A Memorable Family Vacation

This is what holidays, travels, vacations are about.  It is not really rest or even leisure we chase.  We strain to renew our capacity for wonder, to shock ourselves into astonishment once again.”

–Shana Alexander, “The Roman Astonishment,” in Life (1967)

Shana Alexander has named something so essential to not only travel but to life itself: our capacity for wonder and astonishment.  How much of life would we miss if we looked, but did not see, the amazement right before our eyes?  What would our lives be if we lost our capacity for wonder and astonishment? 

My family and I just completed an opportunity to enrich these capacities within ourselves. Rick, our son Brendon, and I traveled together to the northeastern states of Pennsylvania and New York and then crossed the border into Ontario, Canada.  We traveled along the rolling hills and mountains of Pennsylvania, witnessed past accomplishments  of talented baseball players at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, visited the home of one I have long admired, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who tirelessly pursued justice for women, and experienced the life-force, and yes wonder, of Niagara Falls in Ontario.

Of course, the best part is that we traveled as family, which for me increased the depth, meaning, and joy of all that we experienced.  How could I not return home full of gratitude for this venture?

Here is a photo journey that outlines the points and pleasures of our travel together:

Hershey, Pennsylvania


Our first stop was to “the sweetest place on earth,” Hershey, Pennsylvania, where Milton Hershey perfected the process of producing milk chocolate.  A great story of innovation and vision.



Flytes of chocolate, from dark bitter to milk chocolate sweet!  My favorite?  Always dark chocolate.  We were told there’s a little over 1,000 calories in these six flytes!




Cooperstown, New York — Baseball Hall of Fame



I was taken by this quote because of my family history.  On many an evening my parents sat on their front porch, listening to a Cubs game on the radio.  I am certain they “saw” every play!



One of the Twins great players honored in the Hall of Fame.


Brendon at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.

Seneca Falls, New York — The Home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton





The home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton


A statue of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton being introduced by a mutual friend.  It was a lifelong friendship, based on a passion for women’s rights, especially the right to vote.  The nineteenth amendment to allow women the vote was passed in 1920.  Neither woman lived to see it happen.


Niagara Falls–Ontario, Canada





Niagara Falls, where we shocked ourselves “into astonishment once again.”


We spent our last evening in Canada at a casino, where a delicious buffet meal of various ethnic dishes was served.  Rick won eleven Canadian dollars!

The Short View and the Long View

The other day I had a conversation with a friend about how we see the events and circumstances of our lives.  She talked about the “short view” versus the “long view.”  She stated, “Sometimes if we can’t change the big picture [the long view], we focus on the little things [the short view].”  And this can be problematic.

Throughout the day I kept thinking about our conversation.  And whenever I respond to something with surprising interest, I believe there must be a reason for it.  Maybe I need to learn something. Or be aware of something.  Or reframe something. So the next morning I settled into a comfortable chair with my journal, opened it to a blank page, and began to write, asking myself: What does “short view” and “long view” mean to me?  Here’s my summary:

The short view, I wrote, can cause us to get “tripped up” by unexpected and unwelcome setbacks in our journey.  These “bumps in the road” could be logistical, like an unexpected expense, or emotional, like a hurtful, discouraging remark.  These events can drain our energy, diminish our self-confidence, and cause us to lose sight of the hopes, dreams, goals and possibilities of the long view.  As its name suggests, the short view is short-sighted.

This does not mean, however, that I should ignore or repress my memories and feelings about a short-view setback.  I’ve learned that every moment is a teaching moment, and I can learn from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.  But when the short view begins to look like the long view itself, I know my vision needs correction.

The long view. Columbia, MD.
Photo JStanton

The evening following our conversation, I had this dream:

I was running in a marathon.  (I do run distances but not marathons, at least not yet!)  About half-way through the race, I got a little lost.  I had approached some turns but I wasn’t sure which turn would keep me on the marathon course.  There were no signs telling me which way to go, and there were no other runners around to give me direction. (I’m sure they were all ahead of me—something I can truly believe!)  Finally, I asked the volunteers stationed along the way where I should turn. They tried to help me, but several turns later only resulted in short streets (the short view?).  I never found the extended, stretched-out course of the marathon (the long view?) that I needed to be on.   

So there you have it.  A dream as a teaching moment.  Perhaps I’d find it worthwhile to ask myself: Where am I too focused on the short view?  And what is the long view I need to be on at this time of my life?  Whatever I learn and discover, I’m sure it will be an adventure.  I look forward to it.