David and Madison Bowman outside with their 3 kids.

The Bowman Family

4 Min. Read | Ambassadors

David and Madison Bowman decided to pack up their life in NYC, hop in their converted shuttle bus, and embark on the road trip they’d always dreamed of – visiting all 400+ U.S. National Parks with their kids. Along the way, they’ve not only experienced some of the world’s most inspiring natural settings and sacred spaces they’ve discovered just how beneficial being outdoors can be – especially when together.

Would you like to share any significant life/career updates? 

We got a dog this year, which was a significant moment for us! She’s a 1.5-year-old Aussiedoodle named Gabby and she’s been a great adventure dog so far.

What projects or adventures do you have on the horizon that you’re most excited about? 

We are about halfway along on our goal of visiting every NPS site in the U.S.! We have plans to see a lot of sites in the southern U.S. during 2023, and we’re launching a podcast soon all about exploring national parks. Our biggest on-going project is getting our 2-year-old to stay on-trail during hikes ;).

“When we spend time outside as a family, it takes away our everyday distractions and helps us focus on each other.”

The Bowmans

What is your best advice for someone who wants to live an active life in the outdoors?

Use the same tools that have helped you accomplish other goals. Tracking and writing things down motivate me, so this year I decided to note down the time we spent outside each day. We’re also really motivated to get outside if we’ve made plans with friends, and we always have even more fun hiking or playing at the river with company (and it’s much easier to get the kids excited if they’ll have friends along on whatever outing we’re doing.) Take something you already enjoy (reading, playing games, spending time with loved ones, cooking) and try moving it outside. Work with your strengths and the things that already tend to motivate you.

When faced with doubt or discouragement, how does time outdoors help you remain inspired and optimistic? 

There’s so much research to support the idea that outdoor activity helps balance your mood, improves your sleep, and can help with anxiety, depression and trouble focusing. So, part of what makes the outdoors such a benefit to us is happening invisibly within our brain chemistry! It feels magical when it happens within myself, and even more when I see it solve one of my kid’s grumpy days ;).

What lessons do you think your kids are learning by being in the outdoors with their parents?

When we spend time outside as a family, it takes away our everyday distractions and helps us focus on each other. The kids will talk about books they’re reading or what they’re learning in their classes, and we can just listen without feeling pulled toward the next task. The kids explore their boundaries in the outdoors in ways that are so cool to watch as a parent. They try things that challenge them physically and then they get to enjoy the sense of accomplishment and endorphin high that come with tackling a goal. They learn what they feel comfortable with and experience the world through their senses and not on a screen. I think outdoor recreation does wonders to help kids build confidence in what their bodies can do and how they can improve at the things they work toward. And all along the way, they are seeing how huge and fascinating and complex and beautiful the world is and thinking about all the things they want to learn and the places they want to go. All of us are more playful when we’re outside, too, and I’m a firm believer in the power of play to build our minds and improve our relationships.

When day-to-day life gets busy and hectic, what motivates you to stay committed to outside activities? 

Well, the dog has helped a lot because if she doesn’t get good walks, she will eat our books ;). I try to remind myself that outdoor activity isn’t just one more thing to do—it’s the thing that charges our batteries so we have the energy to do all the things we need to and grounds us so we can remember the things that are most worth doing.

You both share a love for the arts. How does the outdoors inspire your creativity? 

Nothing helps us think as well as going for a brisk walk or hike in the mountains. We get our ideas that way. Ideas for creative pursuits but also for how to approach parenting challenges or fix little life problems. I think the lack of distractions helps us get into flow states and allows our brains to really get cooking. And then there’s just nothing like the sense of wonder nature inspires. When we let ourselves get sort of emotionally consumed with all the insane beauty and genius of what’s around us, our outlet for that feeling is writing something (for me) or taking photos (for David.)

What parks are you most looking forward to visiting as a family? Are there any you all are saving until the kids are older? 

We absolutely can’t wait to get back to Alaska! The parks we have left to see are pretty intense and complicated to visit, so we’re waiting for our youngest to get a bit more obedient and aware of his surroundings before we attempt those. I am really looking forward to showing the kids a lot of the historical sites of the South that commemorate the Civil Rights Movement and tie in with our homeschool history. We also want to get back to the Upper Midwest to paddle the Boundary Waters and explore the gorgeous Great Lakes region!

What's your favorite L.L.Bean Product?

David is loving his Bucksport Work Boots along with all the flannels. Madison lives in her Adventure Grid Fleece Pullover and wears the Sherpa-Lined Chamois Shacket for every dog walk. The kids are in their Cold Buster Snow Suits as often as possible.

A Sherpa-Lined Chamois Shacket.

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