Educator CALEB KRESL photographed in the village of Skutustadhahreppur, North Iceland.
"When I was younger, my family regularly embarked on an annual road trip south to visit my grandparents. The journey to their home, in a quiet retirement community on Florida’s Gulf side, involved a nineteen-hour ride in our faded blue, wood paneled Chrysler minivan. Most years, my father would drive straight through. Nineteen hours. Nineteen hours of sandwiches and juice boxes from the cooler. Nineteen hours of scanning for static-free radio stations between cities. Nineteen hours of carefully coordinated pit stops that timed an empty gas tank with full bladders. Nineteen hours of looking out the window, watching the Indiana corn fields melt into the Kentucky foothills. Nineteen hours that saw the sun rise over the skyline of Chicago and set behind the silhouettes of palm trees."
"And Dad often captained the whole trip. In the years before smart phones and navigation systems, he kept logs and records from past trips so he could find cheap gas again or remember which rest stop had those clean bathrooms. The driver’s side door overflowed with creased and crinkled state maps covering every possible route. Dad would actually get anxious if we spent too much time fueling up or eating lunch at a picnic area. He’d watch the traffic zipping by on the interstate, eyeballing all the slow trucks, left-lane cruisers, and Sunday drivers he’d worked to pass throughout the day. All he saw in that steady hum of travelers were the hours of upcoming obstacles and potential headaches stretching out ahead of him. It was all about making good time and keeping up his average pace from previous years."
"And in all those trips, the persistent tenacity and strong black coffee that fueled my father to get to Florida in a single calendar day never gave way to any kind of vacation laziness with piña coladas. Our Florida days started early, roused from our air mattresses and pull out couches, to restock the cooler with sandwiches and juice boxes, slather on the sunscreen, and pile back into the minivan to head out to that day’s chosen destination. The beach and the community pool appealed to Dad’s frugal nature, but we were no strangers to water parks, boardwalks, or theme parks. At the end of the day, back in the sanctuary of air conditioning, our cheeks and noses sun-kissed and our swimsuits tumbling away in the dryer, we’d sleep, until the gurgle of the coffee pot foretold of the impending daylight and our next foray out into the warm Florida winds and cicada-rattled sunshine."
"As a teenager, I pushed back against Dad’s system of taking a holiday. The nonstop drive, having never really required much energy from me anyway, continued as usual. But the early mornings and crowded itinerary started to seem like more effort than should’ve been possible given the word ‘vacation’ and its definition. If this trip was intended to be a break from my school schedule, why was I still up so early? Why did I feel the need for a vacation after the hustle and bustle of this vacation? What’s wrong with relaxing? As adolescents, my siblings and I were able to gain some concessions: meeting my parents at the pool later or not heading to the beach until after lunch. They were small victories and I felt like I was helping Dad to relax."
"Years later, after I’d reached adulthood and Dad finally moved to Florida for his semi-retirement, he admitted how his working days involved staring at a computer screen in a gray cubicle, the hum of the fluorescent lights occasionally interrupted by the soft ringing of a phone somewhere in the office. For fifty-one weeks a year he would dream about his one week of vacation in Florida, craving the sun and the salt and the sand. Every year, year after year, while eating his microwaved leftovers in the office break room or sitting in the car during his traffic-clogged commute home, he’d plan our stops along the interstate, rank which beaches he liked best, or imagine all the laughter and excitement his kids could have at the water park. When the last Friday of the fifty-first week finally came, he didn’t waste any time loading up the van and the cooler in preparation for our 4:00 am departure on Saturday morning."
"To this day, on my own road trips, the smell of black coffee in the car impresses a kind of urgency upon me. The sound of the alarm and the taste of free continental breakfast at a hotel have come to signal the possibilities that a new day in a new place can bring. I can hear Dad congratulate me in my head whenever I’m making good time or beating the crowds or packing a sandwich so I don’t have to stop for lunch. And while I avoided the trappings of a cubicle, I am like my father in that I strive to wring what I can from new experiences. Like Dad, I don’t work all year so that I can travel somewhere new just to sleep in. Like Dad, I don’t plan the details of a trip to my desired destination only to lose time at a truck stop or a motel somewhere along the way. Like Dad, the traffic passing me by only serves to remind me of the passage of time. Each car another second off this trip, off my trip, off our trip. This vacation is finite and, with it, so too are our opportunities to get up early and experience all it has to offer."