Have you ever noticed that when you go on a vacation and people ask you how it was, they really only want to know that you had a good time? Their eyes glaze over if you talk incessantly or show them too many pictures. They don’t really care to hear the details of every restaurant menu and point of interest, how many hours your plane was delayed or how you got from Wisconsin to California in record time.
But people can’t resist a good story. If you want folks to hear about your vacation, put it in story form. Resist the travelogue. Delete the itinerary. Share the juicy details of a memorable event.
Reminder: Calling for your most memorable vacation stories!
I’m talking about a story with a scene, an expanded anecdote. Something with a problem to solve, conflict to resolve, or goal to achieve. Something with real people (you!) and emotions. Something readers can experience with you—through your words.
Your tale can be funny, grand, or poignant. Not just an image, summary, or vague memory, but a fleshed-out story, from 300 to 700 words.
A slice of life. Zoom in on special moment, hour, or day that you’ll always remember and enjoy telling others.
Submit your narrative via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 15 (extended deadline). I’ll share several on the blog starting in February. Include a relevant picture or two!
Several readers have already told me they’re contributing a tale—thank you! But there’s room for more.
This isn’t a contest—unless I get 100 entries and have to narrow it down. I just thought it be fun to hear YOUR stories for a change. And share them with other readers.
Don’t be shy . . . you can include a pseudonym if you want. (But please send me your real name, too.)
To Jar Your Memory . . .
For additional inspiration, browse through my vacation anecdotes below. This list of my own memories is here expressly to jar your own. I could write easily write 300 to 700 words (or more) on each of them! But I’ll leave them as summaries for now.
- In San Francisco (2003), Tim, the girls (ages 13 and 11), and I visited Alcatraz, hung out around Pier 39, attended a San Francisco Giants baseball game, and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge—everything you’re supposed to do there. But the funniest moment was when we were driving and “Mama Mia” came on the radio. Tim and I burst into song with Abba, singing louder and louder as our girls shrunk shorter and shorter in the back seat, faces horror-struck. (Tim might deny this now, if you ask him. But it really happened.)
- At the cottage on our annual family vacation in Michigan, my brother, sister, and I got stranded with our boat right next to someone’s dock. Jake needed a knife to cut rope on the boat, but we didn’t have one. I drew the short straw and had to go up to the house of a perfect stranger and ask if I could borrow a knife.
- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve camped in the rain. My first time camping and canoeing at the Boundary Waters in Minnesota was such a novel experience that rain didn’t bother me. But it quickly grew old, especially years later when we had to sleep all night in wet sleeping bags and hang them to dry in the morning.
- During spring break in college, driving out to Colorado to ski, we were crossing Nebraska in the middle of the night when the engine gave out. The driver stuck a sock in something under the hood to keep us going. Sorry to any Nebraskans out there—but that’s my only memory of Nebraska!
- While hiking the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina (1989) with Tim and 3 male high school students, we got caught in a thunderstorm. While Tim jogged a mile to go get the car, the boys and I huddled together in the closest shelter—the campground’s grungy restroom. Yes, 3 high school boys and me.
- An opportunity to sit by Robert Goulet on an airplane (1960s) was completely wasted on my 6th grade sister, who didn’t even know who he was. Mr. Goulet was friendly and asked Carol questions, but she was too shy to offer more than one-word answers, too ignorant to ask for an autograph. When we got off the plane, Mom and I learned who her companion was and went berserk! (For those of you too young to know, Robert Goulet played Sir Lancelot in Broadway’s Camelot in the 1960s—opposite Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. His signature song was “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Listen here. We had the album.)
- Tim has been through a comedy of errors more times than he’d like to remember when traveling to and from conferences—reminiscent of Steve Martin’s disasters in the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. One time it cost his missing the final soccer game of the World Cup. He planned to reach watch the game with Kaia in Chattanooga, but alas, he was en route in a taxi cab. (In a cab only because the previous 3 modes of transportation failed him.)
- Another time Tim slept overnight in an airport—right next to a famous historian he admired but had never met! A bit of awkward serendipity.
- The month after we got married, we went camping near Washington D.C. with Tim’s family. The campground had no showers, so Tim’s dad rigged up a makeshift one in the middle of the woods. This caused very awkward moments as a newlywed with my new family.
- College spring break in Florida is wild enough, never mind the time my 3 girlfriends and I ended up sharing a hotel room with 12 other girls! I kid you not. It’s a long story. But it’s spring break. It’s college. What can I say?
- When Kaia and Audrey were 3 and 1, my in-laws’ car broke down on the way to taking us to the airport in Orlando. Since there’d be no refunds for missed flights, we were desperate. Tim hitchhiked to get us to the airport on time! A guy in a motor home picked the four of us up. On the road, holding Audrey in my lap, I noted dozens of beer bottles and rum on his countertop.
- On a road trip to Florida with my boys in 2012, they were disappointed to find out that you can’t just run anywhere you want in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. Stay on the pathways? How lame! But they were enthralled with the playing the same two songs over and over across the entire state of Georgia. Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” I would have gone crazy except that they were having such a good time laughing. Smile.
- The first day the girls (10 & 8) and I showed up in Mexico (2000) to visit my missionary sister and her family, my niece got stung by a scorpion. Welcome to Mexico!
- Tim disappeared for four hours on our honeymoon in Mackinac Island, Michigan, and I had no idea where he went. A result of major mis-communication. While waiting for him to return, a woman from the nearby house invited me to wait on her porch. She told me about someone she knew whose husband had abandoned her on their honeymoon. Thanks, lady.
- My college roommate Sharon and I were oblivious to the ways of the world when we checked into the Starlite Motel in Jersey City, New Jersey for one night of spring break. We were trying to save money. Let’s just say . . . our guardian angels watched us closely that night! Motel not recommended. Zero stars out of 5.
- My daughters and I went on a Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” road trip with friends and bought various relevant souvenirs, like prairie bonnets, etc. But Kaia’s favorite souvenir was a stuffed banana she found at a secondhand store in Pepin, Wisconsin. The girls had more fun with that crazy banana, playing catch, hide-and-seek, and hot potato.
In closing, if you’re sending me a vacation memory, here’s what to do:
1. Write up your story/anecdote, 300 to 700 words. Think . . . slice of life. No summaries. Zoom in. Whatever the memory, think imaginatively. Be funny, grand, or poignant. You choose.
2. Email your tale to me at email@example.com by November 1. Include a relevant picture or two! Let me know if you want to use a pseudonym.
I’ll edit stories as needed, and post them on the blog throughout February and March.
Any questions about the vacation memory submissions? Or, if you don’t plan on submitting a full-fledged story, tell me something about a favorite memory below.
I’d love to hear from you!