I was bit by the travel bug when we went on our one and only family vacation. It was a road trip from Ontario to Florida, with a two day stop in Virginia to visit family. I was 16 years old and traveling with my parents, my older sister and my five-year-old brother. While in Virginia we spent a day in Washington DC visiting memorials and landmarks. The most memorable part of DC was the homeless population. Having grown up in a relatively small Ontario city, I had never seen so many homeless people and I was surprised to see them sitting along the fences of the White House, wandering around the Lincoln Memorial and panhandling near the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall. I wasn’t offended by their presence, just surprised that they were there and I wondered why everyone wasn’t doing something to help them. I was young and naïve and it opened my eyes to the different ways people live in the world. My mother was unimpressed with my fascination with them and would have preferred I focused on the memorials. The next day we continued our journey to Florida.
My parents rented a trailer in Kissimmee that sat on a large piece of land along with a large shed that acted as a game room, and someone’s home. In that home lived a teenage boy, so my time was quickly occupied by playing pool with him in the shed and laughing at his complete lack of understanding about snow. He couldn’t comprehend how a car could ever get stuck in the snow.
“The friction of the tires should just melt the snow away!” He insisted.
We had several debates along those lines and I even skipped the Kennedy Space Center visit with my family to spend more time with him, something I would regret for years to come (not for any nefarious reasons, I just would have liked to see it). I didn’t skip Disney World because that was our whole reason for the trip.
Aside from It’s a Small World and The Haunted Mansion, my memories of the Magic Kingdom in 1989 are vague. MGM Studios was the highlight for me. We did the Backlot Tour, watched the Indiana Jones show and had a tour of the animator’s studio where they shared drawings of Roger Rabbit. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was a popular movie at the time and we got to sit on a giant ant and see ourselves on a television screen, looking like tiny humans in the grass.
I wanted to return from the moment we left.
It took a little more than twenty years, but I did return to Disney World with my own family, minus one. My oldest son was on his way to adulthood and not interested in taking time from school or work to come with us, but the three younger children were thrilled. At 3, 7 and 8 years old they were completely awed by the experience. We all fell in love with the Magic Kingdom. I swear I could feel the pixie dust falling as we walked into the park, and on every trip there since them. MGM Studios became Hollywood Studios and is just as incredible as I remember it, although with different attractions, and Epcot and Animal Kingdom have been the setting for many incredible memories for us. We even convinced my oldest son to join us on a trip to Disney World.
Every trip we take, whether it be as kids or adults, teaches us something about ourselves and the world. We have so many stories and memories to carry with us through life from these experiences. Travel isn’t necessary to create a strong family bond but it does create a platform to easily connect with one another. The distractions of home are removed and replaced with wonder and discovery done as a family unit.