The “educational” tag is SO over rated. Especially when it comes to summer vacations. My parents (a self-employed business man and an elementary school teacher) made it their mission to make sure we learned something over the summer break. So while my friends were water skiing on Lake Michigan or riding donkeys down to bottom of the Grand Canyon or hanging out with Mickey & Minnie, my family was marching through the Smithsonian in DC or traipsing along the Freedom Trail in Boston or sitting/snoozing through historical lectures in the City of Brotherly Love.
Did I have VA-CAY Envy? You bet I did!
But here’s a little secret I never told anyone…there was one “educational” vacation I enjoyed very much--the one to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1972. The beauty of the “living museum” in Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to experience what life in the 1600s America was like by doing some of the tasks required for existence 400 years ago. For example, my sister and I carded wool then spun it into yarn, used a printing press to make our own little newspaper, watched blacksmiths pound iron into hooks, and enjoyed horse-drawn carriage rides along the cobble stone streets. (There’s something SO soothing about the sound of hooves clacking against the stone in measured cadence. Be still my heart.) Oh yeah, and we got put in "jail." (In Colonial times, people would throw garbage--and worse--at people sentenced to time in the stocks. Fortunately this was not part of my experience!)
My one complaint? The heat! Southern summers are not for the faint of heart! And those poor women who had to wear those heavy hoop-skirts and caps! How did they do that? I was practically melting myself, and I had on a sleeveless shirt, shorts and (as any well-dressed kid in the 70s had…) white Keds.
What I needed was a dip in the ocean. I’d seen the signs for Virginia Beach. Beach meant ocean. Ah, cool, refreshing water.
I asked. I begged. I got down on one knee and pleaded, “Please, please PLEASE! Let’s go to the beach and cool off! Please! Please! Please!”
“It’s four hours away,” my parents said. “That would make for a much longer drive home, too. It would take two days then Dad would have to take another day off work.”
I accepted that, as young children of the 70s did, not because I respected my elders but because I didn’t have the World Wide Web at my finger tips to prove otherwise.
Fast forward twenty years when my military husband and I made the move from San Diego, CA to Norfolk, VA via Ohio. That equated to nine days on the road, driving and eating fast food, with a three day layover in Ohio to visit family. On our way south to Virginia we stopped at the Williamsburg exit to fill up on gas. My parent’s voices echoed in my head, “Four hours away.” At that point I honestly didn’t have four more hours of travel in me. I suggested to my husband we find a hotel for the night.
“Why?” he asked. “We’re only an hour away.”
<<insert sound of screeching record here…>>
“An hour?” I asked.
“Yup,” he said.
Needless to say, my first phone call to my parents once we got settled in our new home (this was in the days before cell phones, or trust me, the call would have been made there and then!) “Hey Mom and Dad, did you know that Virginia Beach is less than an hour’s drive from colonial Williamsburg?”
And then it occurred to me, Virginia Beach may have been fun and refreshing, but it did not push the “educational” button.
After living in the Coastal Virginia area on and off for the past 30 years and spending hours bike riding on the boardwalk or picnicking on the beach, licking an ice cream cone while watching tourists frolic at the water’s edge, I’ve learned that there’s something about being near that water is good for what’ ails ya. The light is different, the sound of the crashing waves is relaxing, the smell of the salt water is refreshing. It restores one’s soul. I feel better after a day at the beach. Probably not smarter, but then as I’ve said before, that “educational” tag is SO overrated.