It all began at Yosemite National Park in California.
Ballantyne’s Goldstein family was visiting friends and decided to drive over and see what the park was like. That’s when they got hooked, deciding to see all 59 national parks before the two boys, Luke and Winston, went off to college.
“We started realizing and looking how many (parks) there actually were,” Bill Goldstein said. “We started crossing them off of the list and then I came up with the idea to see them all before the kids were 18.”
Bill, his wife, Alisa, and the two kids have seen 43 of the nation’s national parks and plan to see four more this summer – Theodore Roosevelt, Isle Royale, Voyageurs and Acadia national parks. The family will drive 6,000 miles in two weeks to see all four. By the end of the year they plan to add the two national parks in Hawaii – Hawai’I Volcanoes and Haleakala – as well as the National Park of American Samoa in the Pacific Ocean, which Goldstein says is close to New Zealand. The family will visit eight national parks throughout Alaska in the summer of 2014 to finish off the challenge.
“Hopefully that will be the accomplishment of a lifetime if we can pull this off correctly,” Goldstein said.
While the family has their differences, Goldstein said they are happiest when the four of them are together at a national park. When on a vacation, the family eats out of a cooler instead of at restaurants, trying to keep the trip as cost efficient as possible. The focus of each trip is the park and the family, nothing else.
“I discovered my favorite thing is to be a dad; and I used to spend more time doing other things,” Goldstein said. “It’s not easy spending that much time together but we find true happiness when we are together in a national park. Sometimes we are the only ones around, like we have the whole park to ourselves.”
After seeing about 15 parks, Goldstein decided to create 58 before 18. That was before the 59th park, Pinnacles in California, was added to the U.S. national parks registry. Goldstein said there is no website with information on all 59 parks available, so he wanted to give back to the parks by creating a website for others who were interested in visiting and promoting them.
“We already have a little following. … There are people who are trying to go to more parks and are watching our videos and are being inspired to do it. I don’t think there’s anyone as crazy as us,” he said.
While Goldstein sees the importance in promoting the parks, the most important aspect of their trips is the time he gets to spend with his sons, who are 14 and 15 years old.
Before creating 58 before 18, Goldstein said his family was important but he also focused a lot on other areas of his life. After people kept telling him to take advantage of the time he has with Luke and Winston he decided it was time to spend more time as a family. Goldstein knows there will be more family vacations in the future when 58 before 18 is done, but the time they spend together will be something all four of them never forget.
Goldstein has documented the family’s trips, putting the videos on YouTube for others to see and be inspired by. He came up with the idea after being offered a chance to start a reality television show – something Goldstein says wasn’t worth the hassle.
For him, they aren’t taking these trips or trying to complete their goal of seeing all those parks for the fame – it’s about spending time with the family.
“We are just doing this because it’s what we love to do,” Goldstein said. “We are closer as a family because we are doing this. That’s probably the most important thing. I have a better relationship with my boys and my wife because we have spent so much time together doing this.”
To find out more about 58 before 18 or to watch videos of the family’s many trips, go to www.58before18.com.