If I’m honest: one of my favourite things about long road trips is the boredom.
Staring out at a prairie horizon that’s coloured by the setting sun, or climbing up series of mountain switchbacks, I feel like my mind tunes into a different frequency.
At first it seems like nothing but white noise and fuzz—but invariably, lightning strikes.
And I know that some people meditate , and that this guy swims, but the road has a special place in my heart.
Even where memories of the destination have faded—I remember hours spent on the road as a kid. Not playing Gameboy, or even reading: but staring out the window, thinking, sometimes even talking with my folks. And I wonder what this generation of kids with seat-back DVD players and smart-phones is missing.
Sometimes boredom is soul crushing, and sitting in traffic is rarely all that interesting.
But the right kind of boredom grows our creative capacity and recharges our batteries
Here are five tips for keeping your kids bored on the road so that you can be road trip ready:
1) Know where you’re going: not in the sense of having the route plugged in to your GPS, but in terms of the culture and environment you’re passing through. Point out things as you go by—it’ll direct there attention outside of the car, and away from the destination. Also, it will help calm their inevitable fear that you’re completely lost or taking them somewhere terrible. I don’t know why kids think this—but it must be a primal fear (even today, I surreptitiously keep track of where I am on a map when I’m driving with my parents—though they once followed their GPS across a farmer’s field, so I have some justification for this).
2) Give that kid a camera: nothing encourages a kid to look out the window and engage with the environment like the chance to use the grown-up camera—or at least the grown-ups’ old camera. Obviously, this requires a kid of a certain age—but your camera is also a lot less at risk in the confines of your vehicle than it is in the world outside.
3) Keep them fed, watered, and ambulatory. Stop often. It may add minutes to your trip, but keeping physical discomfort at bay is the key to making a long trip bearable: for everyone. Explore curious sites like abandoned gas stations as well as state parks, and you may even win some ‘cool’ points.
4) Tell stories: trips to family reunions or old stomping grounds are the perfect time to talk about all of your relations. Kids love knowing where they’re from, even if they pretend to be to cool for it.
5) Engage them in conversation, on their terms, with lots of pauses. Look-they’re strapped in, and there’s no getting away from you—avoid nagging, sure—but it’s the perfect time to really try and dig in to what’s going on in their life. Just—given that they are strapped in—make it as little like an interrogation as possible.
It’s true what they say—sometimes, it’s all about the journey. But even the longest road trips will reach their inevitable destination. When you finally get there, and everyone is scrambling out of their seats to bask in the sun and the fresh air, remember the one thing that will get you back home: your car. Park it in a safe location, and make sure the windows and doors are secure. Bring a trusty car cover to keep it safe from the elements if parking indoors isn’t an option.
Store those vacation memories in your camera rolls and Instagram feeds, and make your way back home. As you do that, think of the ride back as one last chance just to be happily bored and be in the moment before you ease back into real life.