Joie de Vivre

Our intent for this blog is to share some useful tips and practical ideas for planning and executing group trips.  But events of the past week have brought home some things that I wanted to share.

I am a substitute aide at my children’s school.  Last week, a sixth grader passed away after a sudden and very short illness.  Prior to this, he had been the picture of health and vitality.  Full of sunshine and joie de vivre, his passing touched all those who knew him, no matter how slight. 

As can be expected when a community loses a child, the next few days were full of difficult moments.  But one thing that was brought home to me was how fleeting life can be.  We can plan for an event five years in the future but there is no guarantee that tomorrow an oncoming car won’t cross the centerline into our lane or a routine doctor’s visit won’t end with x-rays and a terminal diagnosis.

Thinking about this young man’s untimely passing, made me not only hold my own children tight, but also think about the other kids in my life, especially the ones who are a part of our yearly group trip.  I have watched these babies grow into young men and women getting ready to spread their wings.  I’ve bandaged their boo boos.  I’ve cheered their successes.  I’ve even threatened them within an inch of their life when their behavior warranted it. 

My memories of them are wrapped up in weeks spent searching for geocaches in Colorado, splashing through waterparks in Wisconsin, hiking around Mt. Rushmore and schlepping carseats through a cave in Missouri.  I hope and pray that I get a lot of years being one of their “Vacay Moms.”

It seems so easy these days to stay in touch by text message and Face Book posts.  But life is so short.  We never know when our time is going to be up.  Wouldn’t it be better to have memories of things done with people you love?  Let’s all put down our smart phones and make the effort to spend time with friends and family.

I’m not saying that you should break the bank to go on that dream vacation.  Maybe the Alaskan cruise or the African safari will have to wait until the mortgage is paid off.  But isn’t a long weekend spent exploring a location you’ve never visited with friends who will (hopefully) become even closer in the glow of shared experiences and discoveries worth the effort?

Life really is short, even if you are lucky enough to make 90 trips around the sun.  Make the most of the time you get to spend with those you love.

Welcome to Going Dutch!

More years ago than I’d care to admit in a public forum, I stepped onto the campus of a small midwestern liberal arts college.  Over my next 4 years there I came to meet and get to know 3 other amazing women.  We had a great college career, and then it was time to head off into the real world to pursue our lives.  Each of us got married and the other three of us came and did what friends do at weddings.  As so often happens, this could have been the end of our story.  We were scattered into different states and different careers, and well, sometimes that means you lose touch with awesome people.

Then one of us had the idea to get together for a weekend.  Four couples at a Minnesota campground.  Low key, inexpensive for recent college grads, and lots of fun.  And a tradition was born.

Eighteen years and 12 kids later, we get together for up to a week every year.  So far we’ve been to eight different states.  We’ve stayed in hotels, vacation homes and campgrounds.  We’ve been on trains, planes, horses, jeeps and rafts.  We’ve battled raccoons, suffered through heat-waves, shivered through rainstorms and drank hot-chocolate while watching 4th of July fireworks.  Our kids enjoy these trips so much we are convinced they believe college is where you go to find the people you will vacation with every year!

Over all these trips, we’ve developed a system of traveling with a group of people.  Every year we tweak it depending on the location.  We make mistakes and promise not to do it that way next year.  We’ve all followed roughly the same format with family groups.  It works for us.  It works so well we end up planning the next year’s trip almost as soon as we show up for this years’ trip.

Through our trips we’ve learned that traveling with friends has a LOT of benefits.  These are some of the best experiences and memories of our lives.  Our kids have built-in friends. If we plan things right, we can build in kid-free time for all of the adults on the trip. But when we tell others we’re going to vacation for a week with 3 other families, the reaction is generally curiousity mixed with a diagnosis of insanity…”you’re going to go on vacation with HOW many people? Wow…”

Yes, group trips definitely have some pitfalls.  But here’s the thing.  Yes, our group is special, but all groups are!  Traveling together is something that we think lots of groups can do successfully.  With busy lives being what they are, time to connect with friends is limited.  Making time for a shared vacation every year helps keep everyone in touch and is a great way to spend some of your 365 allotted days every year.  Our blog is here to help you travel with your friends AND keep them in the end!