Congratulations to Ron Glodich for Winning the July 2023 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

Describe your ideal summer getaway and explain why it would bring you joy or inspiration.

Ron told a nostalgic story about a memory-making ritual he’s now passing on to his grandkids. Enjoy his winning submission:

Barefoot writing challenge July: ‘Hey, Dad, can we go exploring?’ by Ron Glodich

Ron Glodich

Their enthusiasm and excitement were undeniable. When I heard the phrase, I immediately smiled as it brought me back to the best times of my youth. “Hey, Dad, can we go exploring?” became the twins’ go-to line every time we ventured into a new Michigan campground. Priority number one was to get their bikes down off the rack and cut them loose on the next adventure.

Camping became a summer ritual that we planned several months ahead of time. My profession (teacher and coach) allowed ample opportunities for the activity each year, and the great state of Michigan offered some incredible campgrounds to enjoy. We joined forces with my cousin Mark, who happens to be my best friend. His family countered two kids in similar age to the twins (Gunnar and Gabbi). Off they would go as a four-member bicycle gang to scout the park and bring back their scouting report.

They had no phones with them, they had no social media influencing their moves, they had their eyes up and wide open, and they were experiencing life with all five of the human senses. We allowed them freedom in the park. We researched parks and only selected the most family-friendly camps that were close to our desired destination. Many times, it was hours between contacts with the kids, and we were perfectly fine with that. We knew that communication skills, problem-solving skills, and curiosity approaches were all being strengthened.

At night after dinner and sitting around the campfire, my heart would swell as one story after another was shared in the ring. The stories would rehash a prior vacation or something worthy from the current experience. I gladly let down my leader mentality and let the kids dominate the conversation.

Uncle Mark (as the kids affectionately called him) would start his ghost stories as the night and the fire progressed, and I did my best to add some element of surprise. The gang would then venture into one of the campers and watch a selected movie as the remaining adults sipped on some campfire sodas.

This is my idea of the ideal vacation. In my world, money does not buy happiness or fill the emotional bucket. I have never broken down in tears because my bank account showed money exiting on an expense. I have teared up like a baby when saying goodbye to my daughter and grandson who now live in Florida.

The twins are now closing in on 30, and both are married. My dream vacation would now include my grandkids and extended family situated in side-by-side campsites at one of Michigan’s best-known campgrounds. Whether we venture across the beautiful Mackinac Bridge or hit the beaches on the west side of the state, as long as my family is experiencing the journey together, I would be in heaven.

To hear my grandson Luca say, “Hey, Grandpa, can we go exploring?” would cement the notion that… yes, Ron, you are in heaven.