Fifty bucks, one gift, and a trip. That’s what Nathan and Zay have gotten each year for Christmas since 2015. How did this all start? What about the Christmas tree, the dinner around the table with family, and watching basketball on tv? Shawn and LaKeesha - the boys' parents - decided in 2015 to start a nontraditional approach to Christmas. They understood that toys break, electronics stop working, and clothes are outgrown. However, memories last forever. Thus, Shawn and LaKeesha decided to stop buying their boys stuff for Christmas and instead give them memories.
The Ousley Family lives on their mini farm in the making in NW Louisiana. There, they have a chicken coop, two dogs, and three cats. Each year they grow cucumbers and tomatoes. They also have fruit trees: persimmon, plum, peach, one fig tree, and one mulberry tree.
The boys have been home schooled since the 2013/2014 school year. During a state study, they asked Facebook friends to mail the boys postcards about states. Over 70 postcards arrived in the mail over a 3 week period. These are not just Christmas trips, but educational trips as well. Thus, each year before the trip, the boys must learn about the destination. In 2018, in addition to learning about Los Angeles, the boys learned about the railroad system.
Here is a quick breakdown of the past few years.
2015 The family made a short drive to the Crater of Diamond in Arkansas on Christmas Eve. No diamonds were found. It was cold and dry. On the way home they enjoyed a meal at a buffet.
2016 Drive to Las Vegas. Stayed overnight in Albuquerque, New Mexico Caught in a snow storm in Williams, Arizona Walked the strip Visited with Keesha’s best friend April and her family Visited Gold & Silver Pawn from the show Pawn Stars Ice skating on the roof top of the Cosmopolitan Stopped by the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon Stayed overnight again in Albuquerque Visited the Cadillac Ranch (with a few cans of spray paint).
2017 Drove to Gulf Shores, Alabama Visited a medical museum Shopped at a very large used book store (This is what home-school families do.) Met up with family in Pensacola Nathan and Zay (ages 14 and 12, respectively) played a few games of basketball with some high school and college students at Meyers Park. Christmas Dinner at Waffle House
2018 Road the Amtrak from Marshall, Texas to Los Angeles, California Met their friends Paul & Stephanie at the train stop in San Antonio Rented an SUV while in California Hiked some of the way to the Hollywood sign Cruised on Rodeo Dr, Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Los Angeles Drove to Cayucous, CA Stayed with Laura, one of Shawn’s track teammates from college Drove back to Los Angeles The train ride home was 44 hours.
2019 Drove to Dallas Flew to Baltimore Their friend Mo, drove them from the airport to the hotel
Walked around DC Met up with Shawn’s cousin Monture Rode a charter bus from DC to Time Square, New York City
Enjoyed the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Three of Keesha’s cousins came to NYC to join them for the parade Keesha and two of her cousins got tickets for Good Morning America And the adventure of getting home you can read about here The 2019 trip consisted of 5 Ubers, 2 planes, 2 trains, 1 shuttle bus, 1 bus, and 1 taxi
What does 2020 have in store? Who knows. The Ousley Family is one of many families that have chosen memories over material items. The boys can be overheard telling stories about being stuck in the snow on the interstate in Arizona, their walk from Time Square to Wall Street, their playing bocce ball in the sand at the Gulf of Mexico, and many other stories that have come from these trips.
Starting with the 2016 trip, the Ousley Family has published a book for each of their Christmas journeys. Each book gives full access to their trips: the stops, the transportation, the food, the people, and the places.