Spring break allows for time with family

Claire Hettinger and family near the Mendenhall Glacier and Waterfall near Juneau, Alaska, during their vacation in 2012.

By Claire Hettinger

College is seen as the time to escape families and be independent for the first time. But what does this mean for the people who care the most about students’ well-being, but are oftentimes excluded from this new life? Parents and siblings are often left behind, and distance can disrupt strong, happy relationships.

However, family vacations are when bonds are strengthened and memories are made. They are an amazing time to rekindle the relationships that may have been thrown to the wayside during the hustle and bustle of a semester in school.

Vacations are also a chance to open the mind and get some peace and quiet. They are a chance to let go and be yourself completely. There is no better way to do this than by being with your family, the people who have loved you and taken care of you the longest.

I love the freedom available on the open road. It’s a chance to be anyone and do anything, and there is no better group of people to share it with than your family.

I have traveled all across the United States with my family and have experienced unimaginably beautiful things. I have lived for only a short while, but because of the opportunities traveling provides, I feel like I’ve lived for one hundred years. That’s the beautiful thing about adventuring around the country with your family — you get to absorb all the wonder of the world and the people in it and make these trips a part of your family’s identity.

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Through family vacations, I realized how much I truly like my brother and sister. Away from the stress of school and chores, we became friends through our travels. It was OK that we were dorky during these trips, because there was no one to impress except the people who have to love you anyway. I don’t think I ever appreciated them fully until we took our road trips together. The same thing goes for my parents. I learned what it means to care about your family. My mom and dad make a lot of sacrifices every year to make sure they can take the family on a trip together. They save coins and extra dollars in a “vacation fund” in the kitchen cabinet, and constantly dream about where they can take us.

And it makes our family strong. We understand each other because we’ve spent hours riding around the country in our minivan (aka “SmileVan”), and we listen to ideas and thoughts and reflections while enjoying the countryside around us. But as we see the world, we are also able to see ourselves and learn things about each other that otherwise would have never surfaced.

In New Orleans, for example, I learned that my dad is completely committed to making sure I don’t get kidnapped after 20 years of putting up with me.

My grandparents gathered enough courage to leave Champaign County for the first time in 10 years to visit my brother in Chicago to show him

how proud they were.

I realized, in Los Angeles, how far my uncle will go for a good joke when he borrowed a Zac Efron pillow just to tease me about my awkward “High School Musical” phase.

In Juneau, Alaska, my grandma and I realized how many things we have in common, and we’ve been really close ever since.

And lastly, when I was a bridesmaid in Marion, Indiana, my mom taught me about true love when she camped out in a hotel room for three days to soothe my anxiety.

When college is over, your family members are the ones who are going to be waiting for you on the other side. They are the ones who will buy expensive plane tickets to see you on holidays and when your children are born. They are the ones who will hold your hand when you’re sick. So please, pay some respect to the people who have put up with you for years and years.

Take a moment and think: These people know the worst and weirdest parts of you, and they still want to spend their precious vacation time with you. They could go anywhere with anyone now that their children are in college, but you know what? For some reason, they want to be with you, and I think that should mean something.

Vacations provide an opportunity for people to show how much they care, so do your family a favor and spend your spring break on a trip with them.

Claire can be reached at [email protected].