A pandemic vacation has a lot of requirements—must be driving distance, must be in-state (in my case unless I want to take two weeks off of work to quarantine when I return), and must not involve crowds.
So, after a lot of internet searches and family consultations, we decided to go to the mountains. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the vacation we had planned a few months ago which involved white sandy beaches, palm trees, and drinks with little umbrellas. But we adjusted our expectations, and my husband even came up with an Excel spread sheet of our activities.
The first excursion involved rafting. My husband and I were in one raft, and the girls each had their own rafts. It was the perfect socially distanced activity—or so we thought, until we learned we had to take a bus to the put-in site packed in like sardines with a mostly mask-less crowd. Both girls said it was a no go, and we agreed. So we negotiated with the rafting company to allow us to drive our own car to the put-in site and then my husband would get a ride back from an employee to pick up the car later. It all worked out, and it was a beautiful, fun trip down the river.
Our next stop was a famous BBQ restaurant. When we got there we learned they had shut down all their seating the day before because patrons refused to wear masks, and they were concerned about their employees. So, they decided to do takeout only. No problem—we adjusted and decided to take our food to go and head over to a local drive-in theater to watch a Blake Shelton concert.
We are a little bit like the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s movie “Vacation” looking for Wally World. Someone is always complaining and something is always going wrong. But that’s OK because in the real world, just like on the silver screen, life is perfectly imperfect.
Family vacations are always a reminder to me that whether you are in Italy, Florida, at the beach or in the mountains, it’s not about the place, it’s about the shared experiences. If the pandemic has taught me anything it’s to be patient, be flexible and hold your family close. We will never get this time back—this exile from the world that has forced us to do what we should have been all along, spending time with our loved ones.
Someday, when we talk about what we did in the summer 2020, hopefully my kids will remember we went rafting and hiking in the mountains as a family. And they will smile. I know I will.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.