Growing up the idea of an annual family vacation was really foreign to me. In fact we only took two camping trips during my childhood that I can remember. That experience I know is not a unique one. Sadly American's are afforded little time off and travel can be EXPENSIVE. Somehow as a poor graduate student I fell in love with it. I took my first out of state trip, (not including a honeymoon Mexican Riviera cruise a 100 years ago), while I was in graduate school and boy I caught the travel bug. We had many years, 9 total of traveling around the western part of the United States on a teeny tiny budget. Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming were early travel playgrounds. We camped, drove, and ate PB&J in order to see as much as we could. We hiked and hiked and hiked and fell in love with our country's national park system. It's no secret that seeing all 59 parks has now become a bucket list for me. So far I'm at 48 out of 59.
When we eventually became parents that love of the outdoors and appreciation for our parks was something we wanted to pass on. Getting our son to enjoy travel was relatively easy, getting him to enjoy sweating it out on hiking trails and living with a little discomfort was another project. I feel accomplished when I say that we have succeeded! Three of us sick and two of us wheezing did not keep us off a hiking trail this summer that was about 2 miles straight up for this fantastic view at Isle Royale National Park. It was just a bit humid so by the time we reached the top we were all fairly damp with sweat. In the end we were rewarded with a glorious view and we all felt righteous for conquering that rocky, root filled trail. I am pretty sure we got some Christmas card pictures out of that hike alone. It was the culmination of a really long road trip that at the outset seemed crazy. We had done others, one we call our Great American Road Trip about 6 years ago, but this one was longer and further. When you take on a venture like this things will go wrong. While enormously inconvenient at the time, they turn into the funny memories you recount years later. As I referenced all three of us were sick at one point in time on this trip. You will get on each other's nerves. If you take a road trip, you will become convinced as I was that all of the corn in America comes from Iowa....all of it. What you will have though is a deepened appreciation for life, for your home, for the wild spaces we still have left, for our culture, our history, and ways of life that differ from your own.
We virtually had Carlsbad Caverns to ourselves and spent the loop trail down there making bad jokes and trying to spook each other. We were tired that day and loopy. There was so much laughter that I'm afraid we were obnoxious to anyone we came across. We also stopped at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and we all cried at one point in time spending half a day immersed in that experience. It's built around the Loraine Hotel, the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr was murdered. I could not bring myself to say assassinated, that is such a sanitized word for this tremendous tragedy. While he would become a martyr in death, his very short life was incredibly meaningful. What would he have accomplished if he was able to continue his work and lived as long as his peers? It's an education that is hard to replicate in a textbook, watching a documentary, or listening to speech. It's raw and it's powerful to look at that spot where he died. Travel is all of that and more. Yes, going to Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, etc. is fabulous. Each and every one of those experiences over the years have been amazing and seem so glamorous, but every once in a while it helps to get connected to America. Dare I say especially in these times where the country feels so incredibly divided and the world is watching us, most often with shock and horror. It was helpful to remember what I have loved about this place, the people, the cultures, the wild and open places that for us are filled with now with memories. Go out and make some. Sleep on the hard ground, eat PB&J, and hoard your time off. It's worth it. #travel #familytime #roadtrip #family