This summer the whole family went on a road trip. Just to be clear, I am not talking about a trip from San Luis Obispo to LA. This would have been too easy, and you can barely call 200 miles a road trip. We decided to cross the United States of America starting in Miami and ending back in Paso Robles. To give you a feeling for the seriousness of this adventure, 5000 miles is the magic number.
My husband and I have always loved road trips, and our son has gotten used to this kind of traveling. He pretends he loves it as well, but he is only 12 years old and I am not quite sure if he just wants to please his restless parents or not. I might ask him again when he is a teenager. I promised myself not to be surprised if he finally tells us what he really thinks about being stuck in a car with his parents for miles and miles and days and days.
You might rightfully ask, “What can you expect from a trip like that?” Is it a healing way of traveling, a family disaster or just a crazy thing to do? Yes, it is all of that and more. Discovering the beauty and diversity of the United States of America is a unique experience and there is no better way than driving across the country and taking it all in. You never know where you will spend the night. You find small towns and cities that you would normally not visit. You eat different foods at different places, and you get in touch with nature whenever you decide to take a break. You can stop wherever you want to stop, and you move on when the road calls you again.
We stopped at many places; Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone were my favorites. But no need to worry, I will not bore you with a detailed travel report. Let me get back to the question of what you can expect from a long road trip like that and why I recommend this experience and would do it again (at some point in my life, probably not next year).
First, sitting in a car, sharing hotel rooms, adventures and impressions bring you closer to your family. I enjoyed having my son and my husband with me for three weeks in a row. We were so close during that time, something that is difficult to maintain in daily life.
While driving, my husband finally spent hours talking to me, which is also rather rare. We had so much time talking about topics that we are both interested in with the great side effect of killing endless miles at the same time. Yes, a road trip supports verbal communication and everyone likes to share what they have seen and observed during the drive.
Too much verbal communication is a nuisance for children though. My son loved to stick his nose into his i-pad and play games. He wore headphones to make sure he was not disturbed. He was able to be off in his little virtual world in the car, while the real world was unfolding around us. He deserves some credit for spending at least part of the time looking out the window for longer periods of time, but got impatient after a couple of hours. Funny that kids never get tired of watching events on a tiny screen instead.
When we stopped the car to visit sights or stay overnight, we were finally rewarded for our resilience. Leaving the car felt like leaving a cage. Once you left the car, everyone got excited and was longing for adventure. Finally you could move your stiff body and tense muscles and climb hills, jump on rocks or take a swamp boat in the Everglades with alligators looking at you with their big hungry eyes. Yes, leaving the car was the biggest reward after driving hundreds of miles.
Back in the car you discuss possible routes, short cuts or points of interest, knowing that the only way to get there is to keep on driving. It is teamwork and every team member has a voice. The team effort makes it a great trip or a nightmare. Sometimes it involves compromise and patience, sometimes just kindness and compassion. The many stops for using restrooms, buying potato chips or soda are negotiable and I am sure my husband found some of these stops rather unnecessary. Nevertheless he sucked it up and made all the stops to keep the family happy. On the other hand, we drove big circles because my husband never gets enough of driving and occasionally wanted to drive through a certain canyon ‘just to get a feel for it’. Well, this is what my son and I had to suck up, so we did.
Altogether a road trip is a great experience. Everyone in the car is part of a big adventure. You stick together, you share your impressions, pains and gains and you come home together with the warm feeling of, “We did it, it was fun and now let’s stay home for a while, because there is no place like home.” Yes, a road trip makes you appreciate what is waiting for you at home. Sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side but when you see so many other sides, you know it is not true. Home is where your heart is, and distance makes the heart grow fonder. And now I miss the physical closeness to my family. My son is not sitting on the seat behind me, and my husband is who-knows-where in the house. I think I miss the intimacy of our car. I wonder what the best route is to New York.