When I was a kid, I remember being mortified by my parents’ cost-saving measures when we were on vacation. Suitcases would open in the discount motel we were at for the night and my mom would unpack bowls, spoons, and cereal, among any number of other kitchen items. Extra ice would go into the cooler with a gallon of milk purchased during a break – and I’m sure we brought milk from home on occasion – and we would have a ready-made breakfast for the morning. At the time, I wanted none of it. We weren’t camping – where was the sleek allure of vinyl café booths and waitresses handing over laminated menus? With everything new and different, shouldn’t our meals take place in restaurants instead of poorly-decorated rooms?
I, of course, did not have a job. I knew nothing of money concerns. The fact that we could even afford a vacation didn’t even register. Thankfully, I know now how smart my parents were. Their good habits have become mine. I take food with me when planning a road trip. As I pass rest stops, I fondly remember having picnics in parks during a break from driving. I remember burning off excess energy in an unfamiliar park, sitting on a towel on a hot metal slide to prevent getting burned. Nostalgia rises and the romance of the road unfolds before me.
As an adult, I want to take far more trips than I do. I occasionally get away for a weekend and see friends in relatively nearby cities like Chicago, Ann Arbor, and St. Louis, but trips never last long enough. I suppose there’s a part of me – and perhaps a part of everyone – that wants to Eat Pray Love their travel experience and just take off for a year. There again, however, the concern of money rears its ugly head. I guess I need to write a book about eating, pray it gets published, and love packing for my worldwide book tour.
Without financial constrictions, I would travel to Spain, my return date to the States open as a birdcage door. History, culture, new foods and customs – I want to experience it all. Though I am not yet old (although I often joke that I am), I am years out of college. The carefree notion of backpacking through Europe seems impractical now that I have responsibilities and bills. I suppose a true explorer would figure out how to rearrange his/her life so that the traveling could take place. I need to learn their strategies; I certainly don’t want to wait until I am retired to experience countries I have long dreamed of visiting.
Maybe I will be the kind of person who finds herself, in a few years, in a station wagon (or something equally unhip) with my family, the world opening up in front of us. I certainly hope so, as my memories of childhood include seeing the Grand Canyon, visiting Disneyland, and hearing my parents loudly singing “Old Man River” as we crossed into Mississippi. I might also long for the chance to embarrass my own children with songs and a suitcase full of dry food. Hey, traditions start somewhere, right?