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.