We live in a world where quantity is key and joy is purchased. Teens I know rank their popularity by the number of texts they receive or friends on Facebook. Adults often choose their jobs based on salary and houses on square footage. Summer vacations are a perfect example of the emphasis put on money. My friend’s parents spend thousands on Florida resorts and European adventures, but this year, I learned that fun isn’t always for sale.
I have never been to Disney World, and I have absolutely no desire to go. Looking back, my fondest memories most often occur in natural environments with my family and closest friends. One of my earliest recollections is the Alaska State Fair. I remember riding on my dad’s shoulders and feeling purely invincible. Another happened on a hot summer day while riding bikes with my best friend. The wind blew my hair back and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
This year, my mom suggested borrowing her sister’s cottage for a few days. Although it is a “work in progress,” it is located on the shores of Lake Huron and her idea was accepted with enthusiasm. The other, possibly more exciting element of her plan was to invite three of my best friends to come along. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Unlike more typical vacations, this one wasn’t luxurious. There was no television or internet access at the summer home. The service flickered in and out on our cell phones making it difficult to call or text home. Even the black flies were out, and they bit our legs as we walked on the sand. I worried fleetingly that I had made a mistake dragging my friends out to the lake, and my thoughts flickered to people who had boasted of more exotic vacations.
My worries faded away when I realized that I had underestimated my favorite people.
We ran with abandon into the water and splashed until we couldn’t breathe. We completed a thousand piece puzzle and played Sudoku until all we saw were numbers when we closed our eyes at night. We built sandcastles. We cooked s’mores. We ate waffles and we played chess. We learned badminton. We told stories. We cherished every moment we spent together.
That vacation was quite inexpensive, but I will never forget the feeling I had when I woke up in the mornings. I was afraid to breathe too loud and ruin it, because I wanted to remember every second. I wanted to bottle that feeling and experience it every day.
When I go back to school in the fall, I will undoubtedly hear about many marvelous trips whether I want to or not. They gab about meeting important people or going important places. They tell me about their strict schedules and exquisite dinners. But this year, it won’t matter. I will nod and be polite and ask questions, because I know that I’m lucky too. I will shut my eyes and remember walking down to the lake at night, being unable to distinguish the waves from the sky, and dipping my feet into the stars. Nothing could possibly be better than that.