Life in the Pedestrain Lane: The road goes on forever …

When I was a kid I thought a lot about traveling.

My Mom was a frustrated tourist, having been born a generation or two too early. It just wasn’t the thing to want to leave home when she was growing up, and also not the thing to go against tradition or one’s parents, at least not for my Mom, so she stayed home and read a lot about other places. She did make it to Hawaii once and to Alaska a few times because she had kids here, but she never traveled out of the country, except to drive through Canada to Alaska. We read a lot about “other places” and she instilled in me the desire to always see what was over the next hill.

But of course, my generation, the so-called “Silent” one, had things to do before running off to see the world so it was after marriage, school, kids and a whole lot of other things before I dared to venture further than Alaska to see what might be on the other side of the river. But then, I expect that desire is what brought a lot of us to Alaska.

It was really the “Boomers” who instigated the “travel while you are young” mentality into our culture and James Michener’s novel “The Adventurers” just spurred them on. I read it many years ago and immediately identified with the narrator, while my younger friends took on the persona of one or another of the travelers. I often envied them the freedom to just pick up and go wherever and whenever they wanted. Then the Gen Xers really picked up the pace of travel-while-you’re-young with international school trips and Spring Break in the hinterlands somewhere.

We called it Senior Sneak in my day, and it was a secretly planned Senior Class trip happening after Prom and before Graduation. Or at least we liked to think it was secret. One day the Seniors would not show up for school and the lower classmen would know they were off for a party, usually to “the lake,” as that was about as far as they could go for a day trip. Sometimes a particularly academically oriented class would go to Spokane and spend the day at the museum and Gonzaga University then go to a movie or play before coming home, and they might have even enlisted the help of a teacher to facilitate the get-away, but for the most part, by Spring, the Senior Classes I was most familiar with were ready to ditch school and have a party. If no one got hurt, or caused any trouble anywhere, they usually got away with it, but if there was any undue publicity associated with the skip, then someone, or maybe the entire class would be suspended for a day or two and have to make up the time before Graduation.

It’s hard to remember when the day-long Senior Sneak turned into the class trip that might last a weekend or over Spring Break and take the kids to some exotic spot their parents had only dreamed of. I took the Village school (17 students) to Washington D.C. one year. We were in company with a plane load of kids from all over Alaska and of all ages. We spent the entire school year before that raising the money for the trip. When I see any of those people these days, that trip is the first thing they remind me of and they all remember it as a major milestone in their young lives. I’m not sure it changed anything but their memories, but it sure was fun.

We in Alaska are prone to travel. Mainly because nearly everyone of a certain age is from somewhere else and feels the need to take a trip “home” every year or so. For the younger set, the need for sunshine and warmth in the wintertime sends them to Hawaii or other points south for a week or more. I think I’ve read somewhere that Alaskans are probably the most well-traveled people in the U.S. just by dint of where we live. We have to travel to get anyplace.

I have been lucky enough to take some interesting trips and hope to take more. When we began our traveling, Mom would always tell us the places we “had to see” when we got to the destination and I’d write her long travelogues of what it was like and if it was true to the story we’d read or the pictures she had found. I made a few vicarious checks on her bucket list. We and our contemporaries are busy traveling to the places we wish we’d gone when we were younger. These days, however, instead of my Mom suggesting where to travel to, the Granddaughters are the ones to say “Really Grandma, you’d like Timbuktu.”

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at vewalters@gci.net.

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