When we first envisioned our National Park to Park Highway Tour we imagined seeing amazing sites, hiking and biking beautiful trails and spending lots of quality time as a family. We’ve seen and done many of those things, but a 6,000 mile long road trip also includes long hours in the car. Camping along the way means limited access to showers and laundry. Close proximity to the same four people all day and night long leads to cranky kids and adults.
I’m embarrassed to say that on more than one occasion I have wanted to go home. I’m not the only one. At least every other day Little G will say something like, “When we get home can I play at my friends’ house?” or “When we get home can we go to that movie?”
The kids have been great on this trip over all. They’ve camped, swam, hiked, biked, shared and learned a ton about the natural world. They have also fought, bickered, hit, complained and cried. It seems every great moment we have on our National Park to Park Highway tour is tempered by daily struggles to just get along.
Mountain Dad and I knew what we were getting into on this 6,000 mile journey. We signed up for long hours in the car, sleeping in our truck and setting up camp several times each week. It’s been challenging doing the work of parenting and camping while on the road, but at the same time it’s been rewarding.
We get to see our kids light up with new information, watch as they discover a new animal or plant, help as they aquire new skills like taking first steps or pedaling a big girl bike. Being on the road has required us to be more attentive, more available, pulled away from obligations that distract us from each other.
Even with these great things I’ve felt that pull toward home. I find myself thinking of what I want to do when I get back, planning projects for that space that is uniquely mine. I’ve longed to sleep in my own bed, have some space away from kids and husband and wash my clothes in my own machine whenever they need to be cleaned.
The work of camping wears on me, even if some of it is the same work I’d be doing at my house. I’d still be cooking and doing dishes at home. Kids would still need to be clothed, diapered and cleaned. The big difference from doing these chores on the road versus at my house are the convenience things. The sink is in the kitchen, hot water at ready access and food in a temperature controlled fridge. A bathtub down the hall and minimal dirt on the floor makes cleaning kids easy. In my daily life I take those conveniences for granted. I’m grateful to have them, more so now when I don’t.
The way we have managed this homesickness is to break up our camping journey with stops in actual houses or hotels. Staying at a rental home or my sister-in-law’s has been life saving. It’s given us opportunities to catch up on normal life activities, relax and have a break from living outdoors all the time.
It’s also given us a break from each other. Cousins play with my kids and Mountain Dad and I have real conversations with other adults instead of being constantly interrupted by one of our three tots. Brief stays in homes have been nice, but even so I’ve felt that desire for comfort and peace that only my own living room can afford.
Why keep going on this crazy adventure with three young kids in the back of the truck if I’m not loving it? Why not call it quits and head back?
The answer is joy. Mixed with all the daily chores are moments of pure happiness. Some days have more and some have less, but every day there are moments to treasure. Whether it’s looking out at the Grand Canyon, swimming in the Pacific Ocean, watching marmots on the tundra, hiking to a giant Sequioa or watching Little G learn to ride a bike with pedals at Mesa Verde, these moments are the payoff that keep me committed to this adventure. They are shaping us as a family and me as a person.
Being on this trip has taught me that simple is better. At home I fill my life with things that don’t matter that much in the end, but on the road my time is spent with my family doing fun things. What could be better than that?
So yes, it would be nice to sleep in my own bed, but I’m sticking this journey out. Why? Because having adventures is worth a little sacrifice. The payoff outweighs the cost.