Sara Barthol Creative Non-fiction Essay #2 – fifth revision Experiencing the World Through Travel Kids Enter the Picture My mom always loved to travel. She went to Europe on a backpacking trip with her best friend after college. She spent over a month traveling from city to city with her rail pass and even had an accidental adventure or two with police in countries where she didn’t know the language. Despite the occasional mishap, she was hooked on traveling. My dad, however, had never left the Lehigh Valley. When they got married, they didn’t have much money for travel and then they started a family. By the time I was old enough to travel, my brother was born and having to travel with a child who couldn’t walk on their own was something my parents wanted to avoid. However, once my brother could walk, we made it a point to take an annual vacation. Since the time my brother was in pre-school, we’ve traveled the length of the east coast, driven through the northern Great Plains, touched to the eastern edge of Nevada and even skirted along the south. Now on our own, my brother and I have gone even farther and have not only traveled on our own within the country, but have also gone to Canada, Central Europe, Spain, England and Russia. Mystic Seaport, Connecticut – Let the Travel Begin I was around six and my brother was a toddler. Mystic Seaport was our first trip outside eastern and central Pennsylvania. We’d visited zoos and wildlife preserves, but this was our first vacation where we had to reserve a hotel room. All of our trips were made by car. My dad drove and mom was the navigator, even though she often pointed in a different direction from the one she said. Our main attraction was an aquarium, the name of which I’ve long forgotten. We did some other typical family vacation things, but the fleeting memory of the acrobatics of the dolphins at the aquarium has stayed with me. It was my first dolphin show. We sat towards the very top of the dingy, dimly lit indoor arena and watched dolphins jumping in and out of the pool as the trainers commanded. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see well because of the distance from the animals, which felt like miles to a six year old, and some large columns that held up the roof. The distance and line of sight obstacles didn’t bother me. Even though the sleek mammals were only small gray tumbling arcs, I was still mesmerized by them. As my parents and I bunked down for the night, my little brother gathered his toys, packed his backpack and stood in front of the door repeating, “Mommy. Daddy. We go home now. Go home to sleep.” My parents thought it was funny, but after a while we all fell asleep even though my brother was still packed to go home. When I woke up, he was curled up on the floor between the two beds in the room. Ocean City, Maryland – Default Fun Ocean City, Maryland became our most visited place. The beach was great for my parents because not only did it let them go somewhere to relax, but also because my brother and I could be easily entertained with playing in the water, boogie boarding, collecting shells and building sandcastles while they lounged on the beach or waded in the water. We were always prepared with the latest plastic shovels and castle shaped buckets to build the best castle on the beach. We never succeeded and our castles were always washed away by the incoming tide. We usually went to the beach in July or August. Since those were the-kids-are-out-let’s-vacation months, the beaches had already been scoured by the first wave of summer tourists for the best shells washed ashore during the winter. I would come home with a few pretty looking pieces of mollusk shells. When I was eleven or twelve, we once stayed on the sixth floor in the Holiday Inn along the boardwalk. We were high enough to have a beautiful view of the people by the ocean and the boats on the horizon. Part of our daily routine was to get into our bathing suits before noon and get greased up with my mom’s favorite cheap SPF 40 sun block. Once I declared myself sufficiently slimy, I went to our room’s balcony and sat in my neon colored bathing suit and pink plastic John Lennon styled glasses to watch the surf as my parents prepared for the day. A lone surfer was trying to ride the tiny waves and I didn’t notice my ugly pink glasses before I could react quick enough to catch them before they slipped off my face and fell to the sidewalk six floors below. While my dad went down to look for them, I sat in tears on a bed in our room thinking that I’d ruined the vacation by forcing us to go home early. Thankfully, my dad was easily able to fix the glasses with some crazy glue we bought at a small convenient store near the hotel. This situation among others taught me to worry less and just enjoy being on vacation. Hell in Hershey Not all of our trips were happy ones. Once, we took a vacation to Hershey to see the chocolate factory and Hershey Park. We trekked out to a small hotel in Hershey in our tiny white Geo Metro because the Dodge Ares was in the shop. However, none of us in my family is built small. As my mom says, “we’re good Polish, German peasant stock,” so it took some ingenuity for my dad to fit us and enough stuff into the car for a week long vacation. We never made it into Hershey Park because it was closed for pre-season repairs, so we narrowed down our activities to the chocolate factory, Hershey Gardens and a historical Trolley Tour. I was disappointed because going to Hershey Park was the part of the trip I looked forward to the most. While we were on a guided tour of the chocolate factory, my brother and I begged our parents for some authentic Hershey chocolate, but they refused. The next day we were headed to the Hershey Gardens, but we never made it. While we were getting ready, my brother threw a temper tantrum, probably about not getting chocolate the day before. He stormed out of the hotel room and threatened to run away. Furious, my dad’s voice dropped about an octave as he roared for my brother to get back in the room. Until then, traveling with my family was typically a peaceful activity, but seeing the vacation ruined made me realize that even a happy activity can be easily ruined. We checked out of the hotel two days early, threw our things into the car and left. Our things weren’t packed into the car as well on the way home and instead of sightseeing; we stopped by the graveyard where my mom’s parents were buried. Oldies but Goodies There are always trips that every family feels they need to take. The major one is typically going to Disney and Universal Studios in Florida. We went there twice, each time staying in a different hotel. The first year we stayed in the Polynesian Resort. On certain nights of the week they had luaus and other Hawaiian activities. The second year, we stayed in a resort that I can’t remember the name of, but it met our requirements of having a large pool. So much for mandatory vacations! Wandering Westward My favorite family vacations were our self-designed cross-country tours. The first year we made one of these trips, we didn’t have any specific plans other than a bunch of maps with our path highlighted in yellow. My mom, being a fairly detail oriented person, brought a large tote bag filled with Triple A brochures and guidebooks. She made sure to have every interesting little side trip marked. Even with our planned highway path, we didn’t necessarily follow it. Instead, we’d take detours several hours out of the way just to visit an interesting place. This was what allowed us to spend the last hour wandering a small portion of the Mall of America in Minnesota before it closed for the day. We also didn’t book hotels ahead of time because we didn’t know where we’d be and when we’d be there. We were at the dawn of the cell phone age, and my parents like so many Americans who enjoy their tech gadgets made sure we had a phone in the car. As soon as we picked up reception, my mom would call hotels in the town we were stopping. Not knowing where we were staying or how far we’d be able to travel in a day added to the excitement and adventure of the trip. We often stayed up staying in “roach motels” because the Holiday Inns or Days Inns were booked. One time, as we pulled into one particular hotel and walked in the doors, the fire alarm went off. We waited for a moment to see if anyone was going to investigate, but it didn’t seem like anyone cared. The party going on in the conference room near the lobby raged on despite the alarm. We decided the motel was too creepy after all and left in search of another one. The second year we traveled west, we set aside three weeks to visit Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Craters of the Moon National Park, a partly finished archeological dig and a petrified forest. Since Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are huge tourist spots, we had to break our tradition and make hotel reservations nearly a year ahead of time, but those were the only reservations WE made before we left. We looked at those as final destinations, but the time between was left to explore whatever we wanted. Beyond the Borders The second trip westward marked the last of our family vacations. My brother and I were older now, and this marked the start of our adventures traveling abroad. Between 10th and 12th grades, I took three trips across the Atlantic – two to Europe and one to Russia. We couldn’t really afford them, but my mom was determined to let my brother and me have the same chance she had to travel outside the country when she was a college student. The trip to Russia was a three week exchange trip that left me more appreciative of American life, but envious of the quality of Russian grade schools. The two trips to Europe were on a performance-based tour that hit Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France. These trips provided me with a taste of independence. We had a set schedule and times to meet at the tour busses, but other than that we were on our own to explore each down we stopped in. My brother went on the same trip to Europe; Additionally, he was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Canada with his high school French class, and then to Spain and England with his best friend and his friend’s mother. Now that I’m in college, I appreciate the need to get away even more than I did before. Road trips with friends became my vacations. I can’t afford to travel much right now, but I still make sure I take an occasional trip to the beach. You might say, I’ve come full circle.