Full Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Phillips 66 ® , however, the thoughts and opinions are my own.
The white minivan with wood paneling was a staple of the western Kansas roads growing up, zipping back and forth between my small hometown and my grandparents’ house and on family road trips to South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Texas. In the backseat, I sat there, eyes buried in my Gameboy. Only looking up to see a few glimpses of the scenery.
My parents knew the itinerary. There was no deviating from it. We knew when our stops would take place and how long it would take us to get to our destination.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that our minivan turned into a coupe that carried us on our road trips. The only difference though was that the Gameboy-yielding boy in the backseat of the minivan was now sitting in the front seat with a road atlas on his lap, helping dad get us to our final destination.
If I were to show that road atlas filled with highlighted roads for navigation out to my kids today, they would look at me like I was some old guy who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.
Just because there isn’t a need for my son to help navigate from the passenger seat doesn’t mean that our family road trips can’t be just as fun and full of memory-making as mine were when I was a kid. As I have now become the driver when it comes to family road trips, I have nearly forgotten what it is like to sit in the backseat and wish that we could do something along the way to our next destination.
Having forgotten what it is like, we set out recently on a road trip that would be completely decided by our kids. They would be our navigators. No maps, no timeline, no destination, just the places they could dream up going to.
As we pulled out of the driveway of our suburban home, Joseph yelled, “TOY STORE!” from his car seat. My wife and I looked at each other, and we knew exactly where to go. We knew the kids didn’t necessarily NEED any new toys, we knew that this was their trip.
The toy store is heaven to any little kid and being able to spend time just walking around and playing with the toys sent smiles on all of our faces. Watching them sit down and play with toys that would either get overlooked at home or regulated to the basement storage room made me wonder what toys they would love to see make their way back to their playroom.
What sparked their interest more as we made our way to lunch was all of the barbershop spirals that lined Massachusetts Street in Lawrence. With each and every one we had to stop and watch it spin, letting every passerby know that they could get their hair cut.
However, the noodles spinning at one of the local Ramen places were where our boys stopped to eat. And much like the barber shop spirals, they greeted each passerby.
With naptime approaching it was time for us to make our way back home. But along the way, our oldest decided that it was a good time to stop and find the best playground between Lawrence and our home. We found it, in a park right next door to our home, however, it was still under construction. But as we circled the drive around the park, we found the next best one and spent an hour playing, laughing, and trying to be a ninja. The trails surrounding the lake were also calling our name.
While that wood-paneled minivan of my youth is now a silver SUV of their youths, giving them the chance to be backseat drivers for the day showed us what traveling looks like to them. The world from the backseat is such a different view that sometimes (as we pay attention to the GPS telling us where to go) we can forget about the fun that our kids see along the way.