Written by Julianne Lake (Classic Travel Intern, Summer 2015).
I’m extremely lucky. From the time I was very little, in fact, as far back as I can remember, my parents have made it a priority to show us the world. There are five of us kids, so the natural first trip we went on was to Disney World. Taking my first flight on an airplane at the age of four, my world went from my small, rural hometown to one huge expanse of possibility. I was able look out the window of the plane and see all the cities of our country and know that this was something worth seeing, even as little as I was. We were all so excited for every part of the journey. In fact, the story of my eldest brother getting so excited when my parents told him we were going to Disney World that he threw up at Olive Garden is a Lake family classic.
After that, we took trips across the U.S., going down through both coasts and across mountains and deserts. My parents would pack us all up in our big van, pray we’d sleep for some of the trip and take off on our next adventure. I saw the Grand Canyon, the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls and the Petrified Forest all before I was ten.
Eventually, as we got a little older, the world got bigger for us too. We went on a Disney cruise in the Caribbean, explored Canada and eventually took a tour in Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland, and France), which was the trip of a lifetime. Later for a high school graduation gift, my parents paid for a trip to Germany to visit my exchange sister. And two summers ago, I flew to China to study Mandarin. I know I couldn’t have done it alone if my parents hadn’t been preparing me my whole life for it. I heard my mother’s voice of “Do you have your passport? Itinerary? Did you go to the bathroom?” ringing in my head, back from the years when she had to hold our hands through the airport. I got on my flight with no trouble at all, looked out at the Pacific Ocean and then, there it was, the skyline of Beijing.
I know now that I am more than lucky to have all the experiences I did, although at the time I wasn’t always grateful. I remember being particularly sullen about missing a sleepover because we were flying to Disney World and I asked my parents why we couldn’t “just change the trip.” My parents also never indulged our every desire. We didn’t always have the latest toy or the most stylish clothes or newest car. But what we did have were memories. And for every one moment of woe over not having the newest Barbie, I had ten moments of awe of amazingness of the world.
I know every parent wants to make their child happy and it’s easy to get them that new gaming system and see the joy on their face. But what I’m asking you to consider is the joy of seeing Magic Kingdom’s castle. Think about what you want them to remember. Although I can’t quite recall what my favorite toy was when I was seven, I do remember taking the ferry across the Lake District of northern England, the best omelet ever in a Parisian café, the raw and natural beauty of Chinese tea farms. And that is so much better than any material thing could ever be.