A Year of Gifts
We almost canceled our family vacation this year.
It was going to be a bigger trip than we usually take, but with one college and three high school graduations to celebrate, we’d decided it would be worth the extra expense (and hassles that come with international travel). The kids are growing up fast, and soon, it may be nearly impossible to schedule a vacation with extended family due to the many work and school schedules.
A month or so before we were scheduled to travel to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the media was suddenly filled with scary stories of unexplained deaths in that area of the world. Their reports were instilling apprehension and fear. Any time I mentioned our trip to someone, I’d brace for the inevitable comments about the well-publicized situation. It seemed everyone had heard the stories.
Never underestimate the power of the media to alter behavior. Many people have cancelled trips to the Dominican Republic in the past month.
Were we acting irresponsibly, taking six young adults, ages sixteen to twenty-two, to a foreign country where a dangerous mystery seemed to be expanding?
I worried. I lost sleep over it. The other adults in our party did as well. Then we decided to take a closer look at the media reports.
First of all, I don’t in any way want to minimize the tragedy of lives lost. People have died, and my heart goes out to their families and friends.
But we did try to understand whether or not the instances were increasing in number over prior years. Upon further research, that didn’t appear to be the case. Millions of people visit that area every year. Unfortunately, there are some inherent risks associated with traveling, and sometimes underlying health conditions can be exasperated when away from home.
Finally, with only a week before our scheduled departure date, we all decided we’d be extra careful and vigilant, but we weren’t going to cancel. It isn’t often we have the opportunity to experience a trip like this, and we wouldn’t be scared off by the hype.
We left on July 6th, following one last-minute panic when I discovered I’d spelled my daughter’s first name wrong on the travel itinerary (Imagine my panic when I realized this the morning of the 4th but no one was open to help me fix the error because of the holiday! I must have looked at those documents ten times before, but didn’t notice it until right before the trip – and you can’t have misspelled names on international travel documents that don’t match passports!)
I am happy to report the error was fixed before we left, the trip was amazing, and we made memories we’ll never forget. We had absolutely no problems.
This trip serves as a powerful reminder to me that we cannot let fear rule our lives. It would have been a shame to miss out on this opportunity to spend quality time with family. I sometimes forget that life isn’t meant to be lived in a cocoon of only what we know to stay safe from all risks.
First of all, scary things can happen even if we never leave our own communities. And second, it’s a big beautiful world out there, full of amazing people, and we miss out if we don’t go out and explore it sometimes.
Leaving can also make you appreciate home. While the resort and beaches were beautiful, other areas of the island we drove through showed evidence of poverty and lack of sanitation. The days were hot and humid, and many people work outside in those severe conditions, doing back-breaking work. Seeing how other people live, without many of the everyday conveniences we take for granted, makes me appreciate living and working where I do.
Walking along the ocean, feeling the salty breeze on my face, also reminds me of the massive power of those vast bodies of water. I live in the middle of North America and seldom visit oceans. What secrets do they hold? What swims beneath the surface and lives in the depths? In a mere twenty minutes of snorkeling, the variety and sheer numbers of fish swimming beside and below me were astonishing. We can only imagine what else is out there, miles and miles out at sea.
If you have the opportunity to travel 50 miles or 5,000 miles, take it. Find a way to pay for it and make the time to do it. Make memories while you’re able. Capture the beautiful scenery and people in photographs to enjoy for years to come.
We had to order new passports for this trip. This means we have ten more years to fill the pages of these little booklets with stamps, bearing evidence of more fun adventures. I wonder where else we’ll find to roam in the years ahead?
Safe travels to you all, and if you have suggestions for fun destinations we could explore, please add them to the comments! Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!