Vacation Memories

As part of the 6 Weeks of Bliss Challenge, I’ve been thinking back over favorite vacations.  It’s been fun going down memory lane.

Growing up, we really didn’t go on vacations, with the exception of driving out to visit my brother once in North Dakota ~ we lived in Minnesota (as I still do).  At the time, that was a great adventure for me.  I didn’t wander very far from home until I had grown up and moved out.  My first “big trip” was a service trip to New York City during college.  We volunteered in a soup kitchen, cleaned up the courtyard of an apartment building in Harlem, and other similar activities.  We also fit in a little sight-seeing, including the Empire State Building, Central Park and Times Square.  I didn’t have much in the way of money, so sight-seeing was pretty limited.  I hope I’ll make it back someday to take in a Broadway show.  I simply did not have the money for it at the time.

I am still not what most would consider well-traveled, but I have enjoyed trips to several areas of the United States, as well as Jamaica and Costa Rica.  It has been hard for me to choose a favorite vacation.  I am torn between two.  Ironically, one of them was a trip to South Dakota.  Not really any farther from home than that first trip I took with my parents.  In my teens I really yearned to go somewhere “exciting” and ideally much farther away.  The longer I live, the more I realize that there are plenty of beautiful places to see closer to home.  I still dream of visiting many faraway places, but even if I never do, I will enjoy myself right here in the Midwest.  As evidenced by my South Dakota trip ranking right up there as one of my two favorites!  🙂

What made a trip to South Dakota so special?  It was the first family vacation we took when everyone was old enough to really get something out of it.  My children were four and two, and we had so much fun!  We stayed at a waterpark hotel for the first time, and the kids just loved it!  We visited some interesting historical sites, like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

We also went to some family attractions, such as Bear Country USA and the Reptile Gardens.

We visited the Mammoth Site where we could see the ongoing excavation of mammoth bones.  We took a day trip to Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower.

We saw all kinds of wild animals including mountain goats, buffalo, deer and donkeys.

We spent a day just playing at the waterpark.

We have since done the whole Florida thing – Disney, Busch Gardens, etc.  If you asked my kids what their favorite vacation was, they would probably say Florida.  I stand by South Dakota.  Everyone had so much fun, and it just seemed purer somehow.  Not the result of marketing.  Not terribly expensive.  Just a place where we could appreciate a lot of natural beauty and enjoy each other’s company.
I mentioned that I felt torn when trying to choose one favorite vacation.  The other trip in the running was Costa Rica, which my husband and I visited last spring.  We had a rental car reserved and the first two nights’ hotel reservation.  We had to wing it from there.  I was a little apprehensive about finding our way around a Spanish-speaking country (I don’t speak Spanish) with most of the trip not planned out.  In the end, despite the severe lack of road signs, we did find our way.  We always managed to find a place to stay.  We visited the Pacific Coast, enjoying a bit of a beach vacation.  The coast was a lot more rocky than I had realized.  We did as much hiking at the beach as swimming.

We hiked up to a volcano (at least as close as we were allowed to get).

We climbed into the clouds in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  We visited a few towns.  The people we encountered were so nice.  Even when the language barrier presented itself, we managed to communicate somehow.  It certainly pushed me outside of my comfort zone to “wing it” in a foreign country like we did.  Fortunately the experience was overwhelmingly positive.  I hope to go back someday, and I’d love to make it a family vacation next time!

I hope you will forgive me for sticking with two favorites!  I just couldn’t choose between these two.  Like I said, I enjoyed my trip down memory lane.  What was your favorite vacation?

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