Not all vacations are created equal

Meet Frugly. (A frog so freakin' ugly, I thought he was cute.)
Meet Frugly. (A frog so freakin’ ugly, I thought he was cute.)

Not all vacations are created equal.

It was around day 4 that I realized this vacation was different from other vacations we had taken with the girls. They’ve always been good travelers, willing try new foods, explore the sights of wherever we may be, and complain very little. We have traveled with them via car, plane, and boat. We’ve used buses, trolleys, rafts, and trains to explore new countries, cities, and towns. We’ve stayed in tents, hotel suites, rustic cabins, and the simple, small room of a pensione. Each experience has woven a memory into our collective family cloth. And, each memory has bonded us tightly together as a family.
That’s one of the beauties of vacation–the memories that are created. These are the stories that are told and retold so often they become identifiable by just a word or short phrase. In our family, I can say, “running bear snack” or “snow in Grand Canyon” or “Frugly” and immediately we travel back in time together. These words become the portals to a secret world shared only by the 4 of us. Sure, we can tell friends and family the stories associated with these “code words,” but the feelings that are conjured when the tales are shared are ours and ours alone.
More often than not, we are “movers” on vacation. It matters not if we are exploring our own backyard during a staycation or discovering the treasures of a new state or country, we make the most of our vacation time and get up and go. We take the largest bite we can with the time we have when on vacation. We are unconcerned if we’ve been there before; we savor the experiences and treasure the time together.
This vacation, however, was different. Unlike the cattle ranch cottage or the rustic cabin we rented for a week in Jellystone, I didn’t need to entertain small children. This time there were no planned tours, no sightseeing, no grand travel days or naps to accommodate; there was no schedule of any kind other than arrival and departure dates. There were no wardrobes to plan or complex (luggage) packing plans. There were neither tickets nor passports needing to be checked and rechecked in my obsessive neurotic way. And in that, this vacation has been perfect. Sure, I love the “big trips”, but I’ve loved this, too, and will cherish these memories.
In the last week, we have laughed together, hiked together, nurtured each other as a mild stomach bug passed from one to the next, and above all, just sat in silence and in comfort while we read together. Each of us finding our own nook to settle into, books have been ploughed through, discussed, and shared with one another. There have been mother/daughter walks, father/daughter walks, and husband/wife walks. Each of us has had opportunities to share time with each other privately and as a family, and each of us has had private time to hear our own thoughts and listen to the gentle sounds of the forest. Together, we’ve played games and searched for familiar constellations in the night sky. We’ve shared the flora and the fauna of the forest, pointing out deer sightings and wildflowers with the same enthusiasm. Traveling with older children brings is own special gifts. There are deeper conversations and more time for each of us to “just be still”. Our tones have softened, our pace slowed, and our love grew all because we had no schedule.
And, as always, memories have been added to the fabric that weaves this family together. So, I’m off to do my “boob dance” (don’t ask) and laugh about the memories created with my almost grown children.

What weaves the fabric of your family together?

(I wrote this the day we returned from our summer vacation and came upon it as I was doing research for our next family vacation in the spring. The memories it triggered made me smile and giggle. Those are the memories I treasure.)

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15 thoughts on “Not all vacations are created equal”

  1. I LOVE laid-back travel. When I hear folks planning trips to theme parks I cringe. Give me a place where we can respond to what unfolds and spend serendipitous moments together. I’ll take that over a schedule every time.

    Your’e doing a great job on NaBloPoMo!

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  2. We escape to our cabin in the PNW every summer, I so relate to your beautiful line: “These words become the portals to a secret world shared only by the 4 of us.” There is something sacred about it…thank you.

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  3. What a great post. Although we’ve traveled all over the world with our kids, I know they would say their favorite vacations are the ones where we’ve rented a house in Lake Tahoe or Cape Cod and basically did nothing except spend time together, play games and laugh. I hope we will always have time for these family vacations — especially as the family someday expands.

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  4. I’ve always loved our family vacations, but I also agree that they are better than ever now that my sons are adults.One of the biggest reasons is that vacations are just about the only time when all four of us are really together spending quality time. With one son living on the other side of the country, it doesn’t happen often so I cherish that time.

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    1. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I felt the outside world crash into ours. Homeschooling made it easy to get up and go pretty much whenever we wanted. That luxury is gone now that the oldest is in college. Even more than before, I’m treasuring whatever time I get to share as a family now. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. We had a wonderful outdoorsy vacation last summer in Montana with our daughter who lives out there. Now that my kids are grown and geographically separated it is almost impossible for us to do a family vacation together. I really miss that.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Helene. I know our days of being able to coordinate schedules and vacations together is quickly coming a close. I try not to think about it. Some call that denial; right now I call it survival.

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  6. I’m not really into nature type vacations unless they involve being served fruity drinks on the beach but I can tell you travel with older kids just gets better and better! My “baby” is 26 and nothing delights us more than the chance to get away together. Great post!

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  7. Lovely piece! I find I enjoy different types of travel. I seem to like to alternate between the “mover” kind of travel and vacations that are more retreat-like.

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    1. Ours have seemed to alternate, too, Joy. The next one will be a mover vacation, but I’m well aware that our days of “family vacations” will soon be coming to an end as schedules will no longer accommodate us. Thanks for popping over.

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