This summer, I drove 1,455 miles from Houston to northern Utah to visit one of my best friends. It was just me road tripping solo with my two kids, ages 4 and 1. Last month, I shared a few of my favorite road trip items that saved my sanity throughout those 22.5 hours. Today, I wanted to share with you some of the surprising things I learned from solo traveling with littles.
Mapping the Adventure
I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly brave woman. I’ve never solo traveled before. I’ve never lived on my own. I’ve never even lived anywhere other than Houston. So when I first considered this trip, and imagined the hours spent in the car, the potentially curvy roads through the mountains, the endless stretches through the desert, not to mention caring for two kids by myself for two weeks, I initially thought, No way. I can’t do this.
However, even though I don’t lead a particularly brave or adventurous life, some part of me is always seeking adventure. My fantasy novel loving soul craves epic quests through this beautiful and mysterious world. So, when I took a second look at the route from Houston to Utah, I closed my eyes and saw the hobbits’ journey through Middle Earth. I saw the Pevensie siblings’ adventure through the snowy lands of Narnia. And I just knew that I wanted to make this grand trip with my littles.
What I Learned from Road Tripping Solo:
I Am More Capable than I Realized
My parents offered more than once to accompany me on the road. My mom even asked me why I was so insistent that I make this trip solo. Frankly, I just wanted to see if I could do it. As someone who has done almost the exact same thing, day in and day out, for the past few years as a stay at home mom, I was excited to do something I’d never done before. I planned the route and booked the hotels, all on my own. I made decisions about where and when we would stop for breaks, all by myself. And I cared for my kids, on the road and at hotels, all on my own. Maybe it’s silly that those small steps would feel so empowering. I make many decisions and handle my kids, every single day. But I typically do it with my husband’s input and help, for the decisions that involve our family. While we were certainly in communication with my husband along the way, I was the sole person in charge of handling any and all issues that arose on the road. And I rocked it.
My Kids Are More Capable Than I Realized
When I told people that I was road tripping solo with my kids, I got a lot of, How are you going to handle them in the car?! By the time I left, I was more than a little nervous that I’d be listening to a screaming baby and whiny 4 year old for the majority of the drive. That did not happen. Thanks to a few key gadgets and many, many snacks, they were easily entertained throughout the drive. More than that, I could not have done the trip without my son. At 4.5 months pregnant, I had to make frequent bathroom stops. Thanks to my son, I felt comfortable leaving my kids in the car while I ran into a gas station. At hotels, I was able to run down to the front desk or return luggage carts while leaving my kids in the hotel room. He handled getting his sister snacks and water when she was fussy. He helped me pack up each day and keep the car organized. I always thought I’d be sad to see my kids leave the baby stage, and I’m sure I still will be. However, this trip taught me that big kids are awesome, and I’m looking forward to seeing the capable little people my children will become.
Traveling with Kids is FUN
Hear me out.
I fully expected to just grit my teeth and push through the 3.5 days of driving, and that all the fun would occur when we got to my friend’s home. I did not expect the travel time spent with my kids to be just as fun and exciting. As moms, I think we can agree that it’s pretty magical to see the world through your children’s eyes, especially something you might normally take for granted.
On day four of driving, I was tired from road tripping solo. I was ready to be there. We were right outside of Moab, Utah, only a few hours away from my friend’s house. I noted a sign as we passed it, that said, “Wilson Arch”. About a minute later, my son gasped with delight and shouted, “MOM. A tunnel!” I barely glanced up in time to see the natural arch rock formation right off the side of the highway. I managed to pull over at the rest stop, and we quickly climbed out. I oohed and ahhed for a minute, and was about to encourage everyone back into the car, when my son started climbing his way up to the arch. My first instinct was to call him back, but instead, I strapped my daughter onto my chest and I followed him. The climb was just challenging enough for a 4 year old, his baby sister, and his pregnant mama. And I tell you, I will never forget his squeals of delight as he confidently scrambled up rock after rock, or his enthusiastic, “Mama, I did it!”, when we summited the modest mountain. For the rest of the drive, I was wide awake, refreshed by my son’s simple and honest delight at the world around him. I would never have stopped to check out this natural wonder, if it hadn’t been for him. And I would have missed out on the wonder of God’s creation, and the wonder that is my kids beholding that creation.
Adventure is What You Make It
I’m not saying everyone needs to embark on solo road trips with their kids. The trip was certainly exhausting, and I don’t plan to repeat it anytime soon. Plus, I would have preferred my husband have been there, too. I am saying that I surprised myself with my capability to complete such a quest. It was empowering. And it was just plain fun. Adventure doesn’t have to be a 22.5 hour road trip. It can be anything we want it to be, anything that pushes us out of the familiar and comfortable, and into the unknown. Anything that guides us to seek something bigger than ourselves. I hope the next time I’m hesitant to take a step into the unfamiliar with my kids, either with my husband or solo, that I’ll remember this trip, and how worth it it was to just go for it.