As a free spirit from the ’70s, I loved to travel. Hitchhiking enjoying the country at a carefree pace. Seeing the country and meeting the people was an experience like no other. Being a sailor in the US Navy afforded a way to see the world. Cruising the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and the sunny Mediterranean Sea. It was a dream.
Like with all dreams, we wake up and reality sets in. Mine was a slow transformation. I would enlist into the US Navy, get married to a beautiful gal from the Northwest. We would saunter around Washington state and Oregon. I exited the Navy and we took a coast to coast and back trip looking for work. That failed and the navy would again control my actions, starting with a tour in California. That would precede an adventure to Sicily, Italy. My escapades were not carefree and spontaneous as in my younger days but to a lesser degree the traveler in me was satisfied.
We added a new member to the family in Sicily. Our return to the US was with a 45 day leave authorized by the Navy. We again criss crossed the states traveling around to show off our new addition. Traveling with an infant just barely one year old is fairly easy. They seem to just be there. You take care of them, seeing to their needs is hardly distracting at all.
5 years later. We attempt a trip cross country with a 6 year old and a 2 year old. The days of carefree travel are over. Luckily we had new a Chrysler Caravan. It is a must for parents traveling with little kids. To do it right I suggest a car top luggage carrier. You can put luggage and most everything else in it. That leaves the inside of the van storage area clear for incidentals like a cooler for food and drinks. Keeping toddlers occupied requires a lot of miscellaneous toys, blankets and pillows, and just about anything picked up along the way for their enjoyment. Toddlers need a lot of attention. They also need a lot of space. With the van’s seating you could separate the kids, thus avoiding tired ranting involving screaming and hitting amongst them.
Traveling with kids is not hard. It is just different. Your stops our more calculated and less themed in an adult manner. Listening to tapes of This old Man and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt and many other kid songs is a different ambiance altogether. Not to say it was all bad. Singing songs along with your family is a pretty good thing. Just understanding that they will not be young forever is helpful and satisfying. You need that satisfaction as you handle potty breaks, and false alarm potty breaks, accidental potties. Also, the kid’s meal and McDonald’s play area stops along the way. Which by the way were nice back then. Kids tied down and strapped into a car seat for any length of time is not recommended unless you can allow them to burn off some energy.
Traveling with kids is just a piece of the package when you become a responsible citizen and parent. But, as a fellow traveler told me in Malibu when I told him where we had come from. His words still echo in my head. “You are a braver man than I am”. It can be an ordeal. We made it just fine. The preparations were to our advantage, and I sympathize with anyone that attempts a cross country trip With toddlers in a coupe.
Looking back at my freewheeling days hitchhiking and the days with my family I can not honestly say one was better than the other. Sure they both offered great moments to reflect upon. If asked if I would change anything about my past, and how I chose to see the world, the answer would be a resounding NO! The elements all combined make up who I am and all of those traveling memories will always be cherished .