Inside Keystone Canyon, Looking South Along the Richardson Highway. The Cliffs at the Left Climb More Than 1,000 Feet Above the Rushing Waters of the Lowe River. Mile 766, near the Alaska Pipeline Route 08/1974

Our family vacation last week was bookended with a 900-mile road trip tackled in a single day, both ways. I’ve never really loved being confined in a car for up to 18 hours, especially with little ones. But this trip was different. Yes, there were certain changes from trips we’ve taken before: having potty-trained kiddos now as opposed to nursing and diaper-requiring babies as well as better preparation on my part to have lots of activities to keep them happy and busy.

But overall, the one MAJOR difference was something less circumstantial and, instead, something more decisive: my attitude.

Now, Steve and I have traveled together over 20,000 miles in the past 10 years in a car…that’s around 350 hours we have spent in a moving vehicle…just counting road trips! We’ve driven with just the two of us, then with my very pregnant belly, with nursing infants, with not-quite-potty-trained toddlers and (yay) with fully potty-trained kiddos. Good thing we love each other…and that we like being together!

And in all that time confined in a car, we’ve adapted to our unique patterns, preferences and quirks. When Steve drives, it’s either conversation or talk-radio. I, on the other hand, MUST have music blaring and the more tired I get the more loudly I sing to stay awake and focused. When he’s in the passenger seat, he’s out cold in about ten minutes. When I’m there, my feet are on the dash and my mind is wandering all over, usually wishing I could read a book without getting carsick.

From flat, almost barren country-side to beautiful waterfronts to weaving through the mountains, the scenery is always changing. It may seem boring for a while, but then, out of nowhere, you’re picnicking by a volcano. Or you could be mesmerized by the majestic mountains and lush greenery and then with little preparation, you’re struggling to keep the car from swerving in the strong winds crossing the flat plain.

It’s HOW we deal with the shifts in the scenery and the challenges in our tight, committed space that determines greatly how the trip goes. If you want to see people tested on their attitude, stick them in a small, confined space for hours on end and see what happens!

Lessons I’ve learned from all this road-tripping:

  1. When traveling with kids, remember that what your GPS says will be a 12-hour trip will, in reality, be more like 18 hours. Just accept it now.
  2. Always, always have a bag full of surprises for your kids! From stickers, crayons and coloring books to glow sticks to paper bags for creating puppets to pipe cleaners and foil for interesting sculptures, always be prepared to have something new for them to do every hour or so.
  3. When you look down to find an ENORMOUS insect on your leg, it is totally acceptable to stick your entire leg out the window while going 80 mph and flick it off before it jumps on your face. (at least from the passenger seat…not that I’m speaking from experience or anything)
  4. Sometimes the mundane, ordinary moments are the sweetest…like sleeping babes in the back-seat or a chance to stand up and stretch or that beautiful sign that says “Rest Area-1 mile” when your potty-training child has declared an emergency.
  5. Listening to my daughter sing for 3 hours straight is one of the best things in the world…seriously!
  6. Have a plan and expect that it will change.
  7. Decide before you go that you will have a good time! Decide to be intentionally in a good mood!

My attitude can make or break the trip. My attitude can make or break my marriage. The time confined in a car can be a time of fond memories or a hellish remembrance. The time invested positively in this close-quartered covenant of marriage will directly determine how our journey will go and if we still like each other when we reach our destination.


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