What do you hope a day in the life looks like for you at 92 years old? If you’re anything like Grandma Joy, your days may be packed with adventure.
In 2015, Joy Ryan and her grandson Brad had an idea: What if they explored the United States by visiting every national park? It’s a big task, but these two adventurers were up for it.
It all started when Brad made a surprising discovery: Grandma Joy was in her 80s and had never been to the mountains. It made sense then that their first stop took them to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Joy then climbed her first mountain at 85 years old.
Fast-forward seven years and the pair have driven more than 50,000 miles together and flown to visit parks in Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Though they’re now staying in hotels, the two started their journey camping in the parks.
As Brad shared in an interview with The Weather Channel, “I have to continuously pinch myself when I’m watching my grandmother hiking across the Arctic Circle and when I see her whitewater rafting … in class 3 rapids at 91!”
Grandma Joy says the rapids in Alaska were fun, like a roller coaster.
“I love roller coasters,” she told CBS News.
What else have they experienced? Maybe too much to recount. They saw a whale breaching in front of them while visiting islands off the coast of California. They were almost run over by a moose, according to Joy.
“That’s a lesson, don’t get too close to the moose,” Brad told The Weather Channel.
They’ve seen countless terrains and animal species and had adventures that have brought them closer together. Traveling with his grandmother has been a gift for Brad, who has learned a lot about his family history, too. Brad is a veterinarian and his grandmother’s stories have shown him that a love of animals runs in the family.
Part of Brad’s motivation began when he was studying in veterinary school. In the fourth year of his program at veterinary college, he needed some time in nature to decompress. Stressed and struggling with his mental health, he, like so many, was suffering in silence.
What started as an opportunity for a breath of fresh air has become a gift to both him and his grandmother. He’s learned to prioritize his mental health, set healthy boundaries, and raise awareness of mental health struggles to help others.
What is the final park on this fantastic voyage? Grandma Joy and Brad will visit American Samoa in April 2023 to complete their national park checklist.
The duo is on Instagram and Facebook and has a GoFundMe to help cover their American Samoa travel expenses.
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