The Five Year Plan

My wife and I have a plan.  This should not be surprising to anyone who knows us as we are both planners, though one is much more of a planner than the other.

Our plan is that by the time our daughter graduates from high school, we are able to go where we want to go, when we want to go there. In other words, we’re seeking to be location and schedule independent.

While it’s nice to dream of “early retirement” we’re going to probably need to do some sort of income generating activities.  My view is that I’ll always want to do something, so I want to make sure it’s something I enjoy that doesn’t require me to be in a specific location and to be tied to a specific schedule.

With my current gig I am mostly there. My wife has a little ways to go to get to that point.  My posts on effectiveness will cover the techniques I’ve used to get to location independence, what I’m working on to get to schedule independence, things we’re trying to get my wife there, and what we do to make the most of those opportunities.

I’ll admit, a lot of the tips and techniques that I’m going to share are things I’ve heard from the slew of personal improvement books, podcasts, blogs that are already out there.  So you may be wondering – why add to the overwhelming amount of content out there surrounding personal improvement.

That’s a good question, and one that I’ve struggled with for a while. I decided to go ahead with it because I provide a different perspective than a lot of the personal development and self help content out there.

First, I’m still going through the journey and will make some mistakes along the way.  I’ve found I do learn from mistakes, but I learn even more when I can talk through (or in this case write through) the lessons I’ve learned while they happen.

Second, while I have location independence, and I have a good income, that income is tied to a specific gig.  Many of the people I look to for personal development guidance have through one way or another removed the need for a a gig either because they had smash book sales, are bringing in revenue from course sales, had great investing success, or a combination of those things. I’m not there yet and I imagine a lot of people who also look at personal development information aren’t there yet either.  I can discuss how the personal development techniques I hear about work for someone in my context, and hopefully you’ll find that helpful.

Finally, I’m doing all this from a piece of paradise in the middle of Iowa, not a big city. That means that there are some time saving techniques and life hacks may not work exactly the same, and my role as #ubersherpa becomes even more important. At the same time, we’ve removed ourselves from some of the stressors that city life brings, so we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I encourage you to join me on my journey to fulfilling our five year plan. Hopefully you’ll be able to pick up some ideas along the way that will help you with whatever plans you have to lead your own effective life.

The National Park Bucket List

One of the purposes of this site to share my experiences and lessons learned while trying to fulfill my quest to visit every single National Park in the United States.

Yes, every single one.

The quest started when I declared a bucket list to visit all of the National Parks in the United States.  Since it is a bucket list, the time frame initially was a long one – before I kick the bucket.  Since we originally created the bucket list item, we’ve refined the time frame a little bit, hopefully making it a bit more restrictive for reasons which should seem fairly clear.  

For those of you who may be familiar with the National Park Service and all the various sites they manage across the United States, you may be thinking “Holy Cow!”  All these folks will be doing is traveling.  To set the record straight, I should point out that we are only visiting National Parks, those things noted in the Ken Burn’s documentary as “America’s Best Idea.”

There are currently 63 National Parks.  I say currently because the count:

  • Went from 58 to 59 in January 2013 then Pinnacles National Park was created
  • Went from 59 to 60 in February 2018 when the Gateway Arch was made a national park
  • Went from 60 to 61 in February 2019 when Indiana Dunes went from a National Lakeshore to a National Park
  • Went from 61 to 62 in December 2019 when White Sands National Monument became White Sands National Park.
  • Went from 62 to 63 in December 2020 when New River Gorge National River became New River Gorge National Park.

My father has asked me what happens when a new national park is created.  Well, if it is created before we finish the list, we have to go, don’t we? Here is the full list of National Parks as well as when we visited them.

What this bucket list does not include are all of the National Monuments, National Preserves, National Historical Parks, National Historic Sites, International Historic Site, National Battlefield Parks, National Military Parks, National Battlefields, National Battlefield Site, National Memorials, National Recreation Areas, National Seashores, National Lakeshores, National Rivers, National Reserves, National Parkways, National Historic and Scenic Trails, National Cemeteries, or National Heritage Areas.  That’s not to say that we won’t visit those places if we happen to be near by, but we’re not going to go out of our way to visit them for purposes of this bucket list.

What Constitutes a “Visit”?

As luck would have it, we did actually visit a few of the parks before we established the Bucket List.  (Those parks are marked with an asterisk by the visit date until we meet the criteria below).  To make sure we kept things above board,  we (my wife Beth and my daughter Paige) established the following rules.

  • We (at least one of the three of us) have to physically be in the National Park.
  • Proof of a visit is via the official stamp in my National Parks Passport which shows the date of my visit.  (This makes the Passport book a very precious commodity).  This is also an indication that one of us was actually in the Park Visitor Center
  • Preferably view the main sites in the National Park and go on at least one hike.

Those are the rules.  We tried to keep them simple and straightforward.

We obviously try to make the most of each trip because it would be kind of silly to make a long trip from say Iowa to Alaska solely to get a stamp.

We spend more time in some parks over others.  The shortest time spent in any of the parks was probably Cuyahoga National Park.  I spent a couple of hours there in March while on a trip to Cleveland for a speaking engagement.  I at least went and saw Brandywine Falls.  Probably the longest we have spent at any Park is Rocky Mountain National Park – we have been there four times – twice for a week at a time.  As you could probably suspect, that’s our favorite.

Our National Park Roster

As of June 2022, we’ve visited 45/63.

Name Location Date formed When Visited
AcadiaMaine February 26, 1919 July 2010
American SamoaAmerican Samoa October 31, 1988
ArchesUtah November 12, 1971 March 2012
BadlandsSouth Dakota November 10, 1978 July 2012
Big BendTexasJune 12, 1944 January 2013
BiscayneFlorida June 28, 1980  November 2016
Black Canyon of the GunnisonColorado October 21, 1999 March 2012
Bryce CanyonUtah February 25, 1928 March 2014
CanyonlandsUtah September 12, 1964 March 2012
Capitol ReefUtahDecember 18, 1971 March 2012
Carlsbad CavernsNew MexicoMay 14, 1930 March 2021
Channel IslandsCalifornia March 5, 1980
CongareeSouth Carolina November 10, 2003 July 2018
Crater LakeOregon May 22, 1902
Cuyahoga ValleyOhio October 11, 2000 March 2012
Death ValleyCalifornia, Nevada October 31, 1994  March 2013
DenaliAlaska February 26, 1917  August 2016
Dry TortugasFlorida October 26, 1992
EvergladesFlorida May 30, 1934  November 2016
Gates of the ArcticAlaska December 2, 1980
Gateway ArchMissouri February, 2018 April 2021
GlacierMontana May 11, 1910  June 2017
Glacier BayAlaska December 2, 1980 June 1995*
Grand CanyonArizona February 26, 1919 June 2022
Grand TetonWyoming

February 26, 1929

July 2009*
June 2015
Great BasinNevada October 27, 1986 July 2021
Great Sand DunesColorado September 13, 2004 March 2012
Great Smoky MountainsNorth Carolina, Tennessee June 15, 1934 June 2018
Guadalupe MountainsTexas October 15, 1966 March 2021
HaleakalāHawaiiAugust 1, 1916 February 2000*

February 2015

Hawaii VolcanoesHawaii August 1, 1916February 2015
Hot SpringsArkansas March 4, 1921 December 2012
Indiana DunesIndiana February 15, 2019 May 2019
Isle RoyaleMichigan March 3, 1931  August 2014
Joshua TreeCalifornia October 31, 1994  March 2013
KatmaiAlaska December 2, 1980
Kenai FjordsAlaska December 2, 1980  August 2016
Kings CanyonCalifornia March 4, 1940
Kobuk ValleyAlaska December 2, 1980
Lake ClarkAlaska December 2, 1980
Lassen VolcanicCalifornia August 9, 1916
Mammoth CaveKentucky July 1, 1941 June 2019
Mesa VerdeColorado June 29, 1906 June 2022
Mount RainierWashington March 2, 1899 August 2013
New River GorgeWest VirginiaDecember 27, 2020
North CascadesWashington October 2, 1968
OlympicWashington June 29, 1938
Petrified ForestArizona December 9, 1962 June 2022
PinnaclesCalifornia January 10, 2013
RedwoodCalifornia October 2, 1968
Rocky MountainColoradoJanuary 26, 1915 November 2002
July 2008
July 2009
March 2012
March 2019
SaguaroArizona October 14, 1994 March 2021
SequoiaCalifornia September 25, 1890
ShenandoahVirginia May 22, 1926 June 2018
Theodore RooseveltNorth DakotaNovember 10, 1978 July 2012
Virgin IslandsUnited States Virgin Islands August 2, 1956 March 2022
VoyageursMinnesota January 8, 1971 August 2014
Wind CaveSouth Dakota January 9, 1903 July 2012
White SandsNew MexicoDecember 20, 2019March 2021
Wrangell –St. EliasAlaska December 2, 1980
YellowstoneWyoming, Montana, Idaho March 1, 1872 July 2009*
June 2015
YosemiteCalifornia October 1, 1890  October 2015
ZionUtah November 19, 1919  March 2014