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Vacation Like The Elite

By Dr Hans Watson DO


I was about 12 years old when my family took one of my favorite vacations.  The positive impact of that vacation lasted for years.  Without realizing it, this vacation helped me to puget soundlove learning.  It resulted in improved efforts in school, enhanced relationships with family, changed my approach to money management, and increased my willingness to work.  Moreover, the rest of my family had a similar experience. 

You may be wondering what vacation spot left this lasting impression.  Was it a beach in Hawaii, Florida or Mexico?  Was it the mountains or cities of Europe? Was it a trip to Asia, the Middle East or the national parks of Utah?  No, it was a limited budget trip to rainy Ft Lewis Washington to visit an uncle and his family. 

For most, a vacation is just a break from the routine and not something that impacts a young life.  Why was this trip so impactful?  The way my parents prepared was the key.  They recognized the vacation could be a casual environment where learning was fun and still a break from the normal world.

My mom was particularly skilled at inspiring and working with curiosity.  She considered each child’s personality and then watched for opportunities to get each one of us involved in planning and learning.  One example was when I asked how long the drive would be.  Instead of giving a direct answer, she explained that it depended on the skill of the navigator and the route picked.  That answer inspired me to find an atlas and identify the fastest route.  With her help, I learned to judge distance on a map, estimate time of the drive and identify potential rest stops along the way.  Even though a direct answer would have been easier, she would have missed the opportunity to let life teach me the lesson that learning can be fun.  Now, necessity required some questions be answered directly, but whenever possible answers were curiosity inspiring. 

My mom recently indicated that the results were worth the extra efforts.  Instead of asking when we would be there, I was excited for each leg of the drive and watched for cities on our route.  I gave unsolicited progress updates to the entire car, but I was enjoying the long drive and continued my hunger for learning.  Our research extended past the route for driving.  Other siblings used the encyclopedia to learn about cities, landmarks, activities in the Ft Lewis area and more.  The most impressive part was that we didn’t realize that mom and dad were purposely inspiring us to be curious and investigate.

My parents recognized that, if learning was to remain enjoyable, our efforts investigating needed to be rewarded.  They rewarded our efforts by allowing the children to contribute to the plans for transportation, budget and accommodations.  On the drive from Utah to Washington and back they were good sports.  We suggested ways to save money that included sleeping in the van one night, another night all 9 of us in two low budget hotel rooms, and once we even drove through the night (in spite of my father’s current back pains).  Our contributions to the plan influenced dad to keep driving while we ate sandwiches and fruit on the road as a way to “make good time” to the next landmark. 

My parents also rewarded our efforts by allowing us to contribute to the destination itinerary.  We chose some activities that were not typical tourist destinations.  At my request, we toured parts of the base.  Others requested to tour a brewery or go on a picnic.  We were rewarded and allowed to contribute to the plans, but my parents maintained their roles.  They ensured there was an activity for everyone and that activities were reasonable.  This resulted in a fishing adventure in the Puget Sound, visiting the observation deck on the Space Needle and touring a children’s museum.  Throughout the trip we did have a few unhappy moments, but overall everyone remained happy and got along.  Because we each contributed to part of the itinerary, we all bought into the idea that we needed to support other’s events to gain support for our own event.  Overall, we were more engaged on that trip than any other I can remember.

We returned from the vacation and eventually the summer ended but the effects of learning from that trip reached into the school year.  My mom recounted how my little brother was in science and the topic was marine life.  He quickly asked permission and shared his experience catching a shark on our summer vacation.   His knowledge of the Puget Sound allowed this topic to come alive for him and members of the class.  Because he had been casually learning on the trip and was able to bring that knowledge into the classroom, he remained excited with the topic and science in general.  This enthusiasm resulted in the teacher appreciating his efforts and a connection with that teacher was formed.  This connection helped him to stay motivated and continue learning throughout the year.  Similar experiences happened to each family member. 

Today, when I plan a vacation, I often reflect on my life and how blessed I am in my current situation.  I contemplate the opportunities presented to me and always find that a love of learning and education is the key to all success.  I am grateful that my parents used a vacation to casually teach me.  (Not to mention that their approach made the vacation more memorable.)  It helped foster a pattern of lifetime learning that still benefits me daily.

As you plan a vacation this summer, realize that the destination is not the most important tthing.  Your child’s enjoyment on the trip will increase if you make the extra effor to inspire curiosity and learning.  It might be the opportunity of a lifetime.