Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What goes through my mind during 13 hours of road tripping with no co-pilot

I've had 13 hours of driving in the last 2 days, without Steve there to keep me company.  Except for our long phone chats after he gets out of class, but lordy there's still a lot of time left. 

So I've been thinking. 


I think most people think that our road-tripping is a big giggle-fest.  All joy, all the time.  They figure if we're willing to be on the road for months on end, it must be an idyllic experience.


Sometimes, it is.  But days like today, when I have 7 hours of driving ahead of me, 2 hours of sleep from the night before (long story), and someone has to pee for the 96th time in the last hour (slight hyperbole), I find myself thinking about how road-tripping is a lot like childbirth.  Physically exhausting, like Jack's marathon labor...or emotionally complicated, like Simone's.  That even when I wonder if it will EVER end, and wondering if I'm up to the task ahead of me, I know the end is going to be triumphant and worth all of it.  Today was terrible on so many levels, and yet...nothing in me wished it away.  It's part of the process.  

The best things in my life have been the most complicated.  Childbirth again, yes.  I had some strange labors, to say the least.  Hiking to (and from) the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  And, I suppose, surviving e. coli in Nicaragua.  When I really and truly thought I'd never see my parents again; that I was going to die on that bunk bed in the tiny village with no phone to tell my parents good-bye.   When I finally got to the other end of sickness, there was a triumph beyond imagination. I felt like I'd been re-born to finish off my life.  You don't forget those life events...and the struggle is part of the package.

I'm not doing much to advertise road-tripping right now, I'll bet. :)  But I started thinking today that my adoration of driving my children criss-cross around the country might be misleading if people think it's just fun and no tears.  Instead, today I was doing an emergency run to Wal-Mart for a DVD player for the back seat (name your price, Wal-Mart, and I would have cleared our savings to pay for it).  I was begging Simone to save her incessant questions for just 60 seconds...please!...so I wasn't forced to stab my eardrums with a fork.

I brought 98% of our travel-spirit to our marriage at first, although that's a completely different story a decade later.  The same guy who vehemently vetoed Cambodia and Vietnam for a honeymoon locale (whaaaaat...??) just mentioned today on the phone that he'd move to China in a heartbeat if offered a job.  Be still my heart.  But halfway through our 3 week backpacking-Italy honeymoon, he said to me: "Remind me why you like travel so much?"  We were hungry, tired, carrying heavy packs, and it was probably raining.  It always rains on those crappy travel days. :)  I tried to tell him that was part of the story...part of the journey...and  the way I saw it, if we didn't absorb the complications of the adventure, we'd never get the good stuff too.  Right after that, we arrived in Cinque Terre and he fell in love with Italy.  

Now he sees it the same way, but I get why people are scared away from travel at first.  It can be so exhausting!  Whether it's backpacking Europe or driving 3 children on a 21 hour trip to see grandparents.  The more you do it, the better it becomes - but it's never really "easy."

I tend to think that the complications of travel are part of the growing pains of how it shapes your spirit and psyche, too.  Every single story in my history of travel gone horribly awry is now part of the highlight reels in my mind, too. When I wasn't sure how I was going to get though that situation, but found a way to make it happen. 

And someday...maybe even tomorrow, once I get more sleep...I'll look back on this time of road-tripping solo with the children and love what I learned from the experience.

Right now, I just want some sleep.