American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Fostering Wanderlust in Young Travelers, Part 2
John Muir (1838-1914), the much-respected, Scottish-born naturalist, author, and wilderness conservationist, said it best: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” Of course, that's not all Muir uttered about the value of embracing America's great outdoors. “Keep close to Nature's heart,” he said, “and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
I've definitely taken Muir's words to heart over the years: While I've always enjoyed traveling to America's towns and cities, there's nothing quite like exploring the country's parks and hinterlands – with or without your family. Still, as I wrote in Thursday's post, family road trips, especially into the great outdoors, can be an incredibly beneficial part of any child's life. After all, traveling with your relatives at a young age can foster a passion for travel that will last a lifetime. So, if you have young kids, it's important that you travel with them as often as possible.
Michael A. DiLorenzo, author of Adventures with Jonny: Road Trip to the Parks! (Clinton Township, MI: Running Moose Publications, Inc., 2012, $17.95), definitely agrees with that sentiment. In the first half of my interview with him, he notes that, “As parents, we are not raising kids, we are raising adults. It is up to us to prepare them for their overall lifelong journey, and there are so many life lessons that can be gleaned from their participation in the outdoors. Not to mention that outdoor family time is just that, family time.” He also wants “children to make the outdoors their playground now so that they will take care of it then, when they are adults.” Moreover, he believes, “We also need to provide our kids (future adults), with an escape when societal pressures take their toll.”
Of course, that's not all Michael has to say about family road trips into the great outdoors. Here, then, is the rest of my interview with him:
American Nomad: What's your favorite national park in America?
Michael DiLorenzo: Hands down, my favorite national park is in my home state of Michigan, and that is Isle Royale. There is a very unique feeling about being on the island that does not visit you in other parks. Perhaps it is the remoteness and lack of motorized noise, and even lack of people, that really bring you so in touch with nature. Isle Royale is the least visited, but most revisited, of the national parks, and there is damn good reason for it.
AN: What's your favorite state park in America?
MD: My favorite state park is also in Michigan, which is Ludington State Park. It was the first state park I visited as a child, and thus the sentimental attachment; however, this is not a fair statement to other states and their park systems, as I've only focused my attention on national parks when traveling through other states.
AN: What's your best advice for keeping kids engaged while on the road?
MD: My best advice to keep kids engaged while on a road trip is to make them part of it from the beginning. Show them where you're heading and have them pick things they would like to see or do along the way. Keep the road games flowing, and allow for frequent stops to release young energy.
AN: What's your best advice for traveling with pets (or do you prefer leaving them at home)?
MD: Pets are very limiting on road trips, especially when a lot of outdoor adventure is taking place. As well, since most family travel is done during the summer, you must be very cognizant of leaving pets in the car and their limitations in high temps. As much as pets are part of the family, in many cases, it is best if they have a “staycation” while your family is on vacation.
AN: I live in northern Michigan during the summer, and I absolutely love it here. So, I was wondering... Have you lived in Michigan for much of your life?
MD: I have lived in Michigan all of my life and love so many things about it, most notably the endless outdoor opportunities that abound with each new season. I have been lucky enough to travel to more than half of our states in this country, seen some great stuff, and I still say Michigan is my favorite.
Folks who just associate Michigan with Detroit have likely only been to Detroit due to a work-related issue or job opportunity. It’s the automotive capital, which means heavy industry. You can't dress this stuff up. But let's not forget, it was also the “arsenal of democracy” during World War II, and there is nothing prettier than the freedom it gave to all of us in every state of the union. If they're using Detroit as Michigan's cover, than it's truly an inaccurate judgment. Visitors to Michigan should come by way of the Upper Peninsula; they will see what “Pure Michigan” is all about.
AN: Michigan is an amazing place for outdoor enthusiasts – a fact that I make clear in my own Michigan guide. So, what do you love most about the great outdoors in the Great Lakes State? The forests, the dunes, the lakes, what?
MD: My favorite Michigan things are largely tied to the outdoors, no surprise there. Here are just a few: the ability to fish thousands of lakes through the ice, Great Lakes Salmon fishing, Detroit River walleye fishing, Southern Michigan deer hunting, all of the farms, the Eastern Market, every inch of the Upper Peninsula, including the history of Marquette and its rejuvenation downtown, Brockway Mountain Drive, all things Keweenaw, the view atop Mount Arvon, the Pictured Rocks from floating on Gitchee Gumee, pasties and the people who make them, snowmobiling its miles of trails, snowshoeing anywhere, the Mighty Mac, and again the rugged remoteness of Isle Royale! Let's not overlook or underestimate the people of Michigan who truly make it a great (lake) state.
AN: I'm often surprised by people's reaction when I tell them how beautiful Michigan is (even my own relatives, who live in and around New Orleans, think there's little beyond Detroit). So, would you ever write an Adventures with Jonny book about traveling in Michigan?
MD: I hope to expand the Jonny series to state-by-state family travel books as well. Clearly, by my last answer, I have a lot of good things to say about my home state of Michigan.
AN: So far, you've covered fishing, ice fishing, deer hunting, and parks in your Adventures with Jonny series. According to your website, you hope to explore camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, saltwater fishing, fly-fishing, and other outdoor activities in future books. So, what's next?
MD: If all goes well, the next book that I would write in the Adventures with Jonny series would be species-specific about bass fishing. This is the current NASCAR of outdoor sports and seems to be of most interest to many of the Jonny readers. I have lots of ideas about lots of books and Jonny adventures; we will let the public decide.
Hopefully, this two-part interview (as well as Michael's book) will prompt you to embark on a family road trip to some of America's incredible national and state parks. For a bit more inspiration and lots of practical information, consult one or more of Moon's park-focused travel guides, including Moon Acadia National Park, Moon Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains, Moon Glacier National Park, Moon Grand Canyon, Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, Moon Olympic Peninsula, Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, Moon Yosemite, and Moon Zion & Bryce. Then, no matter which park you're headed to next, I hope that you'll have wonderful adventures and make lifelong memories with your family.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
“Jonny” logo courtesy of www.adventureswithjonny.com / Text © 2012 Laura Martone