**Note: As I went to post this, I realized Bret had written a post on the same topic, but I thought it might be nice to get two perspectives on the same trip. I hope you don’t mind!**
When friends invited us (two years ago, no less) to spend this Fourth of July week with them and their four kids, I have to say I was less than thrilled. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of a “vacation” that required a 9-hour drive and 13 mile motorboat ride to arrive at an island with no electricity, and I was pretty sure that I would hate the fact that the kids would outnumber the adults 2-1. But these are really good friends and they were so excited, and in the end, I just couldn’t say “no.” I do love a good family road trip!
As I sit in the car now, driving towards home, I find myself wishing we could turn around and head back up to those north woods on the other side of the border: To the calmness of open water and clear skies and days where the greatest thing on the agenda was to catch fish for lunch.
There was amazing freedom in not being able to be plugged in for a week. I realized how much time I spend on other vacations “just checking email quick.” Without that distraction (which easily turns into an hour of my vacation lost), time was freed up for playing cards, watching kids swim and, yes, fishing! We even made homemade ice cream with an old-fashioned crank machine and precious ice protected in coolers for three days.
We found that eight kids (they brought up a cousin to add to the fun) can get along marvelously when given the chance to interact in a natural non-organized way. They planned skits, played games and swam until we thought their feet would be webbed. It turns out that our kids being there encouraged the kids who have summered there every year to try new and different things. And at the end of the day, they’d collapse hot and exhausted into their private, kids only, bunkhouse to laugh and talk until all hours of the night.
Life on an island is relaxed and private and calm, but the network of friends on neighboring islands made it feel as though we were part of a small town community – the type that doesn’t exist anymore. When I needed dried dill for a recipe I was making for the 4th of July potluck, our hostess sent her 10 year old son in his little fishing boat to the next island over to ask a neighbor if she had any. Sure enough, he came back, dill in hand. On the 4th, all 12 of us loaded into two boats and traveled 45 minutes to a different “neighbor” who hosted a party for 70 on his island. Even though we weren’t part of the community, we were welcomed with open arms and the kids were immediately asked if they wanted to go out tubing.
Last 4th of July we were happily enjoying the hospitality and musical celebration of Jackson Hole, Wyoming while on our big, six week family road trip across the West. This year we experienced something completely different on an island in the middle of Lake of the Woods. It made me realize how many different ways there are to celebrate the same holiday. I’m not sure where we’ll be next year (although my vote is for Canada again), but I’m sure it will be terrific.