Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The truth about family road trips. The parts no one shares along with their ‘perfect happy family’ pictures on Instagram. What you need to know.

If you can make it out of the front drive without someone already saying “I’m hungry” or “I have to POOOOOOP!” then that’s it. You might as well go back in the house and call it a success ……. Because it’s not going to get any better than that. If you insist on continuing on then set the bar low. Really very low.

You will have, with laser precision and efficiency, set out one outfit per day per person in the days leading up to the trip. But after careful consideration, you added 2 foul weather ensembles and an emergency change, then after some further deliberation you will have added a round of raincoats, sweaters, hoody’s, beach shoes, hiking shoes, nice-out-for-dinner-clothes-which-you-already-know-you-won’t-wear, rain boots, beach towels, sun hats, rain hats, ”I’m with stupid” T-shirts for playful candids, first aid kit, blankets, candles, flares, 20 days’ worth of vitamins (in case we break down for an extra week), bottled water, enough granola bars to cross the dessert, games-you-know-you-will-never-play, books, swimsuits, and whatever else you came upon that looked remotely useful as you haphazardly wandered house in state of pre-travel anxiety. You have now weighed down minivan past Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight limit in all 10 provinces and 3 territories; and risk divorce by adding even a single map from Visitor information centres which you will be forced to visit as you have forgotten maps.

Adults measure distance in time between well (ok, reasonably) researched hotels rooms for which google produced numerous reviews with the word “clean” and no news stories with the phrases “victim discovered”, “police standoff”, “drug bust”, or “ancient burial ground”. Kids measure distance in time it takes to wear parents down into mindless ice cream purchasing zombies.

The second your bowels hear the word “road trip” they will become as dry as the Mojave desert, producing only rabbit like turds as rare and precious as diamonds ……………. Your children’s bowels, however, will liquefy. Happy travels.

When you finally feel you can go number 2, the only bathroom for miles will be a truck stop/site of several biker murders …….. and (although statistically you know that the first stall is least used) you will choose the second stall (because the first stall contains what appears to be a human spleen). At this point 2 loud women will enter the bathroom mid conversation and proceed to choose the 2 stalls on either side of you (one of them is apparently comfortable with spleen in bowl) and continue conversation through your stall. The 3 rabbit poops you may have been able to deposit climb back up. And such is regularity on-the-road.

By day 3 your youngest child will have spilled on 7 outfits and you all will smell of cheese.

Your brain will be tricked into believing hotel shampoo holds the intrinsic value of platinum and you will hoard it like a treasure obsessed troll.

You. Need. To. Bring. A. Bucket.

Lysol wipes. Pack them and use them at the very least on hotel light switches and tv remotes. In hotels those are all covered with Ebola and bodily fluids ……… trust me, I googled it. Don’t google it.

As you gaze out upon rolling hills, vast agricultural quilts, breathtaking mountain-scapes, glacier blue lakes, and sweet little villages where time stands still, your right brain will dutifully declare “this is why we do this”, “this is why we came”. And your left brain will smart assedly play the banjo song from Deliverance.

Highways will inexplicably smell of skunk, or poop, or skunky poop at regular intervals.

Your spouse will start to refer to the GPS lady as his "other wife" ........ and he will think she is a better navigator.
You see more wildlife exploded along the roadside than in the nature along the roadside and it’s really tough to identify the species of innards.

When I was a child, hitch hikers all appeared like eager, albeit dirty, young adventurers ………… now they all look like a Mug Shot. When did they change the uniform?

You can’t stop anywhere on a road trip, or even slow down really, for less than $70.

Leg hair on a road trip grows at 3 times its natural rate. And all you ever pack is shorts.

By your 4th $100 fuel up you will be despondent and tempted to rob the gas jockey ……….. Suddenly the road has turned you into Thelma and Louise.

By day 6 everyone will have (despite packing 5 tubes of 30 SPF) the worst sunburn of their life ………… until next year’s road trip.

Day one, you have an expectation that everyone will eat at LEAST 5 fruits and vegetables a day ………… by day 5 you just want them to eat one thing that did not come from a wrapper.

The people (family) who break up your string of hotel stays by providing you and your offspring with beds and food IN THEIR HOMES (and are willing to put up with your collective road bum, and travel arguments, and Weird) are Saints. Absolute Saints. Give them something nice ……….. and maybe some of that pilfered platinum hotel shampoo.

You will discover the mind is fascinating in its inaccuracy. Over the course of 11 days on the road you will have (honestly) considered leaving your children on the side of the road at least 10 times, you will become an expert in flailing your arm behind you into back seats, and achieved mastery of ‘clenched teeth screaming at the children so the people driving beside you don’t know you are losing your shit’. And yet after one …… ONE good night’s sleep in your own bed it will be the “best trip you can remember”. It’s amazing. It’s sort of how you decided to become pregnant again after you conveniently forgot what it was like to have a Thanksgiving turkey sized organism ripped from your body through your vagina or C-section hole. It’s a handy sort of amnesia.

It’s really worth limiting technology time on a road trip …. But not while driving. Then, they should watch dvds and be handed snacks constantly. It’s the only way you’ll make it. Many pioneers travelled for 100+ days to reach their homesteads and not a movie player in sight. I can’t even imagine. I bet they just traded kids the whole way ………….. “Who’s taking Jed? I’ll take Sara if you take Jed. OK. Seriously he has to go today ……. Anyone? I don’t even need him back until Minnesota.”

When you travel, you give yourself permission to not care. Not care about cleanliness (except remotes …… seriously clean those), time, routine, or schedules. You can wake when you wake, eat when you’re hungry, read when you’re bored, hike without a map, and there are moments of true bliss. But it’s a bliss that comes from simplicity and focusing on the moment. It’s a part of travel we need to practice more at home. Bring home a little of that with you. You will be better for it.

You will SEE your children as if for the first time on a road trip. There will be those moments when you SEE them. And you will fall so deeply in love it will hurt.

There will be a few shots you have lined up in the camera and just before you snap, you will put the camera down and just hold your breath watching your children (or child) just be. Playing in a tide pool, studying a cricket in the tall grass, jumping up to grab the biggest leaves ………. And you will just watch. And you will know nothing, no picture, no video, could be more perfect than what you are watching in real time. And you will put your camera away.

We all breathe sweeter outside.

Road trips build memories. Memories that aren’t real. They are made of feelings and tastes and sounds and smells. They are the feel of your sleeping child’s heartbeat against your chest as you schlep them into the umpteenth hotel, how hard they laughed that day at the beach, how delicious the greasy fish and chips at the pier were, the sweetness of those 6 wild strawberries you spent an hour searching for, the incredible doodles in your kid’s road journal, the way you kept drawing “10 storey building” car scavenger hunt game card while in the middle of the country, the dappled sunlight bouncing off your kid’s faces as they ran back to tell you about a huge bug, the smell of pancakes, waking up in a warm tangle, and splashing (so much splashing). Those things aren’t REALLY what filled the minutes on your road trip, but they are the parts that counted ………. And that makes them real enough.





1 comment:

  1. Well Lita, you have me peeing in my pants with laughter----yet another great blog. You are the best!!!!!!! luv, Aunty Shannon