By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.
And that means it’s time for U.S. Americans to travel across this great land and even the world. Back in 2015, about 33 million Americans traveled overseas. Countless more visited other states.
Vacation spending is equal to about 2 percent of the total budgets of all U.S. households annually. That’s why I don’t like to travel for pleasure. I will endure the suffering of traveling if it is for work purposes. The normal trip within the U.S. involves transportation, lodging, food/drink and entertainment, which can get near $1,000. If you desire to visit a foreign land, expect more than triple that cost.
Traveling is like torture to me. I would even equate it to punishment. But recently I got married, and apparently that means I will have to take a vacation. So to better understand why I “need” to travel, my wife, Ruth Sellers, gives her top 10 list of “The Best Things About Vacations.”
10. New atmosphere
As a woman who was born in New Mexico, she has lived all over the world from England to the Philippines. The need to see new places is in her DNA. A trip to Kansas, where she graduated from high school, seems to rejuvenate her soul.
Part of that rejuvenation is taking time to relax. Since I don’t accompany her on most of these trips, I see the torturous process of packing, arranging the agenda and coming up with the money. But according to photos and stories, each travel venture gives her a chance to set her mind free from the stress of work, her husband and life back home.
8. New experience
Each city offers its own adventure, landmarks and destinations. I know some Memphians who haven’t visited Graceland yet, plan to finally go to the Civil Rights Museum or have only heard about Chucalissa Indian Village. You can have new experiences in your hometown, but Ruth insists that other cities like Shreveport, Wichita and Nashville are filled with hidden jewels that will impact you for a lifetime.
One part of a new experience is culture. How do the people of that city behave, interact and believe? Just in the U.S. you can get Southern hospitality or Northern exposure. A trip to Alaska or Hawaii is a whole new world, ranging from icebergs to volcanoes.
Does your destination hold strong to Native American values and heritage? Do you want to learn about American history by visiting the Commonwealth? Ever wonder how the forty-niners shaped the landscape of the West? I usually pick up a book to learn these things. Others, like Ruth, would prefer to go to the location and add the tales of the residents to be educated on the culture.
Speaking of the locals, Ruth adds people to her list. Each city is filled with stories that must be told by those who live there everyday. And sometimes your family moves to faraway places for a change or to seek an opportunity. I guess if you love them, you will take the time to go see them and enjoy their new home.
Ok, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us travel with a dish on our mind. If you come to Memphis – barbecue. Philadelphia – cheesesteak. New Orleans – beignets. Los Angeles –Dodger Dog? Well, you get my point. Each city has a signature food you must eat once you’re in town.
Here is my hidden gem: When you’re in Murfreesboro, Tenn., go to Blue Coast Burrito and grab a large wrap featuring the pulled pork.
4. New destination
Some families go to the same place each year at the same time. So venturing out to a new place from time to time can be exciting. You can look forward to visiting all those places you read about for the first time.
3. Views on the road
My favorite view on the road is kind of pitch black. My eyelids are closed, tightly forming a vice grip around precious sleep. If I am snoring, oh, this trip had reached levels of awesome.
But that is only a dream because most of the time when I travel long distances, I’m doing the driving. So I don’t take the time to soak in the sights and atmosphere. I’m too busy looking out for 18-wheelers, Sunday drivers and NASCAR amateurs. I want to make it to the destination safely.
As to those who have the chance to enjoy the sunrise or sunsets, I’m so jealous. Even a beautiful skyline popping up out of nowhere after miles of grass is amazing. And I must admit, seeing the Superdome shine over the horizon of Lake Pontchartrain is one of my best memories in life.
Memphis has four seasons. So if you need climate, just make plans every three months. But sometimes you need the heat in February. Maybe you like skiing and must book a trip up north as soon as September hits the calendar. Ruth loves trips to Arizona. She explains the difference between Memphis humidity and dry heat.
While we endure muggy summer nights, out West the nights can be cool and enjoyable. I could use some of that in my life in about a month.
My only good reasons to travel are the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game, World Series, Stanley Cup Final game, Indy 500, Kentucky Derby … you get the point. If it’s not for work or sports, stay home.
One the other hand, Ruth tells me you can travel for graduations, weddings, family reunions, birthdays, just because, church, best-friend outings, concerts, parades, festivals and more. Huh. People really travel for those?
So for whatever reason you hit the road this summer, be careful and spend wisely. I hope you enjoy a staycation soon and make a couple of trips to the couch. I will enjoy a feast of items from my refrigerator, changing the temperature on the thermometer when desired. The Travel Channel will provide with intriguing stories and a dose of culture. As I relax in my own home, I will change up the atmosphere by going to another room. So no view of the road eating up my gas and putting my life in danger will be as sweet as a bowl of gelato in Siena, Italy. Oh yes, I know that experience firsthand after a tour of Italy in 1999.