The biggest mistake that families make when planning their vacations is operating under the assumption that everything will go perfectly. Despite past experiences, we refuse to imagine our flights getting delayed, or a child coming down with a sore throat the day of departure. Life never seems to go as planned, and this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead of seeing these afflictions as part of the adventure, we limit ourselves by longing for the vacation that we expected, rather than the vacation that we have. I’ve learned that it is often these unexpected things that make a vacation truly memorable and lead to the most spectacular experiences.
We were on a road trip of the American Southwest, traveling from Las Vegas Nevada, to Monument Valley, Utah, to Los Angeles, California. In between, we visited destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, and even attempted to find the notorious “Area 51”—the idea of my Sci-Fi obsessed father. The days passed fabulously and without a hitch. We followed our itinerary, saw the sights, and were on our way the next day. Of course, life intervened.
We had been driving for hours before I even noticed the startling rock formations that surrounded us in monument valley. Squinting out into the glare of the late-afternoon sun over the desert, I attempted to quantify our distance from the orange-red rocks. Soon, however, night began to fall and I gave up my staring contest with the sedentary creations. When we stopped for the night, there was nothing to be seen. The formations had long ago faded into the inky darkness. Exhausted, we found a cold hotel room to battle the incessant desert heat and immediately went to sleep.
I awoke before the sun had even begun to turn the sky to a dull grey. My head throbbed and I was immediately grumpy. I awoke my father.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked sympathetically.
I nodded unhappily and lay back down. Feeling ill is never an enjoyable experience, but on vacation the feelings of disappointment and irrational irritation with the world are amplified.
I heard my father go outside onto the balcony. After several minutes of silence, curiosity got the better of me. I quietly slipped outside to join him.
The first thing that I noticed was the incredible silence. Despite the vastness of the landscape that lay before us, it was as noiseless as snow falling. Directly above us, the sky had lightened to a soft gray. The rising sun dramatically lit the orange-red rock formations of the valley, casting long shadows across the sparse desert. They glowed with fierce energy that appeared to come from inside. Blue and gray clouds dotted the sky behind them, creating a stark contrast between the sleepiness of the sky and the energy of the landscape. In the distance, rain fell in streaks.
We stood silently in awe, watching the landscape change with each passing moment. As the sun rose, a rainbow faded into consciousness. The colors strengthened as the desert began to warm again.
Vacations are never what you would expect them to be. Sometimes, the events that occur are even opposite of what you hoped for. However, this trip taught me that life is most beautiful when it’s unpredictable. If not for my sleeplessness, I would never have witnessed the unusual beauty of morning in Monument Valley. It is my belief that this is the reason bad things that happen on vacation. The broken down car, and the missing suitcases shouldn’t be taken as a burden. They’re simply an opportunity for the unexpected to occur.
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