Sara Barthol

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					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

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

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.