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Childhood Family Travel Memories: Kay from the Upper Midwest

August 13, 2018

I am excited to launch another family travel stories series! This new series focuses now how traveling as a child influences people’s travel goals as an adult. My first interview is with a longtime friend of mine, Kay. You’ll love her story about how a year abroad as a child deeply influenced her love of travel today. I think you’ll find her story a great inspiration to keep traveling with your kids (like I did)!

You can find more family travel goal stories here.

A bit about Kay:

Age 59, grew up in Sioux Falls, SD, have three siblings, two brothers and one sister, travel is my favorite activity!

What kind of travel experiences did your family do growing up? 

My parents both grew up in Minnesota, in families that owned a lake cabin. When their parents died, each of my parents inherited a cabin, one on Eagle Lake near Willmar, MN, and one on Lake Superior, near Two Harbors, MN. So the majority of our family travel was to and from “the lake.”

Before one of those trips, we kids would ride our bikes to Dow Drug store, where we would spend our allowances on penny candy, Slo-Poke suckers, and giant SweeTarts. Along the way, Mom would often read to us (including The Secret Garden) and we also each brought our own books and comics. The big challenge was making the candy last the whole trip.

The one big travel experience we had as a family was in 1969-1970, when my professor father took a sabbatical from the college where he taught English Literature, and we moved to England for a year. Because Dad did not like flying, we crossed the Atlantic both ways on a ship called the Princess of Canada. What a treat for us children! We had full run of the ship with lots of planned children’s activities. Afternoon tea every day with delicious tarts and cakes, saltwater swimming pools, a movie theater, a costume contest, and many other children to make friends with.

That was a big adventure for the kids but likely a planning marathon for my parents. With four children and 13 suitcases to keep track of, it was not surprising that one suitcase did not make it to the village we were to live in.

A treasured time for all of us. Neither of my parents worked that year, so they were more available to us than ever before. Dad was spending the year reading, for the most part, while Mom joined local walking groups. We kids went to the English schools, and during holidays the family traveled around the UK and on the continent.

I’m sure our parents were glad they had spent so much time and effort teaching us manners and how to behave at restaurants. 🙂 For our part, we were glad when we could go to castles instead of to another cathedral.

How has your family travel experiences growing up affected where or how you travel now?

Because I loved England and France so much, my initial focus from college onward was to return to England. I have been back five times, with each trip focused on different areas of the country. I’m heading back the first week of September, this time spending a week in Cornwall.

 

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How has your family travel experiences growing up influenced your travel goals today?

Some of my goals still include returning to places i loved when i was eleven years old and traveling with the family. I hope to return to the Loire Valley of France to visit chateaux, to Scotland to walk in the highlands, and to Holland to experience Amsterdam as an adult.

One way i have differed from my siblings and many of my fellow Minnesotans, however, is that i have had my fill of vacationing at the lake. My clear preference is for visiting places I’ve never been before; I love the feeling of discovery and filling my eyes with a new kind of beauty. So in addition to the planned “returns,” my goals include new experiences in places i have yet to see. These include seeing the giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands, riding heavy horses in Ireland, and experiencing blooming lavender fields in Provence!

What travel habits did your family have that you still do? What do you do differently?

I still pack candy for my trips and pack a picnic lunch whenever possible. I still bring books, but now also my iPad and my iPhone. I now enjoy viewing cathedrals and fancy gardens, which i found boring as a child.

What are childhood travel memories stand out the most for you?

So many vivid memories–building sandcastles on Omaha Beach in Normandy, choosing a pair of wooden shoes in Holland, performing in the school musical production of “Oliver” in the village school. One of the most vivid is from when we visited Exmoor in southwest England, where the wild moor ponies live. While we were petting some of them, one nibbled my long blond hair and Mom said the pony thought it was hay. When we turned to go back to the car, one of the ponies had his head inside the driver’s side window and was eating the bread for our picnic lunch! Mom quickly moved to the other side of the car and took a photo of the horse–a legendary picture in our family that always brings a smile.

What would you tell people who are parents right now about how your experience of childhood travel has impacted your life?

I have no doubt that those childhood travels broadened my horizons and helped me see how different life can be in other places. It tied our family together in special ways with shared memories. My father used to joke that while he may have been a bad father in some ways, at least he had taken us to England–and we always agreed.

Now as i approach retirement age, my fantasy is to live in an English village–my happy place.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Ingrid
    August 14, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Travelling to England in a ship must have been an exciting experience. I can appreciate the amount of planning that went into that activity.,to keep the kids entertained and happy. Another truism is that I didn’t do much traveling as a kid and neither do I travel much as an adult.

    • Reply
      Kristie
      August 14, 2018 at 6:17 pm

      I think the ship ride would have been exciting, too! (Though I was really prone to motion sickness at that age… 🙂 )

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