You always said I’d repay you one day – for all the flights, gas money, sandwich lunches, camp sites, museum tickets and stuffed animal souvenirs – “One day,” you’d joke, “You’ll take us on a holiday that you pay for.”
And while I know this looks like a sentimental attempt to (quick!) repay 30 years of travel debt with a Father’s Day blog post, I also know words are cheap and I’ll still owe you $500 for that ticket from Dublin, plus excess for emotional duress that time I spent two weeks in Europe and didn’t ring, once.
Still, it’s a nice gesture, from one (new) parent to another. At last, a show of public appreciation for all the trips you took my brother and me on. It won’t make up for that awkward teen journey to D.C. when I ignored you the whole time, but it’s definitely better than the bar of Toblerone I brought back from Switzerland.
See, Dad, you started us early: at four-months-old, to be precise, shuttling 18 hours south from Dakota to Louisiana, in what would soon be the preferred form of family summer activity (the long-distance road trip).
Every August, you’d strap the luggage rack on the van, plug in the portable fridge, demarcate a safety zone between the back seats and set off for distant mountains or historical monuments.
When openings appeared in the itinerary, you let us plan and chose what to do, where to stop next. And even though you rarely gave in to our demands for fast food and hotel rooms (“I’m sick of sandwiches! I’m sick of trees! I’m sick of the outdoors!”) you balanced nature with luxury, and convinced Mom that a cheeky McDonald’s ice cream cone was OK – because we were on vacation.
I still have all our scrapbooks, where sloppy handwriting and imaginary spellings document with awe our experiences at Disneyland, Calgary’s Olympic Park, Mackinac Island.
I still keep the postcards, ticket stubs and hilarious Mom quotes that no one outside of our family will ever appreciate.
Because I loved those trips, Dad, and now, looking back, I love you for introducing us to the States and proving that 33 hours to the coast is a measurable eternity to be stuck in a van.
For forcing us to eat bologna, for sharing Doritos instead of carrot sticks, for swimming in great lakes and little ponds; for all the destination-themed t-shirts (that I wore tucked into my shorts); the bitten tongue when we’d get lost and you’d struggle not to swear; for creating deer jams at Yellowstone and sharing ciders in Ireland – and yes, even for the overflow campground in British Columbia.
I thank you for every enjoyable, educational, boring, excruciating and confusing moment of all 30 family vacations, because you taught us that travel is normal.
Travel is fun.
Travel is, with ultimate sacrifice and generosity, A GIFT.