In order to move forward I feel I must first go backward. Our first journey together will be a journey through time. It just wouldn’t seem right to start from the middle.
My first travel memories are from around the age of five, camping in Florida with my mom, brother and uncle. I’m sure there are parts of these trips that were not fun. It’s a long, hot drive from Michigan to Florida in a small Ford Pinto. It’s also very hot in a tent, in Florida, in July. The not so fun parts of these trips however, are not what I remember. I remember seeing hammerhead sharks, and making new friends at the pool, and the way my Uncle Bob’s sunburn made him look like Gene Simmons when it started to peel. Most of all I remember the time spent with my family and as I get older, those are the times I cherish most.
My next set of travel memories are in Tennessee. It was an 8 hour drive, but we made it frequently, sometimes 5 or 6 times a year. We have family there and often stayed with them which made it a rather inexpensive place to visit, a practice I still take advantage of whenever I can. Little did I know it at the time, but my desire for adventure started in Tennessee. I was forced, yes, literally forced, often screaming and crying to “try it once, if you don’t like it then you don’t have to do it again” on the Alpine Slide that I just knew would cause certain death, and the primitive water slides that always drew blood (water slides should not have been made of stucco) and I loved them! Much as I hate to admit it, I have many times forced that same quote on my own child, who was often screaming and crying, but I believe we are both better for it. Just don’t tell my dad!
The first what I call “real” road trip was a trip out west when I was nine. I was allowed to skip the last two weeks of third grade to fit my parents vacation schedule, this trip was already off to a good start! So off we went, the four of us, mom, dad, brother and I in a Ford Grand Marquis for two weeks. By today’s standards that car was huge, but not huge enough to escape the not looking just backward hitting for fighting with your brother beating. I quickly learned which side of the car to sit on! I only remember bits and pieces of that trip, Texas is forever, Mexico is scary and I love Arizona.
Once again, little did I know how much that trip would influence me. When my daughter (mostly referred to as “the kid”) was nine years old, we also made a similar trip. We were actually moving to Arizona, but we took two weeks to get there and stopped at every tourist attraction between Detroit and Phoenix that we could. At the time I didn’t think I’d ever have an opportunity to take a trip like that again, so we took advantage of it. The return drive back to Michigan was made in 2 ½ days.
When I was 24 I took my first adult vacation. No parents. No kids. Just two of my girlfriends and all that Cancun had to offer. The trip was everything that it should have been. We danced on the bar, we played in the ocean, we met boys, and we drank, a lot. We also ran out of money and almost missed our flight home. Thank you all inclusive time share and random stranger for getting arrested on the incoming flight for saving us!
Two years later the kid and I took our first solo road trip, she was eight years old. I had not planned any vacation time but suddenly had a week off of work and very spontaneously threw a trip together. I wanted to go somewhere new but didn’t want to venture too far from home. Having always been a Civil War enthusiast, I decided to go to Gettysburg. We spent a full week in Gettysburg and never ran out of things to do. We toured the battlefield and the city, went on ghost walks, had old time photos taken, and spent long hours in the cemeteries.
We’ve been to many battlefields and on many road trips since, but Gettysburg remains one of my favorites.
We’ve established a lot of traditions in our travels over the years, many of them started with that first road trip. We always navigate via a AAA TripTrik, even now in the age of the GPS. We still play license plate bingo and she still somehow always wins. We do ghost tours wherever they are available. We always choose the local dive restaurant over the chain, the food is just better. Tourist attractions are cheesy, but we stop at as many of them as possible. Somehow, inevitably we take inappropriate photos.
The kid is actually an adult now and organizing the time to travel together is starting to get difficult. I will miss traveling with her, but am equally happy to hear of her own independent travels.
Most of my traveling is now done with my husband. Our travel dynamic is different, but different is often good. I’m learning that it’s ok to not always be in the driver’s seat.