Travel with meaning


Fran Ostendorf, EditorFor more than 30 years, at this time of year, my husband and I have traveled to visit his family in Chicago. It hasn’t mattered where we’ve lived, what our work or financial state. I’ve been pregnant; children have been sick. We’ve gone. The family always gathers at this time and that’s what we’ve done. It’s a tradition.

Some people spend this week in warmer climes, on a cruise, at a resort. Not us. We go where there’s snow, sub-sub zero temperatures and cold, biting wind. And crowds.

If you’ve gotten this far in The Voice, you’ve probably read Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman’s d’var Torah about generations. His message resonated with me. This is why we go to Chicago. My husband grew up in Chicago. His parents lived there. His sisters continue to live there, as do most of his nieces, nephews and cousins. We have always felt that it was important to be able to see the whole family at least once a year. Our children have grown up with this tradition and there is no question in their minds that we should try to go, even if it’s only for a few days.

My in-laws passed away more than a dozen years ago. But the generational tradition lives on. Yes, we have questioned whether we should continue. Lives are busy. Work gets in the way. It would be so much easier just to stay home. It’s so alluring to think about just slipping away to somewhere warm. But the trip survives. In fact, it lives on.

Once, we asked our now adult children if they wanted to skip Chicago that year. “What? We have to go! We’ve always gone!” was the universal response. They have never known anything else.

It’s certainly less satisfying than it once was, when we stayed at my in-laws’ home in the suburbs and had a base of operations near familiar friends and eateries. There was a full kitchen, room to entertain, lots of bedrooms and a fireplace to make the winter a little more bearable. Now we stay in hotels and bounce from downtown to suburban locations. No one can come to us so we’re always driving all over the city.

But some things shouldn’t be easy. Some things are about family. And commitment. And traditions. And consistency. In some ways, the difficulty makes it even more satisfying. When all is done, we’ve never regretted making those trips. Somehow, it always works out. 

And we know it means something. Recently, I heard from a nephew who also moved away. When he announced he wasn’t coming back this year, his mother reminded him that his uncle’s family has made the trip for more than 30 years.

Stick with family. Make it happen. You can’t go wrong.