Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A Year of Living Frugally-The Staycation Vacation
I think the best times that I remember, growing up, were our family vacations. Keep in mind, my parents were rich in children, not in money. They would pile all the kids in the station wagon, and head off to exotic places, like South Dakota, or Missouri, or Colorado. We traveled with an ice chest sloshing around in the back of the car, and it was always full of drinks and food to see us through several days. When it was time to eat, we'd stop at a rest area and my mom would make up peanut butter or lunch meat sandwiches for us. We always camped-for six days out of seven. The last night of vacation, IF we were good, we would get to stay in a Motel 6 with a pool! My parents held that pool over our heads for the entire vacation, to keep us in line. We dreamed of that motel pool like it was an oasis in the Sahara Desert. Pure nirvana.
Nothing says togetherness like seven people sharing a tent, after being in the same car all day long. This was way before the electronics age. We had no DVD players, no cell phones, no iPods, no internet. Our car had an AM radio, which didn't even work half the time. We entertained ourselves on the long drives by playing the usual car games and singing. I think our family theme song was "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." The evening entertainment was sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and telling stories and jokes. During the day we would drive around, and check out every free attraction there was, in whatever area we were in. I can honestly say, I've been to every free museum in the Midwest. I've seen miraculous things, like the world's largest ball of twine, two headed taxidermy animals, Indian relics, and giant fake dinosaurs. To me, the vacations weren't so much about the place we were going to, but concentrated family time. For all of us kids to have our parents undivided attention for an entire week was heaven- and sometimes hell. But mostly, it was pretty awesome.
Not that these vacations were all fun and games.Sometimes it seemed like disaster followed us like a lost dog. We chronically had issues with the wildlife on these trips. Once, a skunk got into our tent, and we ended up having to sleep in the station wagon. Then there was the time my mother got trapped in an outhouse by a bear. Another time, our campsite was attacked by a crazy squirrel that kept pelting us with acorns. This squirrel had a particular hate for my sister Vicki, she got pelted so many times she refused to come out of the tent. We were once trapped on a mountain road for hours when a herd of buffalo surrounded our car, and wouldn't budge. We lost a brand new fishing pole, to a particularly determined trout, one time. Another time our campground was flooded and we had to spend the night sleeping on top of washers and dryers in a laundry mat. Last, but not least, was the time the luggage rack on top of our car, came loose, and all our clothes were scattered down a 10 mile stretch of interstate. You do not know internal struggle until you have had to decide if your favorite pair of jeans is worth rappelling down a 100 foot ravine. At the very least, these vacations taught us resilience and how to work together. They definitely taught us how to laugh at the obstacles life throws at us.
I know that these trips weren't all completely glorious, and I'm sure that we had lots of backseat arguments and I do recall my mother threatening us all with death, on more than one occasion, if we didn't behave. We didn't get to stay in fancy hotels, or eat at 5 star restaurants, but we had fun. The money wasn't important, being together was. I try to keep that in mind when we are planning our little vacations and staycations now. It isn't how much money we spend, but the people-or person, we spend the time with, that matters the most.