The Little House Living Show – Episode 006 – Finding Free and Cheap Family Activities
Thanks for joining me in another episode of the Little House Living Show podcast! My hope for this podcast is that it will be a new way for me to connect with you, my readers, and for you to be able to listen to my words even if you are driving or having a busy workday.
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What’s In This Episode?
I’m excited about today because this is my first official interview show! Today I’m interviewing my friend Holly about her interesting life and she’s sharing some excellent tips on how to find things for your family to do (in any city!) for free or very cheap.
0:36 – Introduction
1:20 – Holly’s Introduction
6:37 – How Holly uses the library to find activities
7:49 – Another great reason to use the library
10:25 – All about Hike It Baby
15:23 – Free Forest School
19:19 – Finding playgroups
19:47 – Using Facebook to find activities
20:45 – Using homeschool groups to find activities
23:22 – Local outdoor science/wildlife centers
24:57 – The challenges and beautifulness of moving and traveling
28:09 – Roadschooling
29:38 – New things right under your nose
30:56 – Wrap-up
Links Mentioned in This Show
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00:38 – Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Little House Living Show. I’m so excited for today’s episode because I’m going to be doing my first interview and today I am interviewing my friend Holly. Now, I met Holly last year when we were still living in an RV and traveling. So me and Holly had that traveling component in common and we’ve been friends ever since and I thought she would be someone really interesting that you guys would like to get to know more about. So welcome Holly.
01:10 – Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
01:13 – Yeah, I’m excited that I get to chat with you tonight. So I thought you could start by just telling us a little bit more about yourself.
01:20 – So I am a traveling stay at home mom to an almost six-year-old daughter. She’s gonna be okay. Six years old on Thanksgiving day this year. And my husband is a travel nurse, so three, well he, he’s a nurse and three years ago he started travel nursing. So in the last three years, we’ve lived in two cities in Alaska and also South Dakota where I met Merissa and then we kind of went back home to North Dakota for a year. But we’re still doing the travel nursing thing and then now we’re in Charlottesville, Virginia.
02:03 – Cool!
02:04 – So we’ve we move a lot. He signs three-month contracts at a time and so then if you like it there and they like you, you can extend up to a year. So it just kind of depends on each location how long you stay. But there’s obviously we travel light, we’re not moving an entire household. But it’s a lot of moving around.
02:34 – Yeah. And so you guys don’t live in an RV though, right? You find a place to rent?
02:40 – No. And we had thought about it before I met you. And then also you know, after and I remember when you had your kids and your husband wasn’t there and you had to pretty bad hailstorm and you are in the RV.
02:57 – Yeah. That was fun.
02:58 – Yeah. That one of the things that we thought about when we were thinking about RV, it is, it is something that some travel nurses do. But we haven’t decided to do that yet. Right now what we do is, well in Alaska they provide you with housing. So that’s really nice. But here in the lower 48, you do have to find your own. So it can be tricky because you have to find something with a three-month lease. When we were in rapid city, we just got an unfurnished place in summer Summerset and you know, just to close to Rapid City.
03:39 – And then, yeah. We just kind of furnished it very lightly. And then, you know, left with a U haul trailer. But here in Charlottesville, it’s a very tight market. It’s very expensive and it just works better to get furnished places. And here what we’ve done to kind of save a little money with the expensive market is we’ve stayed in people’s houses when they’ve been on vacation and we’re actually, currently, for reduced rent we are staying in someone’s house that’s overseas for two and a half months and watching their cat for them. And so my daughter, since we travel, she’s not able to have a pet, which she really wishes she could. So we have sort of a foster pet for, for a few months here. So that’s, really fun and it saves us some money and it’s, you know, not the usual way of doing things that are, most people are used to, but it, it, it’s working for us. So. Yeah.
04:47 – Well, what’s normal anyway?
04:49 – Exactly.
04:51 – It’s fun to not be normal!
04:53 – Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we were really having some awesome experiences that we never would have had if we hadn’t, you know, taking the risk, of doing this travel nursing thing and including, you know, meeting these people that were living in their house. And yeah, we were using all their furniture and dishes and everything and cool.
05:15 – Yeah, that’s nice. That’s awesome. So I know that you know, and I think the Little House Living readers and listeners know that we love to travel as well and yeah. We’ve found a lot of amazing cheap and free activities to do wherever we go. And I’m sure that you found the same, especially having been in so many different places and having a couple of months to kind of adjust to those places. So do you want to tell us about your method for finding things to do when you settled down in a new place?
05:48 – Yeah. So that’s, that’s you know, my job is once we are settled into a new place I am always searching for, you know, a community of people to connect with and things to do to make us feel connected to the community and have, you know, a support system. So yeah. So I, and I do try to focus on, things that are free or costs very little. The nice thing about moving so much is that you do learn something from each location. And I’ve been exposed to things that I wouldn’t have known about if I had just stayed in Grand Forks, North Dakota, you know, where we were when my daughter was born.
06:37 – So, yeah, the first thing I do, and it just seems like such an obvious thing and I’m sure everybody, all of your readers love the library as much as I do, but it’s just like the first thing I do is get a library card and obviously they have, you know, storytime and other activities or just, you know, meeting people and playing with their kids and while we’re there. But also the, you know, the things that they put up, the posters and flyers that they put up in the, in the entryway usually I found a lot of fun activities that way.
07:13 – Well, just recently I saw a poster for in the library lobby for a concert for kids and they, it was a pipe organ and then afterward they let the kids come up and, and kind of have a little tour and learn from the organist about pipe organs. So we went to that and that was so much fun and it’s something, you know, I never would have heard about if I hadn’t been watching those, you know, posters in the, in the, yeah, in the lobby. So yeah, the library is a big one for me.
07:49 – Yeah, for sure. That was the like probably one of the first things that we did when we moved here to Ohio. I know that it was within the first couple of days of getting here. I went down to the local library and got a library card and checked it out and checked out everything they had to do there. We haven’t joined in the activities yet. Just cause we’ve been so busy. I know that one of the other nice things about the library is when you are moving often or traveling and stuff, you don’t have the space to haul your books around. Books are heavy, and my children read a ridiculous amount of books. So we have the library twice a week right now to keep up with them on the books we’re going through. But yeah, it’s good for that too. If you’re having to do travel light, it’s lots of free books.
08:40 – So definitely. Yeah, we do the same. Today we went to the library and I had two giant bags and it’s just like so heavy of bags. I can’t even imagine if I had more than one child.
08:55 – Yeah. Well, I’ve been, I’ve been trying to snoop on the library website and see if there’s a limit to how many books we can check out cause every time, I feel like we push it. So far we apparently have not reached the limit, so that’s good.
09:10 – Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So the library is, is like you just said, it’s like the first day or two I, I’m at the library and then, of course, the church, you know, it’s a great way to get connected and get to know people. Yeah. You know, as we’ve traveled, there’s been, some of the churches have been extremely welcoming and active and how lots of things going on and, and others not so much. So it just, it just depends. But again, everywhere I go I learn a little bit something from each location of what I appreciate about that church or maybe things that I would like to do a little differently, you know, as far as welcoming new people. Cause some, some churches aren’t as good at that as welcoming new people and some churches are just amazing at it. Right now we’re in here in Charlotte. I think it’s a little bit the Southern hospitality thing, but everywhere the church, the grocery store, the people we’ve met have been extremely welcoming. So that’s been wonderful. So, yeah, the church.
10:25 – And then another one that I discovered actually in rapid city, it wasn’t a very active chapter, but I hadn’t heard of it before. I was there is, it’s called Hike it Baby and it’s, it’s not just for babies. But it’s an organization that promotes hiking with your children starting when they’re babies and all the way through childhood. And you can try that out free for 90 days and after that, it’s only $10 for a year and basically depends on how active the chapter is. The one here in Charlottesville is amazing and they have hikes, you know, two or three times a week. Some parent hikes, some fruit, especially for Tyler’s some more for, you know, moms that are wanting to get into shape and pushing kids in strollers while the older ones are at school. You know, in some hikes, some chapters prefer not to have dads come along. And the one here in Charlottesville is, is very welcoming to anyone that wants to come, which I, I appreciate it. Since my husband is a nurse and you know, sometimes on a Wednesday if we’re going to go somewhere I want, he’s going to come with, you know.
11:40 – Yeah. So I really enjoy the Hike it Baby a lot. And if you are in a new area, especially, you know, here in Virginia where they do have to kinds of venomous snakes, you know, not knowing the trails and not knowing the snakes. And you know, we were in Alaska where there were Brown bears and then Rapid City did have, you know some rattlesnakes. So it’s really helpful to connect with locals and learn a little bit about, you know, what are the dangers, what are the safety rules in new areas when you, when you move around as much as, as we do. And I’ve just, I’ve just found that, you know, if you’re hiking with someone that’s local, I, we went out on a trail and, you know, we had been told there was a pond and we were like, Oh wait, no, it’s way down the Hill and it’s hard to see through the trees. And then we went with a local and she was like, Oh, here’s a little side trail. And I just brought us, you know, directly to the pond. But a tree had fallen across it so we couldn’t, I didn’t see where the trail started. So it’s just like you can literally walk right pass something and not even know it’s there. But when you, when you connect with someone local who can tell you about things and show you things, it’s really worth it.
13:11 – Yeah. That’s cool. I, I had actually looked at that before because I had seen you mention it before that you use that, that website. And so I had to check it out here and see if there was a chapter here and there is. So I’m going to have to look into it a little bit more because that was something that I was thinking when we moved here, cause we used to like to hike all the time in the Black Hills. But here I’m not familiar with the, you know, types of hiking or where the trails are at or that if they’re good for my kids or not, you know, cause I have a little toddler right now, so, yeah. Right. It’s a really cool service that you can check out.
13:52 – Yeah. It’s so helpful. I went on a hike with the group this summer and we went out to a place called Sugar Hollow and then we hiked out to Snake Hole. There’s a little creek and it kind of backed into a little swimming hole and it was so beautiful and we never, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to try that, you know, On my own.
14:13 – Yeah. I don’t, I don’t think I would be brave enough to go to a place called Snake Hole!
14:17 – We did and we swam and then it was gorgeous. And then we went out there again and while we were there a snake swam past my daughter. And, you know, I just had this like the instantaneous reaction of this grabbing her by the upper arms and just swiveling her away. You know, and then later it was, you know, I figured out it had been a water snake. And I did a lot of Googling and I’m sure it was fine, but yeah, it was kind of scary. Well,, it makes a really good story. We went out to Snake Hole and, and a snake swims past my child. So yeah, definitely worth it to know locals for, for those sorts of things. Just to be brave enough to try it. And then to get some information about what’s okay, what’s safe and what’s good. So, that’s a really good one. Hike it Baby. I like that a lot.
15:23 – And then when we were in Dillingham, Alaska one of the things we learned about was Free Forest School and there is an organization you can, you know, fill out paperwork and become a leader and you know, they kind of have guidelines. I’m not sure if this one was, you know, that formal or if some, if, if the person that ran it just sort of ran it, it can be done, you know, through this organization, free forest school or it can be done just sort of informally.
15:57 – But what we would do is she would just pick a spot once a week at the same time, on the same day we would, she would post on Facebook ahead of time where we were going to be. It’s called Forest school. But there isn’t a whole lot of forest where we were, it’s mostly Tundra and mountains and then also the Bay off the ocean. So we would go we would meet in one of those types of locations in the summer. They would go Berry picking or mountain climbing or you know, or we would just, well, you know, put our snowsuits on and go play down by the Bay or on the Tundra and just meet and the kids would just free play for an hour outside. And it was very, you know, relaxed and yeah, no planned activities or anything, but that was really helpful for me to be able to meet people and get out of the house and you know, have other kids for my child to play with.
16:58 – So we enjoyed that a lot. Of course, there are lots of different types of Forest schools that do different things They can be for a half-day or a full day or you know, five days a week preschool or more structured activities. But this one was just a, just a very loose free play, which I actually enjoyed that a lot.
17:19 – So yeah, I actually looked into that also. I’m not sure it was available over in the Black Hills. But there are a couple of groups that meet pretty close by to where we’re at here. And, but they were more of like the long day. So it was interesting. Do you know, are either of these groups, are they specifically for homeschoolers are for they, for anyone?
17:53 – It can be anyone. You know, as I said, some of them are more of a this is preschool. You know, you’re, you’re basically having preschool for your child outside. I have a friend in Alaska that does that. Her kid goes to an outdoor preschool. And some of them do have a cost, but that’s the nice thing about learning about these things. I moved so much right now I can’t really start activities, but I, because I am just going to be leaving. Yeah. but once we settled down, which we will eventually, you can start these things on your own once you, once you’ve tried them out and learn about them, you know, and you can have them have any format that you like. Really. Yeah. So most of the, well, the one we were in Dillingham was mixed ages of kids and there were on several kids, the two families that did a homeschool. And that was because, you know, the, the parents that were the kids that were in school were in school during that time, you know. Yeah. So it was, it was of quite a few homeschoolers. Yes.
19:05 – And then for those of you listening, I will make sure that I find the links for these and put them in the show notes. So if you’re interested in checking out either of these groups you can find the links to them right in the show notes of this episode.
19:19 – Yeah. Yeah. And then another one we did in Dillingham with the same mother, I’m organized a weekly playgroup and they just met at a church. It can be, you know, at a church or whatever spot that someone has to open it up to visitors and just have a few toys and space where kids can run around. So those are some of the things that, that I’ve found really helpful.
19:47 – And then I just wanted to talk about Facebook. Facebook is such a great place to find local events and, you know, just the, like concerts and, and whatever, whatever you’re interested in. So it helps a lot. Once you’ve made a few local friends in the area and you’re a friend of them on Facebook, then you can see what activities and places they’re going to and start to, you know, look through the events. And so I spend quite a bit of time, you know, trying to scroll through on Facebook and find activities that are going on and save them in my calendar. You know, just like I stop in them and look at the bulletin boards and look for events that way, even if we don’t go to all of them, I at least I have some things to choose from.
20:45 – And then because I do homeschool it seems like the homeschool groups usually organize themselves on Facebook. So that’s a good way to connect with them. And of course, you know, each different, each location is different. How active are they? Are they having events weekly or you know, are they getting together or is it a not very connected or active group? It just depends on the location. So yeah, a combination, of different things that I use to try to try to get connected everywhere we go.
21:21 – Yeah. So when we, before we moved here, we actually found out that we were moving to Ohio only two weeks before we got here. But as soon as I found out kind of the area that we were going to be in, I looked up the homeschool groups. That was the first thing that I did on Facebook. Just to start to get to know people, get to know you know, some of the rules, some of the things that people are doing here. And actually that’s Facebook is where I’ve met all of the friends that we’ve made so far here.
21:54 – Yeah. It’s so helpful. That’s true for me too. I would see the Hike it Baby, they post their hikes on, on Facebook and you know, that’s how I found their group and then connected. And, and since then the people in that group are the ones that have, you know, invited us to birthday parties and informal hikes. It was so strange. We went on a hike it baby hike that sugar hollow one that I mentioned and then we’re going around the circle and saying names and I was like, wait, you think you live across the street? My neighbor who I’d briefly met previously ended up being someone that’s, that’s been very friendly to us and we’ve gone, you know, just walking and hiking with them. Just there was a little walking area really close to both our houses.
22:45 – So cool. And then the other thing that you mentioned too is also really good that there’s so many different events on Facebook. We just recently I learned about some events that our County park system puts on. They have different events for like different aged kids. So we’re starting to get signed up for some of those in the future. But I, I wouldn’t have known about them if I hadn’t, you know, seen the public event on Facebook cause I didn’t know that that organization existed.
23:22 – Yeah. That’s like when we were in Rapid City and, I can’t remember what it was called, but, the park service or what was that? Education center that they had.
23:30 – The Outdoor Campus.
23:33 – Yeah, the outdoor campus. Everywhere you go, it’s different. The offerings that they have, you know, the things that you could do. In Alaska, they had a little aquarium, they called the science center and then they would once a week they would have it was called sprouts and it was a science-based craft and activity. And it just, it’s just so interesting to see, you know, the different, the different things they have in the different communities.
24:07 – Yeah. We’ve actually found something very similar here too. And when we took the kids to visit they had this bulletin board up in there and I found out that they have classes for homeschoolers and planetarium shows and really cool things that they didn’t actually advertise anywhere except their bulletin board.
24:30 – Yeah. It just takes a little while to figure out how to find these things out that the locals just know automatically.
24:40 – Yeah. But there’s so much out there and like, like these classes that I found for homeschoolers, I think they’re like $4 a person or something. So there’s plenty of things to do out there that costs very little.
24:57 – Yeah, it’s definitely, it’s a challenge. I’m moving. I mean, as you know, moving around this much, especially with kids, it can be really disorientating for them. And you know, I’ve been working really hard and just, you know, clean and pack and then we have this a long trip and everybody’s tired and the kids are emotional, you know, and I’m not in the best place to, to handle it. So it can be hard.
25:31 – Yeah. But then once you, you settle in and I just have found that, that we’ve had such amazing experiences and made lifelong friends and in all of these places that we’ve been at. So yeah, it’s, it’s for us it’s, it’s definitely been worth it. Even though it’s, it’s very non-traditional. It’s, it’s definitely been more set for us to, to do this.
26:00 – Yeah, I completely understand that. This is like, we’ve moved to a couple of different parts of South Dakota and this is our first time living a little bit longer-term out of South Dakota. So we haven’t officially moved to that many places, but we’ve traveled quite a bit and met different people, especially through things like this. And just gotten to know people. And I, I saw something once in an article I read that said that people who travel leave little parts of their heart in different places. And I thought, Oh, it’s so true. It is. You go to these places and you connect with the community and connect with the people there. You really do leave parts of your heart just all over. But yeah, it’s great to get to meet different people that way. Cause it really opens your eyes to what else is out there.
26:52 – Yeah, definitely. It can be, like you said, leaving your heart, it can be difficult to do, but just so amazing. My daughter she just, she identifies as an Alaskan when she was born. She was born in North Dakota, but she’s, even though we’ve been out of Alaska now for a year and a half, she, she says, I’m, I’m an Alaskan, you know, and she got to see whales and sea stars and sea lions and you know, a lot of really cool things there. And we enjoyed Rapid City a lot and the Badlands, especially in the Black Hills.
27:38 – So it’s just, it’s just so much growing up in Northern Minnesota and then living right over the border in Grand Forks, North Dakota for the majority of my life. Well, I guess a little while in Michigan when I was in college. So I’ll, you know, my whole life in the Midwest, it just really has been so amazing to be able to, to travel to such different places and see such cool things and meet very, very cool people.
28:09 – Yeah, I’d have to agree with that too. We’ve just been so blessed on being able to travel and to be able to travel on a budget and see all these things and have our children experienced so many different things. I mean last summer when we were traveling, we just called it roadschooling.
28:26 – Yeah. I’ve been saying education by where we go and I’ve been saying travel, schooling, but yeah, road schooling. That’s a really good way to put it too.
28:37 – Yeah. Either way. It’s just a great way to introduce them to so many different things that they wouldn’t get if they were just in one place. So, yeah. Alright. Well, I think we are going to have to wrap up this interview so it doesn’t get too long and people don’t fall asleep on us. Hopefully. I don’t know, I didn’t sleep last night. I was up until one o’clock this morning, so I might be the one falling asleep. It happens. Yeah. Anyway, I really appreciate you coming on the Little House Living show today and sharing so many awesome tips and ideas with everyone. I know that I’m going to have to look into things a little bit more and probably find some more things for us to do because you know, we’re not busy enough. There’s always so much more exploring to do, whether it’s if you’re traveling or even just where you’re at, where you live now.
29:38 – Exactly. All of these things that I mentioned, even you are already well established in your community. You can always try some of these things or you know, start one of your own or just find other things. So just kind of shake it up a little bit.
29:56 – Right. You can always find new things. I know, I mean, I was born and raised in the Black Hills and lived there for 25 years before we moved. And then we lived there, you know, just for the last year before we moved here. And so like we would go and do all kinds of things cause we always tried to take one day each week and just kind of have a family day. So we would go and do things and I was discovering new things that, you know, I thought I knew the Hills and where to go and what there was and stuff like that. But then we’d take a different road and go a different way. And then there was something new and cool and exciting and it didn’t have to cost any money to find it or to do it. But yeah, there’s always new things.
30:42 – Exactly. It’s so easy to get in in a rut and just kind of do the same things with the same people. But yeah, there’s, there’s so much that you can explore and do wherever you are.
30:56 – Yes. Alright, well thank you so much for letting me interview you tonight. We really appreciate it. And I know that the listeners to the podcasts, you’re really going to like everything that you had to say and have to look more into this. So thank you so much for coming on today.
31:15 – Yes, thanks. You have a great night and get some sleep tonight.
31:19- I will try. Thank you.
31:21 – Okay. Have a good night.
31:24 – Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the Little House Living show. I hope that you enjoyed this interview with Holly and got some new tips and ideas on how to find the free and cheap things to do wherever you’re at or wherever you’re traveling to. I hope that everyone has a great week and keep on remembering to make the most with what you have.