2022 was the year Kelly and I became empty nesters. We’d gotten Hallie settled at Chapel Hill in 2020 and for a while Travis was a virtual only child at home. In March, he and I went on college tours to UNC Charlotte (taking Amtrak) and to Appalachian State. He liked App more than UNCC but the small class sizes of UNC Asheville appealed the most to him. He graduated Enloe with honors in June, spent the summer working for a short while, and got settled in at UNCA in August. He’s been thriving there! He is delving into engineering classes there, making friends, playing on the school’s ultimate Frisbee team, too. He also makes time for bike rides and learning the banjo in his spare time.
As for Hallie, she spent the spring semester in Montana doing field work in environmental science outside of Glacier national park. In-between sciency stuff, she would go on miles-long hikes in the mountains and camp out. It’s been wonderful watching her love of science blossom, though I think she prefers field work to lab work! After a short break at home, she left in the summer for a semester in Highlands, NC doing more field work. She was studying the effects of stream pollution on the hemlock trees in the area and became an expert on taking core samples. More hiking, camping, and waterfall exploration took place, in addition to road trips to Tennessee to go see bands. Hallie was initially unsure she would like her time in Highlands but was soon loving it and was sad when it came to a close. I don’t doubt there will always be a place in Hallie’s heart for mountains and I love seeing it.
So, how have Kelly and I been using our time as empty nesters? We took a week to stay at a riverside cabin in Randleman, NC back in June. I was jobless by that time but we didn’t let that ruin our break. We paddled on the river, paddleboarded on the local lake, and did lots of hiking in a North Carolina forest I’d never explored before: the Uwharre National Forest. I loved our little trip there and want to explore more of all the parks in North Carolina I have yet to see.
Beyond the Randleman trip, we’ve not done much. The flaw in our Empty Nester plan is that we may not have kids but we do have two dogs. Boarding two dogs for a week turns out to be quite expensive. This tends to put a damper on any spontaneous plans to get up and go somewhere. In fact, last month Kelly took the kids up to visit her parents while I stayed home. Boarding the dogs while I have no income didn’t seem to be a prudent use of our money.