As a kid, my family didn't have a lot of money, so we very rarely took vacations and when we did, they were nearly always long weekend road trips. We'd drive up to Michigan and go to the lake shore or to the Indiana Dunes. We drove to Minnesota to visit my dad's family and ventured to southern Indiana to see the sights. We'd pack a cooler with sodas and juice, sandwiches and brownies.
Back then, the destinations didn't really matter to me all that much. I enjoyed riding in the car. I'd take along my pillow and blanket, books, dolls, cards and other games to play with my brother in the backseat. If it was a really great (or long) trip, we'd fold down the backseat in our family station wagon and really get to stretch out. We'd each call dibs on one of the two cubby holes that were built into the side of our car where we'd stow all of our prized traveling possessions. We'd make games out of seeing who could spot the most unique license plates from different states or play the "I'm going on a trip..." game. (You know the one...1st person: I'm going on a trip and I'm going to take an apple. 2nd person: I'm going on a trip and I'm going to take a banana and an apple. etc, etc ad nauseum). We'd ask Mom if we could stay awake and, although she always said yes, we'd fall asleep before we'd crossed the state line.
As I made the trek this weekend from my parents' house in Fort Wayne to my own in Indianapolis, I passed a lot of family minivans (the updated station wagon, really). What I noticed saddened me. Nearly every one of them had a pop down TV playing a movie from DVD or maybe even a television show brought to them via satellite. First of all, don't even get me started on how distracting a TV can be for a driver even if he/she can't actually see it. Second, it makes me wonder if families ever interact while they are traveling anymore. Have we, as a generation, forgotten how to spend quality time with one another? Are we teaching our children that some electronic device must always be entertaining them? They are inundated with Ipods and the handheld Nintendo DS. They can pop in their favorite Dora the Explorer DVD while riding down the interstate in the middle of Kansas. Is it really "seeing" the country if all you're looking at is the box in front of you?
So, since more families are deciding to travel by motor vehicle instead of flying this year, I have a challenge for you this holiday season. Pack the Ipods and DVDs away. By all means, take them because everyone needs a break from "together" time now and then, but trying talking to each other. Find a radio station playing all Christmas music and sing along as a family. Point out all of the amazing holiday decorations along the way to Grandma's house. Pack a travel Scrabble game and see who can make the best word using Z.
My wish for everyone this season is not for more toys or games or sweaters you'll never wear. Instead, I hope that you are able to find the joy in one another and find a way to make memories with your family and friends that will last longer than that package of fruitcake that Aunt Gladys insist on giving every year.