The interview below with Charlottean Bill Goldstein (AKA Mr. Outdoor) and his family – wife, Alisa, and sons, Luke and Winston, is part of our partnership by the People of Charlotte blog. After visiting Yosemite National Park in 2009, The Goldsteins caught National Park fever … and they found a creative way to cure it. SEE 59 NATIONAL PARKS before their sons turned 18. So, they fired up the family truckster and got down to business.
Today Bill and his family have been to every (yeah, we said EVERY) national park in America and wants to inspire you to do the same.
What was the first national park to inspire your 59 (60) park goal?
While visiting a friend in California in 2009, we visited Yosemite National Park and were hooked. After returning home, the planning began! We have now been to every state in America and all 60 parks! The number of national parks officially went from 59 to 60 in 2018. Gateway Arch National Park, in St. Louis, was named the 60th National Park and yes, we have been there!
Obviously, the number of parks inspired your website name!
Since our goal was to visit all 59 parks before the boys were 18, we named the site that chronicles our trips 59Before18! When we began this quest, there were 58 parks. Of course, anyone wanting to do the same now would make the goal 60 parks. Hopefully, that number just keeps climbing!
2010 was a momentous year for your family!
Yes, it was! My wife and two sons experienced our first kickoff road trip in 2010, visiting 11 parks. At the time, Luke was 11 and Winston was 10. It was the perfect time to set our 59 by 18 goal because they could do most of the hikes and we had enough time in the years ahead.
What’s was the motivation behind this amazing yet challenging goal?
Alisa: When you experience national parks, you experience a natural high. They are incredible. Going to parks helps our family bond, reconnect, and disconnect from all the noise.
Bill: Family! Being with family is the most important thing in this life.
Alisa: The car trips alone, the road trip, is a huge part of the adventure. These moments are bonding opportunities.
Bill: The quest of getting there is a lot of fun. I love experiencing it all together. It’s so much fun to get out into the wilderness and explore. I plan the hikes and trips—all they have to do is show up. I want to make it easy for them so that they want to keep traveling as a family.
Alisa: We wanted the boys to experience the parks at an age when they still wanted to hang out as a family and could appreciate the experience. We knew once the boys went to college that it would be more difficult to get their time, but fortunately, they still like to hang out with us.
How has this family goal impacted both yourselves and the people close to you?
Luke: It’s been an adventure of a lifetime! Most kids proudest or biggest accomplishments are in Fortnight, getting into a particular college, their GPA… But I have this experience to be so proud of and it’s made a difference in my life. It brought me closer to my family.
Winston: When I told my friends about going to parks they said they would prefer fancy hotels. I love getting outside, traveling our country, being with my family. It was life-changing.
Alisa: I know I feel my best when I’m exploring nature. I learned that I don’t need things. I prefer experiences.
Winston: Also, our trips inspired many of my friends to explore. We have gone to some parks together and it has been a great bonding experience with those friends.
Bill: When we are in the wilderness, we experience a spiritual connection that brings us closer together as husband and wife and as a family. I love to see my sons so close.
Luke: I’m the guy my friends bring on trips because of everything I have learned. I hope to share the same experience with my own kids one day.
Winston: I look back and really appreciate knowing my country.
Bill: You should want to spend time together as a family. Hopefully, your kids will see the bigger picture.
Winston: The experience has made me braver—braver of heights, animals, and more aware of my surroundings. I think about where I am now, where I am from, and where I have been. The connection to family is huge.
Luke: I have gained the confidence to do whatever I want, whether it’s a small or big task. I know I can always come to my family for anything.
I know it’s difficult to choose, but what’s your favorite park or hike?
Bill: The Great Smoky Mountains, the West Coast, Denali.
Alisa: I just love being in any park!
Luke: Angel’s Landing trail at Zion National Park. The view was amazing.
Winston: Bryce Canyon, Sunset Point.
At a high level, how do you coordinate your trips?
We drive to some parks (we love a road trip) while we fly into other areas and travel from there. For example, we flew into Vegas to visit the parks in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. From Portland, we traveled to the Pacific NW. After flying into Denver, we visited five parks in Colorado.
Hotel or tent?
Both! We sleep in hotels in between a couple of nights of camping. When we visited Yellowstone, we slept outside for three nights and then stayed at a hotel. We love backcountry camping in Alaska. So, it all depends where we are, how long we are gone for, and what the conditions are.
Any scary moments?
Luke: Yeah, there was a time I had to hold onto my dad’s belt so I wouldn’t die. We can be extreme on our hikes!
Alisa: And, sometimes we have had close encounters with wildlife! You definitely learn to respect wildlife.
You celebrated Christmas 2018 in a park, right?
Since the boys were home from college, we took another opportunity to get outside as a family. We drove to the Everglades to kayak the water trails.
Has your story gotten media attention and connected you to others?
We chronicled our trip on our website and through sharing each story, the media found us. We have been on the Today Show in Chicago and locally, we were featured in Today’s Charlotte Woman, WBT News talk 1110, Fox 46, and other radio shows and blogs.
Funny story! While we were hiking in Alaska, we ran into a couple from Germany who followed our blogs and then recognized us. They planned that vacation from our YouTube videos. It was a pretty surreal experience. We love talking about parks to anyone who wants to know more.
Being out in nature got your creative wheels turning. What did you do with some of that creativity?
We have dozens of photo boards in our house. Each board represents a trip or one park. There are too many to hang but are fun to look through to relive those moments. We also created a movie to share our trip with others.
We then came up with the idea to create custom, interactive t-shirts: the first park visited is on the front of the shirt with a complete list of parks on the back that were checked off over time.
How many years did it take to visit all of America’s national parks?
A little over five years! Luke was 17 and Winston was 15 when our family goal was completed.
Which park completed your quest?
The Gates of the Arctic on August 7, 2014!
Total cost of the experience?
Priceless. Well if you really want to know, a little over 75k and worth every penny! You sacrifice and once you start traveling and experiencing life, you naturally want to consume less.
Your sons were inspired to remember the journey in a permanent way. How so?
The adventure had such a profound effect on both of them that they designed a tattoo to commemorate our family’s journey and accomplishment—they both have 59 before 18 in Roman numerals on the inside of their left bicep.
Are you done visiting parks?
Not at all! We go back to different parks each year and will continue to do so into the future! And we hope to continue to inspire others to do the same. But I keep the outdoors with me every day since I am Mr. Outdoor at Mr. Outdoor Living.
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