Spring Break, Then and Now: Top Reasons Why It Was Better 20 Years Ago

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I clearly remember after landing my first job out of college asking my manager, “So when’s our spring break?” You can imagine what kind of response that got, especially since I hadn’t even earned any vacation time yet. OK, OK; I admit that was pretty pathetic. But both of my parents worked in education, so I was used to adults getting a weeklong break in the spring.

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of fun times while on spring break. And although they provided some of the best memories and funniest stories, I’m not quite sure I’d want to go in this day and age. Am I sounding old yet? That’s OK. I turned forty last year and something magical happened: I don’t really give a rip.

For a few minutes, think back to your times on spring break. How did you get to your destination? How did you pay for it? What did you eat, drink, smoke—whatever? Maybe I’m sounding old again, but life seemed simpler then compared to now, no?

For starters: We didn’t have parents all up in our business. When I went to Cancun as a high school senior, we spent almost an entire second week there—missing school and everything. Can you imagine that happening today? They’d probably send the school police to your door. Although we did some stupid stuff (and our parents probably knew it), they didn’t worry too much. We didn’t have as many crazies in the world back then.

We had more freedom. Most of us paid our own way, because most of us had jobs! I worked all winter as a hostess and bused tables to pay for that trip. So really, what could my parents say?

We didn’t have to have perfect bodies. Sure, some people crash-dieted a few weeks before, but this was during the fat-free boom of the ‘90s. Who could have known that a diet of Snackwell cookies and fat-free pretzels dipped in fat-free cream cheese was actually making us, well, fat? We threw on oversized ponchos, high-rise baggy cut-offs, and a pair of Teva’s, and didn’t really care much if we had a couple of extra rolls. As long as you could bong a beer along side the dudes by the pool, you were cool.

Spring break was actually special. Even though my parents had the same break as my brother and me, we never really went anywhere as kids. It wasn’t until high school that I remember any of my friends going anywhere, either. I don’t recall being too disappointed. After all, we had an entire week of MTV Spring Break to look forward to: Pauly Shore, Remote Control, and the hoards of mulleted kids in fluorescent Body Glove swimwear. Feeling nostalgic yet? You might enjoy this clip of Vanilla Ice from ‘91. I still remember watching the Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right.” First person to find that video clip for me gets my first pair of Ray Bans. Yep. Still have ‘em.

When we did finally make it to the beach, it was exhilarating—especially after spending twenty-three hours on a smelly bus with a frat from Ferris State. I can’t help but wonder how much fun a road trip in a rented hooptie and cramming six people to a hotel room would be to today’s kid, who has already been on two Disney cruises, had their hair braided in Jamaica at age three, and scaled the tree tops while ziplining in Costa Rica.

Last—and this is a biggie: We didn’t have smartphones or social media. Spring break is a time for kids to celebrate their youth by letting go a little … and sometimes, a lot. Most of us have done some stupid stuff. And although I don’t encourage that, it happens, and it’s meant to be temporary. I seriously cannot imagine having my experiences and bad fashion choices forever imprinted somewhere in cyberspace. That short dude you made out with in the foam mosh pit with bad breath? He’s now following you on Instagram and knows your dog’s name. The video of underage you at a party—the video your “friend” tweeted? Your dad just watched it at work.

It makes me sort of sad for today’s youth. I know how attached they are to their phones. Heck, even I’m guilty of that. I envision them laying out around the pool, protecting their precious phones with their lives. Are they even talking with one another? Where do they keep them? Maybe I should offer my old fanny pack to my niece.

Anyway, like we did, I’m sure they have it all figured out. It will be an experience for them—just in a different way.

Written by: Jill Carroll is the marketing director for West Michigan Woman. She appreciates letting kids be kids, and letting them make mistakes.

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