A Window Sheilded Vacation

A Window Sheilded Vacation

A Story by Elizabeth Moore

Chronicling the many years of travel with my family.


A Window-Shielded Vacation

My family loves to travel, my father especially so. We’ve been going on vacations every summer since I was a small girl. Dad always has every minute planned, scheduling as many tour guides, reservations, museums and hikes as possible, determined to squeeze every drop of culture available from whatever place we are visiting. We’ve always seen as much as possible, flying in and then driving as far and to as many places as our two weeks allowed. Mom and I often joked that we needed a vacation from our vacations.  Hardly ever did we stay in a place more than one night. We started calling them window-shield vacations, the rental car our avenue to experience.

We started with the United States, first venturing to closer places, family in Mobile, beaches on the east coast. I’ve always gotten motion sickness easily, but it was especially so as a child. With so much time spent inside the car, Dramamine came to be a good friend. Boredom was fought off with car games, and when my parents tired of those, I was always armed with my notebooks. I have one from almost every trip, about 8 in total. Their filled with stories about magic potions and elves, or grumpy complaints about being away from my friends or whatever boy I happened to have a crush on. Complaints about being on some dumb vacation with my parents. Reading them now I wish I could shake that little girl and tell her, “Look around you! You’re missing it!”

One of our first big trips was to Arlington, Virginia. I couldn’t have been much more than eight. I still remember finally getting out of the car and seeing all those graves, forever running in neat lines. I was dancing through them, stretching my legs and singing my silly child songs, and I didn’t understand why my father stopped me. Why he was angry. And even as he said, “These people are dead. They were soldiers,” I still did not understand.

In the next few years we saw the west coast, first flying into Salt Lake City. We stayed just long enough to see the children singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, their tiny faces shining in the candlelight, voices almost preternaturally high and sweet. The next day we went white water rafting outside the city. When I was a little girl I was very small, weighing only eighty pounds till about the sixth grade, but I remember finally weighing enough sit in the boat like a big girl.

We drove from Utah to Wyoming, our destination Yellowstone National Park. We stayed at The Old Faithful Inn, a huge hotel that still somehow maintained the cozy feel of a rustic cabin. I played piano in the foyer; Jazz tunes and Beethoven and with my black velvet dress and matching hair ribbons the guest would say, “So sophisticated for a 12 year old,” as they passed us by.

I remember the smell of the geysers, of rotted earth and sulfur. I interviewed my father next to Old Faithful, the biggest geyser of them all. Mom filmed us with our newest electronic device, a video camera. I pretended to be Barbara Walters. He was an awe-struck tourist. From then on we did the same on every vacation, our interviews becoming sillier and sillier, and soon it was a tradition.

When I was in seventh grade we went on our first trip overseas. Sure we’d been to Canada before, but it wasn’t the same, didn’t provide that same foreign allure. Even the name sounded exotic: Peru. But after an eight hour flight we were nauseous from the drastic change in altitude. We drank coca tea from the cocaine plants growing in abundance on the land. The hotel offered it to all its guests. At first I was hesitant, but Mom and Dad said it was okay, and it soothed our heads and stomachs. When we went to Machu Pichu our tour guide ate the coca leaves like candy, a habit we found most Peruvians followed.

My dad and I climbed Wanu Pichu, a mountain adjacent to the taller Machu Pichu. After a steep three hour hike our shirts were drenched in sweat, but we had finally reached the top. The only thing between us and the sky scraping view was a small cave. It was about 20 feet wide, its roof very close to the ground. It was obvious we had to crawl under it in order to see reach the very top. And that was when Dad’s claustrophobia set in.

He’s had it since as long as I can remember. Once we even had to get off a plane because of it. All the passengers had boarded, and the pilot was giving instructions when it happened. I was so scared and embarrassed, rushing off the plane like we were some kind of terrorists. Afterward the airline felt so bad they booked us the next flight first class. Now my dad takes Valium when we fly.

So Dad and I watched as the other climbers slipped their bodies low to the ground, crawling stealthily into the dark cave. I looked at him, his face still dripping. His expression dubious. “Let’s go,” I said. “We’ve made it this far.”

I took his hand and bent to the ground. “Close your eyes,” I told him, slipping in the dank darkness like I’d seen the others do. “I can guide you.” We made it through to the other side, a bright crack of light guiding the way and opening to the ancient, llama filled ruins of the Incan people.

A year later we were in Costa Rica, and it happened again. We were zip lining, just me and my dad (we usually left mom home for the more adventurous endeavors). We’d taken a huge hummer to the top of the rainforest, and our instructors were serving us lunch before strapping us up in gear. But the vests they gave us were so tight, the ropes so constricting. Again, his same panic. And again, my same reassurance. We’ve made it this far. We’re doing this.

We went to Europe the summer after my freshmen year in high school. I was fifteen. We flew into Paris, as usual staying for only a night or two. We rented a little black BMW and drove across the French country side.  Then we moved on to Switzerland and Italy, splitting a week between the two. Finally we drove all the way back to Paris, ready to spend our last three days “relaxing”, which to my father meant cramming in as many art museums and walking tours as possible.

We ate at a small French restaurant on the last night of our trip. Our grasp of the French language was minimal at best, and although we found most of the French people were happy if we tried at all, we still had our problems. My mother and father accidently ordered raw tuna, a huge slab of red meat that filled their plates. Mom sent it back while Dad insisted it was fine. We were in Paris!

The waiter brought us all glasses of wine. And for the first time my mother said, nodding her head, “Go ahead, you can have some.” I tried not to act shocked, tried desperately to deserve the maturity I knew she was offering me. I took a sip, the dark merlot swirling bitter in my mouth. I’d only tasted beer before. Really, I thought it tasted pretty awful.

Our last trip was about a year ago, and like all our trips I can’t believe the months that have elapsed. We flew to Chicago to see a favorite musician of my fathers, Leonard Cohen. The concert was at the Chicago Theater, a dimly lit structure with red velvet curtains and murals of angels painting the walls. There was an impressive array of performers: flamenco guitarists, harp players, and jazz drummers, but the best part, of course, was Leonard himself. His deep voice was unmistakable, just the same as when Dad played his CD’s at home during dinner.

Afterward we went to “Andy’s Jazz Club”. Mom bought me a huge drink, something blue with lots of fruit and alcohol and cost about 15 bucks. I couldn’t help but think how things had changed. When we left I was still dressed up in high heels and a little black dress, and I got the quick up-down from the numerous business men lining the wall, enjoying their nights off. “Hey,” Dad said, “I saw that.” Mom and I rolled our eyes. Guess he still wasn’t used to it.

At the beginning of this year my parents spent two weeks in Turkey. Since I’m in college now, I wasn’t invited. I look through their marvelous photos, the markets in Istanbul, the tall hoodoos made of clay, their balloon ride through the Turkish countryside, and I’m reminded of the many photo books lined with our memories. The pictures are different from the old ones, a different background and different clothes, but they are also the same. And although I wasn’t there with them, I know what happened all the same (and not just because my Dad showed me 1,500 photos with detailed verbal descriptions either).

In their smiling faces I see the same tiredness, the days of hikes and packed itineraries. But I also see the awe, a glow that only experiencing something you will most likely never see again can elicit. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps they felt a little girl sized hole in their troupe. I often think about her, sitting in the car and writing in her journals, passing by the wonders of the world without a second glance. But eventually she did look around. She realized was lucky to have been brought along at all.

© 2010 Elizabeth Moore

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There's no doubt in my mind that you're sorely missed by your parents. Empty nest syndrom--it's real.
Thank you for that enjoyable romp, allowing us to follow along with you on your many travels. You're very fortunate to be the daughter of parents who could afford all of that.
You write very well, and I only found a couple of things that need fixing, but they're insignificant.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


There's no doubt in my mind that you're sorely missed by your parents. Empty nest syndrom--it's real.
Thank you for that enjoyable romp, allowing us to follow along with you on your many travels. You're very fortunate to be the daughter of parents who could afford all of that.
You write very well, and I only found a couple of things that need fixing, but they're insignificant.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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1 Review
Added on April 23, 2010
Last Updated on April 23, 2010
Tags: travel, family, vacation, peru, costa rica, yellowstone


Elizabeth Moore
Elizabeth Moore

Tallahassee, FL

I'm majoring in Creative Writing at Florida State University. My passion is fiction, but I love to write pretty much anything and everything. I love playing guitar and piano. I love reading boo.. more..

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