Grand Canyon, Appalachian Trail, Guatemala, California. These are just some of the travel destinations my classmates discuss before vacation. I feel like a total outsider around my confident friends—who hardly realize how lucky they are to travel the U.S and the world. I’ve always dreamed of going anywhere away from the East coast. My family doesn’t have enough money to travel much though, and my sister is a picky eater. My favorite travel story to tell is about going into a Broadway show in the front row. Inside though, I know that my travel career sucks and that my family trips won’t ever be as good as those of my classmates.
2010 spring break changed the way I think about travel. For years, my sister, mom, and I have been attempting to drag my grandparents to Biltmore. When we first visited the largest privately-owned home in our nation, I felt proud (for once) to live in North Carolina. My sister and I instinctively knew that our grandparents had to see the history there. Mr. Vanderbilt built the house on barren hills, which he repopulated with trees and gardens. The landscaping alone is a feat of design, but the house is literally breathtaking. When you wind around the last turn, you see a castle looming in front of you—blue peaks behind it like a postcard.
With my sister’s puppy eyes and my logical arguments, we finally cajoled both of our grandparents into traveling to Biltmore with us for spring break. None of my classmates were impressed to hear about my less than exciting travel destination, so when the car ride began, my hopes for a good time already felt dashed. Since I was feeling introverted and disappointed about the trip, I decided to study my AP World History Flashcards. “Madison, why don’t you quiz me on some of those cards?”
“Ummm, ok Gramp, if you say so,” I replied unenthusiastically. Two hours later, I had seen the comical, laughing side to my family as they tried to recite facts and dates about events and people around the world. Needless to say, their attempts were laughable, and we bonded over that laughter. Things only improved as we reached Ashville. Looking over the hotel menu, I suggested Ichiban just to put our family in a situation where hamburgers and sandwiches were foreign foods. “Itchy-buns?” my sister questioned. “Itchy-buns, itchy-buns, we’re going to itchy-buns!” It was good to hear everyone join in her infectious laughter, doubled over or lying on the bed. We discovered each other at Biltmore house as well. I never knew how interested my mom was in the intricate design work of the building, and my grandmother actually went a whole day without become frustrated or angry. I spent an afternoon with her taking pictures of the beautiful tulips while she kept people out of my way. Even my grandfather enjoyed looking at the architecture of the place, critiquing things, but mostly marveling at the intricate woodwork, stonework, and thousands of books.
Maybe my trips aren’t as exotic as those of my classmates, and maybe I can’t drive to go on retreats alone. My trip to Biltmore house made me realize that location is only half of a vacation; the other 50% is bonding with family. Although it sounds cheesy to say, my family was really able to grow stronger relationships by spending hours together in a small Toyota Camry and touring the largest privately-owned residence in the nation. Biltmore house proved to be a life-changing experience for me and my family, even though it’s only 200 miles away.
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