When I was a kid, for part of the time at least, I grew up in an affluent area. Every Spring Break all of my friends left to ski in Vail, or beach in the Bahamas. We never did that. We weren’t Spring Breakers. Then in the summer, my friends were off to Hawaii or St. Thomas or wherever…but not us.
We did take vacations. I like to say I’ve been to every canyon in the Southwest. A lot of times, we went to where we could drive. One of my families had this beige Isuzu Trooper. We took it camping a lot. My other family was the same. Where could we camp? But it was never international. I’ve never been to Europe, or the far East or Australia.
I had family in Virginia and Maryland. My parents took me to Washington D.C. more than once. I have visited all of the monuments there. I’ve seen the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian. I remember riding in the backseat of a rent car with my Walkman listening to Madonna sing Borderline. I remember eating Senate Bean Soup. I remember eating overly salted green beans at a sidewalk cafe on a street in DC. I remember driving to Monticello, and listening to the tour guide explain all of the “modern” appointments there.
I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon…and I hate canyons. Because I’m afraid of heights and you kind of have to stand at the edge of a canyon and look down into it to appreciate it. But I’ve also stood on the riverbanks and valleys below and loved the beauty.
I’ve been to Mesa Verde and Carlsbad and Chaco and other ancient Anasazi sites, worried about Hanna virus. I’ve been in pueblos, cliff dwellings, and teepees. I’ve been to the Ozarks and the Rockies. I’ve been hung out over a canyon off a train car. I’ve rafted the Rio Grande through Santa Elena canyon over rapids and I’ve watched a goat drink beer from a bottle by himself in Lajitas. Been to Big Bend more times than I can count.
Once, my dad made me shimmy my way across his body over a chasm between two rocks at Enchanted Rock. Once, I rolled down a hill of blind cactus at twilight in sweatpants. I don’t recommend it.
I’ve crossed the border at Matomoros and eaten at a taqueria where I thought the picture on the stucco next to me of Emiliano Zapata was my dad, because they looked a lot alike. And then wondered why my dad was hanging on the wall of a restaurant in a Mexican border town.
One of my dads once apologized to me for not having the money to take us on ski and beach vacations. I was appalled. Here’s what I told him, essentially…
I learned more from my childhood vacations than I ever would have from the ski/beach lifestyle. I learned about indigenous people. I learned about geography and geology and the land from which I come. I learned about art. I learned about my government. I learned about the cultural influence from south of the border.
I think this is part of who I am. Growing up, vacation was not escape, it was immersion. Into culture, and an understanding of my country’s history. Those experiences shape my political and social beliefs every day.
I love the beach. Don’t know about skiing. But if I had a vacation recommendation for parents…take your kids to see the natural treasures and the history of the US. St. Thomas is beautiful, but the Lincoln Memorial and the Grand Canyon are a life lesson, forever.
Thank you so much, to my parents.