The countdown is on. In just one month, we head off on our big cross-country road trip. And with it, of course, comes much excitement and anticipation. There’s the adventure of exploring new areas and experiencing new things, the happiness of reconnecting with folks and places we haven’t seen in a long time, and the discovery of all the unknowns cropping up along the way – you know, those beautiful surprising moments, as well as those unreal stories you can’t believe you just experienced, which somehow seem to come along with any journey.
Getting to do this as a family makes the adventure that much sweeter. We’re going cross-country with our daughter. I write it matter-of-factly, but I’m ecstatic over here – we’re going cross-country with our daughter!
There was a point, not too long back, where I thought these kind of adventures were out of reach for us or just not possible for families at all – at least not until your kids were much, much older or unless you won the lottery. But in challenging these ideas, and surrounding ourselves with inspiring folks who were doing the same, our life has, ahem, really come alive in a way. So away we go.
Think of your travel or adventure dream list. Mine is constantly changing and to be honest, quite long. There’s something on it from every continent. There are once-in-a-lifetime adventures and quiet wanderings. As long as it is slow and off the beaten path, consider it something I’m interested in experiencing. I know I won’t get to them all. I don’t even necessarily want to. But I love thinking about them. Sometimes dreaming about the adventures can be as much fun as living them – almost – because they’re there anytime.
My husband, on the other hand, has few adventures that get him excited. He’s game to join me wherever, and very open-minded to whatever I suggest, but when I ask him where he wants to go it’s clear we don’t think the same way about travel. At all, really. Except with the west coast of North America.
So when he suggested this, of course, I was in. It was on my list, along with a million other adventures for which I’d need no arm twisting.
But that was five years ago, paused indefinitely due to timing. Turns out, at six months pregnant, I wasn’t as excited about a cross-country road trip. We always knew we’d come back to this, not just because we – the two of us – were excited, but because there were now three of us, and we loved thinking about the experience our daughter might have. I imagine her exploring just how vast and diverse our country is, of what it means to have the stories we read come alive or of experiencing things no other place in the world offers. So we’ve always naturally agreed when we had created a good chunk of time and our daughter was old enough, that’s where we’d go.
Our daughter was two and a half when I heard about another family taking their four year old on a cross-country road trip. I looked at my daughter, thought long and hard about it, obviously was already sold on the beauty of traveling with a child at any age, but still couldn’t see how we’d get to that point. I could imagine us literally flying anywhere rather than driving that distance. They just felt like entirely different animals.
Then she hit three and a half. We were off to visit friends a day’s drive away. About halfway through, I stopped and looked around. There we were, our little family, rocking out to music and happily taking in everything around us. When my daughter wanted quiet time she pulled out her notepad and pens to “journal”. Of course she wasn’t actually writing, but we listened to her describe her surroundings as she scribbled away. In the moment, it was clear transportation had become a welcome part of our journey. It was no longer something to try and manage. It was go time.
Now, just about that chunk of time….
Time + Route
We have 15 weeks between the time we leave the greater NYC area before we need to be back. It isn’t the end of our long-term travels, in fact, this trip is just be the beginning, but we have important commitments on either end. This allows for about four months to take on a full cross-country circle.
We intentionally have little in the way of expectation, and a rough itinerary to follow. Each family member has given input to this path. The places and experiences we take on will represent each of our individual and collective interests. But our main guide will be our happiness. If we’re enjoying ourselves, we want our travels to be flexible enough to stay. Same with leaving if we’re not or detouring if we find new information. We’re fully sold on slow traveling, and want the trip to be paced slow enough so we have time to relax, get lost, make friends and get a lay of the land. Honestly, from a slow travel perspective, four months doesn’t seem nearly long enough, but we’ll find the pacing which seems right for us and adjust to what works at different points along the trip.
Learning on the Road
We are already strong supporters of world schooling – that the world, and life, can be an incredibly enriching education in and of itself. We’ve been flexing our world schooling, home schooling, unschooling and child-led learning muscles since our daughter was born. It is a beautiful, fun and fulfilling way to provide her education. Learning on the road, or road schooling, is much of what we already know and love, just in transit.
Many things about our rhythm will look excitingly different. My husband will spend his days with us, so we’ll be living life and learning together more than ever before. The backdrop will be ever changing, with endless new experiences each day, making way for understanding so much about our world, ourselves and our interests.
Other parts of our rhythm will take some readjusting. I imagine it will be a little bit before we find a rhythm as comfortable as it is now. We thrive when we have time to explore, to research, to tinker, to process, to play, to read, to relax, to be with friends and family and to be alone. While much of this will be readily at our fingertips every single day, it will be sad to leave our community and familiar comforts behind. I’m proactively trying to account for how we keep those relationships strong, even from a distance, as well as how we find new comforts as we travel.
But it’s almost impossible for education to be lacking. The opportunities are endless, from just being on the road to interacting with people, from being in the wild to experiencing cultural offerings, from taking in new ways of life to finding threads the bind us all. Each school subject feels woven into and overlapping across the many places and experiences we’ll encounter.
As we countdown and embark on the trip, I’m sure, as with everything, things will come up for which we couldn’t account and ways in which we under and overestimated how we’d feel, but as long as my husband’s pre-travel disaster streak doesn’t continue, I think we’ll have a really great time.
Next time, we’ll dive into the logistics. How will we be getting around? What does our budget look like? How did we make this possible? What are we doing with everything back home while we travel? All the nitty-gritty good stuff.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear if you’ve done or are thinking about doing a similar kind of trip. Tell us about your family road trips!