The Bowman Family’s American field trip explores U.S. National Parks


The Bowman’s are a family of four who left their home in New York City to travel around the U.S. in their self-converted shuttle bus and trace their journey through their blog American Field Trip. Their goal is to visit all 59 U.S. National Parks and to find America’s best donut.

1.)Where was the first place that you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or ..)

Since we began our bus trip around the U.S., we’ve been struck by how many varied landscapes the States encompass. One of the first national parks we visited was Redwoods; we hiked with our kids around Tall Trees Grove and were completely bowled over by the scale of these beautiful behemoths.

2.)If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?

We’d love to be able to ship our bus around the world and roadtrip in other places—Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Patagonia, anywhere at all. We love living in the bus for long-term travel, since it means our kids have a consistent home. But New York City is where we’re rooted, and with unlimited resources, we can think of plenty of apartments we’d be thrilled to buy.

3.) What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?

We had no construction experience when we started working on our bus, and spent lots of time watching YouTube videos and reading online forums. Completing the build gave us more confidence about the trip in general—we’re constantly encountering situations that are new to us, but we take things one day at a time and everything works out. One thing we were nervous about was how our kids would deal with living on the road. We decided if they weren’t thriving after a month or two, we’d end our trip. It turned out we didn’t need to worry—our kids have probably adapted better than we have. They love that we’re so often doing things outside, and that we spend all our time together as a family. And our son especially loves that he gets to sleep right next to us every night.

4.) What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?

We almost always camp at free sites, and the AllStays app has been clutch for finding good spots.

5.) What place do you wish more people have seen?

We were awed by Alaska—the scale of things there is jaw-dropping. Everywhere we went, there were glaciers and enormous waterfalls and bears scampering across the road and soaring mountains that would be featured on license plates in any other state. We visited Katmai National Park to watch brown bears fishing during the salmon run and it was honestly, cliche as it may sound, life-changing. To be in the presence of such grand scenery and powerful wildlife is humbling and inspiring.

6.) Best advice you have been given and by whom?

Before we left, David’s boss told us something he used to do when traveling with his kids. At dinner every night, each person in the family would say their favorite

This bear is named Lefty and he is PRO. I vascillated between rooting for the bear and the salmon, but I think I finally sided with the salmon. Look at the expressions on their faces—I feel that way a good 70% of the time. #spiritfish

thing they saw, thing they smelled, thing they touched, thing they heard, and thing they tasted. That’s been a really fun tradition we’ve tried to adopt with our kids as a way to review and process our experiences.

7.) When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?

We took a bush plane to visit a remote national park in Alaska called Lake Clark. We landed in town called Port Alsworth, population 159, and loaded up our backpacks for a several-day backcountry foray, but within minutes of setting off, David rolled his ankle and ripped a tendon in his knee. We struggled back to town and for the next several days, were completely cared for by Port Alsworth residents. The first person we ran into called a local nurse, who came to check David out for free, then called around town to find us a free camping spot. We were offered homes to stay in, meals, company, and a boat ride to the Saturday-night fish fry. It was not the experience we’d planned, but it ended up being unforgettable.
8.) What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
We wanted to see more of the United States, and specifically wanted to visit all the U.S. national parks, and we felt like roadtripping would be the perfect way to experience more of our home country. Driving allows us to see a lot of the in-between places we’d miss by flying, and we meet lots of people en-route who make our trip much more interesting and rich. Before we left, we only got 10 days of vacation per year, and while we got pretty good at living it up on those 10 days, we wanted to do some more extended travel before our kids started school.
9.) I travel because….

We travel to learn new stories that help us see the world in a different, richer light.

10.) My favorite travel or business book is…

As far as books about travel itself, we like Rolf Potts’ “Vagabonding.” But we also love reading books based in and around the places we’re visiting. Right now we’re headed to the Deep South, so we’ve been boning up on our Southern literature.

11.) How about hotels? What’s your favorite or one you’d recommend?

We have only stayed in hotels a handful of times throughout our trip, since we’re usually sleeping in the bus! But we did get a killer deal on a gorgeous swanky room at the Virgin Hotels in downtown Chicago.

Lastly, can you please recommend a resource for up-and-coming travel writers; this could be a course you know, a book, conference etc.

Madi has been reading a helpful how-to book called “A Field Guide for Immersion Writing” by Robin Hemley. He gives a lot of good info and writing exercises!
Just coming off 10 days at Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, which were so enjoyable we considered staying forever. But then it started to snow and we fled to North Dakota, and I’m pretty confident that is the only time in history that anyone has traveled to ND for the nice weather. Still, if we ever win the lottery, you’ll find us home ownin’ in Jackson Hole (and dang, those lottery dollahs would be necessary; the real estate prices there are enough to make you weep.)
The Bowman family’s quest stems from their love of National Park System and the lands it protects, and a desire to spend more time outside with their kids.  They hope this experience will give them a good sense of the American landscape and what’s at stake when it comes to protecting public lands.

Stay up-to-date on their travels through:

Web site



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Lori Leroy

Lori Green LeRoy is a mom to two young boys, and currently indoctrinating them into the wonder and awe of exploring the world, so far 27 states and 11 countries. She writes travel pieces for several websites as well as her own blog:

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