Editor’s note: After dropping off her daughter for college, Central Texas resident Laura Palmer decided to take in the great outdoors. This is her story.

I went on this solo road trip to kick off this new season of being an empty nester. I figured it was something I owed to myself. I’ve been a mom for 24 years and started very young.

I missed out on a lot being such a young mom so I’ve decided that now it’s my turn to take care of me too and do what I love — no excuses. I feel like there are so many things that we say we want to experience yet we never get to it.

We get too busy, life gets in the way, we have other priorities, and we make excuses. I’m challenging myself to make more time to do the things I’ve always wanted to. To step out in faith and explore more.

I’m a nature lover and have craved to explore so many places I’ve yet to go. We don’t get time back once it’s gone and as they say “we only regret the chances we don’t take.” So why not go now and make memories that last a lifetime!

I packed up my car and hit the road alone.

For 2½ weeks, I camped, stayed in hotels, hiked and explored some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

I like to challenge and push myself in different ways.  I want to actually live out that bucket list and not just say “that’s on my bucket list” and keep not doing it. It’s a decision we have to make to push ourselves to make things happen.

Here is my trip in a nutshell:

Dropped my daughter off in Phoenix.

Stopped in Sedona to work for the day (crazy beautiful views).

Spent a few nights in Page, Ariz. This is where I took a tour to explore Antelope Canyon (so beautiful). I also went to see Horseshoe Bend Canyon. This sight was so breathtaking that I went back later the same day to see it again.

Next stop was Zion National Park — I camped for four days here. Hiking the Narrows was the most beautiful and exciting part of my experience here! So neat!

I left there and drove through the mountains to Cedar Breaks National Monument. I only got out to view it and kept going (passing through a neat town in the mountains called Brian Head on the way to my next destination).

Next was a resort in Park City, Utah. This gave me a few days to recoup after camping and get some work done. The resort area was so quiet because of the time of year and I took my first ski lift ride at sunset and that was fun!

After that I stayed in Ashton, Idaho, then Bozeman, Mont. I picked up a friend at the airport in Montana and she jumped in the car to explore with me for a few days before flying out again. We stayed in a town called Gardiner, Mont. — it’s just north of Yellowstone and the perfect place to stay when visiting there. The first day in Yellowstone we rode horses on a trail in North Yellowstone. You’ve got to ride horses when in Montana and Wyoming — what an experience!

We explored Yellowstone National Park for two more cram-packed days. Elk and buffalo were everywhere, and the scenery was something out of a beautiful painting. There is a lot I still didn’t get to see while here but that gives me a reason to come back! I could have spent an entire day just sitting by the water quietly waiting for animals to come in sight. I have a picture with a sweet park ranger I met.

Next stop was Grand Teton National Park. I had no idea the beauty I was about to experience here! I stopped at a few of the little lakes there, hiked around some, and sat in complete awe looking at the Tetons and what surrounded them. After a night in Jackson, Wyo., I headed to Logan, Utah, for the night passing through Bear Lake and the Cache National Forest.

I stayed in Moab, Utah a few days and explored Arches National Park. They have some beautiful primitive camp sites right along the Colorado river that are beautiful.

My final excursion on the trip was taking the train in Durango, Colo. That was a really neat experience with some gorgeous views!