Anyone who knows us, knows that we love a road trip. We hang out with desperation until some random week towards the end of the year when Hot Husband and I can line up our annual leave, then we pull the kids out of school, load up the car, and hit the road: Destination Unknown.
We know that our kids (in particular, the Girl Child) thrive near the sea, so we tend to head towards the coastline in some capacity, and the only rules we stick to are that it should NOT be peak season, and it MUST be warmer than where we live. Too easy.
We’ve been travelling this way for a few years now, literally pointing to a spot on the map, and driving there; booking accommodation from the car, making a point of bartering for the cheapest nightly rates, and high-fiving when we get a good bargain (oh Pa, you would be so proud). The driver chooses the radio station or playlist (no questions asked!!), we find playgrounds to explore, and we eat a tonne of hot chips and ice cream, making mental promises to eat better when we arrive to wherever we are going (cool theory, bro).
We’ve just returned from our most recent trip, and it was exactly what this busy little family needed. No work, no sports, no commitments, and…….wait for it…..
That’s right. No iPads. No computers. No social media. No YouTube.
Our mobile phones were kept for the purpose of negotiating accommodation pricing on the road, taking holiday photos, and letting our family at home know that we were safe, but aside from that, all of those pesky screens, and notifications, and unwanted intrusions, were simply turned OFF.
Unless you’ve tried this for yourself, I don’t think I can fully express how completely liberating it feels, to literally disconnect from the World, albeit for a short time.
Please, do yourself a favour and try it sometime.
I know, I know, 9 hours in a car with two kids. They must have driven us crazy, right?
Well, actually, no.
We got to experience the trip, through their eyes. They laughed at the cows. They played Spotto. They had a competition to see who could see the beach first. They dozed. They asked for more hot chips and ice cream. They pointed out birds that they knew. They read some books, with the Girl Child reading out loud the sentences that made her laugh. They sought our attention, and they had it. No questions asked.
I bloody loved it.
I’m not saying for one second that they were perfectly behaved; not by a long shot. And I’m not saying that suddenly being without devices made us anything like those Insta families you see online, with perfectly pressed clothes, appropriate sun protection, and green smoothies for breakfast.
Our kids still bickered. We still got tired and snappy. We still rolled our eyes at each other, and flipped the bird occasionally. We forgot sun hats, the Girl Child lost her shoes, and the Boy Child harassed us incessantly to buy him souvenirs. Hot Husband had to sleep diagonally across the bed, because he was too tall to fit in it, and microwaved weetbix was as fancy as our breakfasts got.
We don’t call ourselves the Griswalds for nothing.
But, there was no element of distraction pulling us away from each other. I didn’t need to look up from my phone when the Girl Child learned to do a gymnastics move she’d been practicing on the jumping pillow. Hot Husband and I chatted to each other as we loaded up clothes in the communal laundry washing machines, and the Boy Child showed us card trick, after card trick, after card trick, without having to raise his voice to get our attention.
We explored rock pools by torchlight; Hot Husband buried the kids in the sand; and we wandered through the sleepy little hippy shops in town, admiring the crystals and tie-dyed shirts, and chatting to the shopkeepers. We made faces at the fish in the aquarium; talked about what it means to be vegetarian; and celebrated like crazy people when a galah that flew into the front of the car actually survived the collision, and went on eating grass like nothing had happened. The kids developed fake French accents as they mimicked some boys they’d met on the playground, and Hot Husband and I discovered a nice brand of Gluten-Free beer that we hadn’t tried before. We watched all three of the Back to the Future Movies on the tiny little, single channeled TV, over three consecutive nights, and we looked for dolphins from the beach.
Each day, we learned a little bit more about each other.
The subconscious hypervigilance for text notifications was completely obliterated by the sound of waves crashing on the shore, and the bird life surrounding our cabin, and it was the best, most soothing, thing ever.
The Universe was on our side for this tech-free holiday, because the place we chose to stay, had no mobile phone reception at all from inside our cabin. To check messages, or make a call, we physically had to walk down to the beach, or drive into town a bit, which completely removed the mindlessness that usually accompanies my own phone usage. We had to consciously choose to step away from each other to engage with the technology. There was no element of being there without being there, and there was no parallel play between the four of us, sitting in the same room, but in completely different worlds.
We’ve come home more engaged with each other and more connected than we have been in a long time.
I realise, once again (as I do at the end of every road trip) that the actual destination of the road trip is irrelevant. We could go anywhere in the World, I’m sure, and benefit from this kind of time together, where we are genuinely and wholeheartedly WITH each other.
Who would have thought? To really connect, we just needed to…..disconnect.