In the summer of 1999, my husband and I, at that time just friends, took off for a two-month jaunt around North America in a Dodge camper van with carpet and captain’s chairs. We camped and drove and camped and drove and ate Taco Bell bean burritos (only $0.79 USD!) and drank wine from boxes and sweated a LOT – the van had no air conditioning and it was a hot summer in the American South, go figure – and when we came home we were 20 pounds lighter, our hair unruly and bleached from the sun, our skin brown from dust and campfire smoke. There is a photo of us that we asked a passer-by to take just after we returned to Vancouver. We are posing with the van in a back alley, filthy and free and slightly glaze-eyed at being back in the city.
Two great loves were born that summer. Ours for each other and mine for traveling great, purposeless distances by car.
The van is long gone and I have since completed a few road trips just as compelling in a Toyota Tercel to Winnipeg but my longing to spend another summer cavorting with no sense of purpose other than discovery and adventure has not faded. Even as I am currently mother to a 1 and 3 year old, in a suburban townhouse, with no hope of parole, er, vacation, for a few years yet, I have been considering the possibility of packing up, driving away, aiming vaguely for the East coast. Could we do it with kids? And would we want to?
Reality answers me quickly. We could do this trip when the kids are older. Not old enough to be tweeting our every failure from the back seat but old enough to find roadside attractions interesting. Not old enough to run away at a rest stop but old enough to no longer need an afternoon nap. I have no idea what magical age this might be. I suspect it does not exist.
And while part of me longs to do a big, cross-Canada trip, because I think that by ground is a wonderful way to discover the country of your choice (how else would I know about the tallest cross in the Western Hemisphere in Groom, Texas, the gorgeous Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan, or the Taco Bell in Jasper, Alberta?) I admit that a large part of me isn’t sure she would want to.
For one: the planet. With all the other changes to consumption we have made and are making so that our world will continue to be inhabitable, how could we justify driving 5,000 kilometres just for the sake of it? Just so I could hang my elbow out a window on the highway and make a few Xs on a road atlas? Even in a fuel-efficient car like our Honda, the obvious choice to be made between driving for no good reason and staying home is, well, staying home.
And two: the kids themselves. To me, the road trip means freedom, spontaneous u-turns, taking a chance on what might be a very bad cheeseburger. Of course the kids would have their own agenda, would have to define the fun for themselves. With four people in the car, I could see hours of bickering about that cheeseburger. Miles of sulks because the u-turn spilled someone’s drink. And most importantly, the feeling, in me, of being trapped rather than free.
So it wouldn’t be for them that we would pack everything into the trunk and take off for the great unknown. It would be for us; an attempt to re-capture our youth and our hot-footing ways. And like any endeavor where you drag along your kids to fulfill your own agenda, I suspect it would fail miserably.
We will be better off waiting to explore the Maritimes until the kids have flown the coop. Maybe by then we will do it by jet pack!
But tell me – do you road trip with your kids? Out of necessity or because it’s fun?
(Originally posted to the Canada Moms Blog)