I inherited the travel bug from my Dad.
And I’m pretty sure he inherited it from his Dad. My grandfather, up until a very late age, was known to go on days-long driving trips, often without my Grandmother in tow. He must have been the one to start the solo travel craze. Although he did not stray far from his native Midwest, he would delight in exploring the Great Plains, sometimes sleeping in the car at night when he didn’t stumble upon a motel along the road.
Love of Travel With My Family
Summer vacations with my family were, without a doubt, the highlight of my years growing up. Chicago (Wrigley Field), Des Moines (Adventureland!), Kansas City (the Royals and great BBQ), Colorado Springs (Pikes Peak), Rapid City (where the HECK is Wall Drug?), and Duluth, just to name a few. In the weeks leading up to vaca, I would watch my parents painstakingly plan everything: how much to budget, what to take, a loose schedule of each day’s events. I remember evenings sitting with my Dad, pouring over road maps and logging exactly what roads to travel. He even figured out how much we would pay in gas (because of course he knew EXACTLY how much mileage the car got)!
Then, on the appointed day, my sister and I would be sleeping soundly in our shared bed, and at 3 am, I’d crack open an eye to see the hall light turned on, and my parents shuffling about, getting ready. We would be stirred out of bed (our suitcases having been packed the night before), and shuffled into the back seat, still in our pajamas. As we left town and reached the countryside, my brother, sister and I quickly fell back asleep. I would awaken again about 100 miles later to the even drone of the car engine, and a sliver of light over the horizon.
Dad: “We’ll stop for breakfast in about 50 miles!”
Mmm, I’m going to have eggs and hash browns this time, I thought to myself. Breakfast could be anything from a fancy meal at IHOP to a quick drive-thru McDonalds. After breakfast and back on the road, the summer sun now high in the sky, Mom would get out the travel care packages she made for each of us: a gift bag full of Mad Libs, coloring books, teen novels, stickers and candy. Gotta keep the kids quiet and busy, right?
The Promise Land
When we reached our destination, we would perform the ritual of checking into our motel, unpacking, and going over last minute planning. In those days, we never stayed in a “hotel”. Rather, a modest, at times seedy-looking motel or inn off the interstate. It was simply, as Mom put it, “just a place to lay our heads.” No, my parents could not afford accommodations with indoor hallways. Well, okay, once we stayed at this really swanky Holiday Inn in Chicago. It had 10 floors, a free gourmet breakfast, two pools, and free cookies for the kids. To this day, I’m not sure how they pulled that one off.
Shortly after check-in, our adventure would REALLY begin. Whether it was to a National Park, an amusement park, or an Air and Space Museum. Most days we’d be too pooped to jump in the pool at the end of the day (if there was a pool). But with each vacation came a new destination, a new excitement, a new place to explore and expand our ever-changing world.
Where the Land Ends
When I was 20, I took my last “official childhood summer vacation” with my family. By this time I was was living with roommates in a nearby city. My parents picked me up on their way down south to our most ambitious destination: Walt Disney World. On the way we stopped for a day in Memphis, TN to visit Graceland. When we reached Florida, I begged my Dad to drive us to Daytona Beach, even before we saw Mickey’s shining face. Why? It would be the first time I would see the ocean. That vacation was the ultimate: I’ve never laughed so hard, and cried (with joy) so hard, with my family.
That Disney vacation cast its permanent spell on me. And luckily enough, I married a Disney fanatic. The two of us have made numerous trips to both parks in the U.S. Along the way we’ve mastered the art of how to “do” Disney. Read more on the subject here.
These are the memories I hold of my adventures as a child, and I suspect it is one of the reasons why the love of travel is in my blood to this day.
Where did YOU vacation growing up? Where did you first catch “the travel bug?”