fun at the Stanton Optical Center! New glasses & contacts.

That kind of stuff…you know? Like, how I wish they would have just grabbed the things they could make money off of and tossed the rest on side of parking lot or something.

We were surprised and so grateful to learn our State Farm Insurance policy would cover the cost of our stolen items. We were grateful that other than paying for our deductible, we will would not lose any further cash from our pockets.

It seems everyone, I mean, everyone in the U.S.A. knows you just do not pit-stop in Oakland (especially if you are in a rental car screaming “tourist!”)

I am serious. The police officer that filed our police report said, “Ma’m I don’t even stop in Oakland for gas.” Um, ok.

According to our officer, California’s prison system is so overcrowded that the type of theft we experienced has been taken from a felony to a misdemeanor. This means they do not do anything to follow-up on the crime and the criminals know it. Parts of California (Google Tenderloin in San Francisco and Oakland for more insight) also have a huge homeless population.  The officer shared crime that can generate a quick buck are rampant.  It’s funny, when we visit Europe we are extra cautious (and have never had a problem), but for some reason Oakland was not on our radar at all.

When we called the car rental to let them know what had happened they instructed us to just return to the airport and they would set us up with a new car.

Ok, so listen to this!

When we pulled in, the attendant instructed me to “park our car in the last row with the other vehicles (there were 5 or 6) with smashed windows” from that day! They (along with the other rental companies) have their own on-site window replacement companies who only handle these daily occurrences.

You know, come to think of it, for the amount of traveling our family has done we are pretty fortunate this is the first safety/crime mishap we have experienced. Excellent reminder to not let our guard down and do our research before arrival.

Being robbed wasn’t fun, but did not ruin our trip. The thieves stole enough from us – the last thing we were going to allow them to steal was our good times!

“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.” – William Shakespeare

Luckily for us, the first four days of our adventure were in a Squaw Valley in a beautiful octagonal Air B& B where we had time to decompress and unpack what had occurred with our kiddos and find places to replace clothing, equipment, glasses, contacts, etc.

Like everything that happens on our adventures (and life too!) the robbery was and will forever be part of our vacation. We folded it into our experience like warm towels out of a dryer. Teaching and role modeling for our kids that the best made plans sometimes will be majorly impacted by things outside your control and what do you do? Do you allow it to overshadow and take away from the experience or do you lean in and use it as a lesson in life of resilience and how you just keep going. You just keep moving forward and finds ways to make it awesome.

We learned some valuable lessons with this robbery.

Here are Rockonliving’s Top Ten Lessons learned when robbed on vacation.

  1. Back up your computer regularly. Quinn has asked me umpteen times in the past year “when is the last time you backed up your computer?” I hadn’t. Lesson learned.
  2. Call your insurance, bank and credit card companies immediately. Our businesses were sympathetic and put all our accounts on high security alerts and advised us what to do next.
  3. Make copies of all important documents. Before leaving on your adventure, make copies of all important documents you may need access to (in the future, in addition to driver’s licenses, passports, birth certificates, insurance information and itinerary, we are going to add prescriptions for medicines and glasses/contacts too) should something happen during your travels. Make a copy of these important documents and keep in a safe place where someone could get for you if needed today!
  4. Change all your passwords immediately. Even though our computers have passwords and fingerprint security we were advised to immediately change all passwords.
  5. Kick “what if” to the curb. A few times I found myself starting to think of all the worst case scenarios that could occur if someone got into our computers – and it can make you crazy with worry/anxiety. You can only control so much. There is the the circle of what is in your control (change passwords, close accounts, place accounts on high alert) and then what lies outside that circle and until something happens the worry and “what ifs” are nothing but a waste of your precious time and life. Kick it to the curb.
  6. Be aware of your surroundings at all time. We do this fanatically when internationally traveling and for some reason failed to do so on this domestic adventure. A simple Google search would have raised our awareness that as the #14 (out of 25) most dangerous cities in the USA, Oakland has some issues.
  7. The show must go on. Don’t allow setbacks in your trips (unplanned detours, in-climate weather, wildfires, illness, etc) define your trip! Learn from them, experience them, make them a part of your experience. Model resilience and demonstrate problem solving behaviors.
  8. Look for the helpers. Didn’t Mister Rogers say that? What a nugget of wisdom. As soon as we came out of the restaurant and realized we had been robbed we had a number of helpers that made all the difference in our experience. People who stayed with us and our children and offered support and help while we waited for the police, shared apologies and even offered their last $15. There are SO many more people that want to do good in the world than harm. Make sure you and your family sees that!
  9. Things can be replaced. What a delicious opportunity to practice letting go of things and not being attached to ‘stuff.’ It is the people, the memories, the experience that really matters, truly.
  10. Don’t stop in Oakland. Not for gas, not for food, not even for a red light. Just sayin’

I will wrap up this post and if you are thinking of traveling to Yosemite National Park or San Francisco, stay tuned!

Quinn and I will be soon sharing information (from renting an RV for the first time to visiting San Francisco in 2 days or less) to help you as you make your future plans!

As always,

Rockonliving friends!





Most times my husband sees rules as “suggestions.” Not at the National Parks.

Connecting the Dots in Homeschool History


Miko at The Tower of London Fall 2017 – (built in late 1070s) stories of knights, prison, palace, torture, crown jewels. Currently, Queen Elizabeth II is the ‘owner’

Right now we are enjoying an unplanned and completely welcome serendipitous coordination of learning with our history and geography curriculums. One of my favorite perks of home-education is our family learning together. I love when connections are made – where we kind of connect the dots between subjects as a family and create common familial context.

Case in point:

DOT: In language arts we are reading historical fiction novel, Georges, by Alexandre Dumas (France, 1800’s.) We are using the Bravewriter Boomerang Guide for literary analysis and copywork.


Kira’s Copywork for Georges using the Bravewriter Boomerang Guide

DOT: In geography we are studying Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

DOT: In history we are reading the Story of the World (SOTW), Volume 2 – Middle Ages.

DOT: We are binge watching the Crown on Netflix.



The girls love this show and have acquired such an understanding of who Elizabeth, Philip, the monarchy, Winston Churchill, historical events and much more. We are excited for Season 3!


DOT: We just returned from a field trip to France and England.

DOT:  Poetry Teatime Tuesday is a Bravewriter staple in our home. We have tea, hot chocolate, lemonade and treats on Tuesdays and read poetry or lyrics to songs. When we were in England we made sure to have high tea and brought home some special souvenirs to keep our holiday alive just a little longer.



Poetry Teatime Tuesday special treat


DOT: My eldest daughter just finished reading Don Quixote and recently attended the  Carolina Ballet perform it as well. (Spain, 1600’s.)

DOT: In the story, Georges, the main character is confiding to Lord Murray that he intends to duel his nemesis to win Sara’s (his love) hand in marriage from Henri (to whom she is already engaged.) Henri is of no masculine threat to Georges. Lord Murray makes a comment to Georges that perhaps he not worry about Henri as he is like a “windmill and not a giant.” This subtle little reference could have been so easily glossed-over and missed if it were not for my eldest.

CONNECT THE DOTS: Kayah giggled and ‘got it’ straight away! She explained to us that in Don Quixote he is preparing to fight a “giant” that turns out to be nothing but a mere windmill. Thus, the author was implying Henri maybe should be of little concern to Georges…nothing but a mere windmill.



Kayah sharing the passage from Don Quixote during our read aloud this week.


All of these dots connect to create an image of connected context (that is some serious alliteration!) I may be a total dork, but I love when that happens.

These are the AH-HA moments that can never be planned – learning that occurs across curriculum.  THAT is exciting! Subjects never seem independent of one another, but connected.

One of my favorite questions to ask the girls when we are exploring a new topic is “what was going on in the United States at this time…” I love this question because sometimes the USA was not even an idea and other times they can connect the global dots of what was occurring during the many phases of the United State’s maturity – a layering of history.

If you are looking for some ideas to study this time period, here are some links to product we enjoyed! You can just click on the image for links or more information or select the links in the text above.

(All  amazon links are affiliate links.)


Hey all,

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I agreed to a short-story challenge.  The challenge was to create and illustrate a short story by January 31st.

Without further adieu, meet “Henrietta.”

Rock on! Vickie

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