Regardless of our attempts to act congenially, patient, happy, kind – you name the generous adjective – we are finicky, contentious, and easily frustrated creatures. And nothing highlights our irritability more than travel.
Travel jerks us from our daily routines, uproots us from our habitual living, and drops us in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people doing unfamiliar things at unfamiliar times . . . probably the reason why so many people don’t like to travel, and why so many others thrive on the exhilaration of the unknown road.
But to feel this sense of disruption you don’t need to travel somewhere exotic or far away. A couple weeks ago, I caught a ride with my parents from California to Colorado. Considering it’s a drive I’ve made dozens of times, I didn’t prepare myself for experiencing anything unfamiliar. And since my parents and I have been on hundreds of road trips together, I didn’t contemplate the possibility of erupting tensions.
My oversight. It turns out that when I now sit down in a car, (or large Ford truck as was the case on this trip), I mutate into a raging type-A asshole. The ratio between time traveled and distance covered becomes an obsession. Meals evolve into a race: can I order, eat, use the facilities, and be back in the truck in under a half hour? And view points, rest stops, and anything remotely similar to a roadside distraction are for the pokey insane.
My patient parents. They both retired two months ago and are enjoying a pace of life and state-of-mind that I thought I understood, but clearly have no conception about how to enjoy the phrase “we’ll get there when we get there.” Though healthy, fit and active neither of them are ever in a hurry, not at meals, waking up in the morning, taking the dog for a walk, driving, or looking for a prescription refill in Glenwood Springs.
The prescription was my breaking point. I launched into a diatribe about properly preparing for trips prior to leaving home, about strategically planning where you’re going to stop, and about knowing when you’re going to smell the roses and when you’re going to see the road line yellow rapidly disappear beneath your over-sized American wheels.
My kind, dear, sweet mother. She simply responded, “I guess we just travel differently. If we get inspired to do something, [eating, enjoying a vista, driving the scenic route through a town, or exploring the deep intricacies of gas station trinkets], we do it.”
What had happened to me? Those moments of unknown, unfamiliar, un-plannable inspirations are exactly why I love the road, are the precise motivations for my travel. But for some reason I’ve grown accustomed to being in control of those inspirations (or at least thinking I am). Such misconceived control is exactly why I missed out on the joy and good fortune of traveling the 1000 miles with my parents from my childhood home to my present-day home through beautiful deserts and mountains of the Southwest.
Luckily though, they forgave me and stayed in Denver for the next week. I abandoned control (kind of, for the most part), and savored many inspired moments of travel throughout the Rocky Mountains.