Remembering Vacations

I’m not sure when the word ‘vacation’ was replaced by ‘travel,’ or why it needed to be.

Because for 21 years, I took vacations, and they were awesome.

Exhibit A, “Vacation”:

Lauren on vacation
This screams vacation. Tapes, balloons, crayons, a good hair day – what more could a girl want?

Exhibit B, “Travel”:

I don’t know what I’m carrying, but it’s nowhere near as good as cassette tapes.

Most summers we loaded up the van the night before, anticipating a four AM start to the vacation.

“I’m going to stay up all night,” I said.

“Me, too,” my sisters said.

We stayed up until about one AM, fell asleep, couldn’t be roused, and eventually hit the road at eight. But it didn’t matter, because vacation had started. Not only did it mean a breakfast of iced cinnamon rolls at Hardee’s, a special road trip treat, it meant Florida.

Sunshine and sand in St. Augustine, followed by the main attraction: the theme parks of Orlando. On the drive down, my sisters and I discussed what we’d do once we got there.

“I want to go to MGM, Universal Studios, and Magic Kingdom.”

“Well, I want to go to EPCOT and Typhoon Lagoon.” (This was only said one time, because once you’ve been to EPCOT, there is no reason to return.)

“I’m going to ride Jaws, Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Great Thunder Mountain Railroad. Also, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Jungle Cruise.” To this day, I can draw you an accurate map of the Magic Kingdom.

About eight hours in, we’d lose sight of the destination and start lamenting about how we were never going to get there and had to pee so bad.

But all was forgotten when we saw this sign, signalling that we’d arrived:

Magic Kingdom sign
It was a rule that you had to shout THERE IT IS about 100 times in a high-pitched squeal when you saw it.

I know it’s commercial, overcrowded, and overpriced, but here’s the thing: I did not care. The Magic Kingdom was truly magical, and that’s what you want out of a vacation.

Maybe it wasn’t as magical for my parents, who felt the blow of an $80 lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus much more keenly than we did, but I’m sure the glee on our sticky little faces made it all worthwhile.

Those family trips to Orlando had such an impact that I’ve gone back for more, without my family, as an adult. Surprisingly, I’ve probably been to Florida more than any other place in the world, which really boggles my mind.

Exhibit C, “Vacation”:

Singin' in the Rain
Just singin’ in the MGM Studios-generated rain. What a glorious feeling!

Exhibit D, “Travel”:

Sleeper train, India
Doesn’t look like anybody’s singin’ here.

I don’t use the word vacation anymore; everything is ‘travel.’ Technically, that’s correct, but I miss the magic and glamour that comes with calling something a ‘vacation.’ It promises relaxation and freedom, without the pitfalls and challenges of ‘travel.’

Not that I would trade travel for full-time vacations – I think those challenges are what make travel so intriguing and rewarding. But sometimes, it’s nice to just coast for a couple of days; to be full of the excited anticipation that comes with a trip, but without the trace of anxiety that sometimes tags along with travel.

Exhibit E, “Vacation”:

Dumbo in Disney World
To infinity and beyond, Dumbo!

Exhibit F, “Travel”:

Bus on a raft
Does anybody know when the next flying elephant is coming past?

When I took my first solo trip at 22, I swapped ‘vacation’ for ‘travel.’ I think it made me feel more worldly; “going traveling for a year” had purpose, whereas “going on a yearlong vacation” suggests that I checked out of reality.

Which, honestly? Maybe I did. But you won’t hear any regrets from me. I’ve learned that ‘vacation’ and ‘travel,’ thankfully, can be interchangeable. And just as addicting as, say, iced cinnamon rolls from Hardee’s.

Now, who would like a hand-drawn map of the Magic Kingdom?

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  1. Don’t forget about those scary-story audiotapes from Cracker Barrel. That voice still haunts me.

  2. It’s funny, I was just thinking about a similar thing today. I remember getting so excited for vacations before I started traveling long-term, and now I experience a very different kind of excitement before I go somewhere new. Vacations felt like a dream, and I was always counting down how many days I had left before I had to go back to reality and work. My perspective on the thrill of traveling definitely changed once it became part of my everyday life.

    1. It’s sad, isn’t it? I don’t approach travel with the same thrill that I did vacations. I think with vacations, I knew what to expect (or thought I did) so it was safe, whereas travel is full of unknowns – you don’t know quite what’s going to happen. Both good in their own ways.

  3. I feel like I could’ve written this post – I’ve been “traveling” for the last few years and seem to have forgotten what a “vacation” is like. I was actually just talking to my family about planning a vacation to Disney when I get back to the states…that was always our destination of choice when I was growing up ~ couldn’t be more excited!

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