Ready, Set, Road Trip, America!

As the price of gas declines from historic highs, there is still time to act. I implore you to put back on the schedule your previously planned road trips! Perhaps now scaled down a bit due to autumn obligations, these uniquely American odysseys expand our geographic arc and cultural range. They also help us better understand ourselves and our interactive roles amid a traveling team. Whether your fellow passengers are your immediate/extended family or other trusted sidekicks, the lessons and experiences gained together are crucial to a balanced perspective. Trekking with people who are close to you enhances our aptitude to live amicably with folks who are not (close to us or amicable!). Leaving behind the comfort of home, tribe, and the rigor of routine can reinvigorate us, spark curiosity, test ideas, and foster tolerance. Sharing these experiences with children is possibly significant for America’s future. Please expect laughter and challenges on these necessary jaunts. Come on, summer may be ended, but meaningful times during long excursion weekends await you!

 

Mark Twain had a good sense of this concept when he wrote:

 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of mankind and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one’s little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 

I fondly remember a family road trip to North Carolina, where I acquired a broader mindset. As a young child, I was excited to be the navigator. I loved studying the unruly, fold-up road map. I realize now it was a position bestowed to occupy a hyperactive passenger, and I enjoy geography to this day. Arriving at our destination, I was immediately enamored by the smell of the pines and the feel of the sandy soil on my feet. We didn’t know to call it “Earthing” then, but I felt it! The vast forest and its overgrown vegetation were considerably distinct from the wooded park oasis near my home. We stayed in a cottage amid the deer and timber, where we visited with our African–American host family. Their lifestyle was alien and rugged to me, with their focus on hunting and fishing. They eventually invited us to help with a controlled burn. It was fascinating to know that these other children were actually expected to play with matches! The concept of actively taming the forest’s underbrush with fire to avert future, uncontrollable, natural blazes was transformative. Television ads with Smokey the Bear were no substitute for this hands-on experience in preservation. My young suburban-formed mind grasped only a small part of environmental responsibility, but the seed was planted. That same road trip taught me new words and formed my odd sense of humor too. For example, exploring in town one day, Mom was driving and searching for a shop that might sell women’s undergarments. All the while, the rest of us were growing restless and “hangry.” I suggested a stop at a nearby “Brazier” Burger would be a solution for both needs. Shortly after, I relegated myself to the distant, backward-facing bench seat in the station wagon. You see, travel teaches survival instincts, too, as I was relieved Dad could not swing his arm way back there!

Indeed, driving locally to museums, sporting events, and live concerts can entertain us. Have at it! However, the working knowledge of others beyond our comfort zone may be missing in today’s polarized population. Eyeing unfamiliar parts of the country as they pass outside the car window, listening to everyone’s fresh take on the nonuniform is healthy. Ideally, understanding Americans’ disparate views by witnessing America’s treasures and absorbing “strange” norms will constitute a successful road trip. Moving about new places, meeting new people, and stopping to share stories could lead to genuinely celebrating our differences. Our great “Melting Pot” affords us an array to actually behold. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, it is only a few miles down the road that you discover how the Amish operate without modern conveniences in their community (slowly!). You might better know why city dwellers prefer life without cars as you search for a parking spot to scope out San Francisco’s Chinatown. That mid-western roadside diner is often the place for local retirees offering thoughts from a lifetime of facing issues.

Moving about new places, meeting new people, and stopping to share stories could lead to genuinely celebrating our differences. Our great "Melting Pot" affords us an array to actually behold.

Sit at the counter. Soak it all in. Did you know that some farm children learn to drive as early as 8 years old to help in the fields and with chores? How about the fact that Native Americans still excel at lacrosse, a game that originated to prepare them for war? Touring our America, play the license plate game! It is an efficient way to know the states, bond, and mercifully lift all faces from cell phone screens. Or setting out together, you might simply take in that your daughter seriously cannot continue on while your son’s foot is touching her foot. Some of the tolerance gained will undoubtedly be with each other. Loaded into a compact space together, we are eventually compelled to be civil and persevere. Twain nails it. There are many growth opportunities if we extricate ourselves from our safe “little corner of the earth.”

By no accredited worldly authority but rather by my own bombastic sense of positivity, I declare that we ought to get out there and mix together for the sake of the Union! There are crucial understandings and teachings to be found while away from home. Road trips can bring us all together through satisfied curiosity and constructive interaction. These family forays can be force multipliers! So let’s seek to break the tired patterns of narrow mindedness by witnessing alternatives together….


Your way should include the highway, America!

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John A. Hughes

John A. Hughes

John Hughes hails from Wilmington, Delaware. He has lived throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England in his 35 years working in the Commercial Furniture Industry. He remains an active parent of 2 children in their twenties and enjoys running and golfing.

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