My earliest travel memories date back to about age 3 – and, yes, I realize that is a LONG time ago – but the image of that summer trip to Leelanau State Park in Northport is still vivid in my mind. Looking back, I guess you’d say that simple weekend camping trip (in the rain) would help shape my future in the travel industry.
When I was in fourth grade, our family trip took us beyond Michigan toward Gettysburg and other Civil War sites as we researched our family tree. I found it quite boring at the time, but looking back on it I realize how important that trip was for us and how that trip was rich in both family time and historical reflection.
A long weekend while in high school brought us to a cabin in the woods near Frankfort, where snow fell all around and we warmed ourselves by the fire inside. Ironically, this is one of the areas of Michigan I’m most drawn to as an adult – and sitting here looking out the window of a northern cottage at the expanse of snow covered trees – it brings back calming memories of that quiet weekend.
The summer between high school and college, I spent a week traveling northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula with my dad – visiting Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel, having a massive plate of nachos at a downtown island restaurant, heading over the bridge for the first time toward Sault Ste. Marie and The Antlers, then back downstate along the Lake Michigan shoreline to the Cherry Hut.
As I started my own family, travel remained an integral part of our lives. When my kids were little, trips were closer to home – excursions to the museums, zoos and gardens. As they grew, the adventures did too. There were get-aways to resorts where horseback riding, waterparks, dogsledding and skiing were part of the itinerary. As teenagers and young adults, the time we have to escape becomes more of a challenge – and thus, more important when we’re able to pull it all together. Sometimes those opportunities are one-on-one, allowing for personal time to talk and connect with each.
Travel has always been an important part of my family dynamic in some fashion. Both of my grandparents were avid explorers. Mostly, I remember how much my Grandma Knight enjoyed getting out on the road – whether it was a two-hour drive for dinner at a famed eatery, or a trip north to walk the Mackinac Bridge with her kids and grandkids. Although I really didn’t take the opportunity to do much traveling with her, the stories of her adventures were always of interest and something that inspired me to do the same.
As we head into the holiday seasons this year, I’m less motivated to pile more “stuff” on my kids and more inclined to plan memorable experiences with them – either together or alone. Day trips to the nail salon for manicures and pedicures, trips to the bowling alley or dinner at a restaurant of THEIR choosing seem more like true gifts to me (and hopefully to them as well). If I’m lucky, maybe I can convince them both to escape north for a few days – do some snowshoeing or simply walking along the beach to soak up the scenery. Get them to talk, to listen and appreciate the value of quality time together.
Over the past decade or so, as I’ve watched my children grow into their own personalities — I’ve wished for them just one thing. That they’d find something in life that truly makes them happy, that they can make a living at. Something that they’re so passionate about that it motivates them on a daily basis like traveling Michigan does for me. I hope that I’ve lived by example – that I’ve inspired them to follow their hearts and to not hold back on what they really want out of life – no matter what that path may be.