This week I had the opportunity to interview my friend Renee Tougas of the popular blog, FIMBY, and I jumped at it. Renee is a homeschooling, family-focused mom like me and I’ve been enjoying her beautiful writing and photographs for years. We have even Skyped with each other, she from the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada and me at home in Minnesota. What an amazing thing technology is!
Speaking of technology, Renee and her family of five are planning this huge endeavor in 2014 (click on the link to find out more on their family’s hiking and gear website, Toe Salad). They are going to spend six months thru-hiking the entire Appalachian Trail along the east coast of the United States, and they are making a video series as a way to document and share their journey. I am so excited about this that I wanted to know more. Here is a little bit about the trip, in Renee’s own words…
1) First, give us some basic information on your family and your trip:
We are a homeschooling family of five. Our family is location independent (we work from home, wherever we are). We live, work, and play – together. Right now, we make our home at the end of a dirt road, on the side of a mountain in the beautiful Gaspé peninsula of Québec; eastern Canada’s best kept secret.
Years ago, when our youngest was a pre-schooler, our family established a weekly routine of hiking every week. That hike gradually turned into a full-day hike, which then became multi-day backpacking trips where we could explore less well traveled wilderness areas.
For years, my husband Damien has wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail as a family. I fully came on board with the idea two years ago and since then we have been actively working towards that goal.
The Appalachian Trail is roughly 2,200 miles long. It’s a footpath through the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. The trail stretches out, up and over many peaks, all the way from northern Georgia to central Maine.
Thru-hiking is the phrase given for hiking a long distance trail from end to end. We are anticipating the hike will take us six months.
2) I talk a lot in my work about following your heart and finding your way via the feelings of joy and delight. What excites you about this trip?
So much excites me about it and it’s really great that I can talk about these things with you because honestly since the beginning of this new year I’ve been quite overwhelmed with all the work we have to do to make this goal a reality.
I am excited about being in nature for such a long stretch of time. I’m a beauty-seeking, nature lover. I am spiritually most alive in that environment. I can’t wait to immerse myself more in nature, which for me brings me closer to God.
I’m excited and equally scared about testing my physical limits. I’m not normally a person who likes to physically challenge myself, but as I near forty I feel a stirring to do this, even though it really does scare me as I’m not an athletically competitive person. Thankfully, this is not a competition.
I’m excited about the amazing opportunity this will be for our kids. We’re homeschoolers and my goal all along has been to give my children a foundation in love from which they can explore passions, skills, interests and talents. And then use all that – the love, and who they are – to accomplish great things in life.
On the Appalachian Trail we’re doing that on a family level. It’s going to give our kids a unique character-building opportunity that I think will really empower them in their future goals. We’re not just telling them how to reach their goals, we’re showing them by doing it with them. As a homeschooler, passionate about interest-led, potential-driven education (an education built upon your interests and tailored to your potential as a human), that excites me.
Of course, everything I want for my kids I also want for myself. I want to feel empowered to reach my goals, I want to feel like I’m living to my full potential, and taking on a big challenge like this moves me in that direction. Even though, like I said right after your question, it is hard at times.
3) How does this trip fit into your family’s purpose?
This trip fits really well into our family’s purpose to integrate our lives. Our goal as a family has been to continually merge our work and our passions, this is just the next step in that direction. We love the outdoors. How can we take our love of the outdoors, and this experience, and use it to encourage, inspire, and make a living at it too?
To this end, we are producing a video series while we hike. The goal of the video series is to chronicle our trip in a way that will be entertaining, inspirational, and informative.
This whole project then – the hiking, the video production, being outdoors for a long stretch of time – is bringing together different pieces of our lives, integrating them. And that’s a goal, a family purpose, my husband and I have been working towards for a long time.
4) Tell us one true thing about being a mom preparing for a trip like this…maybe something that is surprising you…
Have I mentioned yet, how difficult it is? Sorry, I’m in a bit of an overwhelm funk right now. But seriously, I don’t know if it’s a “mom” thing or simply the personalities of my husband and I, but I tend to seek situations of protection, safety, and security. Damien can more comfortably embrace challenging situations, pushing the boundaries and testing our limits. I think this is healthy mix but it does takes a lot of communication to work through. Again, this is something we want to teach our kids. How to function together as a couple, and as a family, to work towards challenging goals.
One thing that has surprised me about preparing for the trip is how much personal growth is happening in the preparation. I expect life altering personal transformation on the trail but all the work leading up to it, which for us has included a Kickstarter campaign and preparation for our video series, in addition to the hike preparations, has at times bowled me over. I knew hiking would be hard, I didn’t expect to grow this much going into it.
That growth for me has largely been around the work my husband and I are doing to promote our project, work that takes me decidedly out of my “comfort zone”.
Thanks so much Lisa for the opportunity to share our hike with your readers. Also, I would like to mention that we are running a Kickstarter funding campaign right now to launch our video series and we would love if people could support and share that.
Lisa’s note: Thank YOU, Renee! Readers: Please click on the links to the Kickstarter funding campaign and consider donating to the cause. Watch the family’s entertaining preview video there and keep tabs on how much they’ve raised so far. The Tougas family is well over halfway to their goal of raising $16,000 toward their video campaign. And do you know that with Kickstarter only projects that meet their goal get funded? It’s very important that they make it all the way to 100%! With just 19 more days to go, any contribution in any amount over $1 is appreciated. I pledged enough so that I will be able to watch all of the family’s awesome videos, and I’m really hoping I can make good on my pledge and see those videos. I know I’m going to find them fun and fascinating!