The Birth of the Adventure Day

By Leah Chandler

It was the summer of 2003, back in our college ministry days, which often meant packing up the family and heading to whatever mountain or coast was hosting a summer leadership project for our college students. Our four kids were between the ages of 1 and 7, and we were in North Carolina in a two-bedroom apartment for six weeks. 

Thankfully, there was a pool and the beach was only a few miles away, but my husband rarely had a day off of work and taking the kids to water exercised my lifeguard skills as much as it gave them something to do. A day at the beach mostly involved me sitting on a blanket and playing in the sand with the two little ones while keeping an eagle eye on the two older ones as they played in the surf. The undertow was particularly bad that summer, so as my boys would unwittingly wander too far from me, I’d check to make sure the people around my littles did not appear to want to abduct them, then I’d run into the surf, pull my boys back up the beach, and then run back to the blanket again. We’d all arrive home exhausted and sunburnt, but thankful for time out of the apartment.

With so few days to spend together as a family in a place designed for vacation fun, I concocted a plan. Joel would take one whole day off, and I would plan an adventure. 

I created a few rules: 

  1. We had to go somewhere we had never been before 
  2. We had to try things we’d never tried before (food, activities, etc.)
  3. It had to be cheap (as money was scarce while in support-based ministry).

So, I grabbed one of the many available tourist maps – the kind with all of the cartoon drawings are my favorite – and I mapped out our plan. We would pack lunches and leave Wilmington, head south, cross over to an island (a new place) on a ferry (a new experience), have dinner on the island, then drive back. The only problem was that my boys (husband included) were creatures of habit. They did not relish the idea of going to new places and experiencing new things. The McDonald’s Playland was all the adventure my crew craved at that time.  

The morning arrived. As we filed out of the little apartment, Hope and I were eagerly anticipating our new adventure (she was the 1 ½-year-old), while the boys looked forlorn – heads hung low, grumbling about how we should just stay here and go to the pool. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but I kept saying, “It’s an ADVENTURE!” hoping this would convince them to have a good time. 

As we drove, Lukas excitedly read a sign for a Civil War museum. Our oldest loves history, and it was free, so we stopped. The boys climbed on the ancient cannons and walked among the relics of rifles and paintings of famous battles. 

I’ll never forget shushing Lukas for commenting loudly on the uniforms the “bad guys” wore. I cringed. We were clearly from the North, but standing firmly in the South. I wasn’t sure if the Southerners around us appreciated being called “bad.”

We escaped the museum without incident, but when we arrived at the ferry, we realized that it wasn’t coming for another hour, so we drove back to a beach we had passed and changed the kids into their suits and watched them jump and scream in the waves. After loading back into the van, we headed for the ferry. It was an experience getting loaded onto the boat – each vehicle stacked behind the other like matchbox cars. One of our boys was so terrified to be on a boat that he wouldn’t get out of the van, while the others ran around the deck and threw bread and crackers to the seagulls that flocked around the ferry. 

On the island (I honestly don’t remember the name of it) we shopped and ate pizza and ice cream and explored to our hearts’ content. Then, when everyone was tired, we headed back to our apartment. In one day, we had made a week’s worth of memories. Our first adventure day was in the books, and everyone had a great time.

Since then, we have had dozens of adventure days. We fit them in during brief fall breaks, at the end of summer when we’re not quite ready for it to end, and when we just need a little family bonding time. Some of these days have been fantastic like the first one, while others have been utter failures – the best quote at the Highest Point in Indiana was that “it is both the high point and the low point of Indiana” – but even now, when my boys come home from college they block out their schedules for our adventure days. 

They weren’t fancy vacations to exotic locales (we didn’t have a budget to afford that kind of adventure), but we’ve been together for them all, and we’ve made dozens of memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

About the Author

Leah Chandler is a Chicago girl who came to Muncie to go to Ball State, married her college sweetheart, and then never left. She loves being a mom to four awesome teenagers and two dogs, one of whom is delightfully codependent on her. Leah spends her weeks teaching middle and high school English and weekends running with friends, going on adventures with her family, and feeding her chai addiction. While Leah is relatively new to Commonway, she has loved connecting with the people of the church and diving into the vibrant community. To connect with Leah, email her at 



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