When I was in college, I had the chance to take a road trip with my buddies across the United States. We made the grave mistake of stopping by Jamba Juice on our way out of LA. My friend, who has a weak constitution, decided to add a fiber boost. As fate would have it, he vomited all over the car as we were trapped in Los Angeles traffic, infecting our car with a stench that would follow us thousands of miles across this great country.
By the time we got to Las Vegas later that night, although we had NOT gotten used to the smell, we had adopted a travel mantra that stuck with me for life: “It’s all about the memories.” Sure, we didn’t coin a new phrase, but it was the first time that phrase became personally real to me. The subsequent week or so of driving remains one of my most treasured times.
Over fifteen years have passed, and travel sure looks different these days. On our latest adventure, my family joined a couple other families and spent four nights on the Disney Dream with a couple nights at the Polynesian on the back end. I had another “profound” travel revelation (that isn’t very profound at all!).
Reflecting on our trip, my wife and I spent a lot of time playing cruise director for our kids. I once wrote that it doesn’t matter if your child remembers the trip or not. Hilariously, our oldest two kids DO remember trips we take now. And so, and here’s the profound (but not profound part), we invested the majority of our energy into making sure the kids had as much fun as possible.
In fact, the most stressful, problematic, and fight inducing part of the trip took place in the few hours we tried to get to ourselves. (I’m not saying investing on yourself and not your kids on vacation is important, and I’m glad we got away. But the fact remains, in this particular instance it was a bad time for a bit there).
But aside from that blip, we did everything in our power to make sure our kids had fun. That proved logistically draining, coordinating naps, different sleep times, which kid got to see which show on which day, who came home early from the beach, who got to go swimming, when did we see characters as a family and when did we split up, and on, and on, and on. And it was hard!
But what I loved about the trip and I love about traveling with my kids in general is that it’s still all about the memories. Sure, we were tired. Sure, sometimes it was stressful. But now it’s not just about my memories, or my wife’s memories. It’s about the kids’ memories. That’s something special and precious that my wife and I cherish. Because what’s most important is the memories we create together as a family are being created as a family. And nothing beats that.
So the lesson that stench in my car taught me so many years ago has evolved and become more about my kids’ memories when we travel. So when they make us dress up like pirates for dinner, or tell us to buy tickets to shows they want to act out, or push their monorail around the house picking up guests, or when they laugh about the time we couldn’t see the penguins at the zoo because the A/C was broken, they remind me that we’re crafting memories together that will last a lifetime. And that, for me, is what it’s all about.