When we planned a trip to Yosemite, we weren’t really thinking about Thoreau or his famous quote about going to the woods to live intentionally. We were thinking about seeing our friends, the Cavalleris. We were excited to show our kids another part of the country, a part with forests instead of swamps and mountains instead of beaches.
But to say we went to the Sierra National Forest to live intentionally would be giving us too much vacation-planning credit. To say we knew our family needed to get away the production of our own lives and see something truly epic would be too generous.
But I did have the feeling our kids needed to see something more than their own lives. So much of what our kids do revolves around them. Blame it on technology or capitalism or Dr.Spock, but our kids are told all day every day that they deserve the best.
Without even thinking about it, my husband and I compliment our kids for getting out of bed in the morning. Their teachers reward them for finishing their homework. We have storybooks featuring our kids’ pictures. Everyone gets a trophy, the iPad remembers their name and preferences, and we hang their subpar artwork on bulletin boards. If our family’s life is a drama, and our kids are the stars.
So, when it comes vacation time, we’re all programmed for more the same. For example, one of those Disney vacations sounds perfect for our family. From what I’ve heard, we would be assigned a personal trip coordinator. She would orchestrate every aspect of our Disney vacation. She would make sure we slept at a hotel perfect for our family. She would be sure we ate exactly what we wanted. She would even ask us which characters we wanted to visit while standing in line for our FastPasses. Throw in Disney’s reputation for beautiful hotel rooms and kid-friendly everything and I am so ready to sign up.
But for our Easter trip this year–a year that we all seemed to be especially wrapped up in the drama of our own lives–we went to the woods instead.
No one greets you at a National Park and promises you’re at the Happiest Place on Earth. Navigating the mountain roads isn’t convenient or user-friendly. The trails and the waterfall views are crowded and there is no FastPass to jump to the start of the line. If you fall from a tree or skin your knee on the trail (and you will), no one asks you to fill out an accident report. No one cares. They are there for the same reason you are–to marvel at the views and to feel very small next to the ginormous mountains.
And, yes, the views. And, ohmygoodness, the feeling of being surrounded by tens of thousands of towering trees. And wow, the smell of Yosemite. Dogwoods and pine trees and so.much.fresh.air.
We did all this. We went to the woods and intentionally hiked and explored and experienced the awes of Yosemite. We told each other dozens of times how good the air smelled. We marveled that the trails and forest went on forever and ever. We were completely surprised and awestruck by our epic surroundings.
Which, as it turned out, was exactly what we needed. We needed to see something larger than our tightly-controlled family unit. Our kids needed to see mountains that had stood there for generations–not to make them happy and not because of anything they had done. Our kids needed to see something epic and dramatic that had nothing to do with them.
This is the family vacation when we did all that. Intentionally or not, our kids saw they were not the star of the show.
And they saw how that’s okay.