For reasons you’ll discover, Brad Ryan decided to drop everything and take his 89-year-old grandma to all the National Parks. They’ve been traveling together for a while now, and their adventures continue to inspire and delight…
The Grandmother Whose Never Been To A National Park
Meet Brad Ryan, a 30-year-old man, who lives in Washington D.C. He works wildlife vet at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in the capital – and has a massive passion for animals and adventures. His grandmother, 89-year-old Joy, is the opposite. A leukemia survivor, she leads a quiet family life in the small town of Duncan Falls, Ohio. In her younger days, Joy never traveled much or explore the country. She’d never seen the ocean, a cactus, a mountain, a waterfall. The most she’d ever seen was Okatibee Lake, Florida, where she and her late husband would go on vacation. Grandson Brad adds, “But they’d drive through the middle of America and avoid the coasts.”
Brad grew up in the same town, and also didn’t travel much – until college. There he began traveling, exploring, and broadening his mind. After hiking the Appalachian trail, he told his grandmother all about it. Joy loved Brad’s stories, amazed by his adventures in the wild. “She told me at that time that she really, really regretted that she didn’t get to do more of that type of thing and have more experiences in life.”
So, brad came up with an idea…
A Decision Of a Lifetime
Unfortunately, Joy’s husband passed away twenty years ago, and three of her sons died in their 40’s. The elderly woman needed to work a minimum wage job until she was 80-years-old! While telling Joy about his adventures, her grandson saw the sadness and regret on her face. Around the same time, a classmate of Ryan’s took his own life, which made the now-veterinarian realize how short life is and how much there is to experience.
And so, in 2015, Ryan took his grandmother on the first of many adventures: a three day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He knew they were an odd pair, and other travelers asked about their story. “[We were] touching people’s hearts, but I didn’t know there were so many people who had regrets that they didn’t do more with their grandparents when they were alive.” Now, Grandma Joy absolutely loves the great outdoors, and the two love each other’s company. Remember, Joy has not traveled anywhere outside of Duncan Falls, Ohio and Okatibee Lake, Florida. Her and Ryan’s trip marked her first time seeing a mountain range, the ocean, giant trees, incredible wildlife, and more!
Ryan knew he had to take her on an adventure of a lifetime, which many don’t get to go on: visit 21 national US parks in 28 days. However, traveling is expensive, so he started a GoFundMe page titled “Grandma Joy’s Road Trip” in 2017, hoping to raise $3,000. The page raised $3,760, and the pair have been going strong ever since.
25,000 Miles, 38 States, 29 U.S. National Parks Strong
Ever since, the pair have been going on countless road trips and adventures: 38 states, 25,000 miles, and 29 U.S. National Parks, in three and a half years. Brad hopes to see all 61 National Parks, even though he knows his grandmother is quite fragile at 89-years-old. “We’ve seen grizzly bears, we’ve been charged by a moose … it was harrowing. We’ve had all these dramatic experiences and seen all this wildlife that she’s never set eyes on in Ohio. [But Grandma’s] favorite animal that she’s seen so far are prairie dogs. Which is kind of comical,” Brad said.
This story is especially inspiring, as Ryan says his grandmother has always been a positive person, despite all the struggles she’d been through. “She says she wakes up every morning and says ‘Thank you for another day.'”
The incredible duo’s next destinations are Hawaii and Alaska, which presents a few more complications, as it’s off the mainland. However, Ryan will do everything he can to get his grandmother to see the wonders of nature and spend all the time he can with her. You can continue following their fantastic adventure on Ryan’s Instagram page.