4 priceless benefits of spontaneous family road trips

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I took this picture as we were packing to leave Cottonwood State Park in eastern Oregon this weekend. It was raining at home on the other side of the mountains (big shocker), and was bright and clear in this gorgeous high desert canyon.

This weekend was a ten.

And it almost didn’t happen.

We were being lured into the drive-our-kids-all-around-creation expectation and not listening to our we-parents-know-what-is-best-for-our-family hearts. We wavered. Yet! I somehow pep talked our little clan into loading up the gear at rush hour on Friday and hittin’ the road. In no particular order, the stats on this adventure were:

-two nights with stars that appeared to jump out at us

-one cool breeze blowing through the Twinkie’s windows while we slept

-one rattlesnake encounter on our hike where we all screamed like toddlers

-one twirly horned ram sighting on the top of the cliffs overlooking the canyon

-one novel read that I couldn’t put down

-one epic s’more session over a roaring camp fire

-an entire day spent talking and catching up while we lolly-gagged around our campsite

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It got me thinking how important these trips are for our family happiness and my own mental health.

 

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1) A change of scenery promotes relaxation and mandatory fun.

In our harried lives at home there is the predictable weekend sleepover (resulting in fried teens come Monday morning), as well as the rushed meals so said teens can ski-daddle to wherever it is they go to find social acceptance. With road trips, meals at a picnic table in a gorgeous setting prompt conversation, story-telling and an all around slower pace.It’s magical. I learned more about what’s going on in their lives in one night on this trip than months in the quickie car conversations we’ve had in the Mom Taxi going hither and yon.

2) A simple environment and routine manifests creative thinking and clear-headedness.

It always amazes me how many ideas come flooding in when I’m out and about (especially places with panoramic views), away from my vacuuming duties and laundry mountains. Living in the Twinkie is a simple deal and I am dangerously close to pitching this whole suburban thing and heading out indefinitely on the open road. In an Airstream everything’s within reach. The clothing choices are limited to the Barbie-sized closet and there’s only so much you can fit in a bathroom mimicking an airplane loo. It’s fabulous! When stripped of my wife/mom commitments, this little creative mind can come up with so crazy plans and projects.

3) Family bonding is inevitable when living in a small space.

It’s hard to hide when you’re within nine feet of your parents. We do give them the twin beds in the back (selfless parents that we are) and they can retreat when they need to, but I’m still within earshot. Thankfully, I got to hear about the books that were being devoured, some Elvis movie trivia, and random thoughts about the teen scene in general.

4) A digital sabbatical is more alluring when adventure is involved.

Ask the offspring to give up the phone madness at home on a weekend, and there might just be some sarcasm flung my way. Tell them that our new found nature digs has no cell coverage, and you’re met with surprising indifference. It’s an it is what it is kind of thing. I must say, I enjoy seeing their faces rather than the tops of their heads.

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I’ve been seeing the quote “The days are long, but years are short” a lot lately. ‘Probably some sort of divine message that I need to make all of this count, especially the hours that my beautiful girls are within my hugging grasp. How is it that school and friends’ homes get the bulk of their presence? I guess we’re just in that chapter right now, and I can honestly say I’m not guilty of holding on too tight. I might even regret not holding a little bit tighter.

These adventures on the road are part of this. I want to hold on loosely (as 38 Special would croon) and drink them in as much as humanly possible. I think they get this and indulge us with these excursions. I’m grateful.

When was the last time you took a road trip with your crew?

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4 Ways to make family travel a priority

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via Travis Allen Photography

Fantasy Land is where I’ve been living lately.

I find myself waxing poetic about our Airstream holidays, somehow willing them to be cause for a great escape of sorts…a Vagabond Family type of deal. I’ve come to terms that this is not going to happen while our kids are in high school, athletes and academics that they are. I’m proud of them and love that our school district provides everything they need for success (and what I need too, as I teach in the same district). Entre’ the AIRSTREAM WEEKEND ADVENTURES to be wedged in every nook and cranny of our schedule. I’m itching for the open road and have the bins of pots, pans, towels and rugs at the ready to prove it.

Hitchin’ up and gettin’ out of Dodge never sounded so good!

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While I’m sketching out these excursions online, I’m fascinated by people I’ve found who are living the Airstream Dream in full throttle:

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Airstream Family

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They are fearless folks who’ve got life by the tail and I admire them for it. U.S. travel really wraps your head around what this country is made of. Sitting with folks in their own local diners, Main street groceries and parks is such a dreamlike experience. The Open Road has a quiet little bell that rings for me more than I care to admit.

I also always thought that I would live overseas with my family at some point, knowing that exposing offspring to the world at large is one of the best things for their future. I lived in Germany as child, and although I was small,  my fond memories planted some kind of wanderlust seed in my heart.  I look back at my 1988 AFS experience in Tunisia as a turning point for becoming the person I am now.

It was magic and I want that for my girls.

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So…like I mentioned, knowing the life we’ve chosen is not going to amp up any big let’s-rent-out-our-house-and-be-adventurers kind of six month mystery tour, I’ve been percolating on the possibility of fitting in every kind of trip I can muster. One of my financial goals in this whole simplicity process is to create a little squirrel’s nest travel fund. Stealing away to yonder-ville on a whim always sounds like a good idea to me. The job thing...well, yeah, that’s an added obstacle in the trek of the wanderer…but I’m feeling convicted in my ideas about showing young minds what’s out there.

(Love this article about why family travel is so important)

I am now aware that in this busy time of child rearing, a proactive stance is the only way to get everybody on board. It’s so easy to over-schedule our lives and let those weekends slip by…Time is too short, and the memories that wait are too precious to allow that to happen. I simply won’t do it.

“If I only had a plan”, she said, while rubbing her hands together.

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4 Ways to make family travel a priority

1) Have the gear bins packed and at-the-ready so that come Friday afternoon at 4:00 we are out the door and on the road.

2) Leave margin in our weekend plans, so that if the adventure bug takes over, we’ve got space to just go.

3) Put a map in the utility room with pushpins on every spot we want to see. Allow every family member to pick their desired destination.

4) Discuss world travel dreams openly at the dinner table, atlas layed out in full.

5) When dinner guests are visiting, add their dream destinations to the list

6) Leave books about travel with enticing covers all around the house

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Once the momentum of getting out there and seeing new things revs up, I believe it creates an excitement…a buzz of sorts…in our daily lives. This kind of unified plotting and scheming can also bring a family closer. I’m betting on it.

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How do you get your family out the door? What are you dream plans of travel?

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