My first trip (that I remember) outside of Michigan was the summer between fourth and fifth grade, when my parents dragged my brother and I on a two-week “vacation” through Pennsylvania and New York in our “beastly blue Buick”. I was about 10 — my brother, 15.
At the time, history was of little interest to me. So, as you could imagine, spending time in libraries, museums and at battlefields (including Gettysburg) was something like torture. Thank goodness my parents thought to pack activity bags for each of us, full of books, card games, a magnetic chess set, seek-n-find and crossword books and things like that. Of course, this was before the times of the walk-man, portable CD player or iPod, so we were all at the mercy of my dad and his control of the car radio.
Our travels took us to small towns with mom-and-pop motels, diners and family-owned restaurants. At the time, I didn’t realize what an impact that trip would have on me. Not just the traveling part, but the time spent watching my parents (my dad primarily) dig through archives at the library, scanning pages on microfilm, taking notes, looking for photos and building our family tree.
I think that trip sparked something in me, as by the time I got to high school I found it fascinating to spend time in the school and local libraries, researching articles for the school paper and writing term papers (which I actually enjoyed doing). From there, it was off to college to major in print and broadcast journalism — again, utilizing the skill I had witness and learned during that early family trip.
Now, even with the internet, I still enjoy walking into the local history room of a library to dig through old copies of newspapers, volumes of historical books and even the occasional clipping on microfilm. Just a few years ago, while on a trip to the Finger Lakes area of New York, I had the chance to do a bit of family tree research the old school way. Equipped with a list of references and “things to find” from my dad, I spent hours searching through community and college libraries, looking for pieces of the puzzle that weren’t available online. Many times throughout those several days, I thought back to that early trip and was thankful for the experiences and memories it left me with.
I’m sure there are photos (slides, actually – if I had to guess) of this trip somewhere. Luckily, however, I have vivid memories in my head. Occasionally, a song comes on the radio that sparks a memory of the trip — or I see a copy of the book “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” (which is one of the books I read on the trip) and I’m reminded of that family vacation.
Over time, the trip becomes more enjoyable to me and even though I don’t remember having fun at the time, thinking back on it brings back a smile. It’s one of only two family trips I remember taking (the first being when I was about age 3, when we went camping in northwest Michigan). Who would have known then — that trips at the age of 3 and 10 would become so integral to my daily life and my business.
Guess there’s a real power in travel, isn’t there? It’s something I’ve tried to instill in my own children — and hopefully, something that will continue to be passed on in our family for generations to come.