Since I was a kid, I’ve always looked forward to summer because it means one thing in my family: road trips. I’m not picky: a trip through the Rockies, a trip through the American midwest, a trip down the highway to Fargo, it’s all fine by me.
There have been years where we go to a place we have visited time and time again, and yet each time the journey there is a little different; age has been a big factor.
Back when the trips first began, my family of four would pile into the car — a mid-size sedan, not a minivan — and get on the road at an ungodly hour. I shared the backseat with my older brother and the night before we would gather everything we could think of to entertain ourselves. Magnetic checkers and Connect Four. Stuffed animals. A wallet full of CDs, or a few cassette tapes before that. And enough batteries to last through the trip.
Over time, the toys and technology changed. Stuffed animals became books, until I realized that reading wasn’t such a hot idea on highways under construction. CDs became iPods, and suddenly I didn’t have to choose only a few hours of music to last me a week. The addition of a laptop with a DVD player came only a few years ago, and since then I have become convinced that there is no better place to watch Legally Blonde than while driving through rural Wisconsin.
Eventually I got the backseat to myself when my brother realized that staying home meant getting the house to himself for a while. A quiet house is overrated anyway; I would rather be on the road in the summer than stuck in one place. But at least now I don’t have to worry about someone taking a picture of me if I fall asleep with my mouth open.
When we were both little the point of trips was to see things. The world’s largest Ukrainian Easter egg in Vegreville, Alberta; Chateau Lake Louise; Dinosaur museums and the like. Then the trips became about shopping as we hit our teens, and malls became the main attractions. I’ve yet to grow out of this phase, but more mature destinations have been thrown into the mix. I would not have enjoyed the Signature Lounge in Chicago as a 10 year old, but 21 year old me thought the view was spectacular.
The wanderlust that keeps pushing me to travel throughout university, during a time when I’m supposed to be planning my future, has unintentionally led to a different sort of understanding. Road trips can bring you to all sorts of places, but they can also make you realize where you want to settle. While I love the mountains, I’d rather be in a big city with a skyline that stretches for miles. I enjoy trying out independent coffee shops on vacation, but give me a Starbucks and any city will feel like home. Country scenery can be beautiful, but I would never be able to permanently stay in a place without Wi-Fi. Traveling has made me realize what kind of life I want to live.
Without even knowing it I’ve grown up in the backseat of the family car. Life and countless vacations have played out the same way: I left it to the people up front to get me to the final destination and eventually it happened — just a lot sooner than I thought it would.