Things we learned while on vacation

Published 8:09 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Here’s something you may not know: Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is home to the only diamond mine in the world that allows the public to search for and keep any gems it finds — for a small fee, of course.

Our family once visited that tourist spot during a week that boasted 100-degree temperatures. We rented the necessary equipment — shovels, pails, strainers — and our excitement grew with every display we stopped to read, especially the one recounting a 7-carat wonder.

Even the sight of multitudes of bedraggled fellow “miners” digging in 37 acres of dirt did not deter us. We had visions of a grand discovery. With seven miners in our family and two diamonds unearthed on average each day, the odds sounded pretty good.

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Our enthusiasm, however, didn’t last long. Squatting is hard, and it was hot. After about an hour of digging, sifting, kicking, changing spots, and questioning why we ever thought this was a fun idea, an executive decision was made (vacations require a lot of those), and we quit.

Actually, it was a decision with unanimous support, quite possibly the only decision of the trip claiming that distinction. We chalked it up as a learning experience. 

Now that I think about it, most of our vacations have had that “learning experience” factor.

Imagine our surprise at learning our child who had trouble with math could suddenly measure to the 1/1000th of an inch when it involved his personal car space on the long road to Destin.

And who knew the San Antonio Zoo on a July afternoon is the hottest place in the western hemisphere?

It took a few trips for me to understand that although I am drawn to stops described as “historic,” “charming,” and “educational,” teenagers are not, even in Williamsburg.

Perhaps we should have been smart enough to figure out that the $8 turkey leg that looks so good at Disney World tastes no different than the one we pass up at Thanksgiving. At least we understand the deer that motorists pull over to photograph in Cade’s Cove are the same ones we try to avoid on Mt. Zion Road.

And then, of course, there’s knowledge that could only be acquired the hard way.

Do not go to Six Flags on spring break. Ever. 

And always set two alarms, especially if a White House tour that took three months to schedule is on tap and you want to avoid a scene like the one in Home Alone.

These days our emptying-nest vacations are a bit tamer, but just last weekend, Daughter No. 1 regaled us at the Sunday dinner table with a tale of her own making. She and hubbie, with baby in tow, went on a New Orleans getaway. From a Comic Con convention at their hotel to a drenching rain at the aquarium (where lines snaked nearly to the Mississippi), it was one of THOSE vacation adventures. Her shoe even managed to malfunction. (You know the kind I’m talking about — when the strap breaks and a flipflop becomes a flop in every sense of the word.)

Yes, yes. The funny stuff we all love to talk about — later.

And that, dear readers, is the main point of this column. While the arrival of August signals the end of vacation season for many travelers, it’s the perfect time to remind ourselves of the fact that everyone who’s been anywhere learns: The worst vacation experiences will somehow, someday, some way become beloved family memories.


Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at