With three children in our home, vacations became big decisions. Finding a place to visit where we could have fun together, be entertained, and escape our daily routine was a challenge. Disney World became our go-to destination, partly because we lived 30 minutes away from the park when our children were younger.

Disney World offered a variety of things to do that appealed to each of us in different ways yet allowed us to be together. It became our “happy place.” When we moved away from Florida, it became challenging to visit Disney World. We soon found visiting our happy place was almost impossible.

So, we began to look to other options for family entertainment. We bought a tent, I learned how to use a portable camp stove, and we ventured into the great outdoors. Some of my best family memories are of camping and hiking trips. And, when we gather as a family, we still laugh over the time mom got everyone lost in the woods; or the camping trip where we froze and had to find a store to buy heated blankets.

In Marshall County, we are blessed with a destination that provides so many opportunities to be together as a family for almost little to no cost. Our parks and lake belong to all of us. There are no tickets to purchase to hike the trails. There is no opening or closing time on the lake.

Simple fun enjoying nature, telling stories around a campfire, sleeping under the stars – all of these activities knit a family together and provide memories that will be shared again and again.

I think we have come to believe that to be entertained, we must travel far and spend hundreds of dollars. There must be rides, waves, and hotels. Yet, truthfully, this type of entertainment can bring confusion, stress and even debt.

Make no mistake, I love to travel. Tourism is my business after all. I am happiest when planning our next family adventure. Yet, some of my most treasured family time occurred in the great outdoors, over simple meals and wandering walks.

This past year was challenging for many of us personally, and it was especially challenging for the travel and tourism industry. Yet, through all the craziness of 2020, I was reminded that family entertainment does not have to include the beach or an amusement park. Family entertainment can be simply spending time together, enjoying the natural wonders that God has given us.

Step outside, into the great outdoors. Like me, you may find that your “happy place” is not a place at all, but people – your peeps.

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