I love to travel – always have, always will. Some of my earliest memories are of a road trip my family and I took when I was 5 to an International Baha’i Conference. We drove from southern Oregon to Chicago and back again.
The memories are fragmented, but I recall eating endless club sandwiches, staying at a Holiday Inn with three huge indoor swimming pools, seeing a diver plunge into a pool at a Mexican restaurant, and witnessing my first Boeing 747 at O’Hare International Airport. Somehow, my parents managed to retain their sanity on the trip despite driving over 6,000km with three boys and no air conditioning.
As I grew older, a tradition of summer road trips emerged. One year, we struck out for the Alvord Desert and the Steens Mountains in southeast Oregon, two places most Oregonians have never heard of. We searched in vain for arrowheads sticking out of the topsoil, went birding at a surprisingly wet desert wildlife refuge, and marveled at the vastness of the Milky Way while eating s’mores. Despite this wealth of experiences, we traveled on the cheap by sleeping and eating in a tent trailer pulled by our 1976 Volkswagen van.
When I got my driver’s license at 16, my parents allowed me to go on my own summer road trips. I drove up to Portland to visit my brother, stayed at the beach with friends from out-of-state, and even traveled cross-country in a caravan.
These journeys whetted my appetite for travel. When I graduated high school, I volunteered for a year at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel. I boarded my first 747 and put the United States in the rearview.
Since that first trip overseas, my desire to comb the globe has continued to grow. I bought a Eurorail Pass, studied abroad, learned a new language, shot thousands of slides, and began amassing a priceless collection of experiences and friends from around the planet. Marriage and the birth of our first child did little to stem my desire for adventure. I aimed to visit at least one new country every year; it made little difference to me whether we did it on the cheap or in five-star luxury.
Then, the twins arrived. To say they threw a wrench in the works is an understatement; they chucked the entire toolbox at me. You can take one child just about anywhere; our daughter was practically born with a passport and a knack for flying. Even a second child wouldn’t have given us much pause, but twins don’t just mess with the travel plans – they break the budget.
These days, on those rare occasions we do get to travel, it is a laborious and financially painful experience. The airfares alone take a toll, but we also need adjoining hotel rooms, a gas-guzzling beast to fit in two car seats and a booster. Even on our most recent trip home, where we stayed with family and scrimped as much as we could, we still shelled out a fortune to stay on the coast for a few days; we ended up renting a beach house because the price for two hotel rooms was essentially the same.
All of this makes me wax nostalgic for those simple road trips from my childhood. They were wonderful adventures into the hinterland of America, days of summer glory with my loving older brothers where nothing ever went wrong. That’s my recollection from the backseat of the VW, anyway; I realize now that my dad probably recalls things differently from the driver’s seat.
Illustration: Crystal Liu