I grew up in a family of world travelers. In fact, I took my first steps in the Denver airport! My family had a fair amount of money, but rather than buying expensive cars and other luxuries, my parents spent their money on travel and it’s a gift that’s enriched me as a person in so many ways.
My parents sought to see as much of the world as possible, so unlike many families, who would vacation in the same location year after year, my family was different. We saw the world and we rarely ever visited the same location twice. My family had a very unique vacationing approach. When it came to travel, we weren’t your lazy, relaxing, laid-back family; we were the family with a five-page-long itinerary, with each day planned out to the minute so as to see as many sights as possible! And while it was wonderful exploring new places, these were the sort of fast-paced travel experiences that left you in need of a second vacation in order to relax and unwind!
Around the age of 10 or 11, I started vacationing with my best friend’s family during the summer. Year after year, her family went to the same place: the family vacation home in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.
Each trip started with a four-hour drive and a sometimes-frightening ride on the ferry across Lake Champlain. We would soak up the sun, all the while looking for Champ, the mythical lake monster.
After an anticipation-filled 40-minute drive from the ferry drop-off, we’d arrive at the family’s Adirondack’s estate, owned by her socialite step-grandparents. Located at the end of a winding, hilly dirt road, the estate was perched on a remote hillside, overlooking a gorgeous little private lake. The estate, comprised of a huge main house and two guest houses, was situated amidst a beautiful pine forest that was filled with tons of interesting nooks and crannies, like the massive moss-covered rock formation that stood outside the kitchen window — a place where deer would often stop off during their travels.
The estate was a wealthy person’s approximation of ‘roughing it’. But in reality, it was anything but ‘rough,’ right down to the caretaker who would stock the freezer daily with massive chunks of ice, harvested from the lake during the winter. The estate had enough bedrooms to sleep a small army of 27. The interior was furnished in traditional Adirondack-style furniture, with wood plank floors, white birch rafters and a stone hearth that was topped with a massive moose head that gave the estate its unique name.
Sitting on the deck of the main house, you were treated to a view of the lake below, with an incredible mountain range backdrop. Simply stunning.
This beautiful setting is home to some of my best childhood memories; it was a place of warmth, of family. It was a place where the days were spent exploring the forests, reading on the dock, catching frogs along the lake’s shore and swimming. The nights were filled with board games, delicious home cooked meals and talk of the next day’s hike. In fact, the great room was home to a massive map, filled with different colored pins to indicate which family members had climbed each mountain peak. There was no itinerary. No rushing from one site to the next. It was a warm, home-like place where I grew to love my friend’s family as much as my own.
I’d travel to the Adirondacks with my friend’s family for more than a decade; until my mid-20s — a time when distance and life got in the way of our friendship.
Today, I look back on my travel experiences — experiences that have taken me to five continents and 37 countries — and it’s those trips to the Adirondacks that I hold most dearly. If I could go back in time to re- live a travel experience, you would find me in the Adirondacks. Indeed, seeing the world with my own family was wonderful. But this was a different type of travel…it was traveling to a place where you would discover friends, family and yourself, amidst a beautiful woodland setting. It was, quite simply, my version of paradise.