Thriving and Surviving Military Life: How Do You Tell Your Military Journey?

Military Thriving and Surviving - How Do You Tell Your Military Journey

As most of you regular readers know, we are facing yet another move in a mere 3ish months. Yes, you read that right. Yes, we just moved into our current home last summer…yes, we are getting ready to move again. And no…we have no idea where we’re going. Humph. However, in this Thriving and Surviving Military Life post, I am not going to lament how frustrated and anxious I am about our upcoming move. (In fact, I wrote a post almost exactly one year ago about what it’s like waiting for orders…and if you’re curious about how I’m holding up these days, just read that post. It’s all pretty much true right now too!) As you might expect, our life is currently consumed with where we are headed, when we will go, and everything we have to do to get ready. And while I’m certainly stressed about the uncertainly and work that lies ahead of us, this time is always filled with some excitement too…because it’s fun and exciting thing think about what kind of life awaits us next!

In the 12 years Greg has been in the Marine Corps and we’ve been living the military life, we’ve been blessed to live in some amazing places…5 of them to be exact! We’ve made some amazing friends, seen and experienced wonderful things, and learned about the world in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if we stayed in our home town. Our perspective has always been to see as much of the world/country as we can before we have to pick a place and settle down for good. As such, we try (as much as possible) to live in a new place each time. As much as moving and setting up a new life every few years is challenging (#hugeunderstatement), we do take a lot of pride in our military journey. It’s part of who we are, what we do, and what we, as a family, believe in.

There’s a saying that the things in your home should tell your story. That when visitors come into your home, the things you have displayed should speak about you as a person, your likes, your passions, your faith…your journey. We have always tried to share our military journey with the things in our home. Today, I thought it would be fun to show you the various ways we’ve told our story over the years…as well as share a few more ideas that you who move frequently might want to try too!


One of the most obvious ways to tell your journey and show the places you’ve been and lived is through photos. Both in California and Virginia, we displayed oversized photos of all the places we traveled in the previous years. No, these images are not the places we lived, but this idea could easily be adapted to show favorite memories of each place you’ve lived, the house at each place, a landmark from each place, etc.

Quantico Living Room

State Artwork

As most of you long-time readers know, I’m partial to sharing our journey through state artwork. In our last house, we displayed our journey like this:

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

…and I improved upon this concept (and added our current location!) when we moved into this house last summer. (You can read how I made these State Silhouettes here!) Both in our last home and this one, these prints are some of the most commented on and asked about items in our home. They instantly tell our journey and usually spark great conversations! There are so many great ways to adapt this idea and I’ve included a mini roundup down below!

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey


Greg and I have one more way that we like to commemorate our military story…and it’s probably my most favorite. It’s not something we display for all to see, but it is my best collection of all: my charm bracelet. My Mom, who was also a Marine spouse, had a charm bracelet and I remember looking at it as a kid. Each time Dad went away, he would bring her home a charm; and they would also collect charms of the places they went together. The year Greg joined the Marine Corps, he gave me a charm bracelet (on Dad’s recommendation, of course!) Ever since, we have filled that bracelet (and started a new one) with all the places he’s been on military-related trips and deployments, as well as the locations we’ve been together. As you can see, I need to get some of them attached and there are actually so many more (these are just our military ones). But gosh, we LOVE pulling out my bracelets and charms and looking through our journey. Some charms represent bases we’ve lived at, others represent deployments (I have quite a few camels from the Middle East ;)…but we both know what each and every one represents. Aside from the miniature representations of real life places…what I love most is that without fail, Greg always remembers. He always comes home with a charm, and I always look forward to seeing it. I don’t need rugs or fancy jewelry from exotic places, but I do love my charms. I don’t wear it often, but these sure bring me so much joy and pride! What a life we’ve had already!

Military Thriving and Surviving - Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

Other Ideas for Telling Your Story

From Christmas ornaments to collages, there are SO many fun and creative ways to tell your story! Here are some other ideas to try!

(Please pin from original source!)

Engraved State Home Coasters via Make It and Love It

(via Make It and Love It)

Home State Scrap Wood Art via Make It and Love It

(via Make It and Love It)

Map Decor via Made From Pinterest

(via Made From Pinterest)

Signs from LL Bean

(via LL Bean)

Map With Pictures via Cut Craft Create

(via Cut Craft Create)

State Photo Collages via Minted

(via Minted)

DIY State Ornament via Artzy Creations

(via Artzy Creations)

These Military Life posts often spark some of the best conversation in the comments! So tell me, if you’re a frequent mover, do you tell your story somehow? Do you collect and/or display things from each place you’ve lived? Do you have a creative way of sharing your journey? I’d love to get more ideas, so share in the comments below!

Ideas for Telling Your Military Journey

I hope you all have a great weekend! I’m hoping to do some significant blog maintenance that will hopefully solve my site loading/cacheing issues for good. I should be back here on Tuesday like usual, but if not, know it’s because I’m working out a few things behind the scenes! See you soon!

Megan Signature

Powered by ConvertKit

17 Responses to Thriving and Surviving Military Life: How Do You Tell Your Military Journey?

  1. As one who has never had a military life, I enjoy your posts about the joys and difficulties of being a military spouse. Thank you both for your work in this very challenging field and God bless you.

    • Hi Debra!

      Thank you so much for your kind comment. I am so glad you enjoy these posts…they are often some of the harder ones to right, but my readers seem to enjoy them…and I am happy to share this glimpse into our lifestyle! This life isn’t easy, but we do feel it’s valuable, so thank you for your support!

      Happy Sunday!

  2. Hi Megan… I echo Debra’s sentiment about saying thank you to you and your husband for serving our Country in the Marines. Civilian life is challenging, but military life is a different challenge altogether. I LOVE all of the ways you tell your military journey, but I think the charm bracelet is the most speciali as it’s something created by you and your husband, very personal – he thinks of you when out on assignment, “what would Megan like”. And the reminiscing is special. Have a great day! Thank you again for your service as a military family…

    • Hello Laurie!

      Thank you for leaving such a nice and thoughtful comment! I am always unsure how my military-themed posts will be received, and am always overwhelmed by the thoughtful and supportive comments that follow. Yes, this life isn’t easy, but we do think it’s valuable and we are proud to do our part. Thanks for your support and encouragement!

      Happy Sunday!

  3. I love the charms! I’ve never heard of that before and I’ve kind of been indifferent to the Pandora type charm bracelets but I love this idea! We have some kind of artwork from each of the areas we have lived and usually hang the artwork in our living room. One of my favorites is a actually a family portrait that I had printed on canvas with a battleship in the background representing our time in Norfolk, VA.

    • Hi Teresa!

      Thank you for your comment! The charm bracelet seems so old-fashioned, but I just love it so. My hubby gives me a hard time because I don’t wear it all that often, but I do love pulling it out and looking back through them all! One thing I wish I had done was get a good picture of each house. I’d love to have them all made into artwork somehow, someday.

      Hope you had a great weekend!

  4. So I am not a military family. We don’t move, or travel this much. But my love and respect for those who do serve our country has grown over the last few years. Thank you for what you do!
    I LOVE the bracelet. What a fun idea. And some super sweet memories. My dad traveled for work semi-often while I was growing up. I would always get a key chain from where ever he went. It caught on, and my friends would bring me back one when they traveled. I had quite the collection!
    Have a fabulous weekend!

    • Hello once again, friend!

      Thank you for leaving such a kind comment. I am always unsure what kind of response I’ll get to these military posts, but the support and encouragement from my readers is always so great!

      So funny about the keychain collection. I like collecting small things…easy to contain and put away 😉


  5. Hi Megan
    I do love this post about your military life and it gives me ideas to show the places we’ve been as we moved a lot. What I do like the most for you of course is the bracelet for the same reasons as the others women who wrote the comments. Your husband thinks of you abroad with kindness wondering what should please you to put on it and it’s more personal that pictures of silhouettes of states or countries you can display in your home. I wish you a nice Sunday. Michèle

    • Hi Michèle!

      Happy weekend to you! Yes, I do cherish my charm bracelet so much. It feels so old-fashioned, but so personal and simple! I like the artistic representation on our wall, but our WHOLE story is on my bracelet!

      Hope you had a great week!

  6. I grew up an Army brat. Although I’m almost 50 I still have my postcard collection. Everywhere we were stationed or visited I have a postcard from each place. Recently I completed my collection of car tags from each place I lived as a child. Some of them even have the year I lived there. They are hanging in our garage. Thank you for sharing your military life stories. They bring back memories of mine. Thank you and your family for your service to our great country!

  7. Dear Megan;
    I recently inherited my Mom’s charm bracelet, which is also filled with charms from places lived or visited during her stint as a Navy wife. It’s gold, and has it’s own special jingle, which always makes me feel Mom is close by. When we celebrated her 80th birthday, I did a photo board, and included a list of her addresses with pictures of as many of the houses that I could find! It seemed so crazy that we hadn’t taken at least one of each house. My sister also had a local artist do a water color picture of my parents’ last home, which they inherited from my grandparents, so it had been in the family since the 1930’s. Small, but very special treasures! Aloha!

  8. Megan,
    I wish I didn’t know where we are going next, lol. We weren’t expecting orders and got surprise ones to Yokota AFB. With twins graduating from high school in 4 months and a son already in college, it will be very hard to leave 3/4 of my heart 7,000 miles away. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Even next year would have been better after they finish their freshman year. Anyway, I hope YOU get to go somewhere you have always wanted to be. I know that this wasn’t an assignment you were excited about at first.

    • Hi Julia!

      I flagged this to respond last week and time got away from me, I am so sorry! I know your frustration so well. I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be so far away from kids, but I do know how it feels to be sent somewhere you don’t want to go. I’ll be thinking of you and your family during this next transition. I’m not sure if you’ve been to Japan, but we enjoyed our time there immensely.

      We did just find out where we are headed next…and for the first time in a very long time, I’m actually excited. I’ve gotten so used to being mad and angry at the Marine Corps for making me move somewhere awful, but this time around, we actually lucked out.

      No matter where you are or I am…I’ll always be here sharing ideas and insights to hopefully make it more bearable for all of us 😉


  9. So we are coming up on 20 years and our 12th move this June. We are still waiting on actual orders (when are we not?) but are excited to be going someplace new and a little closer to family. I’m also excited because we’ve finally decided where we are going to retire and when! Having a decision that we can make on our own timing is precious and has felt like an anchor against the tides of change. It isn’t soon, but it is tangible. In the meantime I’m getting ready to put a lot of your good advice to use. The base housing we will be moving to is considerably smaller than what we have here (by more than 1,000 sq.ft.) so we will be purging quite a bit and selling off a lot of furniture.

    As for how we tell our story, we have vignettes throughout the house where we have gathered items bought in a specific place. These are usually centered around a photograph. So we have a photo from our time in Japan with a shelf that has our kokeshi dolls, smaller photos, and other trinkets. Our Germany area has more photos, our grandfather clock, and our license plate. We also have a world map with all our homes marked on it.

    • Hey Jen!

      I so hear you on the constant waiting for orders thing…geesh…I feel like we’ve been living in limbo for SO long between last year and this year. We finally have orders in the system and our move setup, but the reality of moving again hasn’t fully set in. Usually, I’m jumping on all the tasks and research by now, but I just don’t have it in me. Where we are moving to next will be for 3 (and maybe even up to 6!) years in a place we’ve been before…so it all doesn’t seem as scary or urgent. Everything gets moved one way or another…no matter how prepared I am, right?!?!

      I am so jealous that you have an “end” date set. We are still so far away…we’re in that expanse in the middle of a career where it feels like you’ve been in forever but still have forever to go. I am thankful we are finally moving to a place I want to go because I needed something to get me excited about the years ahead!

      We are also facing a downsize, but don’t yet have a good idea by how much. I am ready to bit rid of some things we’ve been lugging around for a while though, and now that we should be somewhat “settled,” it’s time to get rid of it all!

      Hope you’re having a great weekend!

      • Megan,

        I completely understand the more laid back attitude when you are returning to a previous duty station. We did San Antonio twice, Wichita twice, and we are in New Jersey for the third time (though all three times have only totaled up to four years!). It definitely makes a difference – you know already the pros/cons of living on base, where you like to grocery shop, which school districts are the best, etc. I will also say the more time you have in the more likely it is that you will have friends already at your new base!

        We’ve never been anywhere longer than 3 years and most of our CONUS locations have been less than two, so the idea of six years in one spot fills me with awe (and a little trepidation). It IS difficult, when you know you will only be someplace a year, to feel rooted. I did enjoy our school year because we made so many good friends that year, connections that are still close 7 years later! However, I never felt like that location was home.

        I am trying to guard against that rootless feeling for the time until we retire. Right now everything feels like a speed-bump between now and retirement and we really need to focus on the life that happens between now and then! Especially for my daughter, for me it seems like a brief interlude, but for her it is still a major portion of her life. I need to stay aware of that and stay in the present for her.

        Take care!

Leave a reply