When I was a kid my family did not take vacations, or if we did we might travel to see family who lived in another state. My grandparents lived in Arizona where my parents grew up (they were University of Arizona alums, go Wildcats!). I seem to remember a lot of road trips from Seattle to Arizona as a child, though we probably only drove to and from there a few times (1200 miles, 20 hours of driving each way). A couple of memorable times we went to Southern California instead, to visit family who lived in the Los Angeles area; I remember once traveling by train, in the 1960s, that seemed like a magical way to travel.
But we didn’t have a lot of money in those days – who did? – and so we usually went by car. Staying in an inexpensive motel was a treat. Sometimes they even had a pool! There was nothing like the feeling of stumbling out of a hot car (no air conditioning!), pulling on our bathing suits, and plunging into the cool water of a small-motel pool. I remember long days of sitting in the car trying to pass the time as we inched along the long black ribbons of highway between Washington and Arizona, reading Archie comic books over and over, or playing “auto-bingo” by spotting landscape features.
What I remember mostly from those long car trips is the planning – having to pack all up all the kids’ things as well as supplies for the trip and for our stay at our grandparents’ place – and also long days of passing desert sandstone formations that never seemed to change over long distances, even though it could only have been a day or two that we really saw those pink- and white- and tan-brown rock formations blitzing past us beside the highway. We seemed to see sand and sun and rocks for miles and miles and miles without a break.
There were happy reunion moments with my grandparents, who always loved seeing us, and lots of outdoor games with cousins who were close to our ages. But the sense of really being on vacation, of having leisure time to enjoy our travel and to see new sights, was not something I remember from those trips.
Perhaps that’s why I relish being away on vacation now as an adult. I am grateful to have the time to travel, when I can. It is such a joy to arrive in a new place and to take in the local sights and places. I try not to approach travel as having to “see everything,” but rather, I like to imagine that I really live in the place I’m visiting, even if it’s only for a few days. What’s it like to go to the grocery store? What does the air feel like first thing in the morning? What is the slant of the sun late in the day and how does that make the street appear where I am staying? Sometimes I imagine the location in a different season – winter, maybe, with snow, or during the rainy season. What must it be like?
Recently my husband and I took a trip to Ashland, Oregon, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). Have you ever been there? Ashland is a small town near the Oregon-California border, in the Rogue River valley, a rural area in southwest Oregon. The OSF is a huge attraction for school groups during the year, along with lots of tourists and visitors year-round. The festival started back in the 1930s, and now it’s grown to encompass much more than Shakespeare; in the past I’ve seen a Checkov play and some modern plays, as well as Shakespeare both in a traditional production and in a modernized-setting production. Jim and I hadn’t been here in several years – probably 15? – and we both loved the idea of seeing a few plays. The town is small, so you can walk to restaurants and places to have ice cream, etc., when you’re not at the theater.
And at the theater: the acting is amazing, and the sets and set design are always inventive. It’s a repertory company that rotates through multiple plays in a few days, so that you can come and stay for 3-4 days and many plays in a single trip.
I try to keep in mind that the opportunity to travel and to see new places is truly a gift. As many of you bloggers know, being able to experience another community is truly enriching. While I am here, I don’t want to be “my old self,” the one who takes everything for granted; I want to be the person who seizes on new sights and uncommon experiences. I want to be that person who savors life on a different track than the one I’m used to!
What are your thoughts about vacation? Do you have a favorite vacation location, or do you like to move around? Are you a busy traveler or one who sees only a few things at a time? – Thanks for visiting!