There’s something about packing up the van and hitting the road with my family that sets my soul right.
We drove to New York and back over spring break — 2,600 miles round trip through farmland and cities and mountains and valleys. Along the way I dodged a thousand potholes and was entertained by scads of creative billboards; this year’s two most popular topics were guns and Jesus.
Something profound hits me every time we venture out. It usually happens when my wife and kids are asleep or buried in books, and I’m left with my thoughts and the hypnotic hum of the road. This time it was along an easy, open stretch of interstate in Indiana when I was reminded that life really is a road trip.
My wife and I try to teach our daughters to be flexible in all situations while honoring themselves. This can be difficult since we’re still working on that ourselves. Traveling is a great way to practice.
You can plan all you want and map every inch of your journey and download all the right apps, but something always comes up. There are delays and detours and cracked windshields and flat tires and carsick children. Just think how boring the journey might be without a little shoulder maintenance and uneven pavement.
Sometimes you end up in a place you didn’t expect, and sometimes it’s better than you could have imagined. And, if you’re open to it, you will always meet incredibly interesting people.
Sometimes I don’t really want to know where I’m going. I don’t want to have a plan. It tempers expectations and leaves the canvas open for something totally unexpected and exciting.
On the highway of life, there will always be someone who drives faster and those who drive slower and, yes, those who haven’t quite figured out that the left lane is for passing, and those who just don’t care about rules.
There are those who make bad choices and seem to get away with it and those who get pulled over and pay a fine for it. Sometimes you might be that person with the flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
There will always be someone with a newer, fancier car zooming by in the fast lane and someone with an old clunker limping along in the slow lane and others on the side of the road with their belongings on their backs who wished they had a car.
And just when you think that you’ve had enough of the stresses of the road (or that your bladder is about to burst) there will be a reassuring sign in the distance with the promise of “gas — food — lodging” at the next exit.
Even if you’re not up for learning how to become adaptable and flexible, it will be foisted upon you. The circumstances demand it.
Like the time we had to pull off the road during a tornado warning and seek shelter in a hotel that had lost electricity and had nearly all of its windows shattered by softball-sized hail. Or the time our transmission blew out in a small town on the first day of a 26-day tour, and two women named Faith and Angel appeared (not making this up) and helped us get a ride to a nearby town where we were able trade in our busted vehicle on a used van that we still drive.
Great family memories can be created under many circumstances, but often the real adventure comes from the twists and the turns and the jams. Life is what happens on the road between here and there.
To reach Jim Cosgrove, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.