My twenty-three-year-old daughter recently moved from our home in Virginia to Los Angeles, California. During the year Alex lived with us after her college graduation, we often talked about the logistics of her planned move to the west coast. How would she get her belongings all the way to the other side of the country? And what about her car? As we weighed the pros and cons of all the available options, the plan became clear.
An epic mother-daughter road trip!
Once I got over my initial dread of forty-plus hours in the car, I reverted to my usual travel planning mode of researching, crowd-sourcing, and itinerary building. We settled on the southern route, six nights on the road, and traversing a total of eight states in seven days. We planned, prepared, and packed, attempting to factor in every detail in advance.
I would be happy to show you hundreds of photos, but the bottom line is we had the time of our lives. Looking back now on our journey, I think I learned a few life lessons from our days on the road.
Relax and Enjoy the View
Did I mention forty plus hours in the car? Our first day was one of our long days, all the way to Nashville, Tennessee, from our home near Washington, D.C. It wasn’t until we were three hours into our drive that I settled in and began to enjoy the gorgeous views of the Shenandoah mountains instead of anxiously checking my GPS, wondering how much time was left in our drive. As we relaxed into the rhythms of our days in the car, I practiced being where I was at that moment instead of worrying about where I would be that night. Consequently, I was continually delighted by the unexpected sights we discovered along the way, things I might have missed if I’d been focusing solely on our destination.
Appreciate the Unique Gifts of Each Destination
Alex and I have laughingly told people we ate our way across the country. In addition to visiting the unique landmarks along the way, we tried to sample the cuisine of each region. We stopped for apple donuts near Skyline Drive in Virginia and barbecue and cornbread in Memphis. We chose a restaurant promising authentic New Mexico cuisine for dinner in Santa Fe. We danced to live country music in a honkytonk in Nashville. We often stopped to take pictures of the ever-changing view out our window as the vistas transformed from the lush tree-covered mountains of Virginia and Tennessee to the woods and lakes of Arkansas, and then into the breathtaking desert panorama of Arizona and New Mexico. Although the wide-open plains of West Texas sometimes became monotonous, there was a subtler beauty to be found as we were reminded that much of this big country is still uninhabited.
As I often tell younger women, each stage of life has unique gifts to offer. The possibilities and dreams of our twenties and the industry and work of our thirties transform into the deepening understanding of who we are in our forties and the re-imagining of our priorities in our fifties. We are wise to pause, savor, and appreciate the distinctive gifts of every stop on our journey.
Make Time for Detours
Because we decided to allow a full week to complete our journey to Los Angeles, we purposefully planned wiggle room in our schedule in case we wanted to be spontaneous and veer off course. Consequently, we felt comfortable with unplanned stops at a roadside country store in Virginia, the midpoint marker of the old Route 66 in West Texas, and a turquoise shopping and taco stop in Arizona. We added visits to Graceland and the Hoover Dam at the last minute because we saw a sign and realized we should take advantage of the opportunity while we were close by. If we had been in a hurry to get to L.A., we would have missed some of our favorite destinations. In real life, building margins and space in our busy schedules allows us to appreciate the divinely orchestrated interruptions that sometimes make for the sweetest memories.
Life on the road reminded me what a big world we live in, full to overflowing with exciting things to see and interesting people to meet. I could write a book about the people we encountered along the way, each with a unique story of their own to tell. Standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunrise, seeing this magnificent spectacle for the first time alongside my firstborn, I was overcome with gratitude for our extravagant God who gives good gifts. Life on the road that week reminded me to slow down, be present, look around, and savor the journey every day.
Photograph © Averie Woodard, used with permission