Van Winkle Travel Adventures: A Trip Down Memory Lane

While we are all existing in this time of uncertainty and worry, we are embarking into uncharted waters for sure. Mostly in the area of home-schooling! We are fortunate that our children love their schools, teachers and school communities and we all feel the loss of that right now. We completely understand and are more than happy to do our part to ensure the continued health of our communities, but it does mean that like most people, we will be postponing our Spring Break travel. While our hearts ache for the small businesses affected by this nationwide time-out, we understand the need to find some humor and levity during this time. So while we were all discussing our plans to halt our travel, we ended up sharing some funny memories of past travel expeditions. We thought we’d share a few of those with you and would love to hear your favorite or funniest memories of your family vacations!

The first thing to remember is how much travel has changed! Our children are all mostly accustomed to their own Ipads or tablets, perfectly stocked with an array of their favorite movies, shows, apps and games, along with their very own set of headphones to ensure no one else is bothered, or really so that their own enjoyment isn’t bothered by their siblings choice. Let’s just say that that was not the case when we grew up. We had tapes. As in VHS tapes, of television shows and movies. From the actual TV. As in someone had to pop in the VHS and hit record. We had an actual VCR and small TV that we would somehow assemble, usually with a complicated system that involved bungee cords and a homemade TV stand. You still with us? That’s right, we all had to watch...the Same. Exact. Thing. No matter what - it didn’t matter if you didn’t like Family Ties - that was what was recorded and that is what we were watching. Fell asleep - oh well, we aren’t pausing it for you. And where did we have the luxury of watching this recorded wonder? In the back of the family van of course. Usually, there was a fair amount of jostling for the best position, and of course, with four siblings, this usually led to some sparring. Over time, we even developed our own solution - we would use tape to quadron off each sibling’s area - that you weren’t allowed to cross - under penalty of, well under penalty of whatever we could get away with under our mom’s watchful eye. Naturally, someone would fall asleep and a toe would dare cross the line and let’s just say the offender was not woken up peacefully.

Since traveling with the six of us wasn’t enough of a traveling road show...we oftentimes caravanned with cousins too. We would travel regularly to visit family in Mobile, AL or Miami, FL and we took big family excursions to Callaway Gardens, Cashiers, NC, Florida, and of course our tradition of summers in Michigan. That meant our extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles would be together - and meals or activities were a production to say the least. 

Well if you can believe it (since we were back in the world of VHS technology) we also didn’t have cell phones. I know...the horror! So just how did we communicate with the other members of our traveling family crew? The old fashioned way. We would write notes and hold them up in the windows, or bring along walkie-talkies. Now the walkie-talkie was probably our dad’s preferred method of road communication because it also allowed him and our uncles to engage in some role-playing - who would have known that these guys were wannabe truckers. Oh the lingo, the breaker 1 -9’s, and the sometimes probably not family-friendly language - but it worked and we would pick a rest-stop or gas station to make a pit stop and all of us would bust forth from the cars in a gaggle of pent up energy and family frustration. Would we then get to pick-out snacks from the exotic array available at the truck stop or get some golden and salty fries from the golden arches. Nope. We would grab a sandwich long gone soggy and a bag of chips to share as we wrestled ourselves into a rest stop picnic table. Now that we can fondly look back on these travels, we all realize that getting there was part of the fun.

This year’s postponed Spring Break, of course, isn’t the first time that our traveling plans have gone awry or not as planned. Sure lots of trips have been affected by pop-up disruptions, such as canceled flights or bad weather (or even being at the airport at your exact gate and somehow still missing your plane. Twice. Like a certain sister who shall remain nameless, but let’s just say she couldn’t design her way out of that one.) Perhaps though the trip that stands out the most in our collective memory - one that had been planned and looked forward to for months and months and held the promise and allure of a true exotic vacation as well as represented our first trip outside of the country - was our trip to Isla Mujeres. A hurricane blew through, as hurricanes do, but we pressed on. After all, a trip whose destination promised pristine beaches and gorgeous Caribbean waters, and best of all, no taping off your small section of space in the family van was going to be worth it. Instead, we arrived at the hotel to find that there was no running water. The pool we had all been dreaming of sat drained. We found some broken hard plastic beach chairs and pretended to surf, trying to make the best of the situation. We explored the ruins of Chichen Itza, likely propelled by the desire to make this trip happen despite the circumstances and we could still head home triumphant. But that is not how stories like this end. They end with a trip to the Emergency Room for our mom, who instead of bringing home bright souvenirs and stories of incredible sunsets, brought home the dreaded Mexican bug, otherwise known as "Montezuma's Revenge."

 

Nevertheless, we are a family who has never given up on the joy of travels. Over time we have been fortunate enough to travel to some amazing destinations, near and far, across the country and across the globe, and while we no longer have to fight for our own corner of space or argue over the song choice on the radio, some of those old stories are still our very favorite memories.