Archive for Monday, August 6, 2012


River City Jules: Vacation goes old-school

August 6, 2012


In 1986, my parents took the four of us kids on a cross-country adventure.

For three magical weeks, we traveled to and from California in our brand-new GMC Safari minivan, taking in the Rockies, the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean and Disneyland.

At almost 15 years old, though, it wasn’t the inevitable sharing of a backseat with my siblings for three weeks that concerned me. It was being cut off from my girlfriends for three phoneless, sleepover-less, mall-less weeks that led me to question my internal strength as the trip neared.

It wasn’t easy, but I persevered.

And to show for it, my brothers and sister and I have three solid weeks of memories (including those of our family’s only international vacation, an afternoon in Tijuana) that no amount of giggling on the phone with my BFF could have replaced.

It is in this spirit of family memory-making that I decided we would institute a no-phone rule for our summer vacation.

My daughters treat their phones like appendages. Not a single text or any Facebook notification is ever sent in vain, as these girls are on it like a spray tan on Snooki. They may not respond to verbal questions, like “Could you please empty the dishwasher?”, but they reply immediately to text messages, like “S’up?”

They have listened in horror as I have relayed stories from my youth of summer camps without cellphones, road trips without email access and a high school without Twitter. They cannot understand how people communicated when the only tool for doing so involved rotary dialing and a cord long enough to reach a closet.

How my husband ever married me without first “friending” me is beyond their comprehension.

Knowing the resistance — strong yet futile — I meet when I collect the phones before family outings or weekends at the grandparents’, I dreaded dropping this decision on them and decided to wait until the whole family was together in public at a restaurant where I knew they would not make a scene.

“Kids,” I started, “we are going to kick it 1986-style for our trip to the beach.”

“WHAT?!” our youngest daughter cried out, “We’re going to DRIVE?!”

“We had planes in 1986,” my husband assured the 9-year-old. Planes, yes; pat-downs, no.

“No, we’re not driving,” I continued, “but we are going to do this trip without cellphones. You can play with them on the plane, but once we land, you’re handing them over.”

“That’s fine,” someone at our table stated. “I’d rather look at the beach.”

I did a double-take, shocked to find those words came out of our oldest daughter’s face. Ellie, whose right thumb can type faster than most college graduates can on a keyboard, was in agreement.

Maybe she is plotting a high-tech game of “Chicken,” or maybe she wants to experience the good-old-days before Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg controlled us. Either way, we are going off the grid.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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