My father rarely gets a thank you. Not because he isn’t the world’s greatest father (he is), but simply because I forget.
I forget that the same hard-working man who earned money for meals and school supplies and family vacations is also the patient, gentle guy who loves me infinity times.
And those family vacations prove it. Those agonizingly long road trips and weeks spent crammed into camping tents shaped the four-person group I adoringly call Clan McMutchler.
So thank you, Dad, for educating me on the finer points of wilderness survival, sibling diplomacy and the world beyond our state border.
Of the thousand and two things he taught me, here are a few of the best lessons I’ve learned from traveling with my dad:
- No need to fly somewhere if a 30-plus-hour car ride will get you to the same place.
- Persistence pays off. The more times you ask to stop for McDonald’s, the sooner mom will put away that bag of carrots and agree to fast food – “Just this once!”
- Hip packs are hip when they contain all the water, trail mix and sunscreen necessary for a day-long hike. (And you’re not the one wearing them).
- It’s only a disaster when the food runs out, a hub cap rolls down a mountain side and you’re hours from civilization. Otherwise, it’s an adventure.
- Be curious. Ask questions. Don’t let embarrassment freeze your tongue.
- Bargains can always be found, if you’re willing to do the research. Paying full price is as silly as loafers without socks.
- Loafers without socks? The classic vacation look that never goes out of fashion.
- A good traveler always knows where the bathroom is.
- To tip a canoe, try paddling upstream over a waterfall.
- Face your fears. If you’re brave enough to ride the Tower of Terror, mom will buy you a t-shirt.
- Comfort can’t always be purchased with discounts and coupons. If it’s worth a few extra dollars, pay for it.
- The tee-pee method starts campfires. The log cabin method starts arguments.
- To avoid blame in a foreign country, shout “Sorry, Canadian!” repeatedly in public.
- When someone’s backing a boat/camper/trailer into a difficult spot, set out the swear jar then vacate the scene as fast as possible.
- You’re never too old for Disney World.
- Sunflower seeds are the long-distance-driver’s drug.
- Keep the fun in planning. Just anticipating options is like taking 300 holidays at once.
- The “Circle of Life” answers many a biology query, such as: “Why is that animal lying by the side of the road?” and “Why do we have to spend another boring day fishing?”
- To lose in a tandem bike race, put my brother on the back seat.
- To lose in a kayak race, put me in the back seat.
- Take your children on vacations. Even when all their other friends are going to Mexico on Spring Break, make them come along. They’ll thank you eventually . . .