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Road Trip! Raleigh family plans year-long trip across country

The Kelley family moved out of their Raleigh home and into a 200-square-foot Airstream for a year-long trip across the United States.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Katie Kelley knew what she was getting into when she married her husband Mark.

"He's always had a sense of adventure," Katie Kelley said. He's hiked the Appalachian Trail, ridden his bike across the United States, written a book about his travels and supported other people's adventures.

Katie Kelley doesn't mind exploring either. When they were dating, they spent weekends hiking, biking, kayaking and enjoying the outdoors. Mark Kelley wanted those kind of experiences to continue even after the couple married and had children ... and on a big scale.

On Sunday, the Kelleys launched their biggest adventure yet - a year-long trip across the United States with their two young children, ages 4 and 18 months. They have moved out of their 2,300-square-foot Raleigh home and into a 200-square-foot Airstream trailer, built in 1969, which will be pulled by their Tahoe. Their goal is to see 52 of the 58 national parks in 52 weeks.

"We want to enjoy the time for what it is," Kelley said. "Enjoy slow parenting. Not feel like we have to [hurry]. That's totally, totally opposite to my personality. It's going to be really good for me."

It's taken the Kelleys a decade to plan for the trip. They've invested in rental properties, which will help provide an income while they are on the road, for instance. They've lived frugally. Katie, who works in software sales, has quit her job. Mark, who also works in IT sales, will be working part-time from the road.

The trip - or, at least, the ability to take it - is inspired by designer Stefan Sagmeister, who takes year-long sabbaticals from his work every seven years. The plan includes people working five years later than they might have, but includes five years of work-free living that allows for adventures like this. Mark Kelley describes the philosophy on his Adventure Possible website.

While the Kelleys have a goal, it's not a strict one. If they only make it to 48 National Parks, they'll still consider the trip a success. They've already made reservations at National Park campsites for about 20 weeks of the trip. They plan to stay at National Park campsites the majority of the time. They'll be cooking from their small kitchen or campfires nearly all of the time.

Katie Kelley knows it will be close quarters, but, after years as a busy working mom, she's looking forward to days on the open road with an open schedule.

Her four-year-old daughter kind of understands that they'll be gone for a long time. They've had to say a sad goodbye to their long-time nanny. Katie's 18-month-old, however, has no idea what's in store for him. But, that's OK.

"So rarely do families, dads, moms get to spend that amount of time together," she said. "I'm more excited about the things I can't even know yet - the surprises. Those kind of unscripted moments."

Katie tells me that Mark has plans for many more adventures including, perhaps, a sailboat trip as soon as they return next year. Says Katie: "We'll see."

The Kelley family will be documenting their trip through the Adventure Possible website. I'll also be checking with Katie from time to time during the next year to get updates on their travels. Excited to hear all about it!
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