With both of my parents being high school teachers, my family was in the unique situation of always having the same days off throughout the year. This gave us the opportunity to take family vacations as often as we could afford them. Since air travel with a power wheelchair is a logistical nightmare at best, these family trips meant the five of us piling into our wheelchair accessible van and driving wherever we were going.
The end destination, whether it was Disneyworld, Niagara Falls, or the Mall of America, may have been the focal point of the trip (and I greatly value and appreciate seeing these places), but looking back as an adult, I focus on something else. The thing I remember about our family vacations are the days spent getting wherever we were going. Those long, boring days on the road trapped with my family are the memories that really make me smile.
Anyone with siblings who took a family road trip as a child knows what it is like spending an entire day in a 6’x8′ metal box rolling down an endless highway armed with nothing but a stack of CDs, crossword puzzles, and some Twizzlers to pass the time.
Your sister is on one side as she keeps leaning and drooling on you as she sleeps, and your brother is on the other and keeps holding his finger by your cheek while chanting, “I’m not touching you!” Your mother, up front nose deep in the Rand McNally Atlas, saying “Stay in your lane. You need to slow down now!”, and your father, white-knuckled at the wheel yelling, “If you kids don’t quiet down and get along (words edited for the children in the audience) I’m going to pull this car over!”
Sounds like fun, right? Surprisingly, it was. Maybe not everything was great, but it truly is these moments from our family trips that mean the most to me.
Looking back at our road trips, what I remember first and foremost are those four other people in that rolling insane asylum, and how they all love me enough to subject themselves to days in a mobile prison cell with me. I remember staying up until 2am playing “20 Questions,” and the countless hours we spent playing the “Alphabet Game” driving down the interstate. Memories of not being able to sleep as we were driving through the night and doing crossword puzzles with my dad and sister at 4am.
I remember my brother and I working together trying to beat Pokémon on our Gameboy in one road trip by sleeping while the other played. I remember fighting, well everyone, over the last Twizzler. These are the moments I cherish most, not because of the trip or where we were going, but because of the people who were on the trip with me.
Now that air travel is so much more affordable than it used to be, the family road trip is unfortunately becoming a thing of the past. I truly hope that it does not go the way of nightly family dinners and weekly game night and disappear, because there is so much for families to gain by spending 12-plus hours in a car together.
With families doing more and being busier than ever before, the only way for these people to get this time alone together and experience these priceless moments may be to trap them in a speeding metal box. It would be a shame if our grandchildren never get to know the rage that erupts within you after hearing, “Are we there yet?” for the 10,000th time that day. Or get to know the soul-crushing frustration that envelopes you when you hear “I need to pee!” 10 minutes after leaving the rest stop.
Who are we to deprive the next generation of these character building and life-altering moments in life?