My Facebook game is strong. I have a cover photo boasting a towering mountain range from our last trip out west. There’s a profile pic with three happy children and a smiling husband.
A few summers ago, I convinced my husband to join me, our rapidly growing fetus, and our two-year-old and ten-month-old boys, on a 3,500 mile, 13 day trek to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. This Canadian adventure was the very first of what has become our annual (sometimes semi-annual) family road trip, these unruly journeys that have cemented themselves at the very top of my favorite way to travel.
The past two weeks have been a lesson in slowing down. Like most lessons, this is not one I have openly embraced. In fact, I raged against it forcefully, as I often do, and the universe kept busting my chops until I finally conceded.
We leave on a Tuesday around dinner and make it to North Dakota exactly two days later. The drive takes 19 hours, but with three kids, a business meeting, 27 potty breaks, a roadside picnic, three underwhelming fast food experiences, one temporarily closed water park, and a whirlwind tour of the North Dakota Heritage Center, two days feels right.
I love to travel because I love to eat, but when the hungry babies start howling from the backseat, I've learned to put my foodie preferences aside and make some concessions. Once we've arrived safely at our destination and everyone has had a solid night's rest, I can demand a farm-to-table house of kale complete with hipsters, their ill-fitting clothes, and all the pretentiousness. Until then, here's my list of "go-to" gourmet:
I am sitting at a Holiday Inn, chasing cold peanut butter toast with thin coffee. Behind me, I hear my five-year-old grunting and growling. There are intermittent high-pitched squeals and smacks against a pillow or maybe the mattress. I can’t be bothered to turn around. Then the crying begins, building in intensity with deep, dramatic inhales to catch his breath and long snuffs of snot being sucked back into his head. He is expressing frustration over his breakfast.
Parenting is a never-ending series of peaks and valleys. On an almost daily basis, I waffle between, “Wow! I am so great at this!” to “Holy shit. Who let me have children?” I have noticed, though, that as our little family adds miles to our travel log, days on the road tend to stay at the positive end of the parenting spectrum. Originally, I thought this was because Vacation Me is so much cooler than Everyday Me, but after careful consideration, I realized there are additional factors at play:
Any traveler worth their salt needs to be ready to roll at a moment’s notice, but that can be tricky for those of us rolling with strollers. What is a meandering mom or pop to do? Upon returning from a super fun and totally exhausting vacation, it takes me at least a week to tackle the unpacking process. So, forget it. Just keep a few of those bags packed and waiting for your next adventure. They might just be the push you need to get yourself out the door and into the world.