Our family spends a considerable amount of money on travel. We also make it a huge priority in our lives, which has been challenging as a military family but certainly not something we’ve ever regretted. In order to travel more often, we save our money in other ways: we drive older cars, purchase gently used clothing, and own mostly hand-me-down furnishings.
As a kid, we also traveled frequently. My parents had to scrimp and save every penny in order to do so, but travel was a priority. We never had designer clothes, we owned cars until they literally just fell apart, and were garage sale groupies on the weekend. We didn’t have extra things, but we got to go places. Sure, I hated not having Guess jeans as a teenager, but as an adult that slight embarrassment is over-shadowed by all of the memories and experiences our family had together.
Kids, I believe, may want “things” in the here and now, but what they really desire are experiences with family. Oh believe me, I vividly remember that we were crammed into the old green Toyota with a cooler full of half-frozen potted meat and cheese sandwiches at our feet. We slept in a tent and didn’t have much money for souvenirs or treats… but we went to Disney World quite a bit. The memories I have from the most Magical Place on Earth can not be replaced. It feels like home. I long to visit whenever we are able and create similar memories with my girls.
We also traveled out west several times and would travel to Pennsylvania frequently to visit grandparents. If I close my eyes I can still smell the sticky sweetness of boysenberry jelly and rolling tobacco from Gram and Pap’s kitchen on Howard Street in Bellefonte.
But travel, for us, is more than just the experience and the memory. It has become an essential part of our mental health. Military life has been rough in many ways. Escaping the stressors of it all by visiting a new place, learning about a different culture, or seeing a place of beauty that is on our bucket list energizes our spirit, allows us the chance to reconnect as a family, and brings us back to what is really the most important.
This spring break, we visited the Grand Canyon, a place that I encourage every single American to visit. It is simply breathtaking. Sitting, eating a packed lunch, while we viewed yet another piece of this amazing wonder after a long hike… brought me a peace that I had been missing. For four days we just enjoyed the majesty of the canyon: walking, talking, taking pictures, eating outdoors… re-energizing our spirits. Re-connecting as a family.
I long to return some day.