Traveling Family Series: Meet the Lighthiser Family

By Nichole on July 12th 2013

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I am delighted to introduce you to the Lighthiser Family! This amazing family of five, plus beloved black lab, are currently touring the western USA on bike. Between the six of them, they are pedaled along on two modified bikes and one pull-behind trailer. Learn how they are making it happen on a budget and what inspired them to make the leap to the open road. You can follow every pedal of their adventures on their blog, thefamilyride.com.

Thanks for the opportunity to participate in the Boba Traveling Families series! We are Mark, Erica, Eva (7), Clara (5), Emmett (2) and Hayduke (9) is our black lab.

What inspired you to first take to the road with your family?

In 2010, we took our first bike tour around the coast of northern Washington with our girls (no dog), then 2 and 4. It was two of the most memorable weeks we'd ever spent as a family. Ever since, we hoped to eventually take a longer, more open-ended tour. We were enjoying our lives in Durango, CO, but this past winter Erica's work environment and job became unstable. This spring we decided to make a change--however, instead of transitioning into another job right away we opted to spend the summer riding bicycles and seeing more of the rocky mountain region. That tour of the Rockies has extended into a tour of the western United States.

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Many people mistakenly believe that you have to be rich to make long-term, family travel possible. We know that some families sell their home and belongings as a means to financially support their traveling lifestyle, while other families build up a home to rent out to others while they are away. How did you decide what was staying or going in order to launch your adventure?

We are a pretty average American family, and money is as much of a concern for us as it is to most people we know. Currently we are traveling on a small amount of savings that we hope to make last through the end of this summer. We are finding that you can spend surprisingly little on the road if you camp a lot and budget grocery costs carefully. We opted to rent our house in Durango and put the bulk of our stuff in storage. This arrangement costs us a couple hundred dollars each month, and it was our best solution to get us riding relatively quickly. We only had a couple of months to plan. To pay closer attention to our purchasing habits, we've learned to avoid the credit card and start using cash. For some reason it is harder to part with dollar bills than it is to swipe the card and as a result we find ourselves behaving more conservatively with cash purchases. After a few weeks on the road, the concept of an open-ended ride seemed more possible, and we are currently discussing how to handle our remaining stuff and how to earn enough to sustain us on the road. It will be a challenge, but the only way to morph touring into a lifestyle.

How do you decide how long to keep riding? And how will you decide when to head home?

We hope to ride through the fall of 2013, or whenever we'll need to return to work to start earning again- whichever comes first. We may winter in Colorado, Montana, who knows- we're open. With a little luck we may just ride south out of winter. We've made a deal with ourselves that as long as we're having a good time and we're looking forward to each day we'll try to keep riding. It is unlikely that we'll return to Durango. It's a great place, but we are excited to experience someplace new or to stay on the road.

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While traveling is immensely rewarding, it is often challenging too, especially in making that first leap. Please share with us how you overcame your biggest concern(s) around being a traveling family.

I think our biggest fear is the unknown. You can't exactly nail down where you are going to sleep, or find water. The number of hours it may take you to ride a given distance can be a source of anxiety. Bike touring with children amplifies these fears. Two-year old pitches a fit and refuses to get on the bike? You are not going to make many miles. Fortunately we have been overcoming these challenges by learning to be more flexible. You can always adapt and change your plans, or ask for help. A big lesson in overcoming our fears is to learn to trust people that we don't know. As a matter of fact, the people we've met have helped us overcome our fears with generosity and encouragement. We managed to find a place to sleep every night since we left, had enough water and food. Everything always manages to work out.

What do you see that your kids are getting from your travels that thrills you and keeps you going on tough days? How has traveling together benefited your relationships as a family and as a couple?

Our kids are being sculpted and shaped by this adventure in ways I'm sure we don't yet understand. During this journey they've risen to the challenges of travel and outdoor life and they help one another and their Mom and Dad. That is not to say they haven't struggled. Kids are every bit as adaptive and resilient as adults- maybe more. Each challenge is inevitably balanced by a resolution, whether it be a day of rest, a treat, or making a new friend. In this life, every day will have its challenges and rewards- it helps them develop their character and we've enjoyed watching them grow within that maxim. We have bonded as a team and have created a unique rhythm of our own. As for romance, Mom and Dad are feeling a little more like Lewis and Clark than Romeo and Juliet. But when we do find time to share a few minutes together without interruption it is special and meaningful. Our relationship has been enhanced by our struggles and triumphs together- any good romance doesn't come without some challenges to make it all worth while.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our experience with Boba Family. We hope this will help to inspire other families to keep having their own adventures. 

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