Letter from Publisher
April Thompson’s feature story, “Transformative Travel: Outer Adventures, Inner Journeys,” in this month’s issue, definitely touches a nerve for me. Traveling the U.S. and Canada annually with my parents as I grew up was one of the most transformative (and formative) portions of my childhood, and one that’s provided lasting lessons and memories. Growing up, Sunday afternoons were often a time to get out of the house and head somewhere locally to check out an event, visit a museum or see my grandparents. But every June, we took a long road trip—extravagant in concept, but actually thrifty in execution.
All year, my parents cut corners and saved up to afford the trip, which usually involved a rented mini-motorhome and countless miles of two-lane highways, gravel roads and if we needed to make time, the Interstate. I consider myself beyond fortunate that my mom and dad were passionate about getting out of town once a year and seeing what was out there.
The lasting memories of childhood travel flow easily—early morning at a Nova Scotia overlook, watching the 40-foot tides rise in the Bay of Fundy—taking the “snowmobile bus” tour onto the Athabasca Glacier, in Alberta (now, sadly, far retreated as the climate warms)—visiting Disney World for the Bicentennial parade—pumping a blacksmith’s bellows at Plimoth Plantation and walking the wooden decks of the Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport—sharing their hobbies of bird watching, small-town antique shops and old car junkyards. Then there is my recollection of the smell of boxwood hedges, gardens and bayberry candles in Colonial Williamsburg.
The effort and ritual around planning the trip helped to make vacations a big deal and something memorable. Of course, this all happened in the days before Google maps and websites, so lots of reading of paper maps and guidebooks was involved. Once en route, as a kid I learned how to read a map, calculate mileage, find the evening’s campground or a local restaurant and read in advance about where we were going that day. Most evenings, we’d take time to review the day’s activities and stops, and I’d often commit them to writing in a spiral notebook (the same one in which I tracked all the state license plates I’d seen that day, as well as my souvenir expenditures). Looking back now, what may at times have seemed like a vacation chore imposed upon me by the parents, was actually a transformative experience that fixed each vacation firmly into my memory.
Unfortunately, there’s a bittersweet flavor to some of those memories. When I reminisce about our trips in light of recent wildfires, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes across the globe, I feel fortunate that my travel has always been voluntary. Natural disasters and climate effects force many people on unexpected escapes from their homes, and while the experience may be transformative, the changes to their lives are often unpleasant and undesirable. As the news cycle turns away from the recently affected areas to the latest loud noise, please remember that for millions in other states, territories and countries, the rebuilding process is just beginning. Volunteer, donate, adopt a shelter animal or offer whatever other help you are able to provide—every bit counts.
Please send me a note at Editor@NAChicagoNorth.com to tell us about your own transformative travel adventures and other stories. Happy October!