When you’re together in a car as a family, you better learn to enjoy each other, or ride on the roof. Over the past three months our family has driven over 8800 miles through 19 states. Considering that we spent over 128 hours in the car as a family, it’s no wonder we get along so well! It is work, and we do need attitude corrections along the way. But our journeys knit us together through every adventure and new experience – and with lots of time behind the wheel has helped me recall memories from my own childhood.
As a kid, we were always going somewhere. By the time I graduated high school, my family of 5 had been together in 38 states, Washington, DC, and 6 countries. Additionally, I was able to spend two weeks with my parents in 5 more nations. Always being in close quarters, without phones or video games, did quite a bit to form us as siblings. We learned to respect and love each other, and to bear with one another through the challenging times. We quickly understood the value of sticking together as friends in unfamiliar new territory.
An Epic Trip
In 1990 we flew to Amsterdam and went by train to Berlin, Germany. Signs, television, and stores were filled with language that we couldn’t read. The only familiar thing was McDonald’s, though it didn’t taste at all the same. East and West Germany had just begun unification and the Berlin Wall was coming down. I vividly remember my brother, my sister and I walking along the wall. We watched and listened to people speaking different languages, breaking it into pieces with any tool they could find. At ages 14, 13, and 9, we together tried to understand what was happening.
We continued by train and ferry to Trondheim, Norway, where we spent two weeks immersed in the Norwegian culture. In a country where breakfast consisted of meat, cheese, and tea, we went shopping for familiar cereal. My brother, sister and I spent several minutes trying to determine what each kind was, based solely by the picture on the box front. Back at our “flat”, we helped to entertain each other through the snowy weather while our father worked at the local university. One day my mother took us on an hour and a half bus ride to the closest ski resort, where my brother and I skied together. With no maps in English, he and I made it up to deep snow above the tree-line, and slowly found our a way back down the mountain to safety.
Other trips found us crisscrossing North America. We saw the ocean for the first time, watched ships pass through the locks in the Great Lakes, camped with mosquitoes, swam in algae-covered lakes, enjoyed an obligatory Disney visit, and even froze our tails off in a mid-summer snow at the Continental Divide.
No doubt, these were all amazing experiences. But more importantly, they were memorable experiences I had with my brother, my sister, and my parents. We certainly had moments at each other’s throats, but far more found us enjoying life together. For every mile, we made a memory – every new experience, a story. Each of our exploits constructed bonds that underpin our relationships today, bonds that we are now building in our own families.
We are very blessed to travel so much. But remember you can discover new amazing experiences with your family right where you are. While we all hope they will all be thrilling, some may turn out to be not so much – but if your goal is to enjoy each other as a family, they will all be memorable. It does take time and energy, planning and persistence, but experiencing life as a family will help bring a foundation of stories that you can share your entire lives.
Living in the Moment
Over the past year of travel, I have learned to savor every second with my wife and children. My ears always perk up when I hear Adrienne or Addison tell a story that begins with, “remember when…” To me, these are more than just trips. These are amazing seasons we can be all together in one place, making memories that will last a lifetime. When our kids are older and have families of their own, I fully expect them to bring Melissa and I with on some of their own adventures, and I’ll hear them recount their our own stories to my grand kids. The reason we will stay together as a family is because we are growing together as a family. If we’re not growing together, we’re growing apart.