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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Family Trips

By Silvia Uribe

As summer and its weather fades away, and we all get back on track with our order of business, whether it is school, work, or the everyday chores of a full-time mom, or dad, or those of a retired person. Families look back and re-live the fun every time they look at the pictures or the video they took during their vacation. These stand as faithful witnesses of those times spent together, and proof that family life can be fun when we find in ourselves the disposition to make it fun.

There are times during those trips, though, that we rarely take into account. Moments that are not only fun and entertaining, but also very conducive to bonding with the ones we love. These moments almost never go on record, but they are, in many instances, the ones that are engraved in our minds for the rest of our lives. No pictures or videos to archive; only memories, and a sense that being with each other is the best place where we can be.

For many, the perception of vacation is leaving home to get to the destination as fast as possible. Once there, each one does whatever they enjoy the most, and after a full day of activities or rest - depending on age and disposition - we go to bed awaiting the next day to do more of the same. That's probably why a friend of mine used to say, "Why do people insist in going on vacation? They go, they come back, and then what? Their life goes on exactly as it was." He didn't see any purpose to it.

It was not like that for my family. There was a purpose for our time together. It was a time to bond, grow, understand, observe, learn, and above all, laugh. My father rarely planned a trip by airplane if there was a way to get to our destination by car in an "acceptable" amount of time, meaning in relation to the number of days that he could take off work. But long or short, those trips were fun. My mom, our guest - usually one of my cousins - and I knew when we were leaving, but rarely where we were going. Packing was challenging at times, but we were willing to pay that price. That's how I came to know most of Mexico's 30 states.

As soon as we jumped in the car, everything was an adventure. The first thing was to learn about our destination. Dad would disclose it once the car was rolling, but not before we tried to guess it. It was all excitement! How long it will take us to get there lacked relevance. We knew that on our way we would stop in every little town to explore it, eat, talk to its people, and either continue our way, or stay and sleep. If he had a timeline, we didn't know it.

No one ever slept while on the road. We had to be alert to answer my dad's questions at the end of the day. The promise of a prize can do wonders. We always knew the answers and he would buy us things that - I realized later - he would have bought us anyway, whether we knew the answers or not. While driving, dad would create fun games, like counting cars of a specific color, or taking turns to say a word that was related to the word that one of us previously said, or simply, choosing a word and singing songs that included that word in their lyrics. Oh, and our conversations were as varied and entertaining as the rest of the activities. The point, obviously, was to keep us engaged, alert, happy, and constantly relating to each other. There's a reason why they say, "It is all about the journey". My dad knew this. As an adult, I try to replicate the experience every time I'm with my family on the road, and believe me; it is not hard at all, no matter the age of those who ride along.

Inside our car, we have a captive audience. Whether we're traveling with our family, friends or co-workers, a road trip is the perfect time to get to know each other. If we use this time smartly, we can really get to conversations that we'd rarely have in a different environment.

There's only one condition. In the car, everyone should forget about the iPods, the TV screens, DVD players, and totally and completely ban phones in general, particularly the iPhone (although the GPS application can come in handy.) Technology has the power to isolate us, and when it comes to spending time together, it can become a thick wall between us.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at

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