While we sailed across the vast Chesapeake Bay in Maryland on our family sailboat, a sleek racing boat sped past us leaving nothing but disturbed waves. Seeing this, I turned to my parents and asked ‘Don’t you guys ever feel bad when other boats pass you by?’ My Mom quickly answered saying that, when traveling, it’s not where you’re going necessarily but what you do along the way that makes the journey meaningful. I clearly remember that conversation, even though I did not quite fully comprehend what she meant until many years later.
The family ethic that was built from years together sailing became crucial later in life when our family faced a crisis.In May of 2006, my father died of Stage 4 Melanoma. Soon after that, my mom, sister and I decided that we would plan a family Christmas trip to ski in Colorado. This was a very significant step for us because it would not only help us through great sadness during the holidays, but it would also prove that life would go on, that we could go on big trips together as a family and that we could still enjoy each other despite our loss.The day before our flight, snow closed the Denver Airport.
We would still be able to fly to Chicago, but the connection for our flight from Chicago to Denver was cancelled and could not be rescheduled until after our Christmas break would have ended. We only had hours to figure out a new plan or stay home for Christmas.Our family had already had so much taken from it that we could not easily surrender to this fate. While my mother waited in long lines at the airport hoping for a miracle, I got online and started researching the route and road conditions from Chicago to Denver.
My sister followed suite and began researching East Coast ski resorts that we could drive to if our dream of going to Vail ended up being out of our reach.When my mom came home, our family gathered in the office, and we looked at all the options that my sister and I had found. Mom explained that, if we were to follow our dream to ski in Vail, we would have to drive 1,100 miles to Colorado from Chicago, and she warned us that such a drive was an aggressive plan that would require total teamwork from my sister and me.We decided as a family that we were going for our dream, and we would not let adversity stop us from enjoying the journey. We flew to Chicago, and mom drove the 18 hours straight to Denver.
My sister and I took turns keeping Mom entertained, rubbing her back, and motivating her with our thoughts and ideas. While one of us would sleep, the other would stay awake with Mom, and we used that time to have some very heartfelt discussions about our life. When we were 3 hours from our destination, and Mom thought she could not go anymore, we reminded her that 3 hours was only a one-way trip to the place we ski each weekend.
That mental image, and a Red Bull energy drink, helped her complete the drive. We reached Vail at around 4 am and put our hotel beds to good use promptly. We woke up and went skiing the next day, not missing any time at all from our plans.
During the course of the week, my family enjoyed the best skiing we had ever experienced. We met some friends and really got to know and appreciate each family member on a new level.Christmas came, and my mother, sister, and I shared a solemn morning. We still missed our dad, but we knew that if we could make it through this journey, that we would be okay.
By the end of the week in Vail, we were all exhausted from our skiing and the emotions of Christmas week. We knew it was time to go when we were starting to use the hotel hot tub several times each day for our sore muscles, but we also knew that we were going home as a stronger, closer and more self-confident family than if we had simply sat on an airplane for four hours.Throughout the lengthy 18 hour drive, each of us was more concerned about if we were enjoying the adventure than worrying about the potential problems that we could face during the drive. We were adamant that we would reach Vail, but we all knew that even if we didn’t, we would have pride and dignity as a family that we did not give up easily.
Our family has gone through many trials and tribulations in the past year, but the trip to Vail was the beginning of our healing as a family.Now, at age 17, when I see those sleek racing boats overtake us and breeze by, it reminds me of what an incredible journey life can be. When I think back to our Christmas vacation to Vail, Colorado, it wasn’t about if we were going to reach it to the resort, it was about the meaning of the journey. If you support your family, trust each other, and take the time and planning necessary to make intelligent choices, all obstacles can be overcome, and regardless of where you end up, you will always enjoy getting there.