A few weeks ago, we took a family trip. It wasn’t a vacation per se, but after months of isolation in Youngstown it felt like one.
The plan was simple: take the backroads to rural Virginia to see Adam’s aunts. We set some rules for our road trip. No indoor dining, masks at all stops and, most importantly, enjoy the ride. It’s not what we’d normally do as a family with four school-age kids. In the summer, they crave waterparks and roller coasters. In 2020, thrill ride conversations are non-starters.
Our trip was relaxing and mostly uneventful. We spent our days swimming on the lake, fishing and kayaking. The evenings were spent picnicking with family, telling stories and letting the kids get to know their relatives a bit better.
The trip scratched the itch to leave our home, but it also got me thinking about where I want to go after all this is over. As we drove down the country roads, I looked out the window and let my mind wander to all the destinations that will be possible when a vaccine permits travel.
It was a nice change of pace. Instead of focusing on the grocery order for next week, I allowed myself to fantasize about a dream vacation.
We usually have a tight budget for travel, and I don’t expect that to change in my lifetime. But when you’re daydreaming, you don’t have to limit the expenses. I thought about seeing the pyramids and running with the bulls. Or maybe, we could go to the land down under and see the other side of the world.
I’m not someone who has a natural wanderlust, but these long months of being confined to one little part of the world has me thinking about all the places I haven’t seen.
I had so much fun dreaming about where I would go, I thought it may be interesting to let Adam and the kids play along and share the results with you. So, when the Earnheardts go on family vacation again, these are the contenders.
When I asked Ella (15) and Kate (13) where they’d want to go, each listed off a bunch of places, some real and some fictitious. It was a mish-mosh that included Hades and Tokyo. I was looking for something different, a more coherent and reasoned nomination, so I told them to take some time to really think about it and then text me their decisions.
Here’s what Kate sent me:
“I want to go to Italy because the country is a wonderful place in general. Although, if I had to pick a specific city, it would be Venice. Despite it not being the capital, it is one of the most amazing cities. St. Mark’s Basilica is there and I think it looks astounding. It’s known for its architecture, its sublime design and details. It’s also a surviving piece of Byzantine architecture. Another thing I would do is take a gondola ride across the Canale Grande. It spans from one side of Venice to the other in an ‘S’ shape. It has only four bridges because most people travel across it, not over it. Of course, while we’re in Italy, we’d get great food. Sarde in saor (marinated sardines) is one of the foods I’d want to try. I’d love to go to Venice when the pandemic ends.”
Kate’s reply was really impressive. I’m proud that she chose something that has a lot of historical importance. That said, I also love the idea of a gondola ride with my second born although I may pass on sarde in saor.
Ella took a different route. She decided to be a smarty pants. The first message we got from her advocated for a trip to Intercourse, Pa. I told her Mahoning Matters is a respectable publication and she needed to do better. Her second choice was Condom, France. Again, not appropriate, even if both are real locations.
After several text messages, she sent the following:
“There are many places I want to visit after the pandemic. One of them is Snake Island, the deadliest place on Earth because of the golden lancehead vipers that live there. Another could be Death Valley, one of the hottest places in the world. I might want to go to the Danakil Desert where there are volcanoes and leaks of toxic gasses. But, the one I want to visit most is the Darvaza gas crater (a.k.a. the Gates of Hell), located in Turkmenistan. It’s the site of a methane gas leak that has been on fire for nearly 50 years. I want to vacation in these areas because they are all places where my hopes and dreams can die. I wish for them to die because in all actuality, I’d rather visit Condom, France or Intercourse, Pa., but my Mom said no to both of these, so here we are.”
Did I mention she’s 15? Ella may be vacationing to these locations alone.
Sadie was very specific in her desire to visit the objects of her new obsession — well, new to her, but quite old and nostalgic to some of us:
"I want to go to Hollywood and see the Muppets Studios. Really, I just want to stay in any hotel that has a big, comfy bed, a big TV, microwave popcorn, and a big pool. This would be a great trip for after the pandemic because the Muppets are epic and they make us all laugh. I think we all need to laugh more. Plus, Mom and Dad used to watch the Muppet Show and those movies when they were kids, so it's kind of like a trip for old people, too. I don't know if I'll get to see the real Miss Piggy or Kermit (the frog), but they're not real anyway, so it's not like I'm asking to see Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande or anyone super famous."
Sadly, it appears there is no “real” Muppet Studios in Hollywood that we can visit and tour, at least not that Adam could find with a quick Google search. He did find the Muppet Studios attraction at Disney World and I think we’d all be on board with a trip to the Magic Kingdom. So, her 10-year-old dream just may come true. I just hope she still loves Meeper when it does.
Ozzie wants to go back to a previous Earnheardt vacation destination: the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. He chose this because it has a waterpark and he wants to see the Falls light up again. While it may seem like a waste of time to pick someplace he’s already been, Ozzie says he likes to relive Earnheardt family history.
“If no one else wants to go to Canada, I’d like to go to Universal Studios again,” Ozzie added. “I need a new Harry Potter wand because I broke mine trying to cast a spell to turn Sadie into a chocolate frog.”
After a lot of options were considered, if money were no object and the kids were well-behaved, Adam and I dream of taking them to an island paradise. We’re not sure it would matter much which island we chose, but it would need to have all the features advertised in the brochures. White sand beaches, blue water, lots of good food and frozen cocktails.
Rather than wonder “when,” we’re encouraging our kids to wonder “what,” as in what we’ll do as a family, what life should include, what adventures await us in the post-pandemic Earnheardt world.
— Mary Beth Earnheardt is a professor in the Anderson Program in Journalism at Youngstown State University where she advises student media. You can follow her on Twitter at @mbexoxo.