Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Have Suitcase, Will Travel

I'll be the first to admit it's been a bit of a different summer around here. A sign of the times to come, no doubt. Our oldest has been off working at summer camps, home only for about 20 days between Mother's Day and August 16. We supported his choice, completely. We would support it again, and I'm sure between the two sons, we will be called upon to own those words. 

Our July 2014 Europe cruise that we booked in 2012 had to be cancelled, as the church youth group changed their historical summer camp week - and - yes, you guessed it - moved it right smack into the week we were to be cruising from Spain to Venice. We also supported our youngest son's desire to go on his Senior Beach Camp trip, and knew in our hearts we could not go on the trip without him. Wouldn't want to.

Our youngest did not really want a different family vacation, unless we could go to Alaska. Again. While we loved our trip there, and truthfully do dream of going again, we knew this year was not the year to plan accordingly. I don't know - something or other about two kids in private universities. We asked him to defer that plan, since we are not deferring tuition. He didn't want to go anywhere, and our oldest could not go anywhere.

So, the summer panned out with a grand case against a family vacation. Three strikes. We were out. I'll have to say it's the first summer in over a decade that we haven't had a trip. I'll have to say, too, that it's been harder on me than I imagined. I know, I know. Vacations are hard to plan. They are expensive. You come home more often than not exhausted - and wanting a vacation to recover from your vacation. 

It does seem silly to me when we travel and pay a lot of money each night to stay all squished together in a room that is a mere meager fraction of the size of our house. It's almost a ruse. "Let's get people everywhere to pay exhorbitant amounts of money to stay in (usually) lackluster rooms, share one small bathroom, trip over suitcases littering the floor, battle thermostats that struggle ineffectively, grapple with sheets that itch, and more often than not, tune out noisy crews on the other side of an all too thin wall."

All financial silliness aside, all cramped inconveniences shelved, all tedious master planning ignored, I will confess I love the family vacation. Love. It. Love it. We recently went to a hotel for a weekend, and we did it mainly so that we could be crammed into one room with our boys, just hanging out and being together. There is just something special about picking up little pieces of your every day life, shoving them into a suitcase, traversing this country, and exploring something new - together as a family unit.

Steve and I grew up as polar opposites in this family vacation paradigm. I can remember so very many vacations as a child. My husband took only one in his entire childhood, and it was to his oldest sister's wedding. Every time I ponder the juxtaposition of our pre-marriage travelogues, I cringe for him. I know we can't undo the past, and I know his parents provided for him and his siblings in many other ways, but I just hate that they didn't get to experience the annual family vacation. 

The gift for us as a family that erupted out of his childhood paradigm, though, is a near insatiable wander lust embedded deeply in him, and his commitment to plan and provide for his own family some wonderful trips. He and I started early on, with weekend road trips around Texas. So many fun memories. We started annual vacations early on, too. First for two, then four.

When the boys came, we altered our travel itineraries to mirror their capabilities and interest levels. I have enjoyed, thoroughly, watching my boys age and turn into such good, fun-loving, witty young men. They are just so enjoyable to be around.  In fact, in 2006, they were at such a fun age that we took two trips that year - the Grand Canyon and Sedona in May, and then Colonial Williamsburg in October. We have long been determined to gobble up as much of this short lived goodness while we could. We waited for them to be old enough to remember, and we knew we only had so many summers before the window began closing.

We have had some grand adventures together. I've photographed them all. 1,282 photos of our Alaska trip. 1,131 photos of our New York City trip. I won't dare divulge every trip and its jpegs. I will tell you that I pull those jpegs out and relive the trip - the stories and the discoveries and the laughter and the meals and the obstacles and the memory of everything the pictures tell me, and the details they cajole out of the deeper corners of my mind.

I won't believe yet that we are done. I simply can't. I am taking the summer of 2014 and cataloging it as an aberration. In fact, we have our 2015 trip planned out already. On the books. Deposit paid. I can't believe we are done because I can't believe we will ever get tired of one another. I can't believe we will ever fully quench our desire for adventure. I can't believe we can ever see everything. I know the next few summers will be challenging, with the boys' activities sandwiched in between college semesters.

We are content to let them have their own adventures during this season. We are even planning on having some of our own adventures. But, in my heart, I believe back when I taught them how to pack, when they learned to read, when I printed out a customized packing list for each child, for each trip, that I did more than create travelers. I like to believe that I planted in their hearts the wanderlust for travel, the desire to be an adventurer, the joy in being together. I think they, like their dad, like their mom, will always be ready. Have suitcase, will travel.

Oh, Alaska! I'll be back someday. Your beauty lives in my heart. The memories remain fresh. And I'd like to believe I'll once again be asking for a table for four. Get ready to serve up that incredible rustic beauty you offer, and save me some salmon. Adventure is out there! Have suitcase, will travel.

Oh, Alaska! ~ Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, and Tracy Arm, Alaska, and Victoria, Canada ~ July 2012

Paper: Echo Park, Little Yellow Bicycle
Font: Pacifico

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