One of the things I’m embarrassed by is how little I’ve traveled. It’s the sort of thing that I’ll sidestep in a conversation. Someone will mention the time they went to London or even San Francisco, and I’ll ask them questions to keep the focus off of me and my rootedness. Most of the time it works, and I never have to own that the only country I’ve been to outside of the U.S. is our northern neighbors (O Canada!) or that I’ve barely stepped foot on the west coast.
As a kid, I went to Arizona a few times to visit my grandparents. I remember how hot it was – so hot that my grandpa said you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. One of the highlights of my trip was finding out that he was sort of right if you liked your eggs over easy.
But even though I went to Arizona at least three times that I remember, we never once went to the Grand Canyon – the state’s biggest draw. Why?!
I just paused from writing this to see how far it was from my grandparents’ house. Turns out it was a four hour and six minute drive. Sure, that’s more than a quick jaunt, but my family and I were four hours from what I understand to be one of the most glorious natural wonders on the planet, let alone in this country, and we didn’t go?
I’m not alone. I know more people who’ve gone to California to see the Jaws shark jump out at them at the Universal Studios tour than have traipsed along a trail at Yosemite. And that’s a shame – for you and your kids.
In this issue of Metro Parent, we make the case that this is the year to rethink that. It is, after all, the centennial of our National Park Service, so it’s the perfect time to plan the trip of a lifetime – for homebodies like me too. And I’m sure that a trip to a national park will leave a more lasting impression than seeing a motorized shark.
Geologist and astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who was a member of the Apollo 17 mission, said this about stepping onto the moon: “It’s like trying to describe what you feel when you’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it’s like.”
When something is mentioned in the same breath and with the same reverence as first loves, the birth of children and landing on the moon, you know it’s special.
So, while one day I hope to visit Buckingham Palace or the Taj Mahal or see the pyramids or the ruins of Pompeii, I can live with the idea that I may not. What I can’t live with is the idea that I won’t one day walk among the redwoods at Sequoia National Park or stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon overwhelmed with wonder and awe and humbled by the sheer beauty of this world – this country – we call home.