Return to Pennsylvania

This is the last post describing what we lovingly refer to as “The Big Trip”. For those of you who have followed the whole journey, thank you for your patience in all the time that living life has made it hard to find time to write. If you’re new, we welcome you to read older posts about this amazing trip that changed our lives. While we started this blog as a way to document this particular trip, we have big plans for it in the future! So stay tuned, because the Lindstroms are definitely staying “on the road”!

On Sunday, November 18, we buckled the kids in the car in Virginia and started the final leg of the trip, back to Hatboro, PA, where we’d started the trip exactly 91 days earlier. There were those who said we were crazy to undertake such a journey. There were those who predicted we would give up and turn around after a few weeks. After 13 weeks, we could honestly say that we’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

But it was too dramatic and extraordinary a trip to just fade quietly into the night. Or perhaps more accurately, that’s exactly what happened on that last drive. We suddenly had problems with the wiring to the trailer, so that the lights weren’t working properly. We were so close to the finish line, to suddenly have electrical problems was frustrating. But even though we were so close, the sun was going down, and we knew that I95 between Baltimore and Philadelphia is no place to drive in the dark with an unlit trailer. The only solution we were able to find, finally, was to connect the trailer to the hazard lights and blink our way home. And so the last two hours of our trip were filled with the clicking and blinking of hazard lights. Perhaps that is as it should be.

It was hard to process the full impact of our adventure right away, as we filled our last few weeks in the US with visiting friends, celebrating Thanksgiving with family, and last minute shopping trips. It was a wonderful way to conclude our journey. We have the rest of our lives to discover all the ways that we grew, changed, and bonded as a family as a result of this experience. We will never be the same.

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“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered” – Nelson Mandela


Mission to Mars

Jenne was one of the first people that I met in college. We lived on the same hall in our freshman dorm, and she and her roommate and I and mine were the only ones to show up to the newcomers ice cream social. We stayed friends those four years and beyond, but though we’ve kept in touch, I haven’t seen her since the summer we got married on the same weekend and missed each other’s weddings.

So it was an exciting treat to get to visit her and Nate and their three boys. And to visit Mars of course. Who wouldn’t want to go to Mars?

The climate was quite hospitable, though a little hot, and our journey there was fraught with the stuff of great space movies… a delayed launch, unexpected difficulties along the way, an uncooperative crew, and the tension builds until finally a safe arrival. Ok, so it wasn’t exactly Apollo 13… more like a bit of a slow start in the morning, tons and tons of road construction, not choosing the best route, and really cranky kids with a day-after-an-amusement-park hangover. We were a bit frazzled when we finally got to Mars.

Parked at a rest stop to cook a couple cans of raviolis for lunch. It is very convenient that the stove part can be opened without putting the whole trailer up, making it possible to cook without setting camp like this. 

But what would a mission to Mars be without a little drama along the way? Mars, Pennsylvania of course. A quaint little community in the suburbs of Pittsburgh with both a sense of nostalgia for the past and a sense of humor about their name. We saw both as we walked through town… lots of nice old buildings, a little market, and a space ship on the corner. Well, you have to stop and take lots of pictures at the space ship, right?

Emelie, Bradley and Bryson all wanted to be at the top. King of the… flying saucer?

Family picture on the Mars space ship

The whole gang

Look, no hands!

We had a great weekend with old friends. Friday night when we arrived (much later than planned) we spent a little bit of time at the local pool. Saturday we explored Mars, bought cookies at a great little bakery, let the kids play in the backyard, and even met some of their friends at a campfire/movie night party they were hosting. Sunday morning we went to the church where Nate is the pastor and grabbed a quick lunch before getting back on the road. We were bound for Ohio – the second state on our cross-country adventure!

Swimming is always a hit, especially for kids who have been in the car much too long!

A boy and a swing… pure joy.

Central PA

A few days in Central Pennsylvania…


Our first stop as we started west was in Shippensburg where we visited with the Rockwells, who are the generous owners of our Home Sweet Pop-up. It was fun to catch up with old friends, followed by a long evening helping our kids settle in to sleep in a new environment. All in all, though, our first night in the camper was pretty smooth. There was still a bit of adjusting to be done on Tuesday to get all the connections to the minivan in good working order, so while Staffan did all the grunt work, the kids and I visited with my friend from college, Lisa, and her daughter. We walked over to the campus where we were students together over 10 years ago (!!) and even though we didn’t see much of campus, I could tell that much had changed. It’s always strange to go back to a place that’s so familiar and yet so different at the same time.

On SU campus by Old Main

Emelie’s first corn on the cob at dinner with the Rockwells

Harrisburg area

Once all the adjustments were made and the minivan and pop-up had made friends, it was time to head north a bit to visit my brother and sister-in-law and see their new-ish house. (New-ish because they bought it over a year ago, but we still hadn’t seen it yet.) I’m not sure we ever did finish getting the tour. It seems we kept getting interrupted by something. 🙂 But we did have a fun dinner roasting hot dogs over an open fire, followed by roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Emelie’s first s’mores! She started singing this great little song “marshmallows, marshmallows, sticky as me!” that she sang over and over for several days. We were so impressed by what a cute little song she made up, until yesterday in the car when we realized it was a part of a song on a CD. But then we were still impressed because she had only listened to it a couple of times several weeks before, and she had no idea then what a marshmallow was. In case you’re wondering, the line in the song says “sticky and sweet” but after watching her eat those s’mores, I’m thinking “sticky as me” was much more appropriate. The kids went down really easily on this second night in the camper, and we enjoyed a great evening on their back porch, sitting around the fire pit under the stars.

Grilling hot dogs…

And marshmallows

Mmmmm… S’mores!!

Peter and Uncle Jason playing together

Peter and Emelie helped Aunt Megan water the flowers

relaxing evening by the fire

In the morning, Peter found the dog’s water bowl and had a LOT of fun!


The next day, Wednesday, we drove about 20 minutes to my grandmom’s house and visited with her and one of my uncles. It was nice to have a calm visit with a nice lunch.

Great-grandmom and Peter

Wednesday evening we did some grocery shopping in preparation for our first campground stay at the amusement park Knoebels in Elysburg PA. More on that in my next post!

Home Sweet Pop-up

On Monday (August 20) our trip west officially began. We loaded up the minivan in the early afternoon and drove about 150 miles to Shippensburg, PA. It was not without a bit of apprehension that we pulled up out front of the Rockwell’s home as we anticipated our introduction to the pop-up camper that will be our home for the next three months.

A fully loaded van
The kids are buckled in and ready to head west!

We were both pleasantly surprised to discover how spacious and open it is on the inside! For something that folds up so small and is so light to tow, we really do have a lot of living space in there. I suppose it all depends on what you’re used to. Staffan and I used to do a lot of tent camping in a tent that was small and light enough to carry around all day, so in comparison this feels palatial. On one end is a queen-sized bed that we’re sleeping in, and the other end pulls out to a double bed that the kids are sharing. In between is a small kitchen-ish area and a table area.



Our home as seen parked in my brother’s driveway on Tuesday night

Partial interior view

This is how the kids are sharing the bed.                                                                               A duffle bag and a bed rail turned out to be a great solution!

We’ve slept two nights in it parked in people’s driveways, and tonight is our first night in a campground. We rolled in a little later than planned and are still a little slow and inefficient at setting camp, so dinner was cooked under the stress of fussy hungry kids and parents who can’t seem to find anything when they’re looking for it. Needless to say, there were no pictures taken of our first meal cooked in the camper kitchen, but pictures will follow in a later post of a calmer and more peaceful meal.

We will spend one more day in central Pennsylvania and then move on toward the Pittsburgh area on Friday.

Philadelphia, part 2: Friends, Food and a Birthday Party

We spent our last few days in Philadelphia enjoying spending time with friends, eating our favorite foods, and celebrating Emelie’s 3rd birthday. It’s hard to believe that our trip has begun! It’s a bit surreal to have spent such a long time planning something that it seems like it will always be in the future… but then suddenly, it’s not.

But first, the Philadelphia area wrap-up. We enjoyed a few more opportunities to visit with friends… those beautiful moments spent sharing food and laughs around a table with people we see far too little of. These moments nourish my heart and make me so thankful for all the wonderful people we have in our life. Add to that chances for the kids to play with dogs or trampolines, pick vegetables from a garden, or just get a little extra love and, well, joy. If you were a part of making this week what it was, you know who you are. Thank you.


On Saturday we had a little birthday party for Emelie. Her friend Annika came over (and Annika’s mommy and daddy of course) and we made goldfish (cracker) “aquariums”, hot dog and spaghetti octopuses (octopi? I always thought so but spell check rejects this), and of course plenty of cake. The highlight, though, seemed to be the water trampoline that my dad whipped up for the occasion (thanks Dad!)

I may have gotten a little overzealous about the opportunity to try out all these fun ideas I’ve been pinning on Pinterest, but I had fun being creative and the kids had a fun party, so that’s all that matters. 🙂

And finally, a little photographic answer to the question I’m so frequently asked – other than people, what do you miss most about the US when you’re abroad? There are lots of deep and philosophical answers to this question, but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.


Philadelphia part 1: Fun with Family and Friends

Welcome to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And to Philly’s surrounding suburbs.

We’ve been in the US now for almost a week, and we’re finally starting to get over the jet-lag and feel adapted. The first few nights were rough for the kids – and consequently for us – but now they’re starting to sleep better. Peter is having a bit of trouble adjusting to American baby food, which is pretty tasteless when compared to its Swedish counterpart I must say. Since it will be difficult to make our own while we’re on the road, we’re trying to find solutions now that will help him eat a little better. Our pace has been pretty intense since we landed, and though our kids have handled it all extremely well, we’re all a bit tired.  We’ve been having lots of fun though! Here are some highlights:


Our little girl turned 3! Her party is yet to come, but we couldn’t let the day pass in a total jet-lag haze without acknowledging her special day with a little cake and ice cream!





My dad has a 16ft catamaran that he sails most often on Lake Galena at Peace Valley Park in Bucks County. Since Emelie had never been on a boat like this before, we thought we’d start off slow and see how she liked it. Well, she loved it. At one point she was hanging over the front edge of the trampoline and shouting “Faster! Faster!” as the water splashed up on her face. It was an amazing day. Our dinner picnic was cut short by a little sprinkle of rain and we brought the boat in after a distant rumble of thunder warned us there could be a storm coming. Not until we left and were driving home could we see that it had indeed stormed and poured down rain – everywhere except the lake where we were sailing. Thanks God for a fun afternoon on the water!

Helping get the boat ready to go in the water. She’s “fixing” the strap.

Visiting, Playing and Swimming

We’ve done lots of visiting with friends since we’ve been here. Time with people that we love but rarely get to see is one of the best parts of taking a trip like this. There’s been lots of chances to play and even a backyard pool to swim in!

Peter loved the water table – especially after the big girls moved on to the swings

What could be better than your own table with pizza and Finding Nemo?

Peter + water = love  I’m sensing a theme here!

Getting this little fish out of the water was not easy! 

The Franklin Institute

One of my favorite places in Philadelphia. I couldn’t wait to introduce my own kids to the things I remember so fondly, like climbing through the giant heart, riding the big locomotive and other fun hands-on exhibits in this amazing science museum. She’s still talking about it days later, even with all the other things we’ve done. She especially talks about seeing the stars on the ceiling in the planetarium, and the “how fireworks work” demonstration. I love how she pronounces “Franklin Institute” with such clear enunciation as she shows everyone the admission bracelet that she’s still wearing. If you’ve never been there and you have occasion to be in Philadelphia, I can’t recommend it enough, whether you have kids or not. 

Lindstrom family with Ben Franklin

Peter’s favorite was blowing foam balls through tubes. 

Emelie surprised us all with how well she could climb on the rock wall!

It’s entirely possible that every kid in the greater Philadelphia area has a picture like this one. What kid doesn’t want a chance to be a pilot?

We’re having a great time! We’ll be in the Philadelphia area until Monday when we start heading west!