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Meet Journey, a three-year-old explorer who has accomplished the extraordinary feat of visiting all 63 US National Parks. Her incredible journey commenced at just one week old, and it has not only nurtured her love for nature but has also transformed her into a passionate advocate for the preservation of these awe-inspiring landscapes. We had the pleasure of chatting with her parents, Valerie and Eric Castillo, and we can’t wait to share their story with you!

Having personally witnessed the beauty and fragility of these natural wonders, Journey has emerged as a fervent advocate for protecting these precious environments. Her experiences highlight the significance of introducing the next generation to these parks from an early age. Dive into this interview to discover all about Journey, and her experience in exploring 63 US National Parks.

1.How did you come up with the idea of exploring 63 National Parks with your young daughter Journey?

Well, it all started with our first trip to the Grand Canyon. Believe it or not, that was our first ever visit to a national park. So, we didn’t really know much about them at the time. We just had Journey, our baby girl, and with everything going on – the pandemic, the crazy speed of social media and tech changes – we just wanted to get away from it all and spend some quality time in nature. We figured it would be a great experience for her, too. You know, growing up as a girl today has its own set of challenges, and we wanted to give Journey a strong start. So, we thought, why not explore these amazing parks and show her the beauty of the world? It turned out to be an incredible journey for all of us, discovering these stunning places and watching her grow along the way.

2.What baby/toddler travel gear did you take with you, when visiting the National Parks with journey? And, how did the gear change along the years?

In the early days, we carried Journey in a harness for those long hikes. It was adorable to see her little head bobbing around as her eyes widened in awe of the new environments. You could just tell she was taking it all in, her little spirit coming alive with every step. When she started walking at 10 months, we made sure she was always dressed comfortably and right for the weather.

A good tip for parents is to always bring an umbrella and a cozy blanket for those rest stops between hikes or for a little picnic. As for airports, Journey has her own mini suitcase filled with art supplies and toys to keep her entertained during travel. And don’t forget the snacks! Keeping her stocked with fruits and other snacks helps maintain her energy levels, which is super important when you’re on the go.

3. What did you prepare for your visits?

For each visit, we made sure to be well-prepared, especially when it came to food, drinks, and first aid. We’d always stop at a grocery store before heading to the parks. It’s pretty common that food options are limited or non-existent in these areas, so having our own supplies was crucial. At first, we packed lots of sandwiches. But, as we craved variety, we started bringing things like pasta salads and rotisserie chicken. Hydration was a big priority, so we always had plenty of water with us. It’s essential to stay hydrated, especially on long hikes or in warm weather.

4.Travelling with a baby/toddler is not easy. Did you encounter any challenges when visiting the parks with Journey? Was there a time where you said you won’t stick to 63 National Parks and perhaps visit less? What spurred you to continue?

Journey as a baby

Travelling with Journey as a newborn actually worked out quite well. She mostly slept. We found great joy in taking her to these majestic places and capturing her early moments there. However, as she grew older, the dynamics changed. Her energy levels increased, and with that came louder voices and screams, making long road trips increasingly challenging. We shifted to flying, but this introduced new logistical challenges. Such challenges included finding non-stop flights and dealing with the distance from airports to parks.

We encountered our fair share of obstacles – mistakes were made, lessons learned, all costing us time and money. We had initially embarked on this journey as a casual goal, but as it gained media attention and our story started getting published, it felt like we couldn’t back down. There was a real sense of commitment to see it through.

The driving force behind our determination was the future we envisioned for Journey. We wanted to give her this incredible gift – a childhood filled with extraordinary experiences and memories. Despite the challenges, the idea of completing this goal for her sake kept us going. We wanted her to have this unique story as part of her life; something she could always look back on with pride and joy.

5.How was Journey’s reaction to each National Park? Did she enjoy it? Did you have any tantrums? How did you cope?

Journey in a National Park

Journey’s experience with national parks is quite unique – she’s spent her entire life visiting them, and as a result, it’s become her norm. When she’s at home, she instinctively seeks the outdoors, expecting to find mountains, oceans, and animals just like in the parks. That’s her world, her understanding of what’s around her.

As for tantrums, they were surprisingly not much of an issue. We found that keeping her engaged and occupied was key. Whether it was exploring, playing, or learning about the park, she was always too fascinated to fuss. However, airports and plane rides did pose some challenges, especially for longer flights. We learned to adapt by scheduling the parks requiring longer flights towards the end of our journey. This way, Journey gradually became more accustomed to flying. It was all about understanding her needs and comfort levels and adapting our plans accordingly. Overall, her excitement and curiosity in each park outweighed any difficulties, making every visit a joyful and memorable experience for all of us.

6. How did you establish a balance between the hiking and entertainment part?

Finding the right balance between hiking and entertainment evolved as Journey grew. Initially, our trips to the parks were focused on hiking popular trails, which was something we, as parents, were passionate about. However, as Journey became more mobile and curious, we shifted our approach to center around her interests and what excited her. That’s when we discovered the Junior Ranger program, which turned out to be a fantastic way to engage and entertain her.

The program offers a wealth of activities that are both fun and educational, tailored to the unique characteristics and purposes of each park. Journey loved participating in it, especially the part where she got to swear in and receive her badge after completing the activities at each park. This approach allowed us to blend our love for hiking with activities that were enjoyable and stimulating for her, making each park visit a fulfilling experience for the whole family.

7.How did Journey’s interactions with nature evolve as she grew older?

Journey loving nature

As Journey grew older, her connection with nature deepened in really amazing ways. She didn’t just learn to hike; she mastered it. Now, she can effortlessly run two miles straight and absolutely loves tackling challenging terrains, whether it’s climbing over rocks or scaling steep hills. She’s become incredibly adaptable to different weather conditions, handling both cold and heat without any fuss. Her sense of adventure is incredible – she’s always ready to jump into any puddle, lake, or ocean that comes her way. What’s really impressive is how she recognizes different animals and remembers the parks we’ve visited. She’s always excited and eager to head out to the next adventure. Watching her grow and embrace nature this way has been a joy.

8.How have Journey’s energy levels and curiosity changed after completing the quest to visit all 63 national parks?

Journey and her visits to 63 National Parks

Journey is incredibly aware of her accomplishment of visiting all 63 US national parks, and she’s always excited to share this with anyone she meets. Being exposed to the intricacies of travelling and the diverse environments of these parks has really shaped her spirit in a unique way. It’s like she’s absorbed the energy of these places. Now, as she’s gotten older, her endurance for being outdoors has skyrocketed. She’s completely at home spending hours outside each day, and nothing – not even cold or rain – can dampen her enthusiasm. It’s as if adventure has become a core part of her identity. Her curiosity and energy have been profoundly influenced by these experiences, making her more eager than ever to explore and enjoy the world around her.

9.Do you think this story will inspire other parents with young children?

Absolutely, that’s exactly what we’re hoping for. We want to challenge and change societal norms. If we can inspire other parents to instill a love and appreciation for our national parks in their children, we believe we can make a real difference in the fight against climate change. Imagine a new generation of advocates, park rangers, scientists, and arboriculturists, all dedicated to preserving and protecting our delicate landscapes. That’s the future we envision. We want Journey’s story to be a catalyst, a voice that inspires this change and encourages families to embark on their own adventures in nature. By doing so, we’re not just enjoying the beauty of the parks; we’re actively participating in safeguarding our planet for future generations.

10. Is there a message you’d like to send out there?

Our message is simple yet profound; you’re never too young or too old to start your journey. Whether you’re a newborn experiencing the world for the first time or someone who’s been around the block a few times, it’s never too late or too early to explore, to learn, and to grow. Life is an adventure waiting to be embraced at every age, and the natural world offers endless opportunities for discovery. We hope our story encourages everyone to step outside, to breathe in the beauty of nature, and to find their own path in this vast, wonderful world.

In wrapping up, a massive thank you goes out to Valerie and Eric for sharing Journey’s incredible journey with us. Your adventure has not only warmed our hearts but has sparked inspiration for families everywhere. Journey’s exploration of all 63 US National Parks is like a magical storybook come to life.

Valerie and Eric, your dedication to making nature a playground for Journey, navigating challenges with a smile, and crafting unforgettable moments is truly heartwarming. Thanks for letting us peek into your world of wonder.

As we bid adieu, let’s carry the Castillo family’s spirit with us – a reminder to cherish the beauty of the outdoors and create our own tales of exploration

Family Bio

The Castillo family, consisting of parents, Valerie Castillo and Eric Castillo and their adventurous daughter, Journey Castillo, embarked on a remarkable journey that led them to all 63 US National Parks by the time Journey turned three years old. This extraordinary feat not only made Journey the youngest individual to achieve this goal but also highlighted the family’s dedication to exploration, nature, and environmental stewardship. Their travels have become a source of inspiration and a testament to the possibilities of family adventures, encouraging others to discover the beauty and diversity of the great outdoors.

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