Plan some family traveling, and bonding, in 2012













The Barsotti family takes a hike on the Great Wall of China.


A new year. A pretty new calendar. The one on the refrigerator features scenic landscapes from around the United States. Imagine the vast potential of a month that is poised on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Ah Janus, the god of open gates and new beginnings….

Before I make one mark, before I chart one doctor’s appointment, before I even fill in the birthdays of my special someones, I thumb through the 12 scenes. Memories rise to the surface as I recognize some of these images.

Our sons were young when we visited the Grand Canyon, but their strong legs and unlimited energy made them good hikers. Nevertheless, the footpath of the Bright Angel Trail seemed very narrow and we kept them at close range as we hugged the canyon’s walls. It was exhilarating to level off below the rim — on a plateau suspended somewhere between heaven and whatever lay far below.

I remember that after the hike, we attended a Saturday vigil Mass right there at the visitor’s center. Mother Nature and the architect of that building must have worked the blueprints together, creating a backdrop that was more inspiring than any cathedral I had ever visited. Reflected in the eyes of those worshipping alongside of us was an appreciation for the natural grandeur; the wonder at humanity’s minuteness; and a marvel at the hand of God. It was hard to leave that sacred space after the liturgy. It provided a bittersweet moment for us, too — we were leaving for home the next morning.

That’s the one memory that still brings a little shiver to this mom. As we were heading into the airport terminal that morning, my son was walking too close to the edge of the sidewalk and slipped off the curb. No blood drawn; no damage done. But it made me realize that we were in the hands of the angels on the canyon trail.

We’ve done quite a bit of traveling, but still, I don’t recognize all of the images on my new calendar. The vistas are so enticing that I feel like heading right to the library for a stack of guidebooks to plan our next vacation.

Perhaps the year won’t hold enough weeks, or the piggy bank enough savings, to travel to places too far away. Maybe we won’t jet off to Rome — but we could easily schedule a long weekend in Washington, D.C. There we could visit the Franciscan Monastery to see a replica of Rome’s Catacombs at Mount St. Sepulcher — The Holy Land of America.

And maybe we won’t venture too far west. Instead of a much-desired return to Arizona, maybe we could explore the smaller but still fascinating Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, a place where it’s easy to explore both the rim and the floor of the smaller-scaled canyon.

Perhaps there will be a family gathering this year that will take us out of our backyard. Could we schedule some time for exploring the mountains of North Carolina after the celebration of a nephew’s graduation? Could we go visit family in another state and let them show us around? Could we plan day trips? Maybe go into the city — and ride the “Ducks” (those amphibious tour vehicles that traverse the city’s streets and waterways.) Maybe we could even pull out the tent! Maybe this will be the year to seek the Northern Lights, or peace and quiet, or another natural phenomenon.

My new calendar gives me a chance to start dreaming. And to start planning. Our sons are now married, and we have grandchildren. Intergenerational travel has become a reality. A family trip to Disney World, a weekend in New York City, and a springtime Sunday at Longwood Gardens. Somehow the stars lined up and we were able to be together in our near and far explorations. Last year’s epic journey took us, with our grandsons, to China. Ah, the memories we will always share.

Along with our scenic new calendar, we’ve added new travel books to our bookshelves, including “500 Places to See Before They Disappear” (Frommer, 2011) and “Rail-Trails Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York,” a regional guide to family-friendly multi-purpose trails.

The season for dreaming and planning is now open. What a wonderful New Year’s resolution. Let’s fill these months with safe and happy travels!