vacation

GUILT TRIPS: How to ROCK a Totally AWESOME Summer

“Heads!” 

“Okay, that means go right Dad.”

“Who gets to flip it next? Hand it to your brother.”

“Heads! Right again.”

Our family was on a Guilt Trip. We drove to the bottom of our gravel road and flipped the coveted coin to determine our route. Heads - right. Tails - left. On this particular adventure we ended up at a community park twenty five minutes from home and happily spent time with its modest offerings. With childhood abandon our feet pushed the autumn air as we swung into the sunlit treetops. We numbed our tongues with frozen chocolate goodness, we felt the pulse of concern in our chests at the sound of a menacing siren bellowing through the little town, and we were chased home by an ominous black sky and churning wind. 

The kids agreed, this was our best adventure ever. 

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The idea of a Guilt Trip was inspired by an unplanned ten day summer vacation my grandparents took with friends in the mid 1950’s. Spontaneity was their companion, and with eager anticipation they tossed the coin that would determine the course of their holiday. The coin announced a northern route, and their 1950 Dodge began crawling up the map from the Wasatch Front. As they approached the outskirts of Brigham City, Grandma suggested a stop at Maddox for a much-talked-about salad. The decision to pause their drive was unanimous, and the food was delectable. 

After stretching their legs and filling their bellies, they meandered through beautiful Cache Valley, crossed the Idaho border, and entered the relaxed and peaceful city of Preston. They were met with irresistible signs that enticed them to come together with the locals for a small town celebration and rodeo. The foursome joined in the festivities and stayed the night. And then they stayed another. 

They leisurely continued westward and stayed in a couple other spots in Idaho, but then Grandma’s friend suggested going to Oregon to see a relative of his. Grandad had a brother living in Seattle as well, and from that point on, they had an agenda. Their once serendipitous road trip turned into an ordinary visit to relatives. Freedom was exchanged for a timeline, and the magic that had accompanied them at the trip’s beginning slipped through the open windows of the automobile. 

How can such spontaneous outings be so attractive? Maybe it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. I saw myself in my grandparents’ story, but it wasn’t in the exciting, adventurous part of it. Perhaps we have all frantically rushed to and from our day trip destinations, as well as our week long ones. Maybe we have grabbed food from the drive-thru while the wheels were still rolling, taken only one minute bathroom breaks as the gas tank filled, and we’ve raced the ever ticking clock as though the Interstate might disappear if we blinked too long.   

I believe we can enjoy a more passionate and fulfilled life.

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I’ve learned a thing or two from my kids. My daughter and son-in-law naturally found pleasure in their journeys from the beginning. They set out on their honeymoon with an intention to live in the present moment. Instead of hurrying to their destination, they stopped at scenic outlooks, historic buildings, and even an aquarium. They happened upon a charming vacation rental in Cascade Locks and stayed there a night. They walked across the “Bridge of the Gods” from Oregon into Washington, attended a local carnival with an antique wooden carousel, ate blackberries, and visited Shoshone Falls. Each impetuous stop nurtured cherished memories of their new life together.

My heart slows down to a nice peaceful beat and the corners of my mouth turn up when I imagine a trip like this. It invites both me and those around me to be totally present. To beat with the same heart of anticipation and look forward with eyes shining full of curiosity and excitement. It enhances our ability to connect with each other and to strengthen our feelings of belonging. It’s a good place to be!

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Why do we call it a Guilt Trip? Well, in all honesty I have felt some guilt over the years for a lack of enthusiasm and missed opportunities. And do we really have to schedule our Guilt Trips, you ask? I wish I could say no, but it wouldn’t be true. But I choose to be gentle with myself, because when I make a plan to be spontaneous, I still get the results I want. Embracing the unexpected generously feeds our souls and nurtures our most treasured relationships. In this warm and beautiful world and with boundless opportunities, I will let go of the senseless guilt, and instead choose a Guilt Trip.