Only 14 days until we embark on our fifth summer road trip, and my planning for it has fueled my wanderlust. In the last few days I've been asked repeatedly one or both of the following: "Are you going on another adventure this summer?" Or, "Where are you headed?"
Then of course I get the typical head shakes, laughs and comments such as, "You're crazy" and "I don't know how you do it." That first year was so scary, and now I can't imagine not taking our trip. I panic at the thought that one day, we won't. I'm so pleased when people get excited about our journeys. I tell the kids, "You're so lucky to do this." Here's what I love about being a Road Warrior Momma:
1. No housework. I don't have to make anybody's bed, I don't have to constantly pick up household messes, I don't have to do laundry every day and there are no dishes to clean. Yippee!
2. I don't have to cook. I get bored of the same 'ol same 'ol in the kitchen. Yet with six very different ideas about what constitutes a good meal, venturing outside the norm is tricky. I don't like the prep work and clean up, not to mention the grocery shopping. I very much like ordering from a menu and walking away from the mess on the table.
3. Road trips give me the opportunity to catch up on my reading (and listening). When I drive, audiobooks keep me sane. The hours spent on the open road (unless the gorgeous scenery demands my attention) fly by when I'm transported to one of my fictional worlds. History books (about places we're visiting) also get me stoked about what we'll see. When the kids frolic in the pool at the end of the day, I can be found lounging with a book -- ditto for when they take over the hotel remote.
4. I've mastered the art of packing. At this point in my travel career, every bag has a purpose or theme and a place. The kids' suitcases are color-coded. Snacks, medical supplies and travel utensils are all in the paisley tote. Looking for a swimsuit? Those would be found in the pink and white beach bag. Need a charger for your tablet? t's in a labeled Ziploc bag in the side pocket of the faux black leather bag. Where are the bags located? Each bag has its spot, both in the car and the hotel room. Many a bellman has nearly lost his hand trying to help me load the vehicle. Back off, son. Travel is the rare time when I feel absolutely in control of my universe. Why, oh why this hasn't spread to other parts of my life, I'll never know!
5. The children are all mine. There are no pesky playdate requests. I don't have to run out and buy a birthday present for a child I've never met. I don't have to rush a child to practice or an appointment. I control the schedule. Guess what? Except for when we visit friends, there are no video games! There's no reservoir of recorded episodes on the DVR and no plethora of On-Demand Disney shows. I actually get their full attention (somewhat) and their listening skills improve dramatically. It forces me to be a more creative parent, too. When they get on my nerves, I can't just send them to their rooms -- I have to actually think of a reasonable solution to X, Y & Z. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, this has also proven to be the bane of my road trip existence. I remember one night, in a deplorable motel room in Vicksburg, MI (with a view of a fast-food drive thru), when I truly wanted to trade places with the woman who was asking, "Do you want fries with that?" And I had nowhere to run. I think we all cried ourselves to sleep that night. Guess what? he next morning was a do-over. New town, new adventure.
6. New adventures are the best things ever. I love visiting and exploring new places. For a history buff like me, seeing something or someplace that I've studied in school is such a high. Walking the battlefield of Valley Forge was surreal (the oppressive heat that summer may have contributed), and similar feelings were stirred when touring Mount Vernon (and Monticello). I was astonished to discover how small the Alamo is -- blink and you miss it. The prairies of Kansas are beautiful, and there are no appropriate words to describe the awe we felt standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. We've sampled ice cream at the original Ben & Jerry's; stood in line to pay homage at the grave of Elvis Presley; run the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum like Rocky; cruised on the Tennessee River; and explored the caverns of Carlsbad.
To be fair, some adventures have turned into disasters. One child actually reached over the velvet rope and touched the Liberty Bell -- if it goes back inside a glass encasement, you know whom to blame. Another played Fats Domino's piano at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of fame, which is not allowed. My son with autism also almost injured a woman when, out of frustration and boredom, he hurled my cell phone across a darkened theater in the JFK Presidential Library. Speaking of hurling, the majesty of the Grand Canyon was quickly erased when all four children succumbed to a vicious (and I do mean vicious) stomach bug. Two days of nastiness. The mother of all family meltdowns occurred in a small college bookstore in Madison, WI, the likes of which (based on the looks of others patrons) no one has ever seen before. Yeah, they don't care for us in Madison.
7. Visiting museums, libraries and historical sites has provided learning opportunities that we just can't get from school or the History Channel. I don't think one can fully comprehend how hard it was to cross the Atlantic in the 1600's until you have stepped onto the replicas of the Mayflower, or one of the three ships at the Jamestown Settlement. When you walk the hallowed floors of places such as Independence Hall and the Nation's Capital or cross the North Bridge in Concord, MA, you are transported in time and you start to get it, to really understand the history of our country.
8. When we're on the road, I kind of check out from the real world. I don't watch the news, and I'm only on the computer to check email or write, so there are no scary headlines to rile me up. This does wonders for my anxiety levels and my quality of sleep.
9. The escape from day-to-day responsibility gives me a much needed opportunity to recharge. You're probably wondering how in the world I could possibly relax traveling thousands of miles on the road with four kids, with many of our venues being of educational and historical significance. But I do! We have fun, I assure you. We always schedule a weekend at the beach on our journey. We have pool time, baseball games, hikes, miniature golf and car sing-alongs -- with the windows down and the sunroof open. I'm proud to say that each and every one of us knows every word to "On the Road Again."
After being on the road together for weeks on end, there's no better feeling than pulling into your driveway. Home-cooked meals become a privilege, not a chore. Doing laundry every day is once again a luxury, not a nuisance. We have a new appreciation for waking up in our own beds and we find a familiar comfort in daily routines.
10. Everyday life can get hectic and bonding can be tough. Being in a car and a hotel room together forces the kids to reconnect and depend on each other for entertainment. With one bathroom and one TV, they get an opportunity to practice the art of compromise. No, it's not all flowers and sunshine and it can get ugly at times, but eventually, they do reach an agreement. They're making memories that will live on in the stories they'll tell for a lifetime. The summer my youngest son's grotesque foot odor practically gassed us out while we in car, and it still produces groans and giggles to this day. There's the time the hotel fire alarm went off and the kids watched a movie in the car, at 2 a.m., until we got the all-clear. The Uno games on hotel room floors, the elevator button wars and synchronized falling backwards into the pool. Road memories.
11. We visit friends and family and travel down memory lane. I've lived in many places, as has my husband. We have friends and family all over the country. We don't live in a popular vacation destination, so ultimately it's up to me if I want face time with my loved ones -- and I do. I love the fact that my kids are getting to know their cousins and the children of my childhood friends.
The original reason for our first road trip was to take the kids to the places where mom and dad grew up -- Cape Cod and the Washington DC area. It's one thing to tell your kids about Grandpa's house, but quite another to knock on the door and explain to complete strangers that your grandfather built their house -- and then for them to invite you in so the kids could actually see it! They've played on the playground of their dad's elementary school and day-dreamed on the same jetties as I did when I was a child.
12. A jackpot of writing material. My blogging career started with our 2010 Summer Road Trip. Everyone thought I was crazy and wanted daily updates and a blog was born! Our travel log is my favorite type of writing -- very little censorship, because it is written quickly and in the heat of the moment. Our adventures are almost documented in real time so you get the authentic deal, the good, the bad and the ugly.
13. Ah, the memories. The kids are young and I worry they won't remember all that we've done and seen. That's the reason for the blog and the pictures, which I compile each year into a huge photo book. I've already been greatly surprised by the recollections. They talk about the road trips all the time, swapping stories in the car and at the dinner table -- and ask when we're leaving on the next one.
This post was originally published on Allie's blog, The Latchkey Mom.