I would drive 500,000 miles

Let's take a road trip

I’ve driven over a half-million miles in my lifetime—the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe more than twenty times. When I travel, I’m seldom a passenger. I’ve logged over 100,000 miles in three different cars, one of which nearly got to 200,000. My band crisscrossed around North America for the better part of two years, and I was almost always the one in the driver’s seat.

When the pandemic hit, I went from clocking something like 20,000 miles per year down to almost zero. I stopped commuting to work and road trips weren’t exactly a prudent choice with the shelter-in-place order in effect, so I rarely left the small city of Sonoma where I live. My plug-in electric hybrid only needed to be filled up with gas once in all of 2020.

But COVID isn’t the only reason I’ve been traveling less.

Traveling by car has been a challenge ever since my daughter Em was born. Her cerebral palsy (CP) disability makes sitting in a car seat uncomfortable for her. CP affects her muscle movements, meaning her muscles are often either overly flexed or not flexed at all. When her muscles tighten, she can get into contorted positions. She’s been more comfortable in the car for the better part of this year, thankfully, and because of that, we’ve been venturing out more. We started with day trips to the beach and, ever since getting vaccinated, we have scaled up to longer treks, including a ten-hour-long overnight drive to Vegas to see my dad before he passed away a few weeks later.

Beyond the driving itself, traveling with Em adds all sorts of other planning and considerations. I’m sure most parents feel like the amount of stuff they have to pack for trips at least triples once they have kids in tow. There’s the diaper bag, stroller, car seat, snacks, toys, clothes, and maybe a pack-n-play crib.

We stayed at my wife Allison’s parents’ cabin this past weekend. Here’s what our list looked like:

  • Diaper bag

  • Toys

  • Clothes

  • Pack-n-play crib (including blocks to elevate one side of it slightly so she can breath more easily at night)

  • Sound machine (so she doesn’t startle awake)

  • Stroller (which is basically a fancy wheelchair)

  • Stander (a device we strap her into twice per day so her leg muscles don’t atrophy)

  • Ankle and foot orthotics (her shoes, which are sometimes referred to as braces)

  • Formula (her tube feeding meals)

  • Medications

  • Syringes

  • Replacement feeding tube (in case it comes out at the airport. Y’know, hypothetically)

It’s... a lot.

And that list doesn’t include all the nitty-gritty details, such as exactly which medications and caps for syringes (which I failed to pack enough of for the cabin trip, of course).

The logistics that go into a trip can make it seem not worth the effort. For this trip, we had to borrow Allison’s mom’s truck, load all our stuff in it, and unpack it all when we got there, only to have to repack it and come right back home a few days later. All for the privilege of paying over $5.00 per gallon to fill up with gas to get us there and back. We didn’t even do anything all that different when we were there. We played cribbage, went on a walk each day, watched the World Series in the evening, and I wrote at night after Allison and Em went to sleep.

Wouldn’t it have been easier for us to stay at home? Sure, but despite all the effort and expense involved in traveling, it’s important for us to get out of our routine and bubble from time to time. In some ways, it doesn’t matter where we go. The point is to change our perspective, even if only for a few days. A hard reboot.

I’ve had this recurring daydream for a while now. Since Allison and I can both work from anywhere with a decent internet connection, I think, why can’t we spend a month in some exotic locale like Bali or wherever? I picture us living in a bungalow surrounded by palm trees with a deck leading onto a white sandy beach. Then we could pick up and spend the next month in a Paris apartment overlooking the Champs-Élysées.

We can’t do any of that, though.

Not only is it logistically difficult, it’s just not realistic. Em’s disability services are here in Sonoma County. Not to mention my stepdaughter Sara is in school and spends half of her time at her dad’s house across town. It’s not like we could pull her out of school and we don’t want to be away from her for that long either.

I love my home and where I live. It’s comforting to know that Em and Sara are growing up in a safe neighborhood with a solid roof over their heads. And the fact that we don’t really have the option to move means my mental energy is freed up for other things that are important to me, like writing. Yet I’m envious of people who can drop everything and bounce around from place to place around the world—booking flights on a whim to wherever their interests and opportunities lead them.

But maybe some of them are envious of me too.

Maybe they’re in an Airbnb halfway around the world, but they want nothing more than to own a home. Maybe they want a beautiful family to eat dinner with every evening. Maybe they want to settle down in a town they can see themselves growing old in.

Maybe they’d trade anything for my way of life.

Maybe I should be more thankful for mine.

Thank you to Cole Feldman and Mark Koslow from Wayfinder for their editing help.

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