My Dream Vacation: One That Doesn’t Suck

1941 Flxible Motor Home

If I'm dreaming up a vacation, I want a retro red motor home. Add some second cousins and a panel of experts and let's roll! (Image via Wikipedia)

Topic: describe your dream vacation | The Daily Post at

Another post inspired by The Daily Post. A post about my “dream vacation” seems pretty timely, seeing as how I just got back from a quite nice trip.

I don’t know that we take vacations in the traditional sense. We travel to visit family, with a couple of “just tourists” road trips thrown in there. This seems to be how it is when one lives far from extended family. Once you pay the airfare to visit the fam, there’s not much left for big, exciting vacations. And really, what’s the point with young kids along, anyway? It’s not going to be relaxing without family to help with the childcare anyway.

Pre-kids, my husband and I used to take road trips with some frequency. We had the “Southern Odyssey,” which took us from our home in Durham, North Carolina, to Charleston, South Carolina, then Savannah, Georgia, then Biloxi, Mississippi, then to New Orleans (pre-Katrina) for the Jazz and Heritage Festival with the friends who would become our children’s godparents. We did self-guided historical walking tours of our stops along the way and ate incredible seafood. That was an epic trip.

The spring before our daughter was conceived, we took the “Northwest Excursion” from our home just south of San Francisco to Portland, Oregon (stopping at some of our favorite California breweries along the way up the coast), to Missoula, Montana, then back to SF through Portland again (I had The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ever at The Lucky Lab there). While in Montana, we toured Glacier National Park with a college friend who’s a field biologist. A field biologist is really the best person with whom to view wildlife. I also got to help her take blood samples from baby mountain blue birds for her project. Also an epic vacation.

My two favorite with-kids vacations were Christmas of 2007, in Ohio and Michigan, and then this most recent Florida trip. There were a lot of differences between those two trips, but I’ve identified some common elements:

1) My sister. Anything I do (including giving birth) is better when my sister’s there.

2) My in-laws. We visited them on both trips as well. They’re fun folks, too.

3) Healthy eating. Or at least no gluten and no dairy. My Christmas trip was more restrictive (no alcohol, no sugar, no eggs, no soy), but it seems like the basic restrictions are enough to keep me healthy (I used to get sick nearly every time we traveled).

4) Meal prep while someone else watches the kiddos. Standing at the stove may not seem like a vacation, but for me, preparing food for a large group of people while someone else keeps the kids from running underfoot is an absolute joy.

5) A positive attitude going into the trip. I’m reconciled to the fact that I’m going to be a nervous wreck before traveling. But the past few trips, I’ve made a point of cultivating a positive outlook. As a cautious optimist (or defensive pessimist), this manifests itself not as “Wow! This trip is going to be AWESOME!” but as, “You know, there’s a chance this trip might not suck.” Optimists might doubt the effectiveness of such a positive outlook (and perhaps might not even recognize it as optimism), but I find it’s effective for me. I don’t believe the enthusiastic claim of assured awesomeness, so the cautious suggestion of non-suckitude is about the most enthusiastic I can go. It seems to work for me.

6) Not trying to do too much. Both trips, we had one or two main bases of operation from which we did all of our activities, which minimized our daily travel time and maximized the time we had to have fun.

7) Second cousins. Both trips, my kids got to hang out with their second cousins (our parents’ siblings’ grandkids). I love seeing these peers interact. There’s something about being family that allows my kids to open up socially more than they normally would, especially my daughter.

With my love of road trips, my enjoyment of national parks with the experts along, and my turtle-like preference for traveling with my home, I think my dream family vacation might be an RV tour of national parks with our expert friends and my sister. I would love to travel with our field biologist friend, our geologist friend, our park ranger friends, and our archaeologist friend so they could give us a more in-depth view of the unique features in the national parks. This would be the perfect homeschooling trip, too, as my children would get to learn about science and see it in action at the same time.

In order to not be too busy, we would make this trip over a series of summers, focusing each year on a different region of the US. That would allow us to focus more deeply and spend more time in an area and would also spread out the fun over multiple years. And since we couldn’t realistically fit all of those experts and all of the second cousins in the RV at once, it would allow the cousins to join us in shifts.

We would stop and visit friends who are scattered across the country to catch up, share stories, and get tips on the best local brews to stock the RV fridge for the next leg of the journey. (I would only drink the GF ones, but our panel of experts would likely appreciate the variety of beers.)

With the other adults entertaining the kids by showing them pottery sherds and teaching them how to put leg bands on wild birds, I would whip up green smoothies in my VitaMix every morning with produce gathered from farmers markets in cities along our path. Our days would be spent hiking and spotting yearling grizzlies from a safe distance, and our evenings would find the kids drawing pictures of what they’d seen that day while I sip a cold GF brew and make marinated grilled veggies and brown rice, with GF maple-syrup-sweetened blueberry cobbler for dessert. At night, we’d try to spot constellations in a sky crowded with stars. Too bad we don’t know any astronomers, we’d say, and silently vow to seek out an astronomer friend before the following year.

On rainy days, I would feed my inner introvert by reading, blogging, and working on my novel.

I can almost hear the crickets and the soft laughter around the campfire now.

Dispatches from Florida: Week 27 Review

Not much time to post…baby has a fever…children converge upon me when they see the laptop.

Trip nearly over…two more days…hope to dodge rain to make one more trip to the beach…must also eat more seafood.

Wonder if we will experience culture shock upon our return to Utah? The weather, at least, is sure to shock.

Me on Anna Maria Island, looking for Texas.


Cheering On People Bolder Than I

Sailboat in San Francisco Bay

Image via Wikipedia

My friend Tucker posted the link to this blog post, Ten Lies, which refers to another blog post by Both are about the things people say to talk others out of pursuing their dreams.

You know the thing that pops into my head when I hear about someone taking bold steps to pursue their dreams?

“Wow. That’s really selfish.”

What’s strange is that I don’t even believe this. I think it’s one of those thoughts that my inner critic comes out with to protect me from doing something bold. Even at the moment I think this, I know it’s a lie. Or if it’s true, who cares? Is it selfish to live one’s life the way one wants to? What exactly is selfish about identifying what you want to do, taking into account its potential effect on those you love, and then taking steps to make it happen?

I think the big thing behind the comments of any naysayer is fear. They’re afraid of doing it themselves, of taking a stand and making a bold choice in their lives. So they try to convince others to do nothing to pursue their dreams, too.

Acting out of fear isn’t going to bring anyone much joy and satisfaction, except perhaps the schadenfreude that comes with watching other people not-quite-make-it when they try for their bold dreams. That’s certainly cold comfort.

Tucker and the blogger of “Ten Lies” are part of a community of people who’ve arranged their lives so they can live aboard their sailboats and go traveling the world. I’m not a sailer, and the idea of traveling around the world, no matter how I would travel, scares me. But I don’t have any inclination to try to talk Tucker and his friends out of their dreams.

I might not be interested in sailing around the world, but I sure as heck want other people to try. And succeed. It gives me hope for the rather smaller bold things I want to do in my life.

And after this situation with my aunt, I realize that what scares me more than sailing around the world is deciding to stay in bed until I die. It’s a very safe option, but not one that is appealing to me at all. For which I am incredibly grateful.

Another question: Is life to be endured or to be enjoyed? Or perhaps life just is and what it is is open to individual interpretation.

Everyone’s journey ends at the same destination. But we each get to determine the scenery along the way.

On a related note, when I asked my daughter what she thought about the idea of living on a sailboat and sailing around the world like our friends Ruby and Miles, she at first didn’t like the idea. She said she liked living in a house because it’s bigger than a boat. She wanted to travel places, she said, but she didn’t want to sail around the world.

“I like flying on planes because they give you food, and I like driving because we take snacks,” she explained. I’m amused to find that my daughter shares my anxieties around a reliable food supply.

When I told her that the sailboat would have a kitchen on it and we could make food, she got excited about the idea. When I told her about Ruby going up the mast in the Bosun’s chair and Miles playing a game in which he shot clothespins off a counter in the boat, she got so excited, I thought she was going to ask me to put her on a boat right that moment.

Week 25 Review

My aunt died this morning in her sleep.

When the phone rang, I knew it was my mother before I looked at the caller ID. There was nothing psychic in this. Three nights this week when I “knew” it was my mom, it was actually Stanford University calling to ask my husband for money. I just happened to be right this morning.

I’ve not yet figured out how I feel about the news of my aunt’s death. For now, I’m just waiting for the feelings to percolate up from wherever they originate.

This past week has been consumed by thoughts and emotions around my aunt’s situation. I backed out of evening activities twice. The candlemaking class I’d registered for on Wednesday was canceled due to lack of interest. The same thing happened with the Music and Totalitarianism honors course I signed up for in college. I still wish I’d had a chance to take that class. I’m not sure my regret about the candlemaking class will last so long.

Along with the standard tasks this coming week (homeschool, flute, gymnastics, aikido), we’ve got dental appointments for the three family members with teeth, as well as the activities we need to complete to prepare for our trip to Florida on February 1st. I haven’t decided what all this list entails yet. Every time we get ready to go on a trip, I start out by vowing I’m going to travel light and not worry about food and games and multiple baby carriers. One baby carrier is enough for the week, one bathing suit, one pair of shoes, apple slices, and some beef jerky, and we’ll be on our way.

But then I start envisioning the trip ahead of us and the possibility of getting stuck on the tarmac or in an airport terminal. The kids and my husband can eat pizza, and I could, too, if I wanted to spend the rest of the trip ill, but I’d rather have other options. I start mentally filling my backpack with TSA-approved foods. I want plenty of activities for the children to help us while away the hours somewhat pleasantly, so crayons, puzzles, games, and books go into my imaginary backpack. My son uses his little potty several times a day. Do I bring this with us, or just bring the fold-up potty seat, or buy a new little potty when we get there? He usually falls asleep with white noise. Should I bring some kind of noisemaker? We use cloth diapers and training pants at home. Should I buy disposable diapers or pull-ups or some of each for the trip? Do the kids need new swim suits? Do they sell swimsuits in Utah in January?

Recognizing that I’m on the verge of my traditional travel-related nervous breakdown, I plan to schedule myself for some pampering at the spa this week. I bought a Living Social deal for a massage, facial, and foot mask. I’m thinking this week is a good time to take advantage of this deal, if I can relax enough to let it relax me.

I just keep thinking, “Florida will be warm, Florida will be warm…”

A Round-the-World Trip Would be Wasted on Me


Homemade martini in Salt Lake City. Not as exciting at Waragi in Kigali, but it's less likely to blind me.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a handful of globe-trotting friends. When I hear about these friends’ adventures and see the pictures they’ve brought back, I hear two competing voices in my head. One says, “Holy crap, that looks absolutely terrifying. Do they have any idea just how many things could have gone wrong on a trip like that? Human beings lack sharp teeth, claws, thick hides, protective fur, and acute senses. We’re just soft and pink and ready to be mauled.” The other says, “You know, maybe I should think about traveling more.”

My friend Maggie posted about her trip to a Kigali bar and ride home with a stranger on her blog, I absolutely love this story. I love the way she’s connected with the other people at her hostel. I love the stories and memories she gets to have. I love that she had enough trust to accept kindness from a stranger and make a personal and very poignant connection as a result. In a way, I crave that.

But I know that even if I were to go on a similar trip, I wouldn’t have these experiences. I don’t consume foods the origins of which I do not know. I don’t even trust McDonald’s. How could I possibly drink Waragi (as Maggie puts it, “a potentially deadly Ugandan gin”)? I could work around that by setting some on fire and seeing what color the flame is. If it was green, I’d politely decline it. If it was blue, I’d feel safe tossing back a few. But by this time, the social experience would have been ruined. Geeking out with displays of anxiety does not generally lead to comfortable social interactions. It’s not a good display of trust, and trust is necessary for these types of connections, I find.

And assuming I even made it out to the bar with the others, it’s likely I would have missed out on the part of the story I most envy because I would never have gotten into a vehicle with a stranger.

I generally think of this as a personal failing. But hey: it’s who I am. If I don’t like it, I can either take measures to change it or I can learn to accept it. Really, not consuming items of unknown origin and not taking rides from strangers in the middle of the night aren’t bad qualities. They just don’t generally result in fun stories.

So, I’m unlikely to have exciting stories to tell. That’s not great if I’ve decided I want to write first-person adventure tales for a living, but it’s not that negative a thing in my everyday life. I have a low threshold for excitement. I get an adrenaline rush from taking the bus instead of driving. That’s more convenient and less expensive than traveling, anyway.

And as Woody Allen has proven, people find neurotic behavior amusing, if it’s framed properly. Perhaps that’s my niche.

Seriously, though: I highly recommend checking out Maggie’s blog. It’s inspiring even to a stick-in-the-mud like myself.