Across America in an RV With First Book

Today’s blog post is by Brenda Berg, who loaded her family into an RV and spent over half a year traveling across the country. They called their adventure the Gump Trip, and along the way they distributed 6,000 brand-new books to kids in need at local schools and community programs in the First Book network.

Have you ever sat in the carpool lane and dreamed about your next vacation? Last year, I decided to make it a reality. The plan – before my daughter entered middle school– was to go from music lessons and organized sports to something real.

After months of getting things in order, my kids and I set off on an adventure of a lifetime, traveling to 49 states and two Canadian provinces. (We were also joined by an exchange student from Sweden and my husband joined us about once a month.) In seven-and-a-half months, we traveled over 35,000 miles.

Instead of guitar lessons, we visited the Fender guitar factory and attended live concerts. Instead of indoor climbing classes, we climbed in Alaska and hiked in dozens of national parks. Instead of textbooks, we visited dozens of historic and interesting sites. We definitely got real!

Our commitment to ‘return to real’ extended beyond national parks and factory tours. We were also committed to education and service. In order to reach hundreds of children across the country in a real way, we partnered with First Book to give new, high-quality books to kids in need.

Of the 200 stops we made along the way, the six First Book events – where we worked with local First Book volunteers gave away new books to kids in need – were our favorite experiences, ones that will change our lives forever. We gave away over 6,000 books and met with hundreds of children to talk about traveling in our amazing country. The smiles from those children were better than the sunrise over the Grand Canyon (and that’s a sight that is hard to beat!).

Most of us look for ways to give back in our communities, but I encourage people to consider giving back as they travel. There are isolated and other under-supported communities all over America that will benefit and you will gain a whole different perspective on America at the same time. And, just like your efforts at home, you will get back far more than you will give.

Inspired? Visit First Book on the web to find out how you can volunteer or raise funds to help kids in need get the brand-new books that will change their lives.