Hi everyone! For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook (links can be found by clicking the words or in the side panel), you’ll have noticed that I was silent this past week. Sorry for the disappearance, but I was on vacation.
Usually we go to the beach. We’ve been to plenty of them: Jamaica, California, Hawaii, the Bahamas, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and many on the east coast (from New Jersey through Florida). We’ve done amusement and theme park vacations, zoos, cities, and even a cruise, but we always go back to the beach. Sun, sand, surf… it doesn’t get better than that.
Until this year.
This year we spent our vacation in Pennsylvania. My husband and I are both from the same home town, our kids were born there, and we still have family and friends in the area. It’s a two day trip by car, but we stayed with family on the way there and back, so it was kind of like a two-for-one vacation. Sure, I miss the beach, but I have a pool if I want to swim, and I wouldn’t trade my visit home for anything.
When we crossed through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the sight of Pittsburgh greeting us on the other side was spectacular. The only time it looks better is at night. We saw the fountain at The Point, the Gateway Clipper fleet on the river, the city skyline, Heinz Field, the Carnegie Science Center, and after a short drive, PNC Park (where a baseball game was in progress). I would have loved to have stayed in the city. There’s so much to do there—shopping and eating at The Strip; going to the four Carnegie Museums (Art, Natural History, Science Center, and Andy Warhol); visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Allegheny Observatory, and Phipps Conservatory; riding the Inclines (Duquesne and Monongahela); touring Carnegie Mellon University so the kids could see where their parents went to school; attending a Pirate game; spending a day at Kennywood Park or Sandcastle… I could go on, but we didn’t stay in Pittsburgh. As awesome as the city is, we had better things to do.
We went home to see family.
We’re from Vandergrift, Pennsylvania… it’s a little town about forty minutes northeast of the city. Its claim to fame is that it’s the first worker-owned, industrially-planned town in America. Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape designer who designed Central Park, was responsible for designing the town. My husband and I met, dated, fell in love, and were married there. We still have a lot of family and friends in the area, and we went home to see them. That beats any trip to the beach, or anywhere else.
We spent time with my ninety-five year old grandmother, looking at old family photos and hearing wonderful tales of days gone by. We visited my husband’s grandmother and his great-aunt and uncle where we listened to stories of family and friends. We stayed with my parents-in-law, where we played games and enjoyed each other’s company. We ate many meals with my family, trying to celebrate Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday with the appropriate fanfare his holidays deserve. We spent time with siblings and their families, and ate the foods that we’ve been craving but can’t get here—both homemade and purchased items. We even attended Mass at our hometown church… a church that is a national landmark and was designed in the gothic style (something that we just don’t see here where the churches are of modern styling).
It was fabulous!
The best part was the reconnecting with family. We heard stories and histories that reinforce who we are and where we’re from. Some of the stories I’d heard before, and some were new, but they were all new to my kids, and watching them absorb their heritage was a golden experience.
I’m not sure what your vacation plans are this year. I could certainly recommend a trip to Pittsburgh. There’s plenty to do, to see, to eat… You wouldn’t be disappointed. But instead, let me recommend a trip where you can connect with your roots. That’s where the real memories will be made.
My entire family enjoyed our trip (adults, kids, and even dogs!), but I’m definitely going to benefit from our visit home. Not only were the areas good for me to revisit because my novel series is set in Western Pennsylvania, I now have fodder for several other stories as well. I bet a visit home would give you some ideas, too.
Have you ever taken a trip where you got ideas for a story? Why don’t you share the experience with us in the comments.