why this family was social distancing before social distancing was a thing
For me, the conversation around family travel inevitably collides with the conversation of home.
- How do we create the home we want in the world?
- How does travel inform our home processes and can home influence our travel style?
- What does it mean to be a home-maker in the 21st century?
- What has been gained and what has been lost in regards to our most basic element of society: the family, the home?
I thought I’d ask around. What follows is the first in a series of articles in which I speak with moms about these connections between home and world.
My friend Michelle runs a birth business in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Jim and they have three children: Jimi (15) Raina (12) and Luna (9). Five years ago, the family found what they were looking for in the Georgia woods: acres of land in the middle of nowhere that included a half-built home for a bargain price. They finished building the house and now they visit on the weekends and holidays. They were social-distancing before social-distancing was a thing.
Here’s what Michelle has to say about their unique travel style and home life.
What inspired your family to purchase a vacation home in the Georgia woods?
Michelle: “Jim and I were longing for land. We wanted our kids to have the freedom to roam. We love our beach town, but we wanted to be able to get away from cars and fences. We both grew up with land. I was raised in an orange grove where I biked and played. I spent summers in Virginia with my family. My cousins and I would spend all day in the creek. We’d come home and make a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and not return until dinner. No one knew where we were, except that we were somewhere in the holler. That’s where I learned to love the outdoors.”
(Jim, who also grew up on a dirt road and rode dirt bikes, later told me: “I wanted the kids to experience freedom . . . fewer rules. And for Jimi to know what it’s like to pee off a front porch. No one cares.”)
How did you find the perfect place?
Michelle: “Originally the idea was to find a camper or shed and maybe purchase around five acres. Through LandWatch, we ended up finding an already half-built home on thirty acres. It was a great deal and I fell in love with the wrap-around porch. It’s in White Oak, Georgia, outside of Woodbine, only an hour from Jacksonville. We can be door-to-door in an hour and fifteen minutes—it’s a perfect amount of time. It makes day-trips doable and weekends easy. We go about twice a month.”
What are some of the best parts of having time away in the woods? And hardest?
Michelle: “It’s a place to escape with our family. There are less distractions there. We have no TV, no Wifi. We play board games and ride four-wheelers. We have campfires. One of our favorite family games is hide-and-seek in the dark! We spend holidays there. The only fears we have are of snakes and wild boar, so we wear snake boots and the noise of the four-wheelers scares off boars. It’s also seasonal—in the summer, it’s too buggy to spend time there.”
What do you hope your kids will gain through these getaways?
Michelle: “I want them to have fond family memories. I want them to enjoy quality, simple family time. At home, there are always distractions, whether it’s the phone, the dishes or the laundry. We can shut these things out and focus on enjoying family. And secondary to that, I want them to learn an appreciation for the outdoors. We live in a concrete world, and to get away from that is like a breath of fresh air, literally. It truly feels like a breakaway from our normal lives, like a re-set. I feel refreshed, and I see that in the kids.”
And when parents say their kids wouldn’t know what to do (without their tech) . . .
Michelle: “You put them in it and they’re ok. You sit on the front porch and rock in rocking chairs together. You can see them soften a little bit, because there’s no distractions there . . . they’re immersed in all those distractions too usually. We have to be intentional about disconnecting so that we can re-connect.”
“We have to be intentional about disconnecting so that we can re-connect.”
What does home mean to you?
Michelle: “Home is where my family is. That’s the main thing. When the housing market crashed in 2008, we thought we were going to lose everything. We were at a music festival camping—five days in a tent—when I had an epiphany. I looked around and thought, this is the most important thing . . . if I have my family with me, I’m grateful. Nothing else matters. We have a limited time with our kids. Five years ago, Jimi was just ten, and we thought, ‘if we don’t do it now, we’ll miss a lot of opportunity,’ so we sold a rental property in order to purchase the Georgia house and land.”