I Was Thinking... Getting Away
At one time, vacations to distant places provided a chance to finally get away from it all. You left behind your job, the usual things from home and the people you interacted with on a daily basis. It was a change from the normal.
Families were trapped in a car for hours and for better or for worse had to be together. Husbands and wives talked to each other as well as to the children. This involuntary confinement led to the development of travel games to pass the hours on the road. You could count cars from different states, go through the alphabet by using road signs or play 20 Questions. On family trips when I was a child, mom would even buy a couple of comic books, a new coloring book or maybe a puzzle book.
Going to a new state or region gave us a chance to experience different things. The mountains, deserts, or oceans were a far cry from the farm fields back home. Big cities with tall buildings, multi-lane roads, and historic sites provided variety. Travel introduced us to different kinds of people, unique foods and language variations.
What was pop at home became soda. “Y’all come back or Bless Your Heart” weren’t uttered in rural northeast Wisconsin. Beignets, shrimp creole or succotash didn’t make it on the menu of our local cafes.
Now enter the 21st century. While families may still be confined to the same vehicle, they are no longer required to interact. Mobile devices can provide video or audio entertainment of all kinds. The kids in the back can be playing video games, watching a movie or texting friends about how bored they are. Mom can access Facebook talk to friends on her cell phone or be listening to an audio book through her ear buds. Only dad has to keep his eyes on the road and listen to the GPS directions.
Getting away from work also is now more difficult. Computers and cell phones are the new companions on trips. You can check back with work with a couple of keystrokes and work can always contact you. Some even plan to work during their “get away”. I was watching a father and son tossing a ball back and forth along the beach. It was a great father and son time until the phone rang, and it all ended because someone else had reached out to connect with dad. Even most of the people who walked along the beach still had a cell phone tucked in their swimsuits.
When we were taking family trips, you kept in touch by sending a picture postcard with a cute saying like, “Wish you were here” or by making an infrequent long-distance call. But today you can call anyone just like talking over the back fence. You can also e-mail your pictures, send a video clip or post everything on Facebook so you are in constant contact. It’s no longer just you and your family.
Luckily travel can still introduce us to new sights and tastes. You can experience the awe of the Grand Canyon, the Redwoods, the Rockies, or the vastness of an ocean. Crabcakes, blackened catfish or gumbo can excite your pallet along the Gulf. New England can offer clam chowder, fresh lobster, and Whoopie Pie. You can also enjoy grits, fried okra, and hush puppies along with your fried chicken in many places in the South. But just because you’ve traveled a thousand miles from home, don’t expect totally new cultural experiences.
From east to west or north to south, some things are always the same. No matter where you go, you can always buy a Big Mac. Culvers are no longer confined to Wisconsin or Minnesota. If you need to buy something, Wal-Mart, Target, and Walgreens are everywhere. You can find a Lowes, Big Lots, and get a Starbucks coffee without any trouble. While the name of the grocery store may differ, the same staples are always there. And every town has a Dollar store. So “getting away from it all” is getting harder and harder to do.
Did You Ever Wonder? — Why do we put suits in a garment bag and garments in a suitcase.
Photo: I was thinking Ron Albright