This travel story is really two stories in one.
The first is a story of a family taking the American Dream Vacation. The other is a story about self discovery.
My mom, 3 siblings and I took the dream vacation of a life time. We spent 5 weeks tent camping out west, going to 15 national parks. It was a grueling car trip. Five weeks in close quarters with my siblings, 5-7 days between showers, temperatures from 50 to 130 degrees. But we all loved it!
The first park on our agenda was the Natchez Trace in Mississippi. It was here that I became the “educator.” I enjoyed reading all of the history and retelling it in a way my siblings would understand and enjoy. From there we traveled south west through Texas, stopping at the Missions NP. My sister took the role of re-enactor. She brought the history I was teaching to life, getting all of us to step into the past and pretend to be the people we learned about. We then went north to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Here, the “little two” coached us through the endless tunnels of bat infested caverns with their fearless curiosity and athletic stamina. That night, due to a sudden hailstorm, we were unable to see the bats flight.
To our surprise, we woke up the next morning in Bandolier. We realized then what a huge responsibility mom had in our trip being the only driver. She was tired, and we felt we had to take care of her. We never really thought that much about her and what she did for us, but today we did. We knew we wanted to do more to help her with this trip. It was great so far, and none of us wanted it to be any less.
As we toured the park, we decided on different jobs we could do. I took the job of manning the tent. Katie took navigating and travel planning, Greg took campfire starting and general helper, Carolynn, the youngest at seven, took cook. (She did a great job too!) Our next stop was in Colorado to see Mesa Verde NP. We put our plan into action! Mom was freed up just enough to really enjoy the trip right along with us. We were on to something wonderful and we all knew it! Our next stop at the Grand Canyon was delayed due to car troubles. What we thought would be an overnight delay stuck in a hotel turned out to be a grand adventure in Arizona. Katie planned and mom rented a car. Then off we went to tour a state we thought we would only see from the northern boarder. The Saguaro NP turned out to be one of our favorites. After peering over the Mexican boarder, our travels continued again through Nevada and Utah up into Idaho before turning back east to Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Kentucky, the Virginias and home. We continued our newly chosen family responsibilities. Sure, we argued. But we learned to respect each other and be proud of being responsible.
We changed. We bonded and cared for each other. Our goal was to help our mother, but we helped ourselves. We no longer fought each other for mom’s attention and love. We stopped arguing about who she loved more. We finally understood why she said she loves us all equally for different reasons.
To learn more about any and all of the national parks, Please visit http://www.nps.gov/parks.html . To learn more about yourself and your family, take the American Dream Vacation.
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