If you think about it, there is nothing quite like a long road trip. Sure, the car rides may get stuffy, or the nightly motels may not be the best quality, or the fast food may be less than desirable. Although these are valid concerns, it is important to characterize these problems as short-term. In the long run, the memories made overshadow the negatives by far.
When I first received the news that we would be driving from our current home, New York, to Los Angeles, California, I was stunned. That would be nearly three thousand miles. Forty-three total hours on wheels. What’s the point of taking this long to travel when we can just fly for a few hours? Why the unnecessary hassle? When I expressed these concerns to my parents, they just laughed and told me what I knew they were going to say: “It’s going to be fun!”
In the beginning, it was quite the opposite. As our minivan barely made its way out of rural New York and into Pennsylvania (our first stop), each hour in the car felt like days. The heat was unbearable, the local restaurants were questionable, and we even had to rummage through a garbage dump once to find a lost phone, a story that deserves an article of its own. Although these small events all worked to form a negative atmosphere within the car, the worst part of the whole ordeal was how horribly we as a family got along. We often argued with each other, mostly about trivial things that barely even mattered. Despite the countless arguments my siblings got into, they were more or less similar in nature:
“Hey! Your foot is in my space. Move it.”
When we weren’t fighting, we were just dead silent. While my parents talked and chirped happily in the two front seats, we just stayed quiet in the back, listening to music for hours on end. Needless to say, family bonding was virtually nonexistent. Each of us was just barely holding it all together, and none of us were actually enjoying ourselves. Personally, the only thing that kept me going was the thought of jumping into the hotel bed every night and forgetting that this trip ever existed. And consequently, I would wake up every morning in absolute misery, since hours and hours of uncomfortable driving awaited me. But then I realized: this shallow mindset of mine is what ultimately made the first week of driving so dreadful.
It was around this time that my dad came to all of us and asked, “Are you guys making some great memories?” And the truth was, we weren’t. All we could get out of this trip so far was that we hated it. And that's why his question hit us even harder. This road trip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a chance to experience the beauty of the entire country within a span of three weeks. If we wanted to one day look back and remember this trip for what it's worth, we would have to start putting an effort to enjoy ourselves. And so we did. From Pennsylvania all the way to California, we made the most of our experience by visiting college campuses and many landmarks such as the Washington Monument, the canyons, and finally Las Vegas.
Looking back, once we realized our situation and the effort needed to improve it, the road trip became one of the most memorable experiences of that year, in a good way. Needless to say, that didn’t mean the remainder of the trip was perfect. In fact, we still encountered many setbacks and misfortunes. However, unlike previously, we were able to appreciate the road trip for what it was: the peaceful driving, unique foods, new people, and of course, the unforgettable experience. Instead of complaining about each other, we were able to grow closer together as a family and make memories. Being military teens, we have been taught to become resilient and flexible, as no one truly knows what may happen in this chaotic and always-changing lifestyle. Although it will undoubtedly be difficult or strenuous at times, learning to make every moment memorable should be a priority for all. Doing this will not only make each moment more gratifying, but it will also allow you to realize the beauty of the military life, just like I did during my short but ultimately valuable road trip.