Try to remember what you had for dinner on the 16th of July this past summer.
Now try to remember what you were doing on the afternoon of June 5, 2012.
If you can recall the details of those days, you must keep a daily diary, or you have a photographic memory. Or, maybe you looked it up on Facebook just now.
Most likely, you were traveling.
That’s where my most vivid experiences get burned into long term memory.
Stepping outside of the routine of home, job, and school, to travel to new places, to experience things outside of one’s comfort zone, and to dare yourself to face the fear of the unknown. Well, that’s just the stuff to make a lifetime memory.
Oh, and to do it with your kids is even better.
We’ve traveled as a family from the very beginning. My kids haven’t seen the whole wide world, but they’ve had a taste. They’ve beachcombed on the Thames in London, hiked up to Delicate Arch in Utah, geocached on the Olympic Peninsula, walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path in England, and explored the Props Department at Universal Studios.
And made four trips to Disneyland. Just because I love the place.
The point is, these memories we’ve made together are vibrant and fixed, a wholly different kind of animal from the memories of home and school and life in general. They’re all good, just different.
The everyday memories are a wonderful blur of activity and growing and pain and laughter.
The travel memories are points in time, set in the stone of our consciousness. They are like a precious photograph on the wall that brings a little smile as you pass by.
I could not tell you about the many hundreds of walks through our neighborhood we’ve made over the past ten years, but I can describe in great detail the harried stroll we took in May of 2011 through the streets of Alnwick, a village in the northeast of England, after getting off the bus at the wrong stop. It was a walk to remember, at times both frustrating and exhilarating.
I would also have trouble recalling any particular thunderstorm that has rocked our house in recent years, but my family all vividly remember one that hit us as we walked the streets of Butte, Montana, back in 2007. We still talk about getting stuck outside the mineral museum at Montana Tech as the hail pounded down around us.
There wasn’t anything special about that storm, or the walk through Alnwick, other than we were travelers. Strangers in a strange land. Seeing the world around us like babies, taking it all in with wide eyes and wondering awe.
If you haven’t set out on a journey with your kids in awhile, start planning one. Make it someplace you’ve never been. Get passports and hop a plane. Or just drive to the next state and see something new.
Travel is more than just seeing new things. It’s a way to make memories that will inspire and educate. Your kids will change in the most wonderful ways once they’ve stepped away from their daily routine. As parents, you’ll get to share in that change because the memories are yours as well.
By the way, dinner on July 16? Shepherd’s Pie at Sandysike Farm, in Cumbria, England.
And the afternoon of June 5, 2012? Exploring the Lewis & Clark Caverns in Montana.
Now go make a memory you won’t ever forget.