This post is part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge, “a weekly community blogging effort in which travelers from around the world share their stories.” There is a new prompt each week and this week it’s Family Travel.
My family traveled a lot when I was growing up. No, my father wasn’t in the military, nor did he have some fancy job that whisked him away (with us in tow) to exotic locales. The reality is we never once left North America, but we were always going somewhere…
That’s what happens when your younger brother is five years old and joins a travel ice hockey league. My brother, Frankie, is almost six years my junior; we have a sister, Felicia, who is right in the middle of us, age-wise. So if Frankie had hockey practice or a game, we all were going. Over the years, my parents’ cars logged more miles on the interstate systems of northern Illinois than some long-haul trucks. My siblings and I learned how to read, study, and do our homework in the darkness of our car’s backseat.
By the time my brother was eight, we were taking regular road trips to out-of-town youth hockey tournaments: Detroit; Grand Rapids; Indianapolis; St. Louis; Beloit. Not all of our time in these places was spent inside hockey rinks. The teams usually had one game per day (we’re talking a four-day tournament), sometimes two as teams advanced closer to the championship rounds. So when Frankie’s team wasn’t playing, our family went out to explore. Our time (and funds – hockey is an expensive sport) was limited on these short jaunts, but my parents did their best to make the most of it, for our sake.
The real fun began when my brother was maybe ten or eleven and he began attending a summer hockey camp in Ontario, Canada. My parents didn’t just pack up my brother and his gear and send him off, no sir. We packed up our family car (we had graduated to a minivan by this point) and headed north of the border. We made a family vacation out of it a few summers in a row. While my brother was skating and training for hours each day, the rest of us were taking in the local scene or visiting nearby towns.
These weekend trips and Canadian summer holidays may not seem all that exciting or extraordinary to most people, but I wouldn’t trade them in for the world. My whole family was together during these trips. We made memories that I still recall, fondly, more than twenty years later. Travel is enriching, yes, but even more so when the experiences are shared with those you hold most dear. I know it didn’t matter where we were going, as long as we all were together.