COLUMN: Learning, growing and feeding the mosquitoes on a summer road trip

Vacations are an opportunity to gain knowledge, even when they go awry


CM Life illustration by Caroline Sharbaugh with assets by Lauren Rice and

News Editor Lauren Rice

There are a lot of reasons to travel, if a person is lucky enough to be able to do so. 

There’s the relaxation of escaping the everyday; adventure to be found in the spontaneous; and -- my personal favorite -- the learning and growth that comes from meeting new people and having new experiences. 

Last week, I embarked upon an ambitious quest to road trip around Michigan’s lower peninsula, with plans to hit nine different destinations and camp overnight. I’ve lived in the state my entire life, so I had already been to several of the stops; but, traveling with someone new allowed me to see the locations with fresh eyes. I also learned a bit about myself along the way.

We ended up making it to seven cities, and only six of them were originally planned. 

Day one started from Holland with stops in Traverse City and Charlevoix. On day two, we made stops in Mackinaw City and Posen before setting up camp outside of Saginaw. Day three was intended to include visits to Harbor Beach, Wyandotte and Battle Creek before returning to Holland; however, most of those plans were foregone to take a nap.

Summer camping

I will not be repeating this part of the road trip any time soon. 

A night-and-a-half in a tent was enough to prove that I am in fact, not interested in tent camping during the summer. Especially when my travel partner forgot the air mattress. “Indoorsy” is a lovely and comfortable way to be. 

During the second night of travel, our campsite was a semi–remote spot outside of Saginaw within easy driving distance of downtown Frankenmuth. I think that almost any other time of year this city park would have been enjoyable; but, with the severe thunderstorms flooding the tent we wisely ditched for the back of my car and the mosquitoes having a love affair with my legs, I was done. 

The opposite end of the tent-camping spectrum was at a state park outside of Charlevoix on the first night. Our campsite was surrounded by “glampers,” vacationing families and *no* mosquitoes. As fun as it was to fall asleep to the chatter of intoxicated fathers telling inappropriate stories in front of their wives and children, I would still aim for an overnight location with a bit more privacy in the future. 

If I go camping again, it will be in the fall. Otherwise, I can be found at the hotel’s breakfast bar. 

Pace yourself, for Pete’s sake

There are some people who can enjoy a vacation or adventure where they’re constantly on the move, experiencing new things on a carefully defined schedule with every stop planned ahead of time. These people are lying to you. This is not fun. 

Jokes aside, I did think of myself as this kind of traveler about two weeks ago. Now I’m exhausted, covered in mosquito bites and rethinking how I want to spend my precious days off. 

I’m not opposed to going on an adventure, but apparently there’s a difference between adventuring and applying deadlines to vacation activities. Who knew?

The best of the three days was the last one, where I got to take a hot shower and reassess how we actually wanted to spend the day. All we did was go to Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. That was it. I even slept for the rest of the afternoon and had a dream about Al the giant tortoise joining us for the rest of the drive.

The bottom line

There are a lot of factors that can change the trajectory of a road trip: overnight options, food choices, even weather. But there are a few constants that can make a vacation that went a bit off the tracks enjoyable: 

  • Your attitude
  • Your travel companion(s) 
  • Preparedness for change

This was a unique experience for me, and while I might not do it again exactly the way it happened, I’m glad it happened. 

I came home with more memories than mosquito bites, and that’s what counts. 

Lauren Rice is Central Michigan Life summer editor and news editor. In her first year on campus, she covered the Michigan gubernatorial election, campus politics and government and feature stories, including a deep dive into women on the front lines during World War II.