Latter-day Saint Life

Arizona Family Sets Out to Visit Every LDS Temple in the World in Two Years


The Alcantar family—mom Ange, dad Sal, and four of their five children aged 2 to 10—are three months into a two-year adventure around the world visiting as many LDS temples and historical sites as they can.

The Alcantar family at the Boston Massachusetts Temple

Since it was only three weeks between the conception of the idea and their date of departure, they plan as they go and depend on locals to point them to must-see spots along their journey.

A Spontaneous Decision

One Monday, Sal, an entrepreneur and stakeholder in a variety of businesses, realized that his business partners, Marcos Alcantar and Trent Powell, were running the show and didn’t really need him. As soon as the realization hit, he stopped the meeting they were in and said, “Guys, I think I’m retiring today.”

Just two days later, the temple trip plan hatched as he and his wife discussed what was next. They knew they wanted to travel, but they also knew that they wanted to travel with a purpose. “Honestly I didn’t realize how many temples there are…I just thought if we’re going to do this we don’t want it to be a vacation,” Sal said.

How did the kids react?

“At first I didn’t really want to go,” said Drezen (10). “I would be away from all of my friends and it would be a different lifestyle.”

Zander (7) wasn’t too thrilled about the RV. “I thought it wasn’t going to be fun because the RV is a little tinier than our house, and we wouldn’t have a lot of things to do.”

The prospect of being able to do something that not a lot of people do, however, won them over.  “I thought about it more and it was a good opportunity to help me with college,” Drezen said, thinking of the historical sites they visit along the way.

Embarking on Adventure

They took off just three weeks later, wanting to make sure they could hit the northern states and Canada before cold weather set it in. They bought an RV, downsizing from their 5,000-square-foot home to the 31-foot-long motorhome, and headed out.   

The first couple of weeks were rough. They’d packed way too much stuff and had never dealt with all the issues of RV living. It seemed like every day “something wasn’t working right or we didn’t know how to do something,” Ange said. They spent a lot of time on Google and YouTube trying to figure it all out.

The automatic stabilizer was beyond them, however, and they had to seek out a mechanic. Appointments with RV specialists were booked months out, but they eventually found a traveling RV guy that was able to fix it—mostly. “It’s still been a constant issue,” Ange said.

Everyone was a little stressed in the beginning, and sometimes there were squabbling kids, miscommunications, and other frustrations. Drezen missed his friends, and Zander said, “The worst part is that the RV is so tiny we have to clean more often.”

“We were about ready to go back home and call it good even in the first couple of weeks,” Ange said. “But when we had a family council everybody wanted to stay and wanted to work it out. Everybody kind of recommitted and since then we’ve figured it out. It’s gone a lot smoother.”

Rules of the Road

In order to truly "travel with a purpose," the Alcantars created a list of family goals for their journey. 

The Alacantar family and their list of goals for "Phase 1" of their journey

1. Visit every temple

The Alcantars plan their journey around the location of LDS temples, and it’s their goal to eventually see all of them. Visiting a temple doesn’t just mean taking a picture in front of it, either. “In order for it to count we have to do an ordinance,” Sal said. He and his wife take turns in the temple while the other sits in the waiting area with the kids, doing activities like reading the Friend magazine or touring the visitor’s center.

As of our interview, the family had just finished visiting the Washington, D.C. temple, number 19 of the journey.  They regularly post their progress on their family blog.

2. Serve in every state

At first the Alcantars anticipated volunteering in soup kitchens and elderly homes all across the United States, but they quickly realized that scheduling was difficult for a family always on the move. Instead, the book Masquerading Angels inspired them to give notes to people they meet across the country.  According to Drezen, their notes say, “We just want you to know that someone cares. From, The Alcantar Family. Have a blessed day.” A candy is attached.

Drezen had an extra special experience when he met a homeless man in the New York subway. “He was a father of nine and one of his arms was missing, and so it must have been hard. I came over… and pulled out a $10 bill and gave it to him,” Drezen said. It was the majority of his spending money, which he’d earned himself.

The man tried to give it back, but Drezen insisted.  The man got a little emotional and said, “God loves His children, especially when they freely give.”

“It was a tender experience for our 10-year-old,” Ange said. “Most of the night he was very emotional and feeling like he wished he could do more. It was really good for him to be able to see that there’s people who are less fortunate and to be aware of them.”

3. Share the gospel

When Sal was released from a stake high council calling before the family trip, he expressed how weird it would be not to have a calling. His stake president replied, “Sal, your calling right now is just to be a missionary. Be an example to everyone you meet.”

The Alcantars have taken this to heart. “It’s super easy,” Sal said. “When people ask us what we’re doing…we just say, ‘We’re Mormon, or we’re LDS, and we’re traveling around seeing all of our temples,’ and we just stop there and inevitably it starts a gospel conversation.”

They carry copies of The Book of Mormon with them and are working on memorizing the Articles of Faith as a family. “It’s important to learn this because it's our basic principles and you never know when you’re going to have a chance to share them,” Sal said, after describing an experience of using the Articles of Faith to share his testimony and a Book of Mormon with an Uber driver.

4. Make Memories

Some of the kids’ favorite spots have been Blue Hole Lagoon in New Mexico, Niagra Falls, and Church history sights like the Joseph Knight home and the Sacred Grove.

“The memories that we’re building with our kids at this time in our lives is, to us, pretty darn amazing,” Sal said.

Sal keeps a note that Zander wrote to his brother Drezen using a “charcoal pencil” from one of their campfires. It says, “Dear Dre, I love you. You are so fun to play with. I have had a fun time with you on this trip. Love you.”

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A note from Zander (7) to Drezen (10)

“To me, if our trip was to end right now, that right there would be worth it all,” Sal said.

Travel Plans

Currently, the Alcantars are in what they like to call Phase 1 of their trip, which includes visiting the temples in the 50 states and Canada. They plan to be done by October 2018, allowing for a few runs back home for Christmas, Zander’s baptism, and other pre-planned events.

The Alcantars planned route for "Phase 1" of their temple trip

Next fall their oldest son, Dokken, now living on his own and working, will join them for Phase 2, in which the family will begin visiting temples in Europe and elsewhere.  They hope to make it to the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple, which is on schedule to be dedicated sometime next year.

The Alcantars aim to be back home in Arizona after two years of traveling, in time for Drezen to start Jr. High. They realize they might not make it to every temple in that time, but plan to hit “a lot [of temples] in Europe and then at least visit every continent before we come home,” Sal said.

Frequently Asked Questions

“How do you pay for it?”

Sal and Ange are very ready to admit that they have been blessed financially. Because of Sal’s multiple businesses, they have an income even while they travel.

However, they’ve met other young families on the road with various financial situations, and they believe that if it’s something you want to do, you can figure out how to make it work.

According to the Alcantars, some families lease or sell their homes or use savings to fund their travels. They also point out that some expenses remain the same or swap out. “You’re going to be spending money at home on food and groceries, and you can spend that on the road. . . . In some ways we’re saving because we’re not doing athletic things or piano lessons or various bills you have at home,” Ange said.

“What about school?”

The Alcantar kids are enrolled in an LDS-based homeschool program called Life School, which allows the family the flexibility they need, and both Ange and Sal feel that visiting historical sites in person is better than reading about them in a textbook or online. Their not-so-routine daily studies include a mix of scripture study, physical activity (one son is training for a half-marathon), reading, vocabulary, math, and of course, sightseeing.

“Tonight, in a couple of hours, we’re going to jump on a bus and we’re going to go take a night tour of Washington D.C.,” Sal said at the time of the interview. “We’re going to go see the U.S. Capitol, the Whitehouse, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial . . . we look at that as a school field trip day.”

“How can you stand to be around your family so much?”

It’s true—the Alcantars are with each other all day, every day. Except for one date, when the kids were able to stay with some friends in Ohio, the only time Sal and Ange are away from the kids is when they each take turns in the temple. “That’s kind of abnormal for Ange and I because . . . we were religious about going on weekly dates,” Sal said.

Ange added that sometimes they try to take the kids on individual outings for more one-on-one time. Other than that, they’re “all together. Always.”

They’ve had people tell them, “That’s insane. I could never be around my family that much.”

Sal’s response? “I get it. I understand it. But we are going to be with our families through the eternities. And if I can’t spend two years with my family in an RV, how can I expect to be with my family throughout the eternities?”

What Makes it All Worth It

Ange and Sal hope that all in all, this trip teaches their kids that family is the most important thing, and that the temple is precious to both of them. They hope they can also take away a deeper understanding of the world and of “our brothers and sisters who are out there.”

“And then, not only that, but just the service. And the missionary opportunities. And the memories that are being built. That’s really the biggest thing. We want to let other people know that those things are extremely possible, and important.”


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