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How My Parents Inspired Wanderlust & Adventure In Me On A Shoestring Budget

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My Parents Still Inspired Wanderlust

How My Parents Inspired Wanderlust & Adventure In Me On A Shoestring Budget

This weekend brought back a lot of childhood memories. I’ll get to that part of it in a bit, but I thought it was an experience worth sharing. I have talked about my parents in the past and how they gave me the greatest gift they could, sharing their financial wins AND losses with me. They didn’t cherry pick the stats like a social media photo filter. They gave me the raw grittiness that only details can provide.

My Parent’s Background

See, my parents got married young, 18 years old young, and had kids at 20 and 22. That is a world of hurt for most people but they powered through some how. Some of it involved Olympic level bill paying gymnastics each month but they always seemed to make it work. Through hard work, determination and taking a chance on themselves, they were able to get to a point where we lived a very comfortable life. That is the American dream everyone sells right there!

Even though we got to a place where we could travel more often, and more comfortably, the ground had already been laid for my love of travel long before that point. They instilled my love of exploration, finding hidden gems and my wanderlust overall while they were still working with a shoestring budget.

My Parents Still Inspired Wanderlust

Laying The Ground Work For My Love Of Travel

We took the occasional road trip to South Dakota to meet with friends and see Mount Rushmore etc. We even stayed in the dumpiest cottages imaginable while there. Trust me, they didn’t look anything like those rest stop brochures. Ah, the days before the internet and TripAdvisor! They always saved their coins, remember when that was a thing, and would take us somewhere a few times a year. But, it was the Ostermann Sunday trips that really cemented my love for all things travel.

That is what we called our exploration trips (fun fact: they didn’t always happen on Sunday). We would get in the car and just drive to a place we hadn’t seen before, or go back to a beloved place once again. This would involve state parks, small towns and everything in between. We would hit those dumpy side of the road attractions where water rolled up hill, climb a sand dune so high we couldn’t move by the end of it or check out the local pizza place to see how it measured up. Once the evening we would pile back in the car like Cinderella riding in the pumpkin to head home for the night. This would save money that we didn’t have to spend on a hotel room.

Sometimes this trip was just a few towns over and other times it was half a state away. It just all depended on what inspired us that weekend. In the same vein, sometimes it was a wild success and other times it was a big disappointment. That was a part of the fun though. Since Google’ing a destination before going wasn’t a thing we would choose places based on word of mouth, a spot on a paper map or those damn rest stop brochures. Yes, those things fooled us more than once.

All you needed to take this trip was a full tank of gas, granted a ton cheaper back then, and a few bucks for a cheap attraction and maybe a lunch here or there if you didn’t pack anything. Relatively cheap, but you could recreate all of the joys of travel for a fraction of the cost.

Revitalizing The Ostermann Sunday

We did an Ostermann Sunday this past weekend with the kids. We headed out and explored all of the towns north of town. This was up in the thumb of Michigan (yes our state is a mitten) so there were some booms, and some busts of towns to be had. We hit beaches, parks and restaurants along the way.

The only real goal was to finish at a specific restaurant at the end of the day for dinner. This one gave me a double dose of nostalgia. My son has been talking about Pizza Hut for months now. He couldn’t shake it since all of the sit down restaurants by us shuttered one by one over the last few years. Well, I found one still open in one of the small towns we were driving through. We didn’t tell him about it and he was quite surprised when we pulled in.

The best part is it worked out even better than expected. See, this location was a Pizza Hut Classic. The design, the salad bar, book it stickers, warm breadstick dipping sauce and the red cups was all to 80’s & 90’s perfection. The only thing missing was the arcade with the Off Road game. Me and my wife told the kids stories of our visits at their age and how every Friday night, the Pizza Hut in town was the kid’s watering hole. I guess finding a Pizza Hut Classic is a rare and desired thing by the way.

Final Thoughts About The Love Of Travel

At its base level, at least for me, travel isn’t about seeing the coolest hotel, the best first class cabin, or lounging on a beach halfway around the world. Those are all things that happen because of it. Travel is about exploration, discovery and being surprised. You don’t have to go far off to accomplish that. Almost every single town you drive through has something special to offer that will accomplish all three of those things. Whether it is a beach, a park, a dining specialty (check out the Leroy burger) or some other quirk or tradition that makes it unique. You just need to take the time to stop and take a look. The cost to do it is small, but the payoff is big!

Thanks Mom and Dad for showing me the way.


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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. Amen Mark! As a seasoned traveler, I get a little tired of seeing the same millennials posting on SM of themselves (sometimes alone ) holding a glass of champagne in first class only to miss many wonderful attractions and points of interest at their destination. I think being able to enjoy travel for the sense of awe and wonder is a wonderful gift to give our children!

    • I get sad seeing the people posing for 50 different selfies at a destination just to get the right one and then move on without even taking in the thing they were there to take a picture with. It is a downward spiral we are in for sure.

  2. My Wife and I were traveling home from Caseville a few years back along the the lake shore and we were commenting how there were no chain restaurants or stores the whole way, it was all local establishments. It was morning so we couldn’t stop in for a Leroy Burger. We also noticed Vinnie’s Auto Parts not far from there. Even now one of us will say “Check it out Leroy” (Henry Lee Summer 80’s song) and the other one of us will say “Okay Vinnie.” All from driving through one small town we didn’t even stop in. Used to like to pop into Smackwater Jacks in Lexington by the pier but that closed a few years before covid.

    • I am guessing that is now Windjammer in Lexington – probably our favorite restaurant in town. Should stop in if you ever drive by again 🙂

      • Does it still have the ivy all over it? I grew up just like you with the weekend day cruise, apparently somewhere nearby. Ours was to grindstone city to pull my brother and i away from the saturday cartoons. Climb around on the grindstones, look at the boats in the marina, grab lunch at Captain Morgan’s or whatever it was back then and then drive back home to southern oakland county. I still go back for the perch sometimes.


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