As the weather warms up, the sun shines later in the day, and the showy spring flowers start opening up, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to things like taking time off to enjoy nature, go on a trip or — like many people — start planning a summer vacation.

I haven’t taken a vacation — a real vacation — in years. More like decades.

By “real” vacation, I mean one where you pack a few bags, lay in a boatload of snacks and beverages, stuff the family in the car, and take off for some new and exciting destination, where you can maybe forget the real world for a bit and recharge.

We didn’t often take family trips when I was growing up. In fact, I can count on one hand the times my mother and I did anything resembling that. I’m not sure I’d need all my fingers.

Growing up an only child in a single-parent family in the 1970s and 1980s, money was fairly tight. I didn’t realize it at the time, thanks to the hard work of my mother and the support of my grandparents, but looking back now that I have experience with some young ones of my own, I know how expensive those little heathens can be. They’re also worth every penny, but I digress.

A vacation for me was typically a week-long expedition to Boy Scout camp, but that doesn’t really count.

It wasn’t long before I turned those trips to camp into a summer job, working as counselor-in-training and then an actual counselor.

The one family vacation that sticks in my mind came when I was in my early teens. Mom and I hopped in the car to drive out east to visit my aunt and uncle in Maryland.

We got in the car and hit the road, taking the long — and I mean long — way through Tennessee. If you’ve ever driven through that state, you know what I mean. It only takes a couple hours to cross north to south, but it’s many times that going west to east. It seemed longer at the time. 

I remember stopping at the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum in Jackson, which was more fun than it had any right to be, and seeing miles and miles of Tennessee countryside.

Once we got out of the Volunteer State, we headed up to Washington, D.C., which I considered the highlight of the trip.

We spent a couple days there, seeing some of the sights, but not nearly enough. With only a short time there, I had to learn to prioritize. There was so much I wanted to see, so my mom let me pick what I wanted to do.

I’ve never been much of a sightseer, so it wasn’t particularly hard to pass on monuments and most of the touristy things people do. I had my sights set on the Smithsonian Institute and the National Zoo.

Even then, I had to narrow it down.

The Smithsonian features a grand total of 19 museums in addition to the zoo. As a young animal lover, the zoo was a given. I got to see pandas.

As for the rest, I decided that we had time for two museums. At the top of the list was the Natural History Museum.

I was in heaven. I could have spent all day there, but we had to push on. There was time for one more museum — the Air and Space Museum.

Getting the chance to see the Spirit of St. Louis up close was too good to pass up, not to mention all the other aircraft and space exhibits.

When we finally made it to Maryland, I got another dose of history when my uncle took me to another museum, this time of the nautical variety. My aunt made a new treat for me, crabcakes made from fresh crabs, and I even got to go to the beach at Ocean City.

All in all, it was a pretty good trip. At the very least, it was memorable.

As for the rest of my many years, the idea of taking a vacation just hasn’t appealed to me.

At my last job, I had enough years in that I had basically three weeks of vacation, 16 workdays.

I hardly ever used all of them, at least until the last several years I was there, and then it was mostly travel time to collect my stepdaughters from Michigan, maybe spend a little time with them and then take them back. Totally worth it, but again, not a real vacation.

There’s no real reason I can’t take a trip now, but even after I get past my general dislike of travel — I like seeing new places, but I hate the process of getting there — it just doesn’t seem appealing. Since my wife passed, I have no one to share experiences with — or, more accurately‚ listen to my complaints.

My attitude might change this year, especially if I can find a travel buddy. There’s a lot of time left to make plans.

Then again, maybe I’ll just stay home.

Robert Cox is an award-winning columnist and the managing editor of the Republic-Monitor. Write to him at rcox@perryvillenews.com or P.O. Box 367, Perryville, MO 63775. He may be reached by phone at 573-547-4567.

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