For most people, vacation is a chance to escape daily life, to see beautiful mountain ranges or cityscapes, to try something new. It’s all about discovery.
For most people, vacation is a chance to escape daily life, to see beautiful mountain ranges or cityscapes, to try something new. It’s all about discovery. For that reason, all of my plane or car rides have been spent with my nose pressed to the window, watching the world pass by. I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled a lot in my seventeen years, and I’ve discovered some amazing things: red mountains in Sedona, verdant rolling hills in rural Virginia, breathtaking sunsets in Key West… But none of those trips can compare to the discoveries I made in Chicago during my junior year of high school.
That trip remains a unique memory in my mind for so many reasons. It was my first real journey without my family. Instead, I was traveling halfway across the country with three other kids from my youth group—Hans, Zach, Sarah—and two chaperones, George and Rochelle. They were people I’d known for a while, but I’d never really known them very well. George, our youth pastor, had picked the four of us to attend a Christian conference called Dare to Share. We gathered in the church parking lot at three in the morning so we could get to the Boston airport on time.
With my nose pressed to the window as the plane ascended, I watched the sun rising pink and orange over Boston harbor. It was beautiful. But then my attention turned inward, to the kids next to me. While our youth pastor slept, we kids played cards and laughed at the ridiculous things in SkyMall magazines.
When we arrived in Chicago, we spent several hours exploring the city. We discovered the giant reflective ‘bean’ in Millennium Park and incredible architecture that made us all crane our necks in wonder. Finally, we decided, it was time for a nap, so we drove off in our big blue van to find our hotel. Our directions from Mapquest promised a twenty minute drive before we could sleep.
Two hours later, we’d passed the ‘To Wisconsin’ sign for the third time, and were definitely lost. But surprisingly, that car ride wasn’t miserable. If I’d been with anyone else, those long hours would have been spent peering out the window, reading signs and watching the tall buildings pass. Instead, we made jokes about suing Mapquest and preprogrammed the rental van’s radio to Christian stations. We listened to Zach tell us about his cheese-manufacturing uncle in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He, Sarah, and Hans debated the fine points of running track, and we all pitched in with enthusiastic, often ridiculous ideas for church fundraisers.
We’d had a bag of muffins that morning and by that time, only crumbs were left. So the clever guys squished them back together in the cup holder and called it a car muffin. We sang along with the radio and made bets about how many U-turns we were going to take before we finally found the hotel. After two and a half hours, we finally collapsed on the beds of our hotel rooms for a much shorter nap before the conference.
It may seem strange to have spent an entire essay discussing what would seem to be mishaps in our travel. But, although we learned a lot at the conference, and saw some amazing things in the city, the real discovery took place in the in-betweens of that trip. During the plane ride and on that endless drive, the adventure was getting to know each other. We learned and laughed and loved despite less-than-perfect circumstances. We discovered friendship.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.