Guest Editorial: Vacation advice from coaster queen
Vacation. I recently got back from one and I'm a bit disoriented. It's similar to the sensation you get when waking up in a strange hotel room and the doorways and bathroom are situated differently than at home and you have a moment of, "Where am I?" before discerning which direction you must head to reach the toilet.
A short seven days later, you return home and experience the same lack of awareness when sleeping in your own bedroom. Being away has dislodged its familiarity. It takes a few days (and nights) before you settle back into your own household. Situated. Secure. Relodged.
Vacation -- a simple word made up of a mere three syllables, but the connotations are as vast as the possibilities encompassed within seven long, lavish days spent away from work at the beach, campground, casino, cruise ship, or amusement park (take your pick).
I am a vacation advocate. Who can deny the value of a long weekend, or weeklong period filled with adventure, enjoyment, education and family fun? Yours might involve planes, car rides, walking, running, hiking, sleeping in tents or riding roller coasters. There is no right way to vacation; vacations are just right.
From my experiences in escaping the ho hum of every day life, I've made a few observations about life away from the hum and the ho:
When driving across the country in a car filled with children, it is inevitable; you will encounter an occasional traffic jam. You are 78 percent more likely to hit this bottleneck when your gas gauge hovers near empty. Statistics also show that within three minutes of hitting any traffic jam, you can bet, with certainty, a passenger under the age of 15 will suddenly and urgently have to go to the bathroom "real bad."
Vacation brings unexpected benefits. Expect them. For instance, if you spend 24 hours (each way) traveling in a vehicle with hip and trendy teenagers, you will gain the opportunity to listen to approximately 48 hours of popular pop songs on the radio. By the end of the trip, you will be shining bright like a diamond and dancing in your seat -- Gangnam style, of course. (If you're confused, try the Google. I did.)
Vacations provide the chance to try new things and engage in activities you don't get to do every day, but wish you did. This trip, I pushed my personal envelope on a bunch of roller coasters and other fast-paced whirling, bumping and spinning attractions. I rode them because my family is full of teenagers and teenagers think nothing of putting their life on the line while driving or riding in high-speed vehicles. They find danger amusing; it's right up there with pop music.
At times, they scared the willies out of me -- the coasters, not the teens. When this happened, I found the best thing to do was put my hands in the air, scream like I meant it and pray for the whole thing to be over (so we could get in line to ride again). I still lost my willies (not literally, thank goodness), but I looked cool to my kids. I think. Maybe.
When it comes to packing, you will always pack too much, but you will be sure to forget at least one key item. When this happens -- and it will -- remember, vacations are a good time to demonstrate your Olympic gymnast-like flexibility. In other words, go with the flow and enjoy whichever coaster you happen to be riding. Rules are for everyday life. When one of your kids announces -- four days into the trip -- that he forgot his toothbrush, don't panic. They sell toothbrushes in nearly every one of the 50 states. Why do you think God invented superstores?
Vacation. I went. I conquered. Now I'm home -- a little discombobulated, but no worse for the wear, unless you count the bruising to my kidneys. Those coasters sure keep a person young at heart -- in an edge-of-your-seat, ramming, slamming, upside-down, near-death sort of way. Can't wait to go again.
At least that's the story I'm telling my kids.