Part 1: Visiting Friends in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

We were in Canada for a few days without internet access, so the next 3 updates are a week behind. But they are critical to our story. For those of you new here (we have added a lot of new subscribers due to an Upworthy article and a Business Insider article!) we're on a journey from Michigan to Atlanta visiting friends as we go. You can see our planned trip here. We're on our way to Mexico where we'll spend 3-12 months visiting various places in Mexico, but we're visiting a few of friends first before we head south of the border. If you happen to be along our path give us a shout out, we've meet a couple of subscribers and have had a great time!

We'll start where we left off with visiting Gary & Jeryl in Baraga, MI.  I (Becky) grew up with their kids (1 of which still lives in the area with her children) so it was super nice to see them all again and have our kids meet each other.  Almost instantly Alia and Josiah became buddies with two of my friend Amber's kids who are closest in age to Alia and Josiah.  One night Megan slept over at Grandma and Grandpa's house and Alia was able to have a sleepover with her and the other night Brok slept over and Josiah had a sleepover with him.  Well, the girls couldn't think about being separated after their first sleepover so the second night Megan also came to sleep in Gracie with us.  There was much conspiring going on as to how to get us to take Megan with us on our trip.


Megan and Alia and MooMoo, Conspiring to stay together

Alia and Megan

Alia and Megan


Josiah and Brok

Gary, whom may be knowledgeable about information like cranes can be mounted on trucks, runs a construction company so we knew he had tools. When we found out that the spring on our RV's jack wasn't going to arrive in time we decided to have them ship it to Gary assuming he'd have an impact wrench (much stronger than an impact drill) Sure enough, Gary had to dig around a bunch but he found his wrench and let Paul borrow it to get the spring replaced. Thanks Gary! In exchange Paul helped Gary put the top light on their Gazebo. Not something Gary could do by himself as it was quite heavy.


Gary and Paul on ladders


As is normal, when Gary is finished with this house it's going to be beautiful!

For those of whom we're visiting on this trip, there is no expectations other than just spending some time together, however Gary and Jeryl insisted upon feeding us and also loved on our kids as if they were their own grandchildren.  Our kids were calling them Grandpa and Grandma just like all the other kids. (Amber has 7 kids, 6 of which were hanging out with us during the days at Gary and Jeryl's house, 10 kids is a lot but they had such a blast together!) Jeryl said she was happy to add 4 more grands to the mix and even a week later Alia explained to a neighbor in a campground that she has "4 biological grandparents and 2 adopted ones".  Gary and Jeryl made a big impression.  It was really hard/emotional for the kids to leave.


It's part of being a Third Culture Kid that you learn to make friends fast. But that doesn't make saying goodbye any easier. There's a possibility that we might see Amber and her kids later on in our trip which would make the kids overjoyed but it'd make saying goodbye again even more difficult.

We left Baraga for a short drive over to Skandia, MI (near Marquette) to visit my high school friend and her husband and kids.  Jeremy and Cass and their boys Hale, 7, and Calder, 2, live an amazing life.  We were able to witness what daily life with unschooling looks like and were inspired by how they live. It's amazing to find people like us in the UP. Those of us downstate Michigan (Trolls) often mock the Youppers for being loners and wild people who cannot take being in a social situation (because the upper peninsula is still very wild and un developed, it's a long ways between towns and it's a hard life to live through the winters) What we discovered is that the community of people around the area generally don't care what other think of them.  'Live and let live' is the local motto and Cass and Jeremy live it out!  While we were there Jeremy gave Paul some wood and the use of his amazing wood shop to build some levelers for Gracie. Let's just say these were the least quality product to ever leave the shop as there were two boats being build in the other end of the shop.


David's Kayak in the foreground and Jeremy's Canoe in the background... woodshop with minimal sawdust all around.


Plywood levelers... cheaper than the $16 needed to buy them at the RV store!


My new favorite saw, a compound sliding chop saw... made the cuts go quite fast!

Cass is a fantastic mother.  She is a proponent of attachment parenting and is so sweetly devoted to her boys.  That's not to say raising kids isn't tiring and difficult but Cass makes it look seamless while also being real and speaking up when she needs a break (sauna time for girls only!).  She is a wonderful example to me and to many others of what it looks like to put your kids ahead of yourself but still take care of yourself as well.  Cass is also an artist and she had Alia completely in artistic heaven until the moment we left.  Before we left, some of the art that Alia had been working on was up on the wall already!  She was so pleased!  If Alia ever talks about wanting a mentor, I know who I am going to call first!!


Alia's artwork on the wall


Z, Alia and Calder at the art table. The kids were expressing their creativity!


CLAY! (note the lack of Josiah or Hale!)


Thys and the start of his creation


The mountain of clay with a sky resort on it!

While in Skandia we were able to visit with Cass's parents who only live a half mile down the road.  There we toured their property which included a 'sitting' cabin, full outdoor kitchen for preserving and canning, numerous bee hives (surrounded by electric fences to keep the bears out), a hive house used for relaxation and health benefits, a sauna, and various other super cool outbuildings and a log house. We enjoyed a sauna and campfire meal together before we left.  Unbelievably relaxing and fun!


The crew with MooMoo's photobomb


Mary and Joel pouring home-canned apple juice


Playing and being boys.


Joel showing us the timeline he has made ... beneficial as we're using timelines in school to help kids understand history.


Josiah bonded with Hale over their shared love for both iPad games, such as 홈카지노, and running around like crazy kids playing in the woods.  They have only been apart a week and Josiah is asking about playing with Hale and when we can go back to Hale's house.


Josiah and Hale


Best Buds


Josiah showed Hale his apps and Hale showed Josiah Minecraft. They spent most days playing video games or running in the woods. Perfect fun for the two of them.

Upon attempting to leave Cass and Jeremy's place our van took a cosmetic turn for the worse.  Paul is busy writing a post about it but between working, driving and hanging out with us it takes a bit to write, just know it's worth the wait!

Your turn: We love comments, here's a couple of conversation starters:

  • Where are you and where should we visit next?
  • How do you help kids say goodbye?
  • At what age is it appropriate to have a skype friend?
  • With so many friends around the country and the world how do you visit them all?

If you're inspired by our travels head over to where we help other families do the same!

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Becky Kortman

I'm a homeschooling, world traveling, Jesus follower who is a wife and mom of 4 kids, In all my travels, I am looking for places that fit with my soul and feel as much like 'home' as they can this side of heaven.

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  1. Michelle

    I firmly believe that you’re NEVER too young to make a friend and friendship is such a gift! We have a few pen pals at our house but if a permanent address isn’t for you, I don’t see anything wrong with a child Skyping under adult supervision. Chances are you want to see and talk to everyone as well ;)

    Happy Adventuring!

    • Paul Kortman

      Thanks! We agree! (when the kids can read and write better we’re going to encourage some pen pal type stuff over email etc.

  2. Steph Kroll

    My favorite part of living in the UP was how accepting people were of everyone. So much more than downstate. I enjoy reading about your adventures. Thanks for sharing.

    • Paul Kortman

      I had no idea! As a downstate troll I just assumed people in the UP were hardcore dogsledders or crazy rednecks… I was WAY OFF… the people we met were so kind and accepting… like us modern day hippies.

      Now if it weren’t for the winters, the mosquitos, the black flies…. hmmm might be a nice place in July every year :)


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