“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The affair is to move,” said Robert Louis Stevenson. Contemplating those thoughts evokes reflections upon the riches provided by travel: the anticipation, the planning, the adventures, the surprises and frustrations, the destinations and the people.
A weekend jaunt to Kings Island. A road trip to Lexington for a University of Kentucky sporting event. A trip to the beach. Any beach. Or even an international excursion. Pouring over travel guides, choosing the sites we want to see and prioritizing them is just the beginning once we select a destination. What time do we need to depart? Where are we going to eat? Do we need to plan out everything or just be spontaneous?
One summer, our family painstakingly planned a two-week visit to the West Coast. We covered every travel logistic prior to our departure: airline tickets, car rental, hotel reservations. We printed out our detailed itinerary, complete with dates and confirmation numbers. That’s why we were surprised when we arrived at our hotel in San Diego, one of our stops, and the receptionist couldn’t find our reservation. Turns out, we had inadvertently gotten ahead of ourselves and arrived a day early. Five travel-weary faces surrounded by our suitcases must have been a pitiful sight in the middle of the lobby that day. Fortunately, the receptionist still had a room for us.
Spontaneity has also played a role in our travels. In 2012, when the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team was playing in the SEC tournament in New Orleans, we found ourselves contemplating a last-minute trip. On one hand, we didn’t have a room. We didn’t have tickets. We would have to drive over 12 hours. Just one way. And then back. For such a short trip. On the other hand, it was Darius’ (Miller’s) senior year. It was the Cats. Big Blue Nation. It was the SEC. Wait! Why were we hesitating?
After a short search, we found a room, booked it, packed up the van and headed to Louisiana. As long as we weren’t sleeping in the vehicle, we could figure out the rest, right? Admittedly, though, that thought caused me a great deal of apprehension, which I unfortunately had many hours to contemplate on the drive down. However, when we arrived at the hotel, that all disappeared. There was an open parking spot in front and an attendant who immediately came to our assistance. Within minutes of checking in, we were able to secure tickets within our set budget. All that was left to do was to catch a few basketball games and to check out NOLA in between.
Preparation and spontaneity both lend themselves to memorable moments when it comes to traveling, as does actually reaching and experiencing the destinations. We’ve enjoyed spending time at zoos, amusement parks, UK games, state parks, national parks and even a few Wonders of the World. Regardless, what’s most important always comes down to not so much where we are but who we’re with and what we’re doing. At the Hoover Dam, we all naturally marvelled over the massive structure and its power. Our three sons, who were elementary and middle-school age at the time, were equally as excited to request a visit to the dam gift shop to look for dam souvenirs, such as dam sunglasses and dam books.
And no amount of planning, preparation or arrival at a destination can prepare us for the people with whom we will cross paths. There’s a vulnerability that comes with travel that can be simultaneously intimidating yet rewarding. Once, in the Bahamas, we found ourselves in need of a ride to church. Not only was Sylvan, our taxi driver, headed to Mass, he was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, dressed in full regalia, and a member of the choir. And because the congregation was celebrating a special occasion in the diocese that day, they were hosting a potluck, to which Sylvan invited us to join.
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” exclaimed a DC Metro attendant who left his booth to assist us when we were struggling to decipher a map of the underground transit system on another trip. We couldn’t have been more appreciative of his attentiveness and compassion. If only he’d been around that evening when we were returning to our hotel and hopped on the subway car headed in the opposite direction of our intended destination.
When we travel, we indeed open up ourselves to unforgettable memories that can be collected no other way. All the aspects of travel enrich our lives in such a way they make me want to immerse myself every opportunity I can.
(Note: Margie Appelman is an English, communications and journalism teacher at Mason County High School and co-founder of the travel blog, Tales from the Trip, which is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She can be reached at [email protected].)