Growing up, my small-town, Nebraskan family always had a reputation for traveling. My parents had met in Utah, and their absolute love of the West led us there at the beginning of every summer for at least one week. It had been a blast as a kid; I have more Junior Park Ranger badges than I can count. But once I hit high school, spending time with my family seemed like more of a chore than a vacation.
Last summer, as I pulled into my senior year, I had the best vacation of my life. It hadn’t seemed like it would be any fun; my parents were taking my cell phone, and we were leaving the day after school got out. I would miss all of the beginning-of-summer parties that I was sure would be happening without me. It sounded like more “family bonding time” than I could handle.
I don’t remember exactly when it hit me. I think it was at our first stop in Vedauwoo, Wyoming. We were climbing the beautiful, massive rock formations, and I realized that I really do love my family. My brother had grown out of the awkward stages of puberty, and my parents were supportive and caring. And I only had one year left with them.
From then on, I was never in a bad mood. Every stop was a chance to try something new, and nothing was going to stop me from having a good time. We went from Laramie, Wyoming to the breathtaking JacksonLake in the Grand Tetons. Since we had gone in May, it was too cold to camp, but we wouldn’t let the snow stop us from hiking. Even when we took the wrong trail and ended up walking what seemed to be ten miles in a freezing drizzle, we were laughing as we climbed back into the suburban.
We went from the Tetons to Yellowstone, stopping to ride a giant jackalope at a gas station along the way. We saw a record-breaking number of bear (five!) and saw the geysers, which hadn’t changed much since the year before. My brother and I didn’t have our phones, but we kept ourselves entertained by taking pictures in the backseat and drawing moustaches on our fingers.
We weren’t in chilly Yellowstone long. We ditched the snowy paths for warm, sunny Utah. My father even re-calculated our route so that we could go through Preston, Idaho to see the sites where they filmed Napolean Dynamite. He made sure I drove in every state; it was the first vacation that we had been on where I was equipped with a license. His company had given him gift cards to the fancy, sophisticated Hyatt hotel chain. We stayed there in my hometown of Salt Lake City before heading on down to camp at Moab.
My parents had biked Slick Rock when they were in their twenties, and were under the impression that it would be easy to do it again. When I saw the massive rocks that I was supposed to bike across, I was alarmed and skeptical. Six hours later, I was convinced that my rear end would never be as sore again.
Our energy was wearing thin. We rushed out to see Delicate Arch, made the terrifying drive across a mountain pass into Colorado, and headed home after taking advantage of the fancy robes at our hotel in Beaver Creek. We had packed in as much fun as we could handle. I’ll never forget how rewarding it was to lose the mentality of a hot-stuff teenager who was too cool for her family.
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.