We all want grand experiences for our kids. Maybe not all of us, since not all of us have kids, but you get my point. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last several days. My thoughts returning to the planning days. We only had two weeks to pull it all together for our 4000 mile round-trip road trip. I didn’t know where to start and I was torn between how to create an experience of a lifetime for my kids and how to freaking pack.
There were 1000 decisions to be made, so instead of following my gut the first several days, I looked at the million ideas Pinterest so kindly prepares for those of us who want it all not only to be perfect, but to look perfect. I often think there should be PA (Perfectionist Anonymous) because, in my opinion, it can and is as addicting as substances one can ingest. I’m not one for ingesting much of anything other than water and coffee, but having things all lined up just the right way is my drug of choice. This can and often does take over and stop me from the real life in front of me, which is so far from the thing I’m trying to get to. It numbs me which sometimes feels better and safer than the chaos that surrounds me. It’s probably best that I don’t like beer or wine all that much – combine that with Pinterest and my family would likely not be on a road trip right now. We’d be falling apart.
After a few days of being numb by staring at hundreds of posts, or pins, rather (like it matters), of all the things I should be creating for my kids so that they survive the drive and saving the lists of what foods to pack so they don’t rot out their teeth or get a debilitating disease from the “additives” in “processed” foods, I suddenly realized that this is not the experience I want for them, and much less for myself.
One reason my husband quit his job was that we have longed for a simpler life. We are simple people, but we get sucked into the not so simple at the drop of a hat. Part of it is that we live in a city. Part of it is the invention of the internet (thanks Al Gore). A lot of it is that we are humans and we just can’t help ourselves. I got to the point where I couldn’t help but stop, close my laptop and decide that my mantra for the two weeks of planning and packing would be “keep it simple.”
Simple is not the same as easy. It was hard. Deciding what and how to pack is exhausting even without the advice of hundreds of people you don’t know. What if it’s cold? What if it’s hot? What if it rains? Looking at the weather of all the places we planned on passing through indicated it would be: d) all of the above. Add that to the fact that our lodging for a large part of the trip would be in a tent that is barely hanging on and we’re talking borderline panic attacks. We’ve camped over the years, but not this much and not in “Bear Country.” I was definitely entering new planning territory.
Decision making has never been easy for me, but I am learning that it can be simple. Boil in a bag food and three jars of peanut butter? Check. Books on tape (or CD, rather) paper and colored pencils? Another check. Binders beautifully filled with printables for the kids to do? NOPE. Large screen TV? That would be ridiculous. Healthy snacks divided perfectly into a plastic container? Another NOPE. Processed granola bars in a box? Most definitely.
The choices became easier and easier as I was able to slowly but surely let go of what I thought our trip should look like and focus on making choices that felt easy. Eventually it led my husband and I to the most simple and best decision we both made as we were prepping: Expect the worse and hope for the best. Traffic jams, bad weather and potentially horrible campsites were and are still possibilities as we are only half-way done with the trip. That decision may have saved us more than the $45 bear spray we purchased and didn’t need.
Now we are halfway through the trip and we have survived, even the bears. It has been one of the best trips we have ever taken. The pictures I’ve posted haven’t even touched on the beauty we have encountered not only visually but emotionally as well. The time and genuine connection with the kids, even in the car, has been an experience we were hoping for, but not exactly expecting. We have definitely had our moments, the kids hearing words they know they aren’t supposed to say themselves, some tears of frustration and exhaustion, and 4 plus days without a shower just to list a few. There will be more of both the beauty and the pain, I know. But the mantra “keep it simple” is staying with us as we journey on.