Admittedly, I have sunk to some embarrassing lows in terms of some learned helplessness that I've developed around traveling since kids have come along. It's like my brain can only handle so much - and these are the things I've become self-proclaimed "captain of": packing for everyone, snacks, entertainment, managing emotions, leading sing-alongs, driving when need be. Derek is captain of gas (both types), paying for things, passports, navigating, driving, and pointing out things along the road that nobody in a carseat can see.
What happened to the 19 year old me who led a group of 16 15-year olds on a 10 day canoe trip through Algonquin park (sans cell phone)? Where was the 21 year old me who breezed through Indian customs in Calcutta, my only casualty in 7 months of traveling my stolen Birkenstock shoes? Or the 25 year old who led a group of grade 12s on a month long trip in China?
I needed to summon these earlier versions of myself.
And I'm glad I did - it was a great trip, both there and back. Kind of a little silent-ish retreat. If you have the chance to do a 7 hour solo road trip, seize it. You can sing and slap your knees as loud as you like. You can stop at outlet malls for as long as you like. You don't have to wait for anybody but yourself to go to the bathroom. There is no one to gasp when you have to brake quickly, and no one but Mr. GPS to show you the way.
Because I was by myself, I had lots of time to think. And observe. I had time to take in the changing leaves of fall, and the bald eagle sitting regally about 30 feet from the road. Here are a few of my additional trip observations/tips:
- If you happen to go to a place called "Bubba's" for supper, stick with the quesadillas and pass on their specialty, "dopey dough" which comes with a side of Velveeta cheese for dipping.
- Order one salad at Panera Bread, but then change your mind at the last minute and order a different one. Hopefully, the cashier will record the 1st one, but at the pickup counter they'll insist on giving you both salads for the price of one.
- Go to the bathroom at a gas station BEFORE the border crossing so that you don't spend 45 minutes in crawling, stop and go traffic wondering if you have a container big enough or whether you should just say "those people will most likely never see me again" and go beside the car. This can all be avoided.
- Why, oh why, North American women, do you wear your yoga pants and sweats out on the town? Have going to restaurants and shopping at malls become so commonplace? Growing up, I lived on a farm in the country. We would go into "town" a couple of times a week for groceries and such. My town friend always joked that we sounded like we lived on Little House on the Prairie. But town was always an occasion to get out of "home clothes" and look presentable. Where has presentable gone, ladies? Sure, I like to dress casually, but do we need to look like we're ready to break out into a workout or yoga pose at any minute? [end of rant.]
- Outlet malls no longer hold the thrill that they held for me in the 1980s. At that time, it made me almost giddy to go to our yearly high school cross-country meet in Rochester, New York. This trip always meant a stop at the North Tonawanda Outlet Malls. I was the only grade 9 on the team that year, and I eagerly followed my older and wiser teammates around the mall, loading up on reddish-brown Bass penny loafers, a forest green Ralph Lauren polo shirt, and bright yellow and dark pink pants from Benetton. I was truly in heaven. And the prices! Oh my. Now... well, I found some Christmas pjs for my daughters, and that was about as exciting as it was. I actually got bored and got back in the car. The appeal of more time to myself was more than the appeal of consuming. Amazing.