Were you aware that the greatest travel system that exists in the USA, our highway system, was actually created by the military to be able to move their vehicles, equipment, and men, from coast to coast quickly? It was the intent to be able to do this without interrupting the daily flow of life in the cities and towns located near the highways. It was the cold war and the government decided it needed to be concerned with things like that.
This great military idea was sold to the American Public as a way to freedom. Not the freedom we associate with flag and country, but the freedom for our citizens to be able to see our great country, the USA. All we had to do was jump into our cars to see the many sites our beautiful country has to offer us. That is just what we, as a nation, did. It was the coming of age of the middle class vacation.
When I was 10 years old, my family began it’s annual 2 week travel vacation. Always scheduled the last week of July, (after my brother’s little league baseball season ended) and the first week of August, (just before practice for our school sports began). We thought it was our parents’ idea of punishment, to pick, what are typically the 2 hottest weeks of the year, and pack 5 kids, 2 adults, an extremely large tent, clothes, food, and miscellaneous other stuff needed for a 2 week trip, into a station wagon. Eventually, we moved up from a tent to a pop up camper, and from a station wagon to a full size van, to everyone’s relief!
Our destination? The USA! It was my Mother’s plan to show us every state in the continental United States, before I, the oldest, graduated from High School. So for 7 years, we traveled a pre-ordained path through the US. Each trip, visiting new states. In fact, we were disappointed if we had to pass though the same state more than once.
In 1975, my Father’s company went on strike. My Dad was management, so he had to work a lot of overtime and give up his vacation time. He was able to carry over his vacation to the next year. My Mom, always one to grab an opportunity when she saw one, knew that was the year, 1976, we were going to California. So we did. Over a month of togetherness, but we saw it all. Buffalo, the Corn Palace, Yellow Stone, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, Native Americans, Reservations, our cousins, the battle ship Missouri, where armistice was signed, Yosemite, the Pacific Ocean, the Red Woods, Disney Land, Palm Springs, more cousins, Desert, grain, corn, corn, and more corn. 30 days later, in the middle of the night, exhausted, we finally arrived home. My Dad tells me he had $1 in his pocket, and a nearly empty gas tank. Whew!
Now, we sit around and tell stories about our trips. Some are funny stories, like the time my brother pretended he was a bear and scared 2 of my sisters have to death, or that same brother getting lost at a rest area. Some are horror stories, like the morning one of my other sister woke up to find she had been bitten over 200 time by mosquitos, or the time our car broke down, after 2 weeks on the road, only 10 miles from home at 11:00 at night. Some are sentimental stories, like our visit to Mackinac Island, the place of my parents honey moon.
As adults, we’ve come to realize what a fantastic budgeter, planner, and organizer my Mother was and still is. She had a goal for us to see every state in the continental US, (we also spent some time in Canada), and she reached her goal. We are the better for it.
She may not realize, that those trips planted seeds in us. She planted in us the confidence to travel and experience new places and things. She planted the urge for us to see the rest of the world. One of my sisters has been to 6 of the 7 Continents, and often travels for work. I have lived on both coasts and have traveled into Central and South America and am traveling for work, while pet sitting instead of living out of Hotels. My brother, also, travels for work, and makes sure he takes the time to see the sites and test the food, where he’s at, and on the way to and from his destination.
Those trips we took as a young family planted the knowledge that what we know and experience, on a daily basis, isn’t all that there is to know and experience in our world.
My parents continue to travel extensively, rarely to the same place twice. The pop-up camper now resides with my brother, and my parents have moved up to hotel rooms. Over the years they have managed to visit 5 continents and to travel by planes, trains, auto, and a cruise ship or 2.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my plans for retirement, are to TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL. This is a first in a series of articles that will uncover and discuss ways to travel that you may not have thought about. I will follow my Mother’s example and show you ways to travel inexpensively. I promise you won’t have to shove 5 kids and a large tent in a stationwagon to do so.
I don’t want you to ever have to say that you had always wanted to travel in retirement, but now that you’re retired you just can’t afford it. There are ways to afford it, and I’m going to show you how.