M y sister, Nirmala, and I grew up watching National Lampoon’s Vacation A LOT, but our family didn’t possess even a whit of the wanderlust that made Clark Griswold drag his family from the Chicago suburbs to Southern California on the most bonkers roadtrip ever. But she and I always said, “One day..”

In April 2017, my husband, Bryan, and I planned an epic, weeklong family roadtrip to three National Parks (Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon) and the Hoover Dam. The vacation felt like a initiation of sorts--in addition to giving our boys this formative experience, I was also recapturing something for myself. In Arizona, we marveled at the spectacular vistas at Horseshoe Bend, nibbled on frybread and picked up authentic Native American artwork at the historic Cameron Trading Post; after peering out of a window at an Indian restaurant in Flagstaff, the kids whooped and danced with glee, squealing, “That’s not rain, Mom! It’s SNOOOW!” I sheepishly looked at the amused diners and said, “Um, we’re from San Diego...”

Did I feel "othered" at any point? No, but as we drove through states with large conservative populations, I felt a bit apprehensive. I never shared this sentiment with my family, but in the back of my mind, I wondered "What do they think of our bi-cultural foursome?" Everyone is smiling at you and is as kind as can be, but internally you're going, "I know this area voted against my kind."

This roadtrip, the first of many to come for my family, symbolized a quintessentially American rite of passage. Driving up the scenic 89 route to Mount Zion, I turned to Bryan and said, “We can do this anytime we want to.” The Griswolds would’ve been proud of us.

Lalitha Nataraj
Carlsbad, CA
Photo Location
Grand Canyon
Bryan Musson (husband), Kiran and Sunil (sons)

Share your story.

Help us reimagine this American tradition by sharing your photos and memories!

Get started