I have two stories to tell.
Story Number One:
When I was growing up, my family didn't vacation in the way that typical American families vacation. We took one trip per year and it was always to Lancaster, PA. Almost every time we went we stayed at Willow Valley, the most wonderful hotel ever. (For a kid like me that meant it had an awesome pool).
By the way, do you say "Lanc-US-ter" or "Lan-CAS-ter"?
Lancaster, PA is about a two-hour car ride from our home. We would leave on a Friday afternoon whenever my dad got done work and get home Sunday afternoon. One time we broke the pattern and went to Washington, DC with family friends.
And that's about as extravagant as our vacations ever got.
Story Number Two:
In the earlier years while I was growing up and vacationing in Lancaster, PA my parents gave life to the possibility that we might one day go to Disney World. They said the money needed to be saved up first...because that's how my parents were. They didn't take us on any trips or buy anything that they didn't have the money for. Interesting concept, right?
I recall there being an old coffee can that my brother and I used to put our own savings in for the Disney trip. Somehow, it ended up only ever having a few pennies and nickels at the bottom.
During this time, we got a Disney Vacation Planning video in the mail. This was an approximately 30 minute video that covered the complete essence of Disney World from the parks to the wide variety of accommodations available.
Watching that video was my vacation to Disney World. It was how I spelled fun on a school night. I was amazed at how vast Disney was. How it was literally a world of its own.
But then, we never went. Story number one became my reality and as time went on my brothers and I stopped asking when we would be going to Disney World. (Okay, we didn't really stop, but we stopped the frequency that we asked to the point that it had gone from a loud shout of asking to a small whisper).
Story Number Three
*Got you! And you thought there would only be two...
In later years I'd learn that my mom had actually saved up the money for Disney World and that my father in the end opposed the idea. They had gone themselves long before having kids and he didn't see the sense in the long drive, the large cost for only one trip, and a few other personal issues. So instead, they used that money to pay for all our short trips to Lancaster over the years.
The me of story number one and two certainly wouldn't be able to understand the logic for why we never went. Yet, the me of today does and is glad. In never going to Disney World I've learned a lot. First and foremost, I've learned a definition of vacation most unlike what others consider a vacation to be. To me, a vacation is time off from work. It doesn't require that I go somewhere far away and exotic. It doesn't require that I spend loads of money. It is a time of relaxation, anywhere.
I've learned that vacations are not deserved. If you need food on your table, or have massive debt, you probably shouldn't go on a vacation. Working hard all year does not entitle you to anything except your paycheck.
I've learned to be grateful for the vacations I do get, no matter how short, no matter how close to home.
Lastly, nothing against Disney, but I have learned that I don't want to be defined in life by experiences that are the norm. I want to be defined by experiences that are unique to me and have helped to sculpt me into the distinctive individual that I am.