Nobody likes a militant. So when a wife suggests to her ardent environmentalist husband that the time has finally come to visit the in-laws in central Florida and dive head first into the wholly unnatural world of theme parks, what's an eco-spouse to do? Take a deep breath and ask for a window seat.
So there I was deplaning in Orlando last week with my wife and teenage daughter. The sunlit tropicality of the place was a welcome change of pace from Vermont's dark, damp spring. But then I realized two things: that the rental car's navigation system seemed stuck on directions to the nearest amusement park, and that I needed to take a vacation from spouting environmental concerns.
Sure, I could point out the evils of replacing swampland brimming with natural wonders with an ersatz kingdom of plastic that probably has the less-than-magical carbon footprint of a small European nation. I could take a stand and try to make everyone go to the beach instead. But I'd turn into a pariah in the process. So just like when we vacation with family members who don't recycle, I realized I should save the speechmaking for another day, and temporarily toss my opinions in the metaphorical trash can with a smile.
That's how it has to be now and then. Why steal joy from your kid or tick-off your hosts just to make a point? That approach isn't going to change anything except maybe your relationships, and certainly not for the better. The same wisdom that allows us to understand the need for environmental thinking in the first place can help us see that a family trip to Orlando is not the time to make a strident lesson of it.
So instead, I went merrily along. The crowds were insane. The noise was extreme. My eco-sensibilities took a beating but the smile on my daughter's face as she saw a character from her favorite movie was worth it. And I will say this: The minds behind that injection-molded fantasy certainly produced an impressive achievement. But I couldn't help but wonder -- silently, of course -- what kind of genuine miracles might have happened had they turned their considerable talents to some real problems instead.
How do you deal with family vacations that are less than environmentally-friendly?