New Podcast Episode: Family Bonding Through Adventure

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Let’s talk about approaching life with a sense of wonder and excitement to amplify the joy of parenting while strengthening our family bonds. Get ready to embrace the unknown and adopt an adventure mindset to infuse fun and joy into family life everywhere from our backyards to far-flung vacation travels. 

We’re chatting about it all along with our favorite tips for trying new things, keeping things joyfully simple, and our mutual agreement that a scoop of ice cream enhances any adventure!

Join Amanda and Karlene as they dive into the magic of family adventures with Heidi Dusek of Ordinary Sherpa. 

Let’s Talk About Family Adventure!

About our Guest

Heidi Dusek is an adventurous working mom of three. She helps families connect through simple and authentic adventure experiences on her podcast (Ordinary Sherpa), on her Instagram feed, and through speaking and community-building events. Heidi and her family have made northeast Wisconsin their home and designed a lifestyle where travel and time outside play an integral part of their family connection experiences, and she is passionate about sharing what they’ve learned with families everywhere.


Next Episode

In our next episode, we’ll be talking about back to school!

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Amanda Chavez (00:00):

Hello and welcome to Let’s Talk, the show that connects families in Oshkosh with local experts to talk about your parenting questions. I’m Amanda Chavez here with my co-host Karlene Grabner, and today we’re excited to talk with Heidi Ducek about the magic and joy to be found in creating adventures with our families everywhere, from our backyards to exciting travel destinations. What’s un tourism? What’s a joy audit? What is the living room of Oshkosh? Heidi’s going to share these secrets, how to move beyond normal and more with us today. And we’re going to seriously bond over the love of incorporating ice cream into family adventures.

Karlene Grabner (00:35):

Welcome, Heidi. I have had the pleasure of working with Heidi professionally for a couple of years and actually probably more than a couple, and we’re so excited to have you on the podcast today in a different type of format. So Heidi, tell us about yourself.

Heidi Dusek (00:48):

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It’s so fun. I a very different format, right? Yeah, very different. So previously worked in philanthropy, which is how Carlene and I got to know each other better. But we are embarking on a crazy family adventure right now. My family of five and I, my husband and dog are all traveling around the country in an rv and it really is several years of working towards a family gap year. So we, I started Ordinary Sherpa two and a half years ago. I really wanted to connect with other adventurous families, see what was out there, explore how life could be different. And so it’s, it’s time and that’s what

Karlene Grabner (01:24):

We’re doing. My first question, which is big, but also I’m sure you have an answer, like adventure is such a large word When you think of adventure in the context of your, how you’re using it or what you’re doing, what, what does that mean to you? Right?

Heidi Dusek (01:38):

Yeah. So when I think of adventure, immediately. I’m thinking of a mountain, right? Or something outdoorsy. And I think that’s one of the stigmas around it is that it’s so easy to get caught thinking about this big thing, but when you really start to narrow in what does adventure really mean, according to certain dictionaries, it would mean like a new risky, uncomfortable type experience. And so that’s everything from professionally raising your hand to do something uncomfortable that you don’t think you’re good at, to exploring a new area of town that you’ve never been to before. And some of this came out of covid for us because I was realizing I love to travel, but I’m gonna have to figure out how to do this differently. So what can we do if we can’t do this? What else can we do in its place? We discovered just amazing experiences, local gems, things we didn’t even know existed within our backyard. So adventure is everything from, I don’t know, a, a new skill that’s scary and uncomfortable. Maybe it’s podcasting, maybe it’s writing a book, maybe it’s going around the world, you know, it can be big or small. So that’s, I think the immediate challenge is just getting uncomfortable a little bit, right? You don’t have to stay in discomfort forever, but like challenging yourself to get a little uncomfortable.

Karlene Grabner (02:51):

Yeah, cuz you’re right. I mean when I think of the word adventure, I picture a person skydiving or a person on a mountain and you’re right. And like that is a big way to look at it, but it doesn’t have to be the only way to look at it.

Heidi Dusek (03:01):

For sure.

Amanda Chavez (03:02):

When you find those bumper stickers, I think they, I think you’re right. They always have the mountains on ’em, right? Yes, yes. We don’t have a lot around here. Right, exactly. Thank you for joining us today, Heidi. We’ll take a quick break, and then we’ll be back to talk about on tourism, adventure, joy and ice cream.

Karlene Grabner (03:18):

Let’s Talk is brought to you through Go Oshkosh Kids partnership with the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. The Women’s Fund of Oshkosh works to improve the lives of women, girls, and families of the communities in Winnebago County through philanthropy, grant-making and education.

Amanda Chavez (03:36):

You talk a lot about untourism in your book and on your podcast. What do you mean by that?

Heidi Dusek (03:41):

Yeah, so we all know tourism is right and, and when I think of myself traveling, I hated that tourist mentality of like, oh, I’m got my binoculars, am I camera? You know, I always look at my dad and I’m like, oh my God, he’s such a tourist. So I wanted to give people a word to, to explain how you could travel differently, to go deeper into community, to explore things that they didn’t already know about. We all know about Yellowstone, we all know about Glacier National Park, we all know about EAA potentially, right? So these big things that are very common to us when we travel, we automatically look to do those things cuz we feel like we have to, it’s like a bucket list type thing. So on tourism for me was to go deeper. Like let’s think differently about how we could travel and get to like the soul of the city or something. And that’s the word that just landed because people know tourism, they know, I’m talking kind of about travel, but what is un tourism? It’s just like getting to know the locals or getting to know beyond mainstream so to speak. What is unique about that community?

Karlene Grabner (04:43):

So what does a day look like in the world of Heidi and her family of four extras and a dog? Yeah, I mean, what is, I guess nothing is probably typical, but what is, what does it look like?

Heidi Dusek (04:53):

Yeah, it depends what season we’re in. So phase one of our gap year on tourism looked a lot like visiting independently owned ski resorts. So we sought those out. We had been to a lot of resorts in Colorado. All of my kids have learned how to ski since they were age two. Like that was important to us. We wanted to do things that brought the family together, didn’t, instead of, you know, a lot of kids sports and stuff, it takes you in a million different directions. So you’ve got one kid at soccer, you’ve got one kid at baseball, you don’t see each other all day. We were trying to build a lifestyle where all of us were together doing something we loved. So for us in the winter that was skiing in the summer, it’s sometimes like hiking, biking, those types of things or swim, you know, there’s quite a few things in the summertime that are easy to do together.


It doesn’t mean we don’t do those things, but it means we’re more intentional about trying to find places and things we can do together as a family that are supporting independently owned businesses, you know, small businesses or family owned and operated. So it might also look like, and I know we’re gonna talk more about this later, but it might also look like finding, we have a child, each child has a like a travel goal and my youngest is the biggest sweet tooth ever. So his travel goal is to taste all of the best small-batch homemade ice cream in all 50 states, right? So it takes some intentionality around like where are those? And no, you can’t just go to Cold Stone Creamery or Dairy Queen, like that’s cheating for us. So you have to get really intentional about looking for those places. Oh it is ice cream, it is you know, looking on an app to find the next hike that’s nearby something unique. We’ve gone caving, we’ve gone high, we’ve done some mountain biking at some really cool places in West Virginia. There’s often national parks, but we try not to do more than just like check the box, right? We don’t just get the picture at the sign. It’s like, no, we’re gonna find one key takeaway that we didn’t know. Part of that’s homeschooling now too. Like what didn’t we know about this place when we got here?

Amanda Chavez (06:49):

I like it. We talked, Karlene, you brought this up in our last podcast. I think like we live as a society in this expectation that everything’s a five. What did you say? Like every, oh,

Karlene Grabner (06:59):

Every moment is a nine or a 10. Yeah. When really we’re living in fours and fives.

Amanda Chavez (07:03):

I guess I’ve never really thought about this way, but you made me think differently and you talked about like not the bucket list, right? Like right, those high expectations when sometimes our kids’ favorite moments are just being, or just playing in the sand or not necessarily those big moments what we think should be their best memories. I like how you talk about that.

Heidi Dusek (07:25):

Well and that’s a perfect segue into joy audits if you want me to talk into Yeah. About that. Because that’s kind of what I was struggling with is when I was creating our travel list all the time, it was always these places I had heard of and when we couldn’t travel I was like, well how could we do those things here? So for me, I needed to think differently about like, well what do my kids actually enjoy doing? I didn’t, and I’m gonna warn you like this is a little bit geeky. Okay? I do have a background in research and evaluation, so I’m like giving you all a little warning, but I didn’t even know, like I know my kids like baseball and I know we like to read and we like to watch movies and all that kind of stuff, but is that bringing us joy or was it like consumerism mentality where it’s like, oh, you do this thing, you have this huge spike in happiness and then a day later you forgot that you just got this really cool thing or that you went for ice cream.


Like where are we on that spectrum? And I didn’t really have a clear understanding, so I was like, I, I think I need to like get a intentional about planning it or like asking more questions. So I created a joy audit and that was a way for all of us in our family to say, okay, what would be something you really want to do that we haven’t done before? So here’s an example. My youngest is pretty adventurous. Like he wants a dirt bike. He wanted a dirt bike since he was two. And I was like, oh, okay, clearly I’m not buying you a dirt bike at age two. Like we’re gonna test a couple of things to get there, right? So our first test was like, let’s take a mountain biking but get him a dirt biking shirt and a full face helmet, right? That’s correct.


That’s gonna feel like dirt biking and we’re gonna take him on a single track so can get get the feel of like what it’s like to go over these jumps and stuff. So that was like phase one. And so I asked him afterwards like on a scale of one to 10 or one to five, whatever ranking you want, what was that? And we’d talk about it and then I started tracking, well how much did that cost? How much time did it take? And then were they still talking about it like 30 days later or was it just like a blip, right? Are we just seeing this big spike? And so it was everything from my son, my older son, I remember very clearly he wanted something like a creative art project. So I took him to Bergstrom Mueller Museum of Glasson and Nina and I was like, I’ve never done this. This is very different. It’s not just like something he’s going to do in school. And he talked about that for months afterwards and it was like all of $10 or something, you know, like it was inexpensive is my point. It wasn’t a hundred dollars, it wasn’t some big massive thing. It didn’t

Karlene Grabner (09:44):

Cost a plane ride or Right. Anything like that.

Heidi Dusek (09:46):

Right? It was pretty simple. And so I just started to notice after I was doing this for, you know, a couple months or whatever, that the things that they really enjoyed and that were the most memorable were the simple things that were so that anyone could do. It didn’t take a lot of time, it didn’t take a lot of money. It was really simple things. In the end I found that my kids just really wanted to spend time with me. So if we got more intentional about doing things together as a family and spending time doing fun things that they enjoyed, it wasn’t, I no longer have to drag them on a hike cuz they’re like, oh we’re going for a hike and guess what happens after the end of a hike? Mom’s gonna bribe us with something that we want. Right? So they know the sequence enough that they’re even enjoying hiking now even though that’s not where we started. I think part of that has all been because we learned through the process that you can make a lot of things fun.

Karlene Grabner (10:33):

It’s funny cuz last month we had someone, or maybe not month, but the last podcast we did, we had was a discussion on youth sports. Mm. And I can’t remember if I saw this meme before that or after that, but it was a meme that says the new keeping up with the Joneses is youth sports. Mm-hmm. And when you, you just brought that up, it, it’s interesting cuz I think, I think what you’re doing is so creative and admirable because you’re thinking deeper and further. Where now it’s like, does my kid like baseball, football or soccer? Yeah. Or will they do this, this or that? And we’re not allowing them the space to just go out and look at butterflies or whatever that may be. Like you’re allowing them that opportunity to just figure out what they really love, which will then drive, I think where you end up in life because you’ve had more experiences besides being fast tracked into only certain segments.

Heidi Dusek (11:23):

So that’s very similar to like the bucket miss mentality. Like we force kids to choose. So early on, so I was a PE teacher, I should also say that. So I was, as a coach, I was seeing like kids were kind of tracked into a sport as early as like fifth and sixth grade. They kind of had to choose and there weren’t a lot of three sport athletes, but they only knew three sports like that they knew soccer, basketball and football or whatever those three things were. That’s all they knew. But what about field hockey? What about lacrosse? Mm-hmm <affirmative> like what about these sports that aren’t available or that we don’t even know about here? They never have the chance to even explore them because now they’ve already been, and we, we also saw so many kids just getting burned out that by the time they were at a competitive level, they didn’t wanna play.


They didn’t really have a passion for the sport anymore. So I did have that background knowledge going into this that yes, my son loves baseball. Absolutely. My oldest son’s goal is to visit all the major league baseball stadiums. Oh great. And he’s never played travel baseball before. It’s not that I don’t want to or that he’s not skilled enough. It’s just that as a family we’ve decided like at what age is that appropriate for you and when do you still wanna do it then. So that’s kind of, I think it does have a lot of overlap with sports and how you approach them. It does, it

Amanda Chavez (12:33):

Does. One thing that really resonated with me on one of your podcasts, what we’re in the season of life where my kids are 10 and 12 and they’re opinionated. So we’ll be Go Valley kids will celebrate 10 years this summer. So I’ve been doing adventuring with my family in the Fox Valley for 10 years and they used to be, yeah mom, this is fun, let’s go. And now they, they’re very opinionated like, and I think you said one of your podcasts, like asking what they wanna do and having that balance of yes and no, right? Like that your foot on the pedal and not Yeah, like giving them the freedom to choose what their adventures are. But also, I mean, sometimes they would choose not to do them, right? Yeah. Like

Heidi Dusek (13:17):

Yeah and it’s all developmentally appropriate, right? So what my 13 year old wants to do is often different. Well not always different, but often, you know, it’s not the same as what my 11 year old daughter wants to do. They’re very different people. I, I kinda learned, I fell into this a little bit because I have a husband that never traveled. He didn’t appreciate travel and I don’t wanna sound that as a dig, like he just didn’t have exposure to travel. But before we met, meanwhile I was like, I was an exchange student overseas, I’d been to all 50 states, you know, I was like, I had done all these things and I was like, well I’m not giving that up just to marry you <laugh>, like you’re gonna have to figure this out. But I had to find a way for it to make sense for him.


So for him he loved motorcycles so I didn’t care where we went. I was just like, well let’s go here and we’ll take the, so he had, he got to figure all the destinations. So I use that same planting of the seed and we do it in business all the time too, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you never really have an idea. You plant the seed and then it becomes someone else’s idea and then they buy into it and they make it come to life. It’s the same thing with kids. My kids plant the seed, you know, we plant the seeds in our kids. We usually try to have, I’m less good about this now or I’m not as good about this now. A seasonal adventure list we would call it where we collectively as a family say like, okay, what are things you wanna experience? So on our family gap year, like this is phase, we’re going into phase three, we’re heading to Alaska, what do you wanna do? What do you think Alaska’s gonna be like? What do you think we should try that you’ve never tried before? So those are the things now that are gonna go on the list that we’re gonna explore. It’s based, they’re kind of crowdsourcing their own activities as opposed like Mom said we have to do this. Right? So that’s I think the mindset that we’ve used and it’s working not always right because what they say one day, they also don’t wanna do the next day like, so that was yesterday <laugh>. So it’s, there’s bribery involved as well.

Karlene Grabner (15:07):

I’m curious cuz my head goes right to some of these conversations and if you don’t wanna answer some, you don’t have to, but I’m curious on the conversation of like money and, and I’m also curious how your kids responded to this gap year idea to begin with and taking them out of what is seen as the, the way everything has to be approach and, and how do you, I mean is there conversations of this is the limit we can spend on this activity or this is, you know, like how do you allow them to dream like that without being like, well I wanna ride horses on the beach or I, I don’t know, I’m just curious how you, how you’ve gotten them trained or how, I don’t dunno how that goes down. How did

Heidi Dusek (15:44):

That start? This, they’ve been very involved since the idea came about. So this, again, it’s not like we just overnight decided we’re gonna, you know, break. We’re no longer gonna be traditionally M W2 employees. We’re no longer gonna go to public school, we’re just gonna jump in the RV and go, right. It didn’t, it didn’t happen like that. It took several years. So proba you know, as I was doing that joy audit, I started to realize like there’s, there’s something else here. It doesn’t really take a lot for us to have joy in our life. And so when you start to look at those trends, it was simple things like, you know, and then you get really good at like optimizing or ha you know, these little like travel hacks or whatever. So major league baseball stadiums was high on my son’s list. Well major league baseball stadiums, you don’t have to buy the a hundred dollars tickets. There’s a, there’s a $20 option and sometimes they have like programs for kids. So I would just like seek those out or maybe we’ll go on a Sunday instead of a night game that are a little more expensive. And that’s just what it was. So more recently we were at a baseball game and we had tickets behind the dugout and I was like, oh okay kids, we need to have a conversation cuz this is probably never gonna happen again, right? Like we go up the nose bleed seats special

Karlene Grabner (16:48):


Heidi Dusek (16:49):

And you get good at like training them. No we don’t get snacks until the sixth inning and we joke about this all the time cuz my seventh, seven-year-old will say, is it the sixth inning yet? You’re like, you don’t even care about the baseball, you’re just here for the snacks, aren’t you? Right <laugh>. Um, but we also have found, like for example, Amanda and I were talking earlier about there’s different resources and tools when you know what you’re looking for. So instead of going to a city and buying all the touristy things, we’re members of a local museum and that gets us free access then to museums around the country. They have these membership programs for botanical gardens and adventure theme parks and stuff like that. So I think once you really know what you’re looking for, you can find ways to optimize.


It’s, it’s kind of funny though. I do have a funny story from our recent visit to New York City. I have a daughter who’s a ridiculous Harry Potter fan. I have a son. Both my sons are like big Lego people. So I was all excited. I was gonna take them to the Harry Potter store and to the Lego store right on Broadway. You know, I think sometimes as parents we like put and project our expectations onto our kids, right? And so I was like, what are you gonna buy? Like what’s your thing gonna be? What’s gonna be like your big memento that you remember this trip by? And all they kept looking at is like, mom, these prices are so expensive. And I was like, oh yeah, you’re right. You know, like okay. I was the one that was like almost in the moment like, oh we have to buy something, right? We need a memento in the end, I think my daughter spent like $8 on a charm and she’s like, oh and I have a necklace that I can put it on. And my kids were like, why don’t we just share a kit that’s $20? You know, it was so funny cause I was like, oh, somewhere along the line they’ve figured this out that money isn’t necessarily equivalent to fun.

Karlene Grabner (18:31):

Yeah. And to joy. Yeah. And to,

Heidi Dusek (18:33):

You don’t have to spend money in order to have joy. So they’re probably wiser than

Karlene Grabner (18:37):

I am. That’s the trick of a lifetime, right? <laugh>.

Heidi Dusek (18:39):

Yeah. I think my kids are probably smarter than I was. I do think when you think about traveling though, you’re looking to escape a life that you’re currently in. When it is your life you don’t really pay attention to. You know, like yes we are tracking all of our expenses, but I’m not escaping anything anymore. You know, like I don’t need to relax and go to a spa or do any of those big things that I maybe thought I needed to do when I was on vacation cause I deserved it, quote unquote.

Karlene Grabner (19:04):


Heidi Dusek (19:05):

So, you know, the things that we really enjoy don’t necessarily cost as much. We’re just like substituting our life expenses in a different place every week.

Karlene Grabner (19:15):

Wow. I’m honored <laugh>. I just do Heidi, talk about how your kids are responding to this. I mean, you’re making, you’re making it sound like they are in all in on this. I, I mean, are they, what, what are your day to day look like? Is everybody six months in, are you six months in,

Heidi Dusek (19:33):

Four months in.

Karlene Grabner (19:34):

Four months in, okay. I mean, does it feel like you wanted it to feel or are you Yeah,

Heidi Dusek (19:38):

It is. Uh, and I had this like vision if I, if people were like, so what’s your gap you’re gonna look like? And in my head I was like, like every day is a vacation. Not that we’re doing these big elaborate things, but that every day like there’s just this ease of not feeling like, oh did you pack your lunch? Oh did you get your homework done? Do you have your shoes on? Why aren’t you dressed yet? Like I wanted those narratives to go away so that we could wake up and be like, how’d you sleep last night? Right. And just have meaningful conversations. And as I said earlier, it wasn’t the big elaborate things that any of us needed. It was more just spending time together, being in proximity to each other. I will say it’s taken us some time to get here. So my big idea five some years ago was that we were gonna travel around the world and I was really exploring like there’s these around the world tickets that you can get with an airline and you can stop at 10 different locations around the world, all going in the same direction.


I was like, that’s what we’re gonna do. And then I started looking, I’m like, there’s no way we can do that with a family of five. Like that’s just gonna be a crazy amount of money. We were good savers not that good. So I was like, okay, we have to think differently. Maybe we’ll just do a couple of stops. Well we were fortunate enough to figure out how to spend three weeks in Hawaii a couple years ago and my kids after like seven days were like, oh my God, we have to go to a new location today. Like, can’t we just stay home and when are we gonna see the dog? And like, I don’t wanna wear these clothes any, you know, like it was, and I don’t wanna say like they were privileged kids where they were just whining. But I realized like, this isn’t it.


This isn’t what they wanna do. And it kind of feels what they loved was the home stay we did and we went surfing with a whole bunch of kids and I was like, oh, how can I do this? Like how can we connect with other families where we’re traveling and do the things they like to do So they’re playing with kids. So that was kind of the next like, okay, who else is doing this? Who’s ahead of us on this journey? What are they doing? What have they learned? So we continued to have conversations. Last year I took like a mini sabbatical and we were gone. We, we bought the RV in 2021 when we realized like there’s another opportunity here. There’s something here. We call it our vacation house on wheels. Like we’re not gonna buy a lake house, we’re gonna buy this RV cuz we can take our vacation home with us.


Then every night we’re in our same beds. We have a closet and two drawers of clothes. That’s an, you know, like we share the closet but we both have two drawers. Those became like, is this enough? Are we, do we feel neglected? Do we feel like we’re giving up a lot of our life in order to have this? And we’re like, no, I think we’re good here. So it became obvious like okay, that worked. There was something about the RV that felt like home and nobody asked to come home. Nobody was asking. I said, do you guys miss your friends? No, not yet. We’re doing okay. So that kind of planted the idea of like, do you think you could do this for a year? And the kids, you know, in the back of their minds homeschooling was covid schooling, which was not what we wanted to do. No. So getting that through their brains, like no one

Karlene Grabner (22:30):

No one wanted to do that.

Heidi Dusek (22:31):

This is not that. Right? That wasn’t even homeschooling. We don’t know what that was. But that was just like a crazy experience. We’re never going back there again. Okay, but what did it look like then? So we took all last summer and homeschooled them the way we wanted to try homeschooling on the road this year. And they loved it. Like they got to study the things they were interested in. They were curious. My son started his own business, you know like things that they were just curious about. We let them do and we figured out, okay, what is, how do you practice reading while you’re doing this? How do you get your writing in? Where’s the math involved in this? What are you missing out on? And where we have to supplement then. So that helped. You’ll start to notice like it’s a lot of little experiments and honestly I didn’t think we were gonna do this until 2025 cuz that would’ve been like given us a couple more years. And my oldest son said, if you think I’m doing this in high school, you’re crazy. And he’s currently in seventh grade. He said, I will do it this year or next year. But by the time I’m a freshman I don’t wanna travel. I wanna, I wanna be around, wanna be stationary. Yeah I wanna participate in sports, I wanna be home, I wanna be with my friends, I wanna be in band. You know those things that are just hard to replicate on the road.

Karlene Grabner (23:36):

And so you do, you do really think of this as a gap year. Yeah. Like you do think next year you will go back to traditional schooling, traditional work, traditional some sort of,

Heidi Dusek (23:49):

Yeah, I wouldn’t rule it out in my head. We’re going back and I think in all of our heads we’re going back and we’ve even said all along, if at any point you decide you don’t like this, we’ll go home. Like this isn’t a sentence, right? Like we have to be gone a year, right? It might be 12 months, it might be 18 months. I don’t have like a definitive timeline. Or it might be when the money runs out. I mean it could be a lot of factors. But so far we just did this last week, so we’re home for a week. And I thought, you know like, are they gonna see all their friends? Are they gonna be doing activities? Will this be the thing that triggers them to say no I wanna, I don’t wanna go anymore, I wanna stay home. And all of them said, you know, this week’s been kind of bittersweet but we don’t wanna go back to school in the fall. We wanna keep going. So I was like, score,

Karlene Grabner (24:32):

You’re like, here we go for me. 

Heidi Dusek (24:33):

I was like, alright here guys. So everyone’s like, so when you’re coming home and I was like, I I don’t know when we’ll be home again cuz now I know that the kids are enjoying this and wanna keep going. So we’ll see

Karlene Grabner (24:44):

From a, so we did this podcast after some focus groups with parents and things and speaking parent to parent. But like how do you feel your parenting is different? I mean do you feel, I think you used the word relaxed before. I mean, do you feel like, how do you feel your parenting’s different? Yeah. Or how does it feel to you now as opposed to three years ago?

Heidi Dusek (25:00):

It feels lighter. I don’t know how else to describe it, but there’s definitely a sense of ease. It’s not easy. I don’t wanna give the impression. It’s actually a lot harder cause I don’t have a community with us all the time to, you know, I don’t have a school that’s also helping with my children. Socially emotional academical needs. I’m, I’m it or we’re it for each other. However, I think when you have the space to think, you realize you’re much more creative than you maybe once were when you were so structured and everything was kind of expected of you. It’s kind of a sad story. But the number of times I yell at my kids for laughing is grown pretty tremendously. Because I was like, you guys are just like having too much fun. Like stop laughing, you’re just getting annoying now. You know? And I, I once said with my daughter, I was like, what did you do in school when you would laugh like this?


She goes, mom, I never laughed like this in school. You know, like it never got to that point. We just, and that’s not a dig on schools, right? No, no. It’s just, it’s the reality of who she was in school was very different than who she is on the road. So I think we’ve all changed slightly and we all needed a little bit of a break in giving ourselves enough space and time to think and not be so structured has allowed us to be closer. You know, I don’t, I don’t think I’ve heard my kids wants in four months say I’m bored. And again, I don’t think that’s me. I think that’s just, there’s, there’s plenty to do. We just needed to figure out how they could find those things on their own. So to piggyback off that question a little bit, I was talking with a friend this past weekend about, we talk about focusing all on our kids, right?


But if you take it one step further, healthy families also begin with healthy partners. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, how do you find that time with your spouse when you’re on the road? Yeah, that’s a little trickier. That helped in what we needed in terms of an RV because we knew we had rented a couple of RVs before and you know, in a lot of them it’s just like this open concept. Everyone’s just kind of sleeping everywhere. And I was like, no, I think we all need our own bed. So each kid has their own bed with a privacy curtain and the same was true for my husband. And I’m like, no, I need to be able to shut the door. Yeah, you might still hear, you know, our conversation or whatever, but we get to shut the door every single night and that’s our space and our time.


We actually have gotten in a routine every morning of going for a walk without the kids. Like we’re usually up early so we take the dog for a walk with our coffee, you know, six 30 in the morning and I’m like, gosh, I never did this before. It is tricky cuz you don’t necessarily have space and everyone hears everything. You know, you don’t have that. But I think you learn to vocalize what you need more frequently rather than, whereas before I might have just like walked into my room, closed the door, been upset, you know, just been like grumpy about it. Now I don’t, people see it, they hear it, they know something’s up. So we, I might just say like, husband, I need you to make dinner and I need to not hear anyone ask mom for anything for the next hour. Can you do that for me? And the kids here, you know, they’re like, okay, sure. Leave mom alone. Yeah. Got that clue. You know, I, I don’t know if that answers, but I think we’re getting more intentional. It’s not perfect and things change. You know, you think you’re in a groove and then you’re like, okay, that wasn’t it. Like, I’m trying to figure out well-being, like healthy eating exercise, those things are harder, you know, things like that.

Karlene Grabner (28:15):

But it seems like when listening to you, it seems like you’re fully connecting in such, I don’t, magical is such a wrong word, but in, in different ways that are really fulfilling. You know, when I’m listening to you talk, I’m hearing being fulfilled with your family, your kids, your, your significant other, all of those kind of things. That’s, that’s how it feels listening to it. Which is that’s, it’s wonderful.

Amanda Chavez (28:39):

It’s wonderful. Think it goes back to like yeah. All what everything you’re about. Because I would, I mean, not that I wouldn’t expect you to answer that way, but it’s the same thing you say date your husband, oh we have to go for dinner, but that doesn’t have to be a date. Right? Right. You’re saying

Karlene Grabner (28:53):

You can take a walk together and have coffee in the morning together?

Heidi Dusek (28:55):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We, so when my husband and I did the joy audit, we were laughing about this too. We were like, why do we do dinner in a movie? Like we don’t connect over dinner in a movie. Usually we’re like people watching during dinner and at a movie you don’t even talk to each other. So it was like, I think we need some new options. So that’s when we started, you know, we might go for dinner but then we have to go for a walk one day. We went and played laser tag, you know, it’s just like, what would a 13-year-old version of Brent and Heidi do? Right? So like, let’s go back to when we were more fun and more youthful and more creative. What would those people do? So I think sometimes, too, it’s easy to just get into old habits. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So encouraging yourself, like what would be fun for you or what’s something you haven’t done? Or we’ll steal ideas from our kids. We’re like, you wanna do a creative art project, do you? And then I’ll look at my husband and be like, do you wanna do a creative art project <laugh>?

Amanda Chavez (29:39):

It’s just kinda like, oh

Heidi Dusek (29:40):

Yeah, why did I think of that?

Karlene Grabner (29:42):

So, so Heidi, talk to us about what, what does it look like? What are the challenges? What are the obstacles? What are the things that one of you wakes up one day and is like, oh boy, this isn’t exactly what I thought it was gonna be. Or

Heidi Dusek (29:53):

Right, right. And I don’t wanna, I, again, I don’t wanna paint a rosy picture, right? I, yes, we are loving it. It’s fitting us. I don’t think everyone needs to take a gap year to have these experiences. So I just wanna like disclaimer alert, there are days probably every week that I have one of those like mental load days where you just start going, what am I doing? Why are we doing this? Is this the right decision? And usually it’s around things like money or health insurance or something broke on the rv. Our plan doesn’t go according to plan. The weather isn’t cooperating and now we’re stuck somewhere. You know, these things that you have that are completely outside of your control or things that just are harder. You know, finding healthcare on the road is just a pain in the butt. And to make sure it fits within our network and all those things.


That has been, I won’t go into the story about how we tested that one, but we did, my daughter had an accident in Texas, so I, I got a little firsthand look on what it’s going to be like if someone got hurt on the road. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s an easy answer, but I think oftentimes that’s the end game, right? We almost self-sabotage because we think this is gonna be too hard. Instead of allowing ourself to test like what would minimum viable be? Like what is the minimum that we need to get over this next hump? Who do I need to call to vent to? Or what does, what does okay look like today? Rather than I need to do all of these things in order for us to thrive. Not every day is like that. I think there’s just this reality check of this is gonna be good enough for today, today’s a four, it’s gonna be a four, I’m okay with a four. Let’s hope tomorrow’s a six or higher. Right. And I, that’s just the reality of what life is. Our life isn’t perfect by any means. Well we still fight, we still, you know, it’s all those things but it’s just in different places.

Karlene Grabner (31:42):

Well and I think you can, you have the ability now to look back at your life and say we tried it. You know? Yeah. Like you said, I mean I think we give up too much on this. This didn’t go the way we thought it was or all way too early.

Heidi Dusek (31:52):

Yeah. And I also think, you know, people might hear this and think, oh like that’s the dream life. And I will tell you there’s parts of it that aren’t so dreamy. Like in our normal lives I know where the grocery store is, I know where all the things are in my favorite grocery store. I know I can just like do laundry in my house, I can just go get my mail. All of those things are 10 times harder in a location you don’t know. And when we move every single week, we’re like repeating. So everything just takes longer too. So you’re like, why is this so hard? Well I don’t know where I am. I mean, can you imagine moving every week and like trying to figure out your systems again? So it, as much as it’s an, it’s like a big adventure for us obviously, but sometimes it’s just those little things that you don’t have to do this in order to have some of those experiences and being resilient enough in the moment to think, okay, what are my options right now? What’s, you don’t have to go to worst case scenario like what’s plan B and C and are we okay doing those instead?

Karlene Grabner (32:50):

Well and I think, I thank you for being here and sharing everything and I think the best part of this is, and maybe it’s cuz the school years come to a close, I’ve kind of in my closure mindset of, but I think your kids 20, 30, 40 years from now are gonna be like, you wouldn’t believe what mom and dad did with us. And I think you’re giving them a gift that all of us should strive to do. Like you said maybe pieces and, and many steps of this. But you’re giving them a gift to be kids and to grow up differently and experience some things a little differently. And I think, I hope that we’re, I hope you’ve inspired other people to think that way too. Cuz it sure has for me.

Amanda Chavez (33:27):

You had talked about earlier about the libraries being public living rooms. Yeah. And the Oshkosh Library has so many great resources this summer they’re offering state park passes. You can check out a state park pass at the library. Another great resource I think, which isn’t the, is through the park and rec like get discounted tickets through the park and rec. You had mentioned one of your experiences with the library. How do you use the library on your journey?

Heidi Dusek (33:52):

Yeah, so I feel like the reason why I like that term, like libraries of the living room of our community is because when you go there you find the local experts. People often say like when you’re traveling, like how do you get locals to tell you their ideas? And one of my favorite places to go is the library. Cuz people are so passionate about their community and they know a lot of different resources and how to connect you. So for example, I will go to the librarian and be like, if you were gonna go to dinner tonight, where would you go? Right? So you’re not telling me what you think I wanna hear, you don’t even know that I’m a traveler or an outsider per se. You just know that I wanna know your opinion. Well people love to talk about themselves and their favorite things.


When we were looking for all the different things our kids wanted to do, the library was one of the first stops in particular, all of my kids had taken piano lessons and we were trying to figure out how are we gonna do this on the road? Like, we’re not gonna carry a piano along. I’m not. And even like traveling keyboards, it was like, this is just not practical for us. It just doesn’t work. But a lot of public libraries have pianos available and, and like really nice pianos. We played in like a really fancy grand piano in Minneapolis that I was like, I don’t know, like I feel like I should clean after my kids have been in here. So it’s interesting that when you start to realize you can check out different like tools and things like that, often at libraries you can participate in like gardening programs or craft programs like libraries have just been such a great first stop shop kind of thing where we get exposed to what is available in this community.

Karlene Grabner (35:21):

And I think it’s great that you bring that to the surface too because I think people still think of libraries as book checking out. Yeah. Like I go there, I get a book, I check it out and that’s it. But there’s so much

Heidi Dusek (35:30):

More and I don’t know what the local library policy is cuz a lot of people think, well, you can’t check anything out. However, there are where they offer you like a guest pass or we’ve had people that have checked things out while we’re in town for us. You know, there’s, there’s some ways to do that or it’s just a good three hours that we spend at the library that day and it’s homeschool day or whatever. You know, it’s, it’s really fun. Yes, there’s music, there’s books, but there’s so many other things.

Amanda Chavez (35:56):

Or you could find a free little, do you find Yes. Those free little libraries on your journey outside?

Heidi Dusek (36:00):

Yeah, all the time.

Amanda Chavez (36:02):

We’ll share some more resources in our, in our notes after the episode too. So if you were gonna give our listeners one tidbit or one they said to start adventuring or put adventure into their lives a little bit more this summer, what would you focus on?

Heidi Dusek (36:19):

Yeah, so start, start with something you’re already interested in and go deeper, right? So I mentioned my son is super excited about ice cream. So we just got really intentional about like, okay, so it’s kind of funny, I actually started this research on National Ice cream day when I was like, well, what is the best ice cream in Wisconsin? Like, I don’t even know, like I know what my favorite is, and we always kind of fall on our favorites or just out of habit, but what are some of the other ones around? And what makes that good for us is, so I think that simple tip of, like, just start with what you already know and just take one step further of like, so what is the best option for us? Or what haven’t I done in this space that I could try? Or what am I curious about that someone talked about that I’ve never heard of before? And I just wanna explore it. So use just a little sliver of something that’s interesting and go a little further with it.

Amanda Chavez (37:08):

We’re looking forward to sharing ideas from today and Oshkosh based ideas and resources for summer with listeners and their families. Head to and our Facebook page to continue this conversation. Thanks again to our guest, Heidi, for sharing your time and knowledge with us. And thanks to our producer Liz Schultz, our audio and video engineer Marlo Ambas and of course to my cohost Karlene Grabner and for the support of the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh.

Karlene Grabner (37:32):

Thank you to our listeners for tuning in. We’d love for you to share this episode with a friend, subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, or leave us a review. Let’s talk again next month.

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