Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education, in the elder, a part of experience. – Francis Bacon, English philosopher
Growing up, I often complained of my parents’ lack of interest in Disney World and Hawaii as family vacation spots. Many of my friends, I told them, went with their parents to condominiums in Florida during school breaks or to the Bahamas in the summer. Instead, my parents ignored my cries, were creative and took my brother and me on day trips to different towns around Maine.
From the time I was in a stroller, and until I left for college, we traveled to all corners of the state. I can only remember two trips that my family didn’t take in state, one to South Carolina and the other to Prince Edward Island.
Traveling with my parents was not “cool” when I entered my teen-age years. But now that I remember these excursions, and if I ignore the times I fought with my younger brother in the car, I know I enjoyed them.
I didn’t realize it then, but my parents were educating me in their own way.
My father’s enthusiasm to find destinations new to us was infectious, and my mother taught us to look for the interesting and not dismiss what others might consider commonplace, from one-horse towns to historic landmarks.
Sometimes we didn’t go far but explored towns near our home in Bucksport. We visited Mount Desert Island many times, but Bar Harbor was not usually our destination. My mother preferred the less crowded areas (if you could call any place on the island less crowded), so we visited Seal Harbor, climbed hills along the Beech Cliffs Trail near Echo Lake and picked sea glass on beaches.
Bar Harbor and Cadillac Mountain were day trips we took in the spring before the tourists arrived, and we never left the island until we had had ice cream and saltwater taffy at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium on Main Street in Bar Harbor.
Despite my mother’s aversion to crowded places, we visited tourist traps as well. I used to worry that we behaved too much like tourists. We were Mainers and should blend in, but my father was a shutterbug and insisted on snapping photos of everything. He especially loved to take pictures of the family sitting among bug- infested lupine beside the road.
We braved Rockland’s Lobster Festival once, but had more fun walking the mile to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. Taking the Belfast & Moosehead Railroad and watching a mock-bank robbery was a treat for my brother and me. We also explored the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport and played with the green pet rocks given to us at the end of a tour. We would gaze at the mansions once owned by sea captains, and I wondered what it was like to sail the world and how often women watched for their seafaring-husbands from widow’s walks.
When we drove to Kennebunkport, my brother and I watched waves splash against the breaker at former President Bush’s summer home. As a young girl I also loved to look at a yellow house with gingerbread trim and other homes in the town’s historic district.
We also knew places many tourists were unlikely to be. Since my parents grew up in northern Aroostook County, we passed through many towns on the way to my grandparents’ homes. We stopped at the Railroad Museum in Oakfield and climbed Hedgehog Mountain near Winterville where my grandfather was a fire warden. I saw much of the Allagash when we would take a day to picnic and fish, and in St. Francis, Rankin Rapids was a favorite access site of ours to the St. John River.
The trip to Lubec was probably the most dangerous and exciting day trip our family ever had. We first drove by old homes perched on the hill and visited the red-and-white-striped West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. We then ventured across the border to Campobello in New Brunswick and stopped at East Quoddy Head Lighthouse, which is only accessible by crossing two small islands.
My mother, who has bad knees, stayed on the mainland as my brother, father and I climbed rusty ladders and scrambled over seaweed-swathed rocks to the lighthouse. As we peered in the tower’s windows, we heard my mother yell and were worried she had hurt herself. We soon realized she was warning us to get off the island because the tide was coming in quickly.
I was the last to cross and had to slosh through water up to my waist. If the tide had trapped us, we would have had to wait for hours to get off the island because my father had the car keys, which would have left my mother stranded as well and unable to get help. She kept us away from lighthouses for quite a while after this escapade.
The family trips are less frequent now, but I’ve started going on my own trips across the country and will cross the Atlantic Ocean to England in September. My parents have taught me to appreciate the distinctiveness of each place I’ve come to, starting with Maine towns. But they’ve also given me roots that I can return to.
Amanda Dumont is a NEWS intern who comes from Orrington. She is a junior at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. She will be studying English at Oxford University in England this school year.