As a parent, I love to travel with my children. I want to take them to cool places, fun places, and places that will create lasting memories. But as I plan these grandiose trips to “big” places, it’s good to remind myself that my children are more likely to remember the feelings they had on a trip than the place they went to, no matter how great I think it is.
For example, we once took a trip with extended family to southern California. For the first two hours we were at Disneyland–the purported “happiest place on earth”– my 3-year-old daughter whined and bawled. Then, at SeaWorld, she and her same-age cousins bawled again when they got soaked by Shamu. I’m not sure what her memories are of those “big” places, but I do know she had a fabulous time on the (“little”, inexpensive) beach, dodging waves and building sandcastles.
On another “big” trip with my family, we stopped momentarily at a neighborhood park just to get out and stretch our legs. There was a merry-go-round on the playground, which my youngest son and teenage daughters climbed on, while my husband and other son pushed them. As they spun faster and faster, they were all smiling and laughing uproariously. It was a sweet, unscripted moment of pure joy, which no amount of planning could have produced. That is the kind of moment we hold close to our hearts and treasure forever.
So, as I plan the next “big” trip, I will try to remember to leave some unscheduled time for those kinds of experiences, and to savor the spontaneous moments of joy that pop up along the way.