As Ken and I prepare to drive out to our cabin in Colorado this week, we’re making plans to see good friends, visit interesting places, and enjoy the ride as much as our time at the cabin. Our family has always held the belief that the journey is as important as the destination. No matter where we go, especially if we are driving, we always make the travel as important and fun as the actual vacation. As far as we’re concerned, it’s one and the same.
When our girls were little, we drove from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Southwest Colorado almost every year. It’s a 36 hour drive, and believe me, a journey of that length with three little girls is no picnic, but we found ways to make it not only memorable but downright enjoyable for all. Our girls still talk about the Mitchell Corn Palace and the Giant Concrete Buffalo like they’re the Eiffel Tower. Okay, maybe not quite that, but they were just two of the memorable stops on our travels that we marveled at and smile about today.
There’s nothing like discovering a hidden gem like the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, Missouri, or the Medora Music in Medora, North Dakota. While the journey might be long, there’s always something to make it entertaining, even exciting.
Another Memorial Day has come and gone, and with a salute to those who have given all so that we may enjoy the land of the free, we leap from spring into summer. Like many, our summers typically involve some kind of family vacation. In fact, our summers are usually peppered with trips here and there, some quite elaborate while others just short day trips or weekends away. This summer, though, our vacations will be altered quite a bit. With Rebecca’s wedding coming up this fall, we were already planning on traveling less with just one trip abroad or a small trip or two to visit friends. However, the annual class on energy regulation that my husband teaches every summer in Florence, Italy, has been canceled, and the other trips we planned were to states that are, and may continue to be, on lockdown.
School has been out for less than a week, and so far, my girls have worked at their respective jobs, gone kayaking, watched movies on our backyard movie screen, gone on bike rides and boat rides, and spent time lying on the hammock, reading books. The requirements that they get outside every day, read every day, and work a summer job have been drilled into them their entire lives. However, I still see them spending way more time on their electronic devices than I would like, but I’m coming up with some ways to change that. And you should, too. Since it’s summer time, I’m going to ask you to step outside. Outside your house or office, outside your comfort zone, maybe even outside of yourself.
There is a whole world outside that awaits you, but the only way to really appreciate it is to get up off the couch or away from your desk, and go outside to see it. Perhaps this means taking a bike ride, going out on the water, or even visiting a museum. The main point is to get outside of your house. Go somewhere. Do something. You’ll be amazed at what you might learn. But first, you’ll need to…
It takes hard work and effort to break a habit. Believe it or not, that phone is not actually glued to your hand. And don’t think that I’m Miss Perfect when it comes to putting down my phone. I’m absolutely as bad as the next person. The other night, we were watching a movie in the backyard when Rebecca looked around and said, “Every one of you is playing a game on your phone or iPad instead of watching the movie.” While I protested that I could certainly watch a movie and play Words With Friends at the same time, I knew she was right. Note to self: the next time we have movie night, the iPad stays in the house. Watching a movie in the backyard with my family, with a glowing fire blazing nearby, and two dogs slumbering next to my chair, should be all the entertainment I need.
ry something new
Last week, I wrote about trying something new. There is so much in the world that I haven’t done, and I’ve done a lot! I could probably make a list of over 100 things that I’d still like to do. Of course, I can’t fit them all in this summer, but I’ve been trying to decide lately what I can do. For starters, I cut a mango today for the very first time. And I’m going to be visiting my first active volcano in July! Now those are certainly very different firsts, but they both count! Your something new can be small, large, or life-changing. The point is, you’re trying something new, but you must do it physically and not using a phone, tablet, or laptop!
ee the world
Ken gets very frustrated when we go on long drives and everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of screen. “Look around you,” he’ll cry. “You’re missing all the good stuff.” And as much as I love to read in the car, I know he’s right. When everyone is staring at their screens, they’re missing the real show outside their window. Luckily, my girls have been able to experience some of the those beautiful things they’ve missed as the world goes by while they’re on their phones. They’ve slid down a snowy hill on a warm, sunny day in the middle of July. They’ve white-water-rafted in the Rocky mountains. They’ve kayaked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And not once during any of those times did they ask, “Where’s my phone.”
Imagine a world without cell phones. I know, we say it all the time, “What did we ever do without cell phones?” Or without computers? Hmmm, let me see if I remember. Oh yeah, we talked. We played. We stayed out late, well after dark, playing hide and seek and jailbreak. We played street hockey. We rode bikes. We played flag football in the backyard. We went on long walks, spent time in the neighborhood park, took tennis lessons, joined Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and so much more. The list goes on and on. And not once did we wonder what we were missing. Not once did we worry about who was trying to reach us while we were out. Imagine what life would be like if we could do all those things today without frantically looking for a place to charge our phones!
Discover life beyond your laptop. A study in New York Magazine from 2015 showed that about 1/3 of Americans have never interacted with their neighbors. Researchers believe this is because we are more in touch with people through electronics than through personal relationships. The study also showed that those who did know and interact with their neighbors are healthier and enjoy their day more. Many neighborhoods today have playgrounds, swimming pools, hiking trails, bike paths, and more. Step outside and look around. Wave. Have a drink with the guy across the street. Check out the local park. Go on a bike ride. And take your kids with you.
If I were a anthropologist in the future, studying the collapse of the human race, I could probably trace the demise back to one single invention – the cell phone. People are on them ALL. THE. TIME. At dinner, at the movies, on the subway, walking down the street. What is so important that none of us, myself included, can go more than sixty seconds without looking at our phones? I’m sure you’ve all heard that America is suffering from a terrible, contagious, life-threatening disease. It’s known as FOMO. Time Magazine even did a story on it recently – This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out. The answer? Gratitude. “Really?” you ask. Yep. It’s that simple. Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate your friends, family, home, job, life. The article sums it up by saying, “Gratitude is essential.”
By focussing on the good in your life, going outside without your device, trying something new, seeing the world, imagining the possibilities, discovering the people around you, and being grateful for what you have, you can kick the electronic habit. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.