Fleeting Summers & Life Lessons

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been out of school now for a month. “Living it up” on my summer vacation…heh. Yeah, I have never ‘lived it up’ on my vacation time. Due to the fact that my dad’s busy time with work always falls during the elusive dry months of summer in Washington, my family has never truly gone on a vacation. I’ve only flown once- to Texas to see my brother graduate with his Bachelor’s. It was a weekend jaunt, which meant I didn’t get to explore the fact that I was in Texas much less enjoy the fact that for the first time I wasn’t on the West Coast.
When I was 5 years old, we went to California to do the prerequisite trip to Disney. I got a double ear infection…don’t remember anything about Disneyland but throwing up. Only thing I vaguely remember is getting to eat with my fingers while knights on black and white horses tried to get each other off said horses with loud clashes of wood meeting armor. That was on the way home. Because Medieval Times still resounds with me, I’ve thought about going down there to see the jousting- the prices are nearly $60…and I think, yeah I’ll put that off. Though I highly recommend it (at least my inner 5 year old does) because it shows a snapshot of history where children can interact with it. Image

That was really the only true vacation that I’ve had. And really? At 5 years old, there really isn’t anything called ‘vacation’ in your vocabulary.
I’ve never truly traveled. I’m a homebody in more ways then one. I’m ok with that for the most part. I’ve been 20 miles over either border of the US (To the Peace Arch in Canada for a Girl Scout rally, and to El Testerazo, Baja, California for a 2 week Youth Group mission trip). I’ve barely touched Idaho and only fleetingly ran through California. Oregon? Lived in it for 6 years and haven’t went much past Portland.
When you are friends with people who randomly jump on the plane to go to Europe for a few weeks, or friends with natives from other countries, I look at what I’ve been able to ‘see.’
Unlike many of my age group that I’ve known, I’ve worked hard since I was 14. Even before that I was taking care of animals for friends (as they jet off to Mexico or for a long camping trip in a famous national park), while others played, I worked. I made money. I proved my reliability, and I’m proud of that fact.
For many adults, I (or my brother) was the one they thought about to watch their house while they were away, because my parents raised me right.
I was taught the power of a good reputation, the satisfaction of a job well done. I learned how to work hard and be willing to do it for no reason beyond the fact that it was the right thing to do. I learned how to work my brain but also my muscles. I learned how not to take anything that didn’t belong to me- simply because it was wrong. I didn’t earn it, I wasn’t entitled to it, and I didn’t need it simply because I wanted it. I learned that sometimes the best feeling in the world were bleeding blisters on your hands- because it meant that you worked hard. That sometimes the feel of a hungry belly after a hard day of work was more rewarding than the relaxed limbs of a body out in the sun all day. I learned life.
Sure, I had my pangs of envy when school would roll around and I heard friends bragging about what they did (always to be followed with “but that is ALL we did this summer (sigh)” ) and the knowledge that my friends soon stopped asking me what I did, simply because I would say I worked.
Sometimes, work was simply around the house, sometimes work was taking care of an elderly woman with dementia. Work was work.
But, those rare moments, when Dad didn’t have to work so hard during summer driving truck, when we were able to sneak away to the river are still beautiful little nuggets to me.  When Mom would pack a big lunch, we’d load up the dogs and hit the river for the day, those days are embossed in my memory.
Or the simple joy of an all out war with water in the house. The knowledge that my friends didn’t have parents who are willing to get things wet so they could be called champion for the day still makes me smile.
Or the simple days of getting in the car and just driving. To explore the area around us and get that special beef jerky at our favorite butcher shop a few hours away.
These were my summer vacations, simple one day wonders.
Right now, as with the last few years- I have itchy feet. I want to DO something. I’m in a rut and I’m tired. I have been putting one foot in front of another academically and work wise for so many years, I don’t know if I’d recognize adventure if it sat in my lap. My ultimate goal and dream is to go to Ireland. It has been my life’s goal since I was a little kid. It’s the reason why I keep focused on graduating (my parents promised me that they’d send me to Ireland for a graduation gift). While I’ll want to explore Dublin, my ultimate goal is the Cliffs of Mohr because of the resounding beauty of the area. Also, I’m the type of person who’d rather find a couple of talkative elders to tell me stories of their lives than shopping for knickknacks in all honesty.

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I think ultimately though- I wouldn’t know how to take a vacation if I wasn’t doing something that was helpful. Considering how uncomfortable I am at a friend’s house after dinner (not helping clean the kitchen up afterwards) I don’t know how I’d handle free time to do whatever I wanted. I don’t want to be one of the annoying American tourists that so many countries complain about. I don’t want to take- I ultimately want to give.
So I like the ideas of the Volunteer Vacations, getting to give back to a country that I’m visiting. Who knows? Maybe that will finally be a way for me to get out of my rut? But, I’d still need money to do that…so I’ll be spending this summer doing what I always do- work.

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