Firsts on our Travel Sabbatical

Every day is a day to have a first.   Life is more exciting when you experience firsts.   On our Traveling Sabbatical, I was able to experience firsts most every day.   I am sharing my firsts on our traveling sabbatical and some ideas for a list of firsts for your future travels.

First Time

First States

If I count up all the states I went to for the first time it would be nine. South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon were my first-time visits to these states.

First National Parks

These were the national parks I visited for the first time:  Smokey Mountain National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, White Sands National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Hot Springs National Park, Saguaro National Park, Casa Grande National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

We did go to Grand Canyon National Park but we had been there before.  We were going to go to more National Parks for the first time in Utah and Oregon, but they were closed in April because of COVID.

White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument

First Rivers

It was the first time I saw the Rio Grande and Tennessee River on this trip.  Yes, there were many small rivers I had also seen for the first time.   I did see the Mighty Mississippi River in Vicksburg, MS and that was the farthest south I have seen the Mississippi.  Growing up 12 miles from the source of the Mississippi in Minnesota I was amazed at how wide it got in Mississippi.

Rio Grande
Rio Grande River

First Time Tours

This was the first time I had ever been to a chocolate factory.  The chocolate factory was in Asheville, NC where they made chocolates from Bean to Bar.  If you want more information on that tour, I wrote a blog in January called Chocolate from Bean to Bar.  

We also went on a tour of a small pistachio farm in New Mexico.   We were able to taste 18 plus flavors of Pistachios and then we toured the farm/trees and learned how they grow and process pistachios.  We also got a free pistachio chocolate chip cookie for the $2 tour. We loved the dill pickle-flavored pistachios! Check out the blog on New Mexico- the land of Enchantment.

Pistachio Trees

First Experiences

It was my first time on a Trolly Car and it was not in San Francisco.  The city of Little Rock, Arkansas has a trolly car that gives you a tour of downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.   It was fun to say it was my first-time experience.

The other experience was my first horse race. Woodlawn Horse Racing track is big in Hot Springs, Arkansas.   I was able to watch the horses get ready for the races and saw a race two times.  This is something you can do for free if you don’t bet.  You betcha, I was going to experience this for free.   We also got a free horse barn tour on a Saturday morning.   If you want more information about Arkansas Travels see blog on Free things to do in Arkansas.  

Trolly Car

First Visits to Cities

When you travel to new states, you also travel to new cities.  I won’t mention all the cities I visited for the first time, but I will mention the larger ones or highlighted ones in a blog. All of these cities have fun and unique things to see. 

Here is my list of cities you may want to experience as your first: Hilton Head and Greenville, SC; Lynchburg, VA; Asheville, NC; Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, TN; Huntsville, AL; Laurel and Madison, MS; Cloudcroft, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Silver City, NM;  Tucson, Sedona, Cottonwood, and Prescott, AZ;  Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Logan, Utah; Corvallis, and Sandy, OR; San Francisco and Oakland, CA; Reno, NV; Fayetteville, Bentonville, Little Rock and Hot Springs, AR.  

San Francisco

First Biking Trail Use

I like to bike on nice paved trails. I am not much of a mountain biker.  The paved or practically paved trails I biked on for the first time and enjoyed were:

Hilton Head Beach– The beach is so compact that it feels like a biking trail.   I loved every minute of it biking on the beach next to the ocean. This was also my favorite biking experience while traveling.    I also enjoyed biking next to the Rio Grande Trail in Albuquerque on a very hard-packed trail.  This trail is shared with horses, mountain bikers, and walkers/runners.

We also enjoyed the Boise Greenway Trail so much we biked 24 miles. It runs on both sides of the Boise River and intermingles with business, residential areas, and parks. Another first-time biking was on the Stump Rabbit Trail in Greenville, SC.  This trail again intermingles with residential areas and businesses running through the city to towns north of the trail.

The Razorback Greenway was another trail that connects the cities of Fayetteville, Rogers, Springville, and Bentonville, AR, and expands to almost 30 miles of trails. Pea vine Bike Trail was another trail with pea gravel that we biked on in Prescott, AZ next to a lake reservoir with pretty pink granite formations. We enjoyed all these fun biking trails for the first time.

Los Alamos

First Time Visit to Secret Cities

This again was our first time visiting the Manhattan project secret cites of Oakridge, TN, and Los Alamos, NM.   These cities were where the research and manufacturing took place for the race to produce the first atomic bombs. Each of the cities has a museum that explains the history behind the projects as well as the story.  

First Time for COVID Pandemic

The first time to experience a pandemic and while traveling.   We had to learn to navigate our way through this one as the rules changed week by week and from state to state and county to county. We also experienced our first-time using grocery pick up, many closed restrooms, use of masks, closed national parks, and recreation and attractions.  Here is the link to the blog on restrooms. 

Soda Springs
Soda Springs, ID

Water In Nature

We saw the most beautiful water scenery for the first time.  These included waterfalls such as the Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho; Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah Forest, NC; and Sisters Falls in AR to name a few. 

We also saw a manmade geyser in Soda Springs, ID that has an impressive show every hour on the hour.  The natural Hot Springs in Hot Springs, AR were worth the visit.  Driving near the Pacific Ocean Coast was also our first time. It was also our first time seeing the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area by car which includes the Golden Gate Bridge.

Utah Reservoir

Reservoirs and Nature Showcases

We drove to around 30 plus reservoirs that are in the states of TN, AR, NM, AZ, UT, and ID. There were too many reservoirs we visited to name. It was also the first time we ever mined for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.  Bummer that we only came home with some pretty rocks.

This was also the first time we saw a Saguaro Cactus. If you want to learn more about them you can read the blog called Lessons Learned from a Saguaro Cactus.  This was the first time we saw giant redwoods in the coastal forest of Oregon.



 I had never seen an antelope, alpaca, gray fox, Javelina, and roadrunner before. We also saw unique birds, open range cows, and pampered cows for the first time.  

free Range Cows
Free Range Cows

More Firsts

Airbnb stays had us staying overnight in more homes in our life. We also saw more homeless people than we’ve ever seen in our life. We are first time homeless since we sold our home in October of 2019.  

 I spent the most time with my husband ever.  We experienced four spring seasons since we kept heading north. We just completed spring in Minnesota.  We went to a new church every week plus the most times we’ve watched church on-line.

As you can see when you travel many months at a time in a traveling sabbatical with new states, cities, and locations you will experience many firsts.  Why not go on an adventure and experience your own firsts?

What are some firsts you would like to experience?  Leave a Comment below.

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our Firsts