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Family travel makes memories for years to come

Dec. 20, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

"Leave sooner, drive slower, live longer." -- Author Unknown

I found myself looking through photos from this past year. Most of these photos were taken during family travel. All, except for one lone trip I took, began by opening the door to one of our vehicles. Each time we unlatched that door, we opened our lives to new possibilities and experiences.

From Red River Gorge, Ky., to Bonnie Bay, Canada; from Hocking Hills, Ohio, to Prince Edward Island; from Shawnee State Lodge to Boone, N.C., our family has certainly spent a great deal of time together in a vehicle.

Pack up our suitcases. Fill the cooler. Load the vehicle. Ensure the camera is with us. Punch in an address into the GPS and away we zoom, creating family memories with each trip.

This is our life trip. It is a way for our family to learn the scope and magnitude of God's handiwork -- our world. And, what a world there is to see beyond the borders of Lawrence County!

Sure, we could spend our money on all the modern gadgets and gizmos available at every shopping point. Absolutely, we could spend our time parked in front of some sort of screen: computer, TV, phone and so forth. Quite possibly, we might choose to go out to eat every night. All of those choices are available to us. Yet, if given the opportunity, we prefer to seek adventure along the highways and byways of open road, scenic views, and unforgettable family moments of discovery.

Madelyn, our daughter, on the onset of each trip, offers up some variation of this saying: "I love it when we first load up the car to travel. I get to snuggle up in my own little world in the back; and, know that something great is about to happen."

Her sense of adventure began at an early age -- with our initial family traveling experiences to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As she grew, so did the length of our trips.

I've always felt like our time together in the car was just as important as the actual trip. When Madelyn was quite young, I never would allow a DVD player in the car. We would spend hours reading, playing games, or taking in the surrounding landscape as we passed through. I cannot tell you the times I lost my voice reading Harry Potter or American Girl books as we made our way down the road. Yet, it is those views from the window that were just as important as the books or the games.

For example, when something is boring, our family now has a running joke about the situation "being as uneventful as driving through Kansas." Likewise, Elvis music makes laugh as we are reminded of the time we were lost in Amish country as our daughter was going through a Lilo and Stitch phase, and listened to the movie's soundtrack of Elvis songs over and over. Then, there was the time she became dehydrated at Chimney Rock, N.C.; therefore, during the heat of summer, we now say, "Let's not have a Chimney Rock moment," when outside. Strong winds reminds of various locations, such as the Rocky Mountains, Grandfather Mountain or Natural Bridge, where we felt as if the wind would blow us away.

In fact, only recently, Madelyn was reading in her Social Studies book and pointed to a picture. "Hey Mom, look at this picture of Spruce Knob! We were on this exact spot. I recognize it because it had that magical forest area that reminded me of the Secret Garden." Traveling is now often the reference point for countless life events.

The quote about leaving sooner and driving slower basically sums up our travel goals. Even after my husband, John, and I pass, we will still live on in Maddie's travel memories. Not that we are egocentric -- it is just comforting to know that our travel experience will remain with her long after our existence. I know this because I traveled with my parents and grandparents. Even when we could not afford to go far, family day trips to Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio, Shawnee State Park in Portsmouth, Ohio, Lake White in Waverly, Ohio and Shelbyville, Ky., still remain with me today. Perhaps I do not remember the fine details now. However, I do recall the positive feeling and the overall image of each place.

It is that feeling that I hope someday our daughter will pass on to her own children. John and I firmly believe that when we travel, not only do we see first hand the beauty God has made, but we also gain insight as we meet people from other areas. Together, we believe it heightens our daughter's desire to want to take care of this world for the children to come as well as recognize that most humans have the same desire: love, acceptance and a peaceful existence.

May we all leave sooner in order to observe. Drive slower in order to gain insight. Then, perhaps, Christmas peace could be realized; and maybe, just maybe, people all over the world might live a little longer and happier.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas with much appreciation for reading my simple writing, week after week.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.