I just got back from a short weekend trip with my girls. (If you don't know about their blog, Operation Meatball, you should really take a look.) I have been mulling over all the travel we have done in our family, examining and rethinking as always if this is a good path or if there is a better one. Just this year, we have covered about 45,000 miles in the car. Thinking about our travel experiences has flooded my mind with memories, but more importantly to me right now, I was inundated with all the opportunities for personal and family growth that have come through this incubator.
Here are a few:
~Travel dislodges the complacency that settles in when I am in the same place doing the same thing for a long time. It allows a fresh opportunity to think through routines and habits. I get to look at my life, my daily life, from another angle. Sometimes just changing the day to day venue gives a new perspective. Stepping outside my house and my routine lets me look back and see areas I can improve and sometimes areas I have already improved.
~Visiting other towns, states, and even countries demonstrates how much else is out there and just how small we really are. It's so easy to become myopic with our own lives. Seeing how other folks live, whether it's just a neighboring city or a whole other culture, reminds me that I have a lot to learn and it puts in front of me the daily working out of other ways to live life. This might reinforce the way we do things now, or it might open my eyes to new and better ways to reach my goals for my family. I want my children to see and experience and learn from the life styles and practices of others. I want them to know that the way we do life isn't the only way, and even if it's the best way for our family, we must still improve. We stayed with some friends that played some fabulously fun outdoor games together, and came home and copied their great idea. Another family we love to stop and see has a great quick delicious dinner that we have made a regular at our house now. We have changed the design of rooms or the cabinet organization or even aspects of family worship after being inspired by others.
~Road trips are an awesome way to learn about geography, history, architecture, and the like. It's a whole lot more interesting to see the real deal instead of a photo in a book. It's not always possible, of course, but when it is, I have to take advantage of the opportunity! I will never forget going to Alaska with my family right after graduating from high school and seeing massive glaciers. The science I'd studied the previous year just made sense all of a sudden. I was so excited to go back to my teacher that summer and tell him that everything had clicked. It's the same with architecture and a multitude of other subjects. We stop along the road if we see an interesting historical marker or a beautiful bridge. Or detour to visit a museum, even briefly. The girls have read and loved a wonderful book called, I Married Adventure, about the life of Osa Johnson. We were on a road somewhere in Kansas and passed a town sign that they recognized from the book. We pulled over, but the museum had just closed. Oh, the angst! Right now we are reading Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? out loud and are able to draw upon a myriad of places we visited in Europe a number of years ago. There's a spark in the kids' eyes when they hear a place discussed that they have visited. They have immediate context and connection.
~On an interpersonal level, travel provides long periods of uninterrupted conversation with family. Maybe not having the distraction of the laundry or the dishes or helping with that math problem invigorates the creative juices. I just know that we have come up with all sorts of ideas in the car as well as hashed through problems, discussed life goals, and even relationship hopes and dreams cruising along I-10 east or I-40 west. I think the sheer length of time we are all in the car together enables a unique openness. We might start a subject, leave it a while to simmer, and then a couple of hours later, come back to it with more transparency and frankness. Time is definitely a bonus when we are in the car!
~Sometimes days on the road can put the spotlight on wrinkles in our relationships that need to be addressed and ironed out as well. If we are all in the same hotel room, or better yet, sleeping in the car for several nights, problems can't be pushed under the metaphorical or physical rug. A communication bump has to be resolved right there, or at least acknowledged and addressed, to be worked on more later. But resolution and forgiveness can sometimes be facilitated more easily when we can't get away from each other and just have to get it worked out then and there.
~I feel like I have barely scratched the surface. There is so much more: from the mundane, like learning some practical mechanical skills to keep our rugged van going, to the more eternal, like the hours of intimate prayer and praise when everyone is asleep and I am driving several hundred miles in the middle of the night just pouring my heart out to my Creator. Then there are the amazing and unusual people we have met (I seriously wonder if any of them have been angels) . . . The man in black and chains at the Sonic drive in who gave us a gospel message to rival the best evangelists, the crusty fellow outside AutoZone who just had a sense of what might be wrong under the hood. . . these encounters need a story of their own, though.
Wrapping it up, in our experience, travel fuels a sense of exploration and adventure, promotes adaptability and flexibility, fosters transparent conversation, encourages sensitivity to others and awareness of surroundings, and heightens observation skills. I am so grateful for all the experiences we have had, from one end of the spectrum to the other. Now, where shall we go next?