“Getting there is half the fun” is a phrase that my brother and I quote whenever possible.
Every August in the week leading up to our annual family trip, he and I spend time stocking our bags with books (me), electronic devices (him), and lots of food (both of us — one family can never have enough chocolate-covered doughnuts!. The night before we leave, we take our bags out to the minivan and load up our luggage, arranging everything “just so” for ultimate comfort the next day. A sleepless night is spent in eager anticipation of a 5am wakeup call — and off we go. We travel 12 hours the next day, a day that is spent in happy, peaceful chatter as we let go of the worries and responsibilities of home in favor of the relaxation of a beachside vacation.
When I was six years old, we began a family tradition that I doubt anyone knew would last a decade, and counting. Each year, a large portion of our family — my grandma, mom, aunt, brother, cousins, and I — converge on a little-known island in North Carolina for a week of beach going, game playing, and seafood eating. This period of family togetherness that encompasses three generations of “Wilt women” (plus my brother) has helped us to bond as a group, and it is an experience that helps ground me as I anticipate heading off to college next year. Whenever life seems overwhelming, between senior-year activities, college applications, and AP test preparations, I look back on my six-year-old self, exuberant about her first visit to the ocean. I remember with perfect detail how she ran across the boardwalk separating the beach from the resort, how she paused at the top of the stairs and got her first glimpse of the water — that moment, to her, was perfect. I look to her for inspiration — she embodied exuberance and joy, and those are traits that I hope to continuously carry with me throughout life.
Many things happened over the years, on those trips that I will remember forever. My cousins each made their respective inaugural beach visits at only a few months of age. My brother and I learned how to body board. My grandma saw a baby shark get caught in a fisher’s line. However significant or exciting these occurrences are, it is the smaller events that truly define our family’s vacation dynamics. We still mention the time Aunt Leslie spilled melted butter all over her shirt at the seafood restaurant. Who could forget The Monopoly Game, where my brother and I mercilessly bargained and coerced our opponents into selling away their properties for almost nothing? How about the yearly “night walks” when all eight of us venture with flashlights onto the beach after dark to explore the flotsam, and how everyone always laughs when I, invariably, almost step on a crab? These shared experiences help to unite our family and keep us close as our lives change.
Life, in essence, is uncertain. This is a fact that I am finally coming to grips with as my high school years draw to a close. However, I know there is something that I can always count upon, the one week of the year that is, in fact, a certainty. I know that, no matter where I go to college, what I do in life, or where I live, I can always come back to the island in North Carolina with my family. This time with the people closest to me is reassuring and stabilizing, and will remain so for the years to come.
Indeed, the same motto that my brother and I relate to our vacations can be applied to life: “half the fun” of life is not the end, but the journey that takes you there. However, where there is one half, another half exists. In this analogy, the rest of the fun occurs when you arrive at your destination, when you become self-actualized and are relieved of troubles and cares. The end of any trip has a destination, be it a vacation, a college degree, or a life well lived. Although getting there is enjoyable, the destination itself is important — a time to relax, to reflect upon accomplishments, or simply to rule at monopoly.
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