Do you ever think that if you could just get away from home, then you and your family would change into something drastically better? I catch myself thinking that way sometimes, and, if ever a vacation could change a family, our vacation this summer would have done it. We drove over 6,600 miles, traveled through most of the Western states, and spent a month away from our home in St. Louis.
I expected us to change, but what I found out surprised me, both about my family and myself. My little sister, Nancy would be perfectly happy if she could have friends around her constantly. They take priority over everything else in her life when my parents let them.
Naturally, then, she immediately gravitated toward our nine-year-old cousin, Sierra. We camped with Sierra’s family by Ollalie Lake, a gorgeous, clear expanse of water that mirrors the pines and snow-blanketed Mount Jefferson. It made for great scenery, but whenever Nancy looks at those striking pictures, she sees the beauty, but her main thought is, ‘Oh, that’s where we camped with Sierra!’ Nancy illustrates that changes in scenery do not change one’s priorities.
This expedition was probably Diana’s last big trip with our family, since she left for college four days after we got home. Diana honestly does not care what people think of her, choosing to operate by her own preferences. Reading is Diana’s activity of choice.
She will stay for hours at a time up in her room (The Hermitage), plowing through thick books in a day. As we drove through fascinating areas, like Yellowstone or the Painted Desert, my parents made her look up from her books, but as soon as her interest waned, she dove back in. Often by the time she looked up, the view had long passed.
She would get mildly annoyed, and I would laugh as she was exactly the same on the road as at home. My 13-year old sister Susan’s creative mind is always at work, especially on vacations. On the long trip out West, she was always the one to discover an alternate photographic angle, or an unusual object to draw.
She often decorates cakes at home, and she created one of the highlights at my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. It was an intricate recreation of their original wedding cake, and my grandma was thrilled. Susan used her creative abilities often on vacation.
If the quality of a vacation is measured in the number of pictures taken, ours beat the competition by a mile. We took over 1,200 pictures, and my Dad was the main photographer. As the car slowed, we all groaned, ‘Da-a-a-a-d! Not again! How are these elk different than the last ones?’ He ignored us and leaned out the window to get his picture. To his credit, he got some amazing shots. He’s had enough practice! Dad can take a hundred pictures in a weekend at home; the only thing that changed on the road was the sheer number of events to document.
At home, Mom is a planner. She researches anything that catches her attention, whether it is home schooling curriculum, community events, or upcoming purchases. We could not have gone on vacation without her planning. She booked all the hotel, national park, and camping reservations for a full month of travel. One night we all realized how much we need her; this particular night, we were going to camp in a tent, but a thunderstorm rolled in with 40 mile-an-hour winds as we approached the campground. We agreed to look for a hotel, but we now did not have the benefit of Mom’s advance preparation. Dad drove another two hours before we found a hotel that had room for us and a reasonable price.
That night we realized how valuable Mom’s vacation planning is! What is it about packing a month’s worth of clothes that would change my habits? Which of the 6,600 miles did I think would alter each of us so completely? As it turns out, none of the miles changed us radically. We were as we always are. But as Dad stopped the car yet again to get the ever-elusive ‘perfect picture;’ as Diana fell deeper into her book; as Susan sketched out her latest artistic endeavor to Nancy who chatted about her friends; and as Mom updated us on where we would be staying that night, I realized: I wouldn’t want my family to change, not for all the vacations in the world.
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