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Revived by Travel

Image of Sarah Schultz and her family overlooking the ocean from a clifftop during a sunset.

When I was in my 20s, I fell in love with traveling. It started with a backpacking trip through Europe with friends, where we slept in hostels and caught trains from one country to the next. I quit my job to volunteer in Thailand, teaching English camps, trekking into remote villages and sleeping on grass mats on the ground. In Central America, my husband and I fell in love as we hitched rides on the backs of pickup trucks, surfed and explored the jungle. We rarely planned where we would go the next day. Back then, traveling was my passion and I could not wait to see more of the world.  

But sometimes things don’t work out as we plan, and life has a way of making unexpected detours.

Five years ago, I lost my grandmother—one of my closest confidantes, my rock, my hero. I wasn’t prepared for the grief. At the time, I grappled with caring for a difficult baby and a two-year-old, and juggled working in an intense career, and it all took its toll on my body and my mind. I developed routines to help me avoid additional stress and keep my world calm and steady. Traveling for fun was out of the question.

Anxiety had started to rule my life.

After a particularly intense period, I went to see a therapist. The therapist suggested that I think about something fear had taken from me, and then work on taking it back.

My mind flashed to an image of myself as a 22-year-old, traveling through Europe, feeling daring and free.

“Traveling,” I said. “I miss traveling.”

I wanted to re-embrace the adventurous spirit I knew lived within me.

I wanted to re-embrace the adventurous spirit I knew lived within me.

Image of Sarah Schultz and her family overlooking the valley from a hiking tail.

Thinking about my kids gave me strength. I wanted them to experience new cultures, eat new foods and see incredible landscapes, not grow up timid or sheltered because of me. I wanted them to understand the vast potential of the world, and know that it held a place for them.

I started a travel blog called Imagine and Go. The name became my motto, and I focused on creating a future that embraced  travel, where I could recapture my sense of adventure that had been buried.

In the beginning, I started small. I took my kids to local attractions and blogged about it. When I traveled for work, I scheduled trips to local parks and museums that I could write about later. Day by day, I noticed that I had longer stretches feeling good and present in each moment.

Traveling forces you to leave your comfort zone, to take risks and live with elements outside of your control. Facing your fears can facilitate healing; it’s an old idea perpetuated by songs and movies and psychiatrists alike. And for me, it couldn’t have been more true.

One day, I turned to my husband and asked, “Hey, what do you think about doing a seven-week road trip up the California coast to Oregon next summer?”

His raised eyebrows told me he felt skeptical, but I knew I could convince him. With some prodding, intense planning and the promise of finding all the best surf spots along the way, he finally agreed.

In seven weeks, we traveled more than 4,000 miles up the California and Oregon coastline. We hiked 50 miles—with two kids under nine years old. We biked 40 miles, found 13 waterfalls, floated in six rivers and swam in two lakes. Across five different campgrounds, we encountered snakes, wild turkeys and skunks. Hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, hikers had spotted a bear ahead and told us to turn back.

We picked wild blackberries and made cobbler. We ate local jams and cheeses, and made it a mission to find the best hazy, juicy IPA in the Pacific Northwest, visiting a dozen breweries in our quest. We biked across Sonoma and stopped at four wineries. We revelled in stunning coastline views, dodged patches of poison oak and encountered packs of giant elk as we hiked in Marin. We canoed with friends and leapt from rope swings into the Russian River. On the last two nights of our trip, we mapped constellations at Lake Tahoe as the Perseid meteor shower sparkled around us.

And we ate ice cream every single day.

Our trip wasn’t without struggles, but even the obstacles we faced led to greater joy. On a 20-mile bike ride outside of Portland, Oregon, the first 10 miles were uphill, and my eight-year-old son had trouble with the incline. He struggled to switch gears, and kept complaining that he wanted to turn back. We pushed him a little, reminding him that even though it was hard going up, coming back down would be easy and so much fun. When we finally turned around, our bikes flew downhill. We whipped past redwood forests and miles of wild blackberry bushes. We raced through fields and I could hear my son’s laughter, all difficulty forgotten.

In that moment, my heart overflowed with happiness.

Our trip became one of the most amazing experiences of our lives, a beautiful gift reminding me of how sweet life can be when you let yourself live in the moment. My goal used to be to just make it through one more difficult day.

Today, I’m thriving. I am excited again about all there is to see and do in the world.

The RV shown in this story is a 2013 Airstream International.

PLACES TO VISIT NEAR OJAI, CA