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What’s Your Idea of “The Great American Vacation?”

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Ah, The Great American Vacation. On the surface, it’s something rather abstract, obtuse even, but ask anyone you know what those words mean and they’ll tell you without hesitation.

My dad, for example, will instantly launch into the story of the time my grandparents piled him and his younger brother into the family station wagon for an eight-hour, 500-mile trip to the Grand Canyon. Two boys under the age of 10 in that close of quarters for that duration—it’s not hard to imagine some of the memories that were undoubtedly made.

As for me, my thoughts go to 4-H camp and weeks spent on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Camp, as it became known in our house, was one of my first solo experiences away from the nest—five days in Wakefield, Virginia, spent swimming, canoeing, crafting, and learning a plenitude of campfire songs that I could still sing for you today. After years as a camper, I eventually became a counselor, following in the footsteps of my older brother and sister, also self-professed 4-H freaks. “What happens at camp, stays at camp,” was what we’d tell my mother upon our return to civilization. Leather crafts and low ropes weren’t necessarily national secrets, but they were our secrets and we intended to keep it that way.

Travels to the Outer Banks were a different type of summer getaway. For one, the whole family was involved and occasionally aunts, uncles, and cousins too. Most days began with boogie boarding and ended with a trip to the local Dairy Queen, with the occasional round of mini golf thrown in for variety. There weren’t nearly as many activities to entertain us as there were at camp, but we didn’t savor them any less. Thinking back to those precious times, there’s nothing I wouldn’t trade for another day spent scouring the shoreline for seashells with my grandmother or cleaning crabs for a family feast with my cousins. I still consider that stretch of barrier islands my happy place, and although I no longer live just an hour away from it, I get back as often as I can.

What’s your idea of The Great American Vacation? Perhaps you think of a trip to one of our nation’s majestic national parks like my dad or maybe it’s a special summer camp you had in mind or a seaside stay. If you need some help spurring your wanderlust this Memorial Day, Spirit’s May cover story is a good place to start. Wherever you end up, you’re sure to make plenty of lasting memories. And isn’t that what truly great vacations are all about?

Photo Courtesy: Sanderling Resort