Should someone ask me whether my family traveled much when I was growing up, my initial response would be “No.” There weren’t annual vacations to a fishing cabin or sightseeing trips or visits to relatives scattered across the country. But after thinking more about it, and without comparing family vacations during the ‘50s and ‘60s to today’s, I would have to qualify my answer. We went to Chicago where my Dad and I would enjoy a day game at Wrigley Field, or I might go shopping downtown with my Mom. Riverview Amusement Park was one of my most favorite places to spend an evening. Other trips included visiting my Mom’s relatives in Kankakee or driving to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play ball. Frequent trips to Bloomington for optical care, not exactly an exciting destination but restaurant meals after long waiting times at the eye clinic were included.

My mother encouraged me to think beyond my immediate surroundings, and she worked diligently to foster independence. I went to Girl Scout Camp, rode the bus alone to visit my Aunt in Pekin, and flew to Washington, D.C., to visit my married sister and family.

Reminiscing about travel is good for the mind and soul because one thought leads to another, and what started out as a solitary memory becomes like miniature lights illuminating the way for additional recall. Even better is talking with someone who shared those experiences and can help fill in blanks, creating more memories.

This past June eight adults and seven children enjoyed a family vacation at St. Simons, Ga.  We caravanned on expressways and alternate routes to circumvent traffic delays, listening to Willie Nelson singing “On The Road Again” and other tunes to fit the occasion.  We returned home with stories to tell, funny incidents to laugh at again, renewed promises to eat more healthy in weeks ahead, and that familiar enthusiasm about planning where we’ll go next year.

Progress was made with beginning swimmers, freckles increasing, vats of sunscreen disappearing and frequent reminders that agreement isn’t always possible, but compromise is essential. Many years ago, the original group included two parents, one son and two daughters, and through marriage and multiplication, the group tripled in size. The lessons are familiar and the fun increases. Siblings who once argued vigorously now seek advice from each other. Parents of three, now parents-in-law to an additional three, savor the blessings of seven grandchildren.

Traveling is much more than simply getting away from home. It’s an opportunity to see a bigger world, not necessarily better but different, than what we view daily. It’s a connective force that expands our mind and imagination beyond our own backyard. Travel is educational and inspiring, helping us leave our comfort zone to enjoy new surroundings.

Today’s travelers sometimes need reminders to put away electronic devices and enjoy scenery first-hand. Landmarks deserve visitors who notice charm and beauty. And there’s little reason to eat at familiar chain restaurants when new locations allow for experiencing different tastes.

While I didn’t become a seasoned traveler during my youth, I experienced the thrills of enjoying diverse surroundings. Not all parents can or choose to provide memorable vacations for their children. But travel possibilities can be nurtured, creating plans and dreams for future pleasure.



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