Road trips are as American as apple pie. There is something fascinating about navigating Route 66 with miles and miles of nothing in all directions. So, being the travel enthusiast I am, I jumped at the invitation of my sister and brother-in-law to accompany them and their two young daughters (my nieces) on a traditional family vacation through the rugged interior lands of the southwestern United States in their ever-reliable minivan.
Some may mock my naivety about such a business trip in the back seat with a three-year-old boy and a one-and-a-half year-old boy in a van that travels 1,800 miles. Of course, those people are right. I certainly didn’t know what I was getting into.
I like to think of myself as a rather intrepid traveler, willing to put up with it in the poorest of circumstances. In fact, it had only been a few days since my return to the United States, after a month-long excursion through the jungles of Southeast Asia on a backpacker’s getaway. After surviving bloody political protests in Bangkok, vague border crossings in Cambodia, and pirate-infested waters in Indonesia, I was pretty sure I could handle a summer family vacation in Southern California. However, I quickly learned the futility of making such hasty assumptions.
To be fair, the trip was exceptionally smooth. Of course, there was an occasional tantrum and an attack or two of dizziness. Fortunately, the minivan was blessed with a DVD player that became a celestial advantage during those periods of upheaval. And with an apparently unlimited supply of storybooks, dolls, CDs of nursery rhymes and teddy bears, there was no time for boredom. However, it was a welcome relief when, after many hours on the road and with our trusted TomTom to guide us in a straight line and with truth, we descended to the blissful paradise of San Diego.
San Diego, among other things, has some of the mildest weather on the U.S. mainland. As a result, some critics accuse San Diego of being “seasonally unseasonal” and monotonous. And yet, ironically, its climate is probably its greatest attraction. As such, I had always heard that San Diego was for outdoor enthusiasts and fitness gurus. So I was quite happy to see that such feelings sound good when we crossed the two-mile-long Coronado Bay Bridge from the mainland to the idyllic tourist town of Coronado Island. A multitude of runners, some well-trained and others with brave effort, ran, with a little effort, across the bridge as part of the annual Silver-Strand Marathon.
While the climate and outdoor lifestyle are beneficial to visitors, the main attraction for many is San Diego’s reputation as an ideal place for the family. It is regularly recognized by travel magazines as one of the best options for family vacations. So it’s no wonder that this was the perfect destination for our legendary road trip.
And what better place to stay in San Diego than in a beachfront condominium a few yards from Coronado Beach, revered by many travelers as the best family beach in the country?
So the family vacation is gone. We did the boogie boarded. We took a nap. We ate. We built sand castles. We crossed the island in an electric car. All the revealing signs of a traditional family feast were firmly established. This caused a kind of epiphany, which made its way into my hard head.
Maybe traveling was more than just hatching a day full of things to do and see. And as a fan of relatively self-regulating travel, I discovered that traveling with children was not the obstacle I had initially considered it to be. On the contrary, it brought an extra dimension of joy and humour to the whole getaway. What if we had to make a few extra pit stops along the way and didn’t stick to an established itinerary? Travelling is discovering and I, for my part, discovered a lot on that journey.