Vacation is a time to do things we normally don’t do but wish we had the time to do during the school year. I look at 50 by 50 (50 states by the time I was 50) as both educational and recreational field trips with my children. Our trips always include beautiful churches, historic sites, geological formations, bodies of water, and ALL the local candy shops! We have seen sea to shining sea, the prairies to the mountains, and many mega metropolises to small country towns.
We always try our best to experience the culture while we visit a new place. From New England clam chowder to boudin (a sausage) to dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), we at least sample something local. Sometimes we find a new favorite taste and others we know not to order again. We listen to the local music, visit any cultural museums, and learn about the settlers who built the town. Local heroes and tall tales are part of many towns; you just need to seek out the stories. The idea of pushing ourselves outside of a comfort zone helps us to realize that there are a variety of ways to approach living life. We learn about the people of the past who shaped the future in which we live. We see the truth in the metaphor “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” We enjoy the 400 live oak trees that someone planted 145 years ago along a walkway. We marvel at the natural canyons that courageous men and women protected from destruction long before our time. No matter where we have been, we walk away with a deeper sense of our place in the beautiful world God created for all mankind.
It’s not always sunshine and rainbows when we travel. Believe me, we have had our fair share of whining and complaining. The normal he’s hitting my seat to how much longer until we get there are part and parcel of a trip! I have reminded my children about putting on sunscreen until I am blue in the face and they are red on the shoulders. We have been stuck in traffic for hours just to check into a hotel where those above us are not as interested in sleep as we are. Even in those not-so-great instances, we can still find gratitude. River rocks are smooth because they bump up against each other thus wearing down the rough edges. I’m just happy to be with my children. Of all the amazing places we have visited, from Niagara Falls to Lake Tahoe and everywhere in between, being together is my favorite state.
There are so many beautiful places in the world. There is more history than we could ever know in our short lifetimes. By listening to the stories, admiring the craftsmanship that goes into great art and architecture, participating in the culture and history of an area, or breathing in the fresh mountain or sea air we find faith in Jer. 29:11, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”