101 | Start Here: Less Stuff, More Experiences

less stuff more experiences
Ordinary Sherpa is a brand designed to support families connecting through adventure based on the pillars of simplicity, authenticity, and connection. In this episode we walk through these brand pillars and how we approach gifting experiences.


If you are new here, Welcome to Ordinary Sherpa. A brand designed to support families connecting through adventure based on the pillars of simplicity, authenticity, and connection. If you have been here for the last 100 episodes, thank you! The 101 episode is going to take us back to the basic of this brand and practice different ways we can support family connection through simple and authentic adventure experiences.  

My intention is to create content to support leading a lifestyle of family adventure fostering lifelong memories. In doing so we hope you will adopt the sherpa philosophy, to help others reach their summit through generous curiosity. 

Adventure is the act of getting outside your comfort zone.  It’s an invitation to try something new.  To support this brand pillar we offer the Everyday Adventure Challenge – a 60 day approach to practicing simple adventures with your family.  

When we stop viewing adventure as an epic summit, we begin to look differently at your own neighborhood.  We notice things such as Brown Signs which are local attractions that have been designated as points of interest.  On Episode 041 | The adventure Potential of Brown Signs we dove deep into what is available at Brown Signs that can reveal new opportunities for adventure without large admission fees.  While they are not always free, brown signs are like hidden gems. 

Simple also suggests we focus on the little things.  When we make family adventures less stressful they often become more meaningful
Stacking simple adventures to building blocks of an adventurous family lifestyle or big adventure experience.  

How can I make this easier for other families?  

Celebrate Adventure Wins in the Ordinary Sherpa Facebook Group: 

Tracey: We saw a performance by the Ho Chunk nation and learned all about their regalia. Then we up to the observation tower of the Wisconsin State Capital for a whole new view of our city!

Kimberly: Snuck away for a solo ride — and got lost on the trails in a good way (there’s really no way to get truly lost in the network I was in so it just added 2 miles of some gnarly, rocky hills).

Kel: We had a busy day with friends at the zoo, then had a campfire and enjoyed some glow light fun on the trampoline.

Jenna: Took the toddler on his first ferry ride. A small adventure, but a fun one!

Hillary: We did some painting in the pouring rain with food dye!

Elizabeth: We let the dinosaurs out � Dinovember is like an elf on the shelf. It makes this month so magical for our kids. The first week the Dino’s take away the tv remotes and tablets!!! More outside play, play in general and family storytime/game nights.

Becca: When fall turns to true winter, it takes some motivation to get two littles dressed to go outside (especially if we don’t have much time), but we’ve been working hard to make it happen and we all feel better and refreshed afterwards.

How many of these required something specific in order to have an adventure experience?  Maybe a bike, glowsticks, some winter gear to be comfortable.  If we focus on the experience there are actually very few THINGS we need to adventure.  I don’t know about you, but I am now on a mission to find some dinosaurs.  How cool is dinovember?  The power of this brand is in the collective experiences from the community help make adventure easier and more enticing for families.  


Do what aligns with you and your interests. By building a foundation of simple adventure experiences, we no longer felt compelled to check the boxes on a bucket list.  Instead we encourage doing what is meaningful and memorable for your family.  The intention is less about external indicators and more internal indicators of what family thriving looks like for you. 

We have turned our Love of travel into an intention we call Untourism: A way to travel differently

Each child has established a travel intention that fits their personality and interests.  My little monster’s travel goal is to taste the best ice cream in all 50 states.  While I am still a sucker for a quick google search for “free things for families in ___.” Knowing what I am looking for in each location is helpful.  Is it a park, or a bike trail?  For us we constantly search for locals recommendations for the best ice cream.  It’s a great conversion and in the worst case scenario we come across someone who doesn’t like ice cream (I didn’t realize that was a thing). 

Untourism is a regular practice in empathy: Seeing things from others perspective.  

We joined Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome because we knew what it was like to have a conversation while hanging out around a campfire or around the tailgate of a truck.  (By the way if you use my link and Promo Code FRIENDS30, you get $ off before January 2, 2023) Connecting with locals who appreciate travel and RVing was a way to create community while traveling.  Even for our quick weekenders now we try to find a boondocker host just because we know the experience will be unique (and much cheaper).  

From that place of authenticity, I encourage you to notice who are you listening to?  A few years ago I posted in a Facebook group that my daughter’s Christmas list included an LOL Dolls including a big $50 doll and I wasn’t willing to buy that. What other gift ideas could parents share with me?  The response was interesting, with people telling me that if I don’t get what my daughter is asking for I am depriving her of her dreams.  One lady mentioned that when she was a girl, all she wanted for Christmas was the Barbie car and she never got it.  Let’s set the stage a bit: We are a practical family that appreciates minimalism.  If my daughter’s DREAM is to get a crappy piece of plastic that she will likely lose half the pieces to, then I feel like I have failed as a mother.  Girl – DREAM bigger!  It was pretty clear that this person did not have a connection with us or know what our family values.  My kids already received plenty of toys and hand-me-down items (which are usually their favorites).  

We receive many different messages in both direct and subtle ways to inform our beliefs.  Being authentic and deciding what makes sense for your family takes intention.  One intentional act for me this year was to completely ignore the Black Friday – Cyber Monday noise.  I am a sucker for a good deal, but our intentions are different this year.  We want less things in our life.  My small win was that I did not make one purchase during the “Biggest Shopping day of the season” which is a shift from my 30 year old self.  

Support family connection: Holidays are intended for us to connect with extended family. We notice with the reduced structure in our day it’s easy to default to screens. Connection requires you to notice what is stealing our attention.  For a long time, vacation was my way of having uninterrupted family time when my husband and I could break away from the daily distractions and just enjoy life as a family. 

Part of our intention on our family gap year is also to connect with other families and adventurers. Often holidays and special occasions are mass gathering that offer small talk connection opportunities. When we travel and are able to connect 1:1 or in small groups time is condensed and we can build deeper relationships. This frameshift embodies the Sherpa Philosophy: finding your people who understand, cheer you on, and willing to help you reach your summit

Bring the kids and engage them in your interests (Hunting with the boys, fishing with my grandpa)

whether the ideal life includes traveling often, being outdoorsy, or simply doing the thing you have dreamed about – we encourage you to create intentionality and progress towards Design a Life you Love and Living it! For us that meant, less planning more doing.

Our approach to Less Stuff, More Experiences experiences:
Keep it simple – more about what will happen after the gift than during
Purpose not price 
Can we reuse or repurpose if nonconsumable 

Mini-Series: Less Stuff, More Travel Experiences


      • Scott’s Cheap Flights (Affiliate) 

      • Road Trip: Harvest Hosts/ Boondockers Welcome

      • Travel Rewards: Join Family Travel Hackers.  

    Mini-Series: Less Stuff, More Outdoor Experiences


        • Equipment to encourage outdoor play:


              • small: items that encourage outdoor play such as jump ropes and sidewalk chalk, sled, skates. Because we encourage a “no thank you try” to new experiences we encourage renting or buying used long before you invest in new stuff more experiences.

              • Medium Sized things to support outdoor play experiences are Swings, Slacklines, Stow-away Net to practice things like soccer, lacrosse, hockey or some other game you create.

              • The bigger itesm we gift for the long term once we try the activity are things such as used ski equipment, we were gifted a trampoline for the entire family, or Bikes.

              • One note about supporting Cold Weather experiences:  It’s important to start practicing good layers. Finding a good sale for base layers and wool socks, Or keeping an eye out at thrift stores or garage sales for Waterproof layer, boots, and mittens, 

          • Membership or Experience to support outdoor habit building:


                • Tailor to their interests: ride bike: trail pass
                  Horseback ride: horse trail ride experience
                  motors and gears: racetrack or rental experience
                  Skiing: Part of our family gap year will be downhill skiing and snowboarding, which led us to purchase the Indy Ski Pass for everyone. If you buy early the prices are much more affordable for the upcoming season. The price increases again on December 31st for upcoming season.

          Mini-Series: Less Stuff, More Backyard Adventures


              • State Park Passes – in Wisconsin 2023 State Park Passes for residents are $28 and the gift we bought each of the staff at my organization this year.  

              • Membership to local attractions.  We purchased a local museum membership that has ASTC reciprocity to Childrens and Science museums around the country. Our friends bought a local membership to a climbing gym, Maybe it’s an amusement park or local pool or aquatic center.  What will help your family have more adventure experiences together?  

              • Simple tools or gear to support being go-ready: we purchased day packs (travel bags when younger), their own special water bottle (kleen Kanteen), and Bentigos (initially for our trip to Disney so everyone could pack their own lunch).


                    • Maybe it is a special swim bag, beach towel and goggles; 

              But what about the gift opening experience? 

              There is something magical about the awe and surprise factor when kids open a gift.  I think every parent hopes for the gasp and smile reaction.   It’s the magic element that makes giving so much fun.  When we give experiences it can seem like we lose all of that.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  

              When I was in high school my mom discovered the pickle ornament.  The pickle ornament is literally an ornament that looks like a pickle, a dark green color to match the color of the tree.  The story we were told was that the child who finds the pickle ornament would receive an extra gift.  As a young adult it became THE THING my brothers and I looked forward to.  After the last gift was unwrapped we would charge the tree in search of the pickle ornament.  Sometimes it would take over 30 minutes for someone to reign as the winner.  What was funny, is we rarely cared about or remembered the prize.  We remembered the experience.  Stories are what is often retained in memories, not things.  

              As I implied, turning the gift giving action into an experience can also be part of the process.  Without overthinking it, here are some of the ways we have given an experience without losing the magic of their reactions.  


                  1. Turn the gift into an adventure.  Scavenger hunts are one way – clues to have them find their gift.  Most of the time this is my lazy way to present a gift.  With my son’s bike there was no way I was going to wrap that gift.  Even if I did wrap it, the magic would all be experienced right away when he saw all of the gifts.  By hiding the bike and prolonging the experience we simply added to the anticipation.  

                  1. When we gift travel we have wrapped smaller items to craft the story and they have to guess where we are going.  Sometimes a gift includes a piece to a bigger family puzzle, like a literal puzzle that we put together that aligns with our destination.  

                  1. Reverse Advent Calendar.  Create a paper chain as part of the gift with a count-down to our vacation.  I actually recommend doing this as part of the gifting experience.  We all shared something fun we could do each day leading up to the vacation that would be fun. 

                  1. We also might buy a small thing that can be used during the experience that they will need.  The year we gifted Hawaii, the kids all got full-face snorkel masks.  They were so excited about the masks we had to go swimming at our local pool to give them a try, and we had one ridiculous family picture to remember that experience gift! I try to think of unconventional items that they need over the novelty to give them a clue.  

                Not all experiences pan out the way you imagine.  

                One summer we were visiting my aunt and uncle in Alaska.  They had a treehouse in their yard and the younger two played in it for HOURS.  When we got home they wanted a treehouse and my husband and I connected that idea to our experience in Alaska.  Being that my husband is hand we built a treehouse for their Christmas gift.  We had attached so many memories and emotions to the tree house that when we finally had one here, it just wasn’t as fun! It became comfortable and less exciting.  Spending large amounts of money and time to recreate an experience is a caution I would advise you to reconsider.  Not everyone attaches the same emotions to an experience.  While it’s fun to remember those experiences, that is different than trying to recreate it.  
                I hope as you head into this holiday season you use this episode to help you think about using simplicity, authenticity, and connection in your gift giving and consider how might we offer less things, and more experiences to help foster connection through family adventures? Have an idea to share about turning gifts into experiences and mini adventures, come join us in the Ordinary Sherpa Facebook group to share and steal different ideas to make your family holiday into a meaningful family experience.  

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