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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

My childhood was unlike most others I’ve heard about. This is neither good nor bad. It was just different. My dad was fulfilling a twenty-year contract with the Marines, which meant we were stationed in many different areas for certain periods of time. For this reason,I spent my life on the road awaiting new adventures. 

New area codes, faces, houses, phone numbers, and lives. This was life. A typical day, month, or year. But it was never consistent. As you can imagine, especially once I was a self-aware teenage girl, this wasn’t always the easiest thing. From North Carolina to Virginia, back to North Carolina, up the border into Canada, back down the border to sunny California, over to the tropics of Florida, and finally settling down in New Hampshire. It was a lot. Trust me, I’m aware. My parents understood this. It was a lot for them, as well. Constantly being on the road with two small children and two dogs was difficult. At least I wasn’t the one listening to, “Are we there yet?” every hour. Instead, I got the lucky role of being one of the complainers. 

One day, my dad went out to run some errands, which was rare because he was always either working at the military base or overseas. When he came back, there was a shiny white camper sitting in our driveway. He had decided that it was adventure time. We were moving away from Toronto, Canada that year, and it was a long drive to San Diego, California. We were used to this: packing up, goodbyes, and long car rides. But this time it was different. That Spring, my mom and dad planned out everywhere we’d stop in our new camper. The Grand Tetons, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and more. This is where the fun began.

Our first stop was, of course, Niagara Falls. It felt like the final hoorah of living in Canada because we stayed on the Canadian side. I vividly remember eating at a rainforest cafe and riding the Maid of Mist, one of the touring boats down at the base of the waterfalls.

Next on the list was Algonquin Provincial Park. This was our first real night “camping” (I think it’s more “glamping” since we weren’t in tents.) We set up the camper, pulled out the chairs and fire pit, made some s’mores, ate grilled hotdogs and burgers, and my dad told me a ghost story to scare me.

After Algonquin was Mount Rushmore. If you like giant rock heads, then I definitely recommend a visit. On our way out of Algonquin, as we were entering the Badlands, we pulled off the highway to check out a cute shack in a prairie. Just as we’d hoped, there were prairie dogs everywhere. It was amazing. I even got my own pair of cowgirl boots.

Next stop, the Black Hills. Beautiful. I don’t know what else to say about it. I didn’t even know there were that many bison still alive. My little eyes had never been so open before. We even explored the Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns, which are a series of caves coated in a range of colorful crystals. We couldn’t stare in adoration for too long–next was Yellowstone.

During our time at Yellowstone, we visited the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Old Faithful geyser, and the hot springs. We saw bison, bears, bear cubs, elk, mountain goats, and more. Once more, though, it was time to pack up the camper and head on out to the Grand Teton mountains, whichwas more of an overnight stay instead of an exploration. 

Besides, we were too excited for Yosemite, our next stop. We ventured into a Sequoia forest. You can’t really fathom the actual size of a Sequoia tree until you’re standing in front of one, completely engulfed by the sheer massiveness of these trees. They take over the forest, drowning out other trees. Even the pinecones were bigger than my entire face. While we were there, we also hiked to see the Lembert Dome,Vernal Falls, El Capitan, fissure cliff, and Half Dome. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the view of Yosemite Valley from those vantage points. Yosemite marked the end of our first big cross country move, as well as our first real camping experience. Throughout this entire trip, it was just me, my older brother, my parents, and our two dogs against the world. We lived off grill food, sandwiches, and one tiny camper bathroom throughout the entire trip. Soon, we were back to “normal” in a new house, new neighborhood, and new state with a few suitcases. 

We spent a solid three years in California. It was sunny, warm and dry, and I’d grown pretty accustomed to the way of life there. I had my school friends, culdesac friends, family, and dog (rest in peace, Baxter). But all good things must come to an end eventually. We found out we were heading to Tampa, Florida next. This time, we wanted to do it better. My dad sold the camper in exchange for a brand new RV. He even took classes on how to drive the thing. 

This trip was filled with more plans and adventure. The first stop of the trip was Las Vegas. It was the middle of July, and it was hot. All we could really do was walk around, since Las Vegas isn’t known for being the kid-friendliest city. Boring, next.

We drove through the Valley of Fire on our way to Zion National Park. Zion was beautiful and quickly became my favorite place we’ve visited out of all of our adventures. Here, we hiked the Weeping Rock, swam in the Emerald Pools, and walked the Narrows. The Narrows are two cliffs, which form walls of over a thousand feet each. A river runs through them, and when you hike up the river, you come to a point where the cliffs are just feet apart, which is known as Wall Street. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way. A rainstorm was coming, which meant there were threats of flash floods. In between two cliffs was definitely not the place to be if that occurred. Next?

The Grand Canyon. We walked to the North Rim point and got a photo of our handsome Golden Retriever sitting in front of the cliffs. What a distinguished gentleman! Once again, this was a quick visit. Our next stop was Arches National Park, and we spent a couple of days enjoying the bright red, rounded, and arched rock formations. Even though it was in the desert, and everything was red and orange, it took my breath away. It’s not often you see over 2,000 stone arches, pinnacles, rock fins, and enormous balanced rocks.

After Arches, we were once again back on the road and on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Here, we did some more hiking, had more wildlife sightings, and even saw the Stanley Hotel (redrum!). Next, we moved to Ozark National Park. We tubed (I would argue that we “floated”) down the infamous Ozark National Scenic Riverway. Once again, we experienced more wildlife and exploring. After Ozark, we stayed for one night in a random campground in Mississippi. We didn’t do any exploring, but I did get a chance to see my first ever alligator snapping turtle. Welcome to the South, I guess.

After this experience, we’d finally arrived in Florida! We stayed one day in Pensacola, where we visited my parents’ first ever apartment together after marriage. If Baxter had managed a few more years, he’d have seen his first home! Now that we were in Florida, we were tired and done with exploring. At this point, our trip had lasted one month, so everyone was more than ready to arrive at the new house. We stayed a few nights in Destin on the beach, stayed at a campground in Disney World, and finally, arrived at Fishhawk Ranch, our new neighborhood.  We spent a total of four years in Florida. This was the last of our big RV moves. When we moved up to New Hampshire, my dad had to stay behind in Florida and finish some things up. Due to this, we drove our normal cars to New Hampshire. This was a four-day trip, and it was nothing compared to spending a month (at least!) in a small moving box with my entire family. Like I said before, my childhood was different than most others I know. I won’t say growing up with a parent in the military was fun, (because it wasn’t), but it gave us the opportunity to explore as much as we did. While I’m a social science major, my prime focus is connecting and understanding the ties between society and climate change. The Earth and the environment have become so important to me over the years. Sustainability, climate action, and environmental protection are all extremely important to me. When I think about protecting our Earth, I think about the bison, national parks, mountains, prairie dogs, rivers, and everything else I had the privilege of experiencing. I think about the rocks and waterfalls and greenery. I think about all of it. I think about how the environment shaped me into who I am, made me stronger, made my family stronger, and taught me what it means to really live. I truly bonded, not only with my family, but also with nature itself.

Natalie Claflin is a member of the Her Campus chapter at Michigan State University. She is new to the chapter and is excited to begin writing, attend events, and assist with the social media team. Claflin is a sophomore at MSU and is studying environmental sociology. She has never partook in journalism or writing before, however she has been praised for her writing skills all throughout her school career. During her first year at Michigan State, an essay of hers was nominated for the David D. Anderson Award for the Best Essay from a First Year Writing Course at Michigan State University award. She enjoys writing and is excited to be writing for Her Campus. In her free time, Claflin enjoys reading, listening to Taylor Swift, watching T.V. shows, and consistently asking for photos of her cat from back home in New Hampshire.