Say yes to travel?
That’s exactly what Melissa Berry did after the near-death of her father, a traumatic experience that led to the realization that life is short and precious.
She decided to travel with no regrets, planning a big camping trip that was unlike anything she’d ever experienced.
Keep reading to learn more about why Melissa booked the trip, how she planned it, and how it ultimately changed her and influenced the trajectory of her life.
Note: This post is part of the Jessie on a Journey Inspiring Travelers series. It contains affiliate links to trusted partners.
How The Near-Death Of A Parent Led One Woman To Say Yes To Travel [Video Interview]
Watch the Facebook Live interview replay above!
The video serves as an extended interview to the below written one.
How The Near-Death Of A Parent Led One Woman To Say Yes To Travel [Written Interview]
1. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. To get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure, and thanks so much for having me! My name is Melissa Berry and I run the local travel blog, Everyday Spokane.
In my previous life, I worked in emergency management and preparedness planning, but worked hard to become a blogger. Now I am a full-time editor and blog manager.
I started Everyday Spokane in 2018 when my husband and I moved to Spokane because, while I’ve lived here before and knew how to navigate the city, I watched my husband have questions and thought, “I could answer these for people!”
The city has grown so much that new people to Spokane can have a hard time adjusting, and I wanted to make that transition easier for them so they love the city as much as I do.
2. People say yes to travel for different reasons. For you, it was the near-death of your father that pushed you to book a trip. Can you share more about that?
Basically, my father and I have always bonded over a love of travel.
He was in the military when he was younger and traveled all over the world, and in fact, we both celebrated our 21st birthday in the same country — Morocco! Just, obviously, many decades apart.
One thing he regretted was not traveling more. Life just sort of happened and traveling with a child and a spouse who had her own job was difficult. We did plenty of camping, but the epic trips he did in his youth were just not feasible.
In 2016, he had some pretty serious health scares and I was already worried. Without going into a ton of detail, his health isn’t good now and every year we get with him is a blessing, and I was wrestling with how to be a good daughter and see him more often with the thought that life is short and I didn’t want to have as many regrets about travel as he did.
Travel was in the back of my mind, but a few things really spurred me forward.
One thing was my job situation changed, and I became a full-time freelancer.
Second, I was turning 30.
Third, I simply didn’t want my life to end up like my dad’s, endless working to provide for the family but always full of stories of travel and “missed opportunities.”
I know that we all have obligations and you can’t just jet off when you have a spouse and responsibilities, but I decided that travel was a priority to me — and my husband agreed — and we needed to make some changes to make travel feasible, not burdensome.
While my Dad was in the ICU, we planned our hiking/Airbnb trip; as in, we interspersed camping with staying at Airbnbs so I could get reliable WiFi, since I was now full-time freelancer!
By the way, if you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb you can click Jessie’s referral link here for $55 off your first stay!
While we were planning, my Dad recovered, and we made the decision that not only would this trip be for travel, but also an opportunity to find a new place to live — aka moving away from our hometown!
Without spoiling the rest of it, Dad was incredibly supportive of the whole trip and our decision to move. He and I studied camping tents together, we went to REI — Dad really came to life while we planned the trip.
Of course, he had regrets that he couldn’t do any of it anymore, but he was still excited for us. He’s even happier we ended up in a city we both love. He actually visited Spokane when I lived there and absolutely loved it.
My husband and I visited Spokane on our epic travel trip and luckily my husband fell in love with it, since I already loved it!How The Near-Death Of A Parent Led One Woman To Say Yes To #Travel
3. The trip you decided on was an epic three-week camping trip up and down the West Coast — and even into Idaho and Utah — which is something you mentioned you would have never done in the past. What made you decide on this trip itinerary?
Primarily, this was a chance for us to see what cities we liked! We had an idea that we wanted to move from Phoenix — I knew it, but had to convince the husband — and we knew we wanted to stay on the west side for our families. We decided to plan much of our trip around cities we thought we’d like to move to, including Portland, Seattle, Spokane, and a few others.
From there, we thought about what things would be enjoyable to us — and pet-friendly.
Yes, we brought our little camping buddy and family member, our dog Molly! This meant making sure we visited pet-friendly beaches (like Dog Beach in Southern California), stayed on the approved pet-friendly trails in the Redwoods, and always stayed in pet-friendly Airbnbs when we weren’t camping.
We decided to do a loop instead of going up and down the West Coast simply because the route through Salt Lake City is faster than the West Coast/California route. We knew on our way back from Washington state, we would have visited all the places on our list and would want to hustle back home!
Plus, we were excited about visiting Utah as we hadn’t really been before and wanted to get in some camping there on our way back to Arizona.
4. What was the biggest pre-trip challenge for you, especially as someone who was new to traveling?
While I had camped with my family growing up and traveled to Europe before, I was very new to planning such a long, epic camping/road trip with my new husband.
We had never done something this long, time-consuming, or stressful before. I had us stay at a tiny home in Seattle, for instance, and hadn’t thought about how the truck, which we’d borrowed from my Dad, would fit into their equally tiny parking space. Let’s just say that led to some fighting (“cover your dog ears, Molly!”).
So planning was definitely the biggest pre-trip challenge.
I had in my mind certain ways this trip should go, and my husband had his own thoughts of how it would go. We disagreed a lot, but compromised… and we both learned a ton about each other and what our travel needs are from this trip.
Honestly, I would recommend people dating or engaged do a trip like this before they get married because the experience was illuminating into how we behave under stressful conditions, how we plan, how hard-working we are when things were going horribly wrong, and more.Has an event in your life ever pushed you to #travel? Learn how the near-death of a parent pushed one woman to say yes to a #BigTrip!
5. Did this trip change you in any way?
One, I learned how incredibly cool my parents were to do camping trips like this.
We never did a three-week camping trip when I was growing up, but we camped every weekend in the 1990s with no cellphones and no reliable internet maps. It’s kind of insane to do a trip like this, and even crazier if you think about not having emergency cell service to look up “what’s that plant that my dog just ate” or “omg where is the nearest gas station.”
Also, my Dad and I definitely grew closer. It t took him a long time to fully recover from his ICU stay, and he wasn’t fully “back” until we returned from our trip later that summer.
I took a million pictures though, and even FaceTimed my parents while we were traveling. He’s seen me go from a spacey teen — I was not the greatest camper as a kid, although obviously I never drowned in a lake or anything — to a disciplined traveler who plans within budgets, and I think he’s felt a lot better about the type of person he raised.
Also, my husband and I learned there are some trips we take together that should never be three weeks long!
6. In terms of traveling after experiencing trauma, did this trip help or make things harder — or both? How?
That’s an interesting question because I think both!
On one hand, it made things better because I felt more connected to the people my parents were when they were younger.
I thought, “Oh wow, I wonder if these are the feelings they had when experiencing X, Y, and Z. No wonder they loved camping so much, look at these stars! No wonder we’re all so close as a family — there’s nothing to do but hang out in the middle of nowhere!”
But on the other hand, it was hard.
With all of my Dad’s health events, he’s lost a little more of himself, and I can’t right now have conversations with him that I could have five or 10 years ago. I can’t ask him camping or traveling questions too much anymore, because his memory isn’t great and he gets mad at himself.
I feel like I understand my parents better, but sometimes it’s sad because I wish I had known them when they were younger. I think we would have been friends, for sure!While challenging trips can be, well, challenging, they can also be opportunities for growth, as this inspiring #traveler proves! #TravelStories
7. What were some of the biggest highlights of the trip?
The Redwoods in northern California are definitely something we still talk about — and want to return to since much of it is understandably off-limits to pets and so we were pretty constrained on where we could hike.
Seattle, one of my favorite US cities, was a huge highlight because my husband fell in love with it too. Honestly, there are so many things to do in Seattle, and now we make at least one annual trip and sometimes more frequent visits.
Another trip highlight was Yachats — a tiny town on the Oregon coast where we got an incredible deal on an Airbnb because it was brand new so they were trying to get reviews.
We had direct beach access, it was pet-friendly, and there were killer views. We still talk about that place all the time!
8. After the trip, you decided to fulfill your dream of moving to Spokane, Washington. What was holding you back from doing this before, and what made you finally decide to take the leap?
Definitely the thing holding me/us back was fear of the unknown!
Who in the world quits their secure and fulfilling job to just move to a new city? Although I had gone to college in Spokane, no one expected me to move back. After all, our families live in Arizona!
But it really was me looking at my parents and their lives that made me take the leap. They both ditched Pennsylvania — where they’re from — in their 20s, both they moved separately and actually met in Arizona.
It took pretty huge leaps of faith to move thousands of miles away to a state they’d never even visited. Neither of them had jobs. They did have one family member each, but no one particularly close.
I just felt like if I didn’t do something like that, I would look back and have regrets. I see the regrets my dad has had and thought, “We can financially afford to do this right now. I have a job freelancing that I know I could take full-time. My husband’s job is flexible teaching. Let’s… do this?!”
And we did!
But the camping trip was key to getting my husband on board. If we hadn’t done it and he hadn’t visited Spokane, we wouldn’t have moved.
Truly, this has been the best thing we’ve ever done so far. Almost every day we look at each other and say, “I can’t believe we live here!” We have to pinch ourselves because we feel so lucky!'Who in the world quits their secure and fulfilling job to just move to a new city?' 😉 Read one woman's #TravelStory about planning a trip out of her comfort zone and then being inspired to relocate! #Travel
9. What would you say to someone who wants to say yes to travel and make it more of a lifestyle, but is afraid to take the leap?
Sans husband, I would say just do it. Pick a place on a map, find a flight or use your car, and just go check it out.
However, now that I have a husband who is more cautious and more of a planner, I’d say:
Identify a few places that sound interesting to you. Determine a budget. Figure out which one of those places fits your budget — flying vs. driving, Airbnbs vs. hotels or Bnbs.
Make sure you have the time off work or can re-arrange your schedule to do it. Make sure there are some fun things to do so you’re not bored!
Basically, make an itinerary and budget and then just go do it.
By having a plan and a cost estimate, hopefully, that will make it easier to explain to yourself/others if you’re afraid to make the traveling leap!
10. Building on that, what could this person do to make the transition easier?
In our case, setting a budget and making sure you have the time to do it.
For my husband, it’s all about asking, “Is it in our finances and do we have enough time to enjoy ourselves?”
It definitely will take a trip or two to learn how much time you personally need to visit a place — my husband can check off a place in two days whereas I like at least five to feel like a local; but once you do, your transition will be easier because it will work for you and your personality.
Have you had a “say yes to travel” moment?
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