Ten years ago I took a road trip that changed my life

Okay, that might be a bit dramatic but it did change a lot of things. Hey! I’m Lori – the voice behind Southerner Says. I’m just a girl from Alabama, who loves to travel. My mom always said that my middle initial “G” stood for go. Southerner Says is my way of sharing my on-the-go adventures with you. Let me catch you up.

The top of the Tetons on our big road trip

My story is probably similar to a lot of people in the south. I grew up road tripping and traveling with my parents, mostly in the eastern United States. Summer vacations were spent in Florida and fall trips were spent in “the Smokies”. We did a lot of fun stuff but never ventured out too much. Then, when I was fifteen, I had the chance to go to Mexico on a high school Spanish class field trip that totally changed the the way I looked at travel. I fell in love with Mexico and wanted to see the rest of the world.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans. After I got married and moved to Georgia, adulting kept me busy. Plus, for years, we were self-employed. Even though you should, it’s really hard to step away from your livelihood to travel. There were way too few vacation days and really tight budgets.

Still, I traveled as much as I could – creatively learning how to stretch my money and vacation days at my hospital – that never closed – job. Finding ways to to satisfy my wanderlust, there were weekends in Atlanta and plenty of road trips to Chicago to see friends. All my spare change went into into a travel fund jar and I drove my Suburban over 300k miles just so I’d have extra money for travel.

I’ve been riding down a two-lane highway, pretty much all of my life. Trying to do things my way. Wondering if I’ll get anywhere but where I came from. Hope I’m sane by the time I’m done.”

Jamey Johnson

As time passed – a whole lot quicker than I wanted it to – I realized it was now or never. If I was going to do the things I dreamed about and see the world, something had to change. That change came about with the help of all things – an outsourced job and a severance package.

And that’s road trip I mentioned at the outset.

With the extra money from the severance, my daughter and I set out on a cross-country, 15 state, 6,680 mile road trip. Camping along the way from Georgia to California, we visited 9 national parks and 1 state park. And that was it. We wanted more so we came up with a plan.

Since my daughter was entering her last year of high school, she knew it was just a matter of time before she would be adulting too. We decided to make a list out all the places we wanted to go in the next five years. It was a very overambitious list but it was what we needed to get the ball rolling on our goals.

I found a remote job and because we worked with quarterly assignments, it allowed me to travel between assignments. Then, once my daughter moved away to college, I started traveling solo. I’d already been traveling alone for work so why not for fun too?

Did we do everything that was on our five year plan? Not even close. But that original road trip gave us a starting place. We proactively put our idea on paper and worked towards a goal. And we did manage to complete several more cross-country road trips together.

Even though we ultimately didn’t do everything on the list it was still a win. Besides the travel plan, there were some personal goals on that list as well. One of my goals was to start a blog. If you are reading this now, well, you know, I have a blog. This was a huge win for me.

I’ve always been a note taker and still have notebooks full of details about the trips I took. Family and coworkers frequently asked me for travel advice and recommendations. I loved helping because talking about and planning a trip is almost as good as going on one. The next logical step was a blog.

I blog because I know there are plenty of people out there just like me. People that have lives, jobs, kids and other responsibilities that can’t quit their jobs to travel. There are families with budgets that want to take nice vacations. There are women who want to travel solo but aren’t quite sure how to start. Southerner Says is my way of sharing my travel experiences and tips so you can create your own.

In the few short years since I’ve had my website, I’ve taken some epic road trips and woken up to some gorgeous views from my tent. I’ve been able to cross even more places off my bucket list. For example: I’ve danced salsa in Cuba, saw the northern lights in Iceland and swam with whale sharks in Baja. And after all our national park and public lands travel, my daughter now works for the National Park Service at a big park out west.

When I’m not traveling – I live in a farmhouse in Georgia with my husband, my dog Stella and an ever changing five year plan. After all, I have to live up to that middle initial.

That’s my travel story. What’s yours?