Jacqueline Winters - Romance Author


#5.1 – No More Excuses – Travel More – Badlands/Mount Rushmore Edition


Growing up, we didn’t really do the family vacation thing.

Traveling was never was a priority.

It’s one of the reasons I joined the Army at 18. Traveling not only happened, it became mandatory. First South Carolina, then Virginia, the South Korea, and eventually I ended up in Alaska with a few side trips to Hawaii.

LOVE Alaska. Lived there for over 10 years. But it’s hard to see the rest of the country from there. So I moved back to Nebraska, where I grew up. One of the many reasons: central location. Better for traveling.

Out of any of the items on MY 30 LIST, I feel like I’ve made the most progress on this one.

Since turning 30 in March, I’ve been lighthouse hopping in western Michigan, to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore with my mom, and I spent almost two weeks in Alaska (I’ll never get enough of that beautiful place!)

I’m also gearing up for another trip to the Grand Canyon with my brother in just a few days.

This post will be about my South Dakota trip, because it’s here that I realized something important about me—about what it is I really want from life.

It was a very spontaneous trip. And I’ve learned that those are actually the best kind.

See, I like to plan things. To a fault. I like to know what to expect. But sometimes, that really takes the fun out of it.

When we drove up, our main goal was to see Mount Rushmore. We were on very limited time. The Badlands were a slight possibility, but we really thought it’d have to wait for another trip.

It down-poured on us as soon as we hit the South Dakota border, so much so that we both invested in rain boots. But fate smiled on us that day. The storm stayed south of the interstate—south of us.

As we drove along I-90, it became apparent that the Badlands were on our way—they were right there and the storm wasn’t.

When fate gives you a nudge, you should pay attention. I’m glad we did.

It was a little chilly (early May) and if you’ve ever been to the Badlands, VERY windy. In fact, my mom and I were often the only ones crazy enough to get out of the car at every pull-off and walk to the end.


But the reward was SO worth it. You can’t really experience a place hiding in your car.

The Badlands… none of the photos I have come close to capturing their true beauty—the absolute awe you feel standing in the middle of it all.


We continued on to our hotel in Keystone. This was the only “plan” we made ahead of time. Funny thing was I booked a non-refundable room on the wrong weekend. Oops! In retrospect, I feel it was the weekend we were meant to go. Fate is funny like that.

Sometimes the little hiccups in life are actually the best parts.

By the time we checked into our hotel, we decided Mount Rushmore could wait until the morning.

Keystone is a pretty small town, the parking is weird, and there weren’t exactly chain restaurants that we could find (aka somewhere familiar). With no desire to drive all the way back to Rapid City after spending an afternoon in the chilly wind, we ended up walking next door to a restaurant/bar. It looked a little sketchy to me initially, but wow! What amazing food. And they even had my favorite beer—Alaskan White—on tap!

Little lesson there, even the smallest steps outside your comfort zone can lead to some incredible discoveries. Things you might miss entirely otherwise.

In the hotel room that night, I found myself reflecting on the trip so far. I was drawn to this area, yearning to spend more time here. We definitely discussed coming back next year. But more than anything, I realized I was so at peace. It didn’t make sense to me at the time. I didn’t exactly have any plans of moving to the Rapid City area, even after this little revelation.

It’s the traveling—the exploring. It fills me with this sense of awe and happiness, and well, peace. Like it’s what I’m meant to be doing.

I’m sure some of you are quite amused by this little revelation of mine. I mean, if we could all just spend our lives traveling and exploring, wouldn’t we be doing that? I don’t think so. I think some people crave the comfort of a familiar spot. Settling down to them is not just about a family, it’s about one place to call home and build a life.

More than ever the phrase “settling down” leaves a funny taste in my mouth. Not because I don’t want the family—I do. I long for it every day—the husband, the kids, the dogs… But I’m not meant to sit still for any long periods of time. In fact, I think I fear getting stuck in one place too long.

I wants roots, but not at the cost of spreading my wings.

Now I haven’t won the lottery or anything (yet) but I’m not going to let that stop me. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way. I don’t have all the answers yet, but I am on a mission to find my path. If I’m lucky, someone to share it with, too.

That Sunday morning, we drove straight to Mount Rushmore. And guess what? It was a perfectly gorgeous, clear day. We found out that had we attempted to go the day before, all we would have seen were clouds.


You have to stick things out, even through the tough times when nothing seems to make sense. The fog will clear if only you’re patient.

There’s a balance to everything, an equal reward for spontaneity and patience. Don’t let a little wind, a little rain, and a few clouds get you down.

Hop up on those clouds.

The view’s probably better from up there anyway.



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