Looking back on the family vacations from my childhood, they seem pretty average. We visited our share of amusement parks but also went to nature museums, historical spots, and the beach. A lot of the trips run together in my memory, but what I do remember most of all were the simple pleasures that went along with escaping the routine.
It's funny that I've retained fewer memories of the destinations than of the motels we stayed in. None of our lodgings were fancy. When my family went to the beach we left things like cable television, stereos and electronic games behind while all five of us tried to coexist in a clean but small timeshare near the ocean. Attempting to compromise on which of the three available television channels to watch often led to one victor and four people who found something else to do. Instead, we played games or read by the open window to the sound of the ocean. At night we reviewed our activities and planned for the next day, relaxing on scratchy bedspreads with muscles taut from swimming. Even the food tasted better. Improvised with a couple of pots and a few simple ingredients, what must have been different was the attitude with which it was prepared and consumed. There was no rush, no expectation of a fancy meal, just a simple hot supper after a long, pleasurable day.
My summer vacations instilled in me a great love for the ocean, but they also taught me that most of the fun did not depend on the setting. Our trips were not more or less pleasurable according to what motel or apartment we had chanced upon that year. They were reliably full of the enjoyment and challenges that togetherness brings. As an adult I think that it's possible to get in that "vacation frame of mind" anywhere, as long as you're enjoying every minute of being where you are.