When I was a kid my family didn’t exactly vacation. Before we moved to Kentucky when I was 10, “going to Kentucky” to see my parents’ family was our big trip each year. Fast forward to my college years. My parents had moved on up and now vacationed at Myrtle Beach, pretty much every year. Then they moved to Caribbean cruises and on to Central America resort vacations. So I never really thought I picked up my travel bug from them, because in my trip-o-meter, cruises and resorts don’t rank anywhere near backpacking through Europe. Snotty brat, aren’t I?
However, my dad is off this week on his annual bike trip out West. Every year since 2001 he and a varying set of buddies and/or family have set out for Colorado and points near and far on their Honda Goldwings. They avoid interstates as much as possible, stay in cheap divey motels, and from what I can tell have the time of their lives. This I call travel. I understand the allure of the motorcycle better now that I’ve watched The Long Way Round half a dozen times, and if I were less the type that requires pillow-top mattresses and white noise to sleep I think it would be a blast to join them. Each year my dad visits my nephew in Colorado Springs then they take a different route home, sometimes the very long way around. They’ve gone to the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore, two places I’ve never seen despite having been to 46 states myself. My dad has a big laminated U.S. map in his garage with a growing profusion of marker-drawn routes illustrating the trips. What fun to set off, mp3 player loaded with road songs, thousands of miles ahead waiting to be devoured by the big roaring motorcycle.
This is travel spirit I can understand. This is travel spirit I may, just possibly, have inherited. Mine just bloomed earlier in my life. It’s time for me to stop being snotty about the superiority of independent foreign travel. I took my first trip to Europe when I was 25. When my dad was 25 he had two kids and labored as a carpenter. My mom hadn’t yet returned to school to finish her high school diploma (and earn the highest GED score in the history of the county) and go on to college. He hadn’t yet launched a home-building business that would come to be the finest in the area. The thought of gallivanting off to Europe for 25 days was not only laughable; it was just not remotely part of their consciousness.
I’m glad to hear his excitement about leaving for his trips now. I love the stories when he comes back. I’m glad he and my mom are in a position to travel now. And if that means a resort in Belize – well, it’s not my cup of Earl Grey tea with scone and clotted cream – but that fiery yearning to set out on the open road to unknown destinations must have come from somewhere. And as my dad is rolling down the road somewhere in Colorado today and my mom sets off on a flight to join him, I’m inclined to think the spark started with them.