The Lasting Gift of Travel

Quick! Name three gifts you got during the holidays last year.

Now name three things you did on your last vacation. Much easier, wasn’t it?

Years ago, my husband and I realized that vacations have a lasting impact on our family. “Stuff” doesn’t seem to bring about the same feeling as a vacation. Because of that, we have adjusted our budget, spending more on vacations and getaways and downsizing gift-giving to a few meaningful items each year.

Orange Beach sand dune
We challenge each other to step outside our comfort zone.

 We first realized how powerful shared experiences can be during a family hike at a national park. The challenging mountain trail required teamwork, with the boys helping their little sister on tough passages and all of us pushing each other when we got tired. After that six-mile trek, we realized that we can do more together than we can alone.

More recently, a relaxing vacation to Alabama’s Gulf Shores provided the opportunity to try stand-up paddleboarding (called SUP for short). I am not the most coordinated person, so I doubted my ability. My daughter, the consummate cheerleader, encouraged me. I did it! And because I tried, she decided to give it a try, too. The grin on her face as she kept her balance and navigated the waters radiated her pride.

 To this day, when one of us faces a challenging situation, we remind each other that we can do more than we think. Our shared success brings confidence.

We commit to quality time away from electronics.

While on that same vacation to Gulf Shores, my husband was recovering from shoulder surgery. He wasn’t able to build sandcastles or body surf in the waves. But he could take long walks along 32 miles of wide-sand beaches. Those long strolls along the water’s edge gave us all a chance to connect away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

 On vacation, we seriously limit phone time, locking phones in the hotel room safe except for an hour or two each day (the boys text with friends when we get ready for dinner or evenings out).

 Unplugged moments make it easy to talk about the great mysteries of life. Why do shark eggs look so funny? How many grains of sand do you think there really are on this beach? What scared you when you were a little kid?

 The kids, especially our youngest, soak up these moments. It’s amazing how often those conversation topics sneak back into dinner table discussions in the months after.

Couple walking at sunset Orange Beach
We cherish each other.

It’s been about six years since our focus shifted from tangible gifts to the gift of travel. Our shared experiences — such as watching a sunset, sailing on a catamaran, trying new foods and simply relaxing — have drawn us closer together. Our teens are fun to be around. Our tween likes her parents. Our family is close . . . because we choose time over things.

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