As a kid, I used to take road trips from Philadelphia to South Carolina every summer with my grandparents and their youngest child, my aunt. “Going down south” was an annual tradition that we all looked forward to. My grandmother would fry chicken and pack it up with pieces of white bread. She’d wrap up pound cake in aluminum foil, put cans of soda in a cooler, and we’d ride the nine hours only stopping for gas and an occasional bathroom and stretch break.
Once we got to South Carolina, vacation would start. My grandparents pretty much let me loose to hang out with my country cousins. We were in the country for real, so our days were mostly spent waving at cars from the porch and making up stories about what life was going to look like when we grew up. The days were long down South, and there were certainly moments when we were bored. It was still a lot of fun!
At the end of a week or two, my Grandmom, Pop-Pop, aunt and I would head back to the city.
It wasn’t exotic, but that was vacation.
When I was a little older, I moved with my father and stepmother. We lived overseas and traveled a lot through Europe, but we didn’t give it a title. I reflect now at some of the things we used to do, and sure enough, we were on vacation. The indoor water park, the castle visit, and the drive to the Black Forest are some highlights that never seemed like vacation before, but obviously are when I look back.
Sometime between then and all the way through my twenties, I stopped taking vacations. Whenever I got time off from work, I’d go and visit family or friends, but I never did the “away from it all” thing. Going away always had a purpose. I was attending a wedding, a graduation, or something.
Ayva had just turned 2 when I felt like we needed to get away. We were living in Philadelphia, it was super hot in the middle of the summer, and I was over it. The two of us hopped on a bus and went to Atlantic City for a few days. We didn’t have an agenda, there wasn’t anywhere that we needed to be. It was breakfast on the beach, walks on the boardwalk, and ice cream every night before bed. We had a ball and I started to get a sense that this needed to happen more often.
Terrence believes in taking a break. Every August, when his job slows down, our family gets out of town. Sometimes we do a road trip, and go somewhere like Southern California or Oregon. Other times we’ll go tropical in Hawaii or family friendly to Orlando. We take our kids with us, of course, and my in-laws are with us sometimes, too. Vacationing is a family affair.
What’s funny is it took me awhile to get used to vacation. I was so used to being ON all the time that I didn’t know how to turn off. Thankfully I have the hang of it now, and I count down the days until we can get away.
Black folks have stressful lives.
More than anything, black families need to go on vacation. We deal with so much stress in our everyday lives. Not just the adults, either. The kids do, too. Vacation is intentional self-care and gives us a chance to rest. We need that.
It also gives us a chance to connect and bond on a different level. Although we play with our kids when we’re here at home, on vacation, the sole purpose is to have fun and make memories. There is so much laughter and deep conversations and important quality time spent together when we go away. I relish those moments.
In addition to that, vacation and travel expand our children’s world. Those road trips to South Carolina that I took when I was young might not have been a big deal to folks these days who can fly to Europe for the same price and in the same time it took us to take our road trip. For a lot of kids where I grew up, though, they never left the city. They barely left the neighborhood. I was exposed to different states, got to see what life looked like outside of my hometown bubble. The things I could imagine and dream about were bigger because of travel.
My family vacations all the time now.
I’m sure that I would have gotten back to my vacationing roots for my children eventually, but I’m glad to have married into a family who helped me see the importance of it. My son isn’t even two and he’s already flown more than some adults I know. Both Jamie and Ayva have been over the U.S., and soon we’re going to take them out of the country. I’m excited for them to really experience the world.
Being intentional about taking our black children on vacation is a revolutionary act. It says that we are committed to making sure our children are well-traveled and know that there are options for how to live that extend beyond what they see in their day to day. My grandparents, by fueling up their car and taking us back to where they were from, were way ahead of their time. I’m proud to continue the tradition of family vacation with my own children.