A week on the road, cramped in close quarters with your children, a stack of DVDs, and a few games and road-maps might not seem like the perfect family bonding time. But for my family, there’s no better time in the world.
Growing up, I took road trips with my family every summer. We’d start from our home base in Idaho, strike off across the country to destinations unknown (except to Dad-the-driver and Mom-the-navigator, of course), and end up a week later at Mount Rushmore or Disneyland. We’d make stops along the way to stretch our legs, pick up souvenirs, and explore a stretch of country we never knew existed, like the Devils Tower National Monument in Northeastern Wyoming and hikes through Southern Utah’s Bryce Canyon.
Road trips were our time to create memories and remember why we liked spending time together. As my family grew up and started college, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, and relationships that kept us apart, our few weeks on the road every year became precious.
For My Children
Now, I take my own family on road trips. I pile my daughters into the backseat with a few books, card games, and snacks, and my husband and I fill my parents’ shoes as Driver and Navigator Extraordinaire. And I firmly believe that I am defending my family one mile at a time.
Defending them from what, you might ask?
From everything. Or, at least from some of the most dangerous things.
I’m preserving their spirits, their moral values, their friendship with each other, the love we share between the four of us, and their sense of adventure.
I’m teaching them to appreciate each other, to be curious about the world, and to be patient and kind even when it’s been four hours without a rest stop.
I’m protecting them from the idea that vacations have to be all about expensive cruises and exotic locations like the Eiffel Tower or London Bridge.
I’m showing them that being together as a family is always a good thing, even when they bicker about the AC controls, whose turn it is to hold the portable DVD player, or who’s breathing whose air.
I’m helping my daughters become each other’s best friend, because sisters are for forever, not until just after middle school ends or one of them gets a boyfriend.
The Insurance Analogy
Road tripping is like taking out an insurance policy. Bear with me, and I’ll explain.
With insurance policies, you invest a certain amount of money into an agency and expect a return when you need it.
With every road trip, my family (both past and current) has invested time, energy, and planning into an adventure that we expect will give us benefits like memories, unexpected experiences, and enough laughter to make up for all the stress and uncomfortable hours without enough leg room or pit stops.
And with both insurance and road trips, you just have to hope that, in the end, the benefits will outweigh the expense.
When my husband and I took our daughters to Disney World a few years ago, we took out a “life insurance policy” (or, in road trip lingo, a “family love policy”) for Orlando, Florida—we were fairly sure the destination would be worth the few weeks in the car, and we were right. We made more memories together on that trip than we had all year, and not just because of the three days in Disney World (though it had its fair share of Kodak moments).
But, because of the three weeks in the car. We stopped at every state border and took pictures by the state sign, ate local cuisine, and drove through beautiful National Parks and scenic byways. We laughed, sang, argued, played corny car games, made up goofy (and sometimes hilariously inappropriate) lyrics to Disney songs, and generally drove each other crazy in the best way possible.
The benefits, in this case, were worth the stresses a thousand times (or miles) over.
Of Saving My Family
I don’t doubt that road trips have saved my family. There is nothing better than to look out the front windshield, see the open road ahead, and know I have miles and miles to go before I sleep. Unless, of course, it’s looking over my shoulder into the backseat to see my two little girls with their heads bent together over the same princess storybook, content to be each other’s best friend if only until one of them needs a potty break.
And when the two weeks are over and we arrive back home, they’re more than happy to have their own space again…but they’re a little kinder, a little closer, and a little more content to just be together.
And that’s what road trips are all about.
Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose family is her pride and joy. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and drawing analogies to life from companies like Eton Bridge Solutions.