Wander Lust

Part 3 in a series on traveling…

There’s a mental dichotomy I experience each summer.  Between the love of getting away and the love of coming home.  I was so happy when we pulled up to the house after our road trip to Florida last month.  Two weeks of fun was just the right amount, and I was ready for some “regular old stuff.”  Sleeping in my own bed, reading the paper, even doing laundry.  I couldn’t imagine wanting to travel for a very long time.

But two weeks later I found myself browsing Groupon for getaways to Europe and the Bahamas.  Dreaming of an even bigger and longer amount of adventure far from home.  I have this tendency.  A wander lust that is temporarily quenched when I do travel, and sometimes squashed, but only for a time.  Until the desire to see some place new, or just different than Kansas (insert Kansas-is-lame joke here), pops back up, and searching rental houses on vrbo.com becomes a nightly past-time.  I can’t help it.  I want to see the world.

This is what makes living in the very middle of the United States ok with me.  The knowledge that I can occasionally go elsewhere.  I love my life here – my neighborhood, my kids’ school, the college-town atmosphere and Lawrence, Kansas’ perfect size.  But I also know there are other places to explore.  Different (cultures) to experience and try to understand.  Cultural geography was one of my favorite college courses, and traveling, to me, is a natural continuation of that study.  (As well as enjoying a mojito on a beach – that’s like prepping for mid-terms, right?)  It quenches my curiosity, gets me away from the mundane, helps me understand the world better, and gives me an excuse to eat whatever I want.  And I get to do it with the people I love.  There’s just not much better.

Until I’m ready to be home.  When I long for the mundane again – the comfortable familiarity of daily routines and my own house.  Of lying on the couch watching a movie covered in my favorite throw blanket eating a bowl of frozen berries from Costco on a Tuesday night.  Just “regular old stuff.”

We left for Colorado two and a half weeks after we got back from Florida.  Not nearly as long of a drive, but another road trip just the same, and I was ready.  I couldn’t believe it.  Even after all the exploratory driving we’d done on our southern trip, I was pumped to do some more.  To see some mountains and do some hiking and need to wear a sweatshirt at night.  As before, we added on some extra sight-seeing at the end, not having had enough.  And as before we were ready to call it quits the day we drove home.  (Five people in one hotel room helps bring about the ok-we’re-done-now feeling).  The travel-home-travel-home cycle continues.  I guess the good news is I can have them both: the getting away from home and the coming back.  Thank goodness for cars and airplanes and Southwest Rapid Rewards.  And for a fascinating world, with a great big America to explore, and good old Lawrence, KS at its center.  Where you can find me doing the same old stuff until I get the itch again.  Or Groupon has a deal to Rome.

Experience

Part two of a series on traveling, in honor of this season of such…

Our drive home from Florida last month was an adventure all it’s own.  “Where should we go?  There’s a Groupon for a boat ride in Pensacola.  Or we could see New Orleans.”  That’s about how it went.  Each day a wide open expanse of possibilities.  Each day a chance to see something amazing, or admit defeat in the face of boredom and bad food.  The swamp tour – amazing – the brewery in Hot Springs, Arkansas – bad food.  But we did it together, sleeping each night in a hotel found on Priceline, everyone collapsing into our discounted yet comfy beds, waking whenever the first person woke.  It gets old after a while, but for a week being nomads it’s fun.  It’s an adventure.  It’s mobile family bonding, which impacts forever.

As the alligators jumped for marshmallows on a cane pole held by the swamp tour captain, I saw in my kids’ eyes horror and wonder and happiness.  Something completely new was happening, something they’d only seen on the Discovery channel or in The Princess and the Frog was right in front of their eyesAnd mine, too.  We got to discover alligators together, and wild boars and the “knees” of cypress trees poking up through the water.  It was an entirely new world about which we, the decidedly un-cajun Kansans, were learning.  We drove through the French Quarter of New Orleans in our minivan, bikes on the back, making our un-cool way through the masses of revelers.  Louisiana was a history, geography and humanities lesson in one.  Then buying groceries in small-town Mississippi, a light-filled glass chapel in the woods of Arkansas, the ever-“interesting” world-unto-itself of Branson, Missouri.  It was all an experience.  Something we can hang on to long after the kids are gone and creating families of their own.  That will hopefully stick us together like glue – the kind that looks purple when you apply it but dries clear.  Doing it’s job but blending in with the picture.  That’s what we’re going for.

As we drove home through the evening and night, after a long day at Silver Dollar City (there is no other kind), after our tram crashed and nearly took off my foot, after grabbing  sandwiches and dosing up on tea to stay awake, I felt tired but happy.  Glad for another successful trip.  Where no one got seriously ill, no one had a fit for more than twenty minutes, even me, and everyone had an experience.  Together.  Team Havener saw the South.  It was good to be going home but even better to be carrying a big ol’ bunch of memories with us.  Amen to making those.  And to looking forward to the next ones.

The Usual

This year we celebrated our fifteenth anniversary by beginning a three day road trip to Florida.  (Though we thought it was our sixteenth  Oops.  Not sure when we started the miscount, but I do know we celebrated our fifteen year anniversary last year.  Which made this fifteenth a bit anticlimactic.)  But what more appropriate way to celebrate fifteen (Right? Yes. Ok.) years of marriage than by road tripping with our progeny?

An hour into the drive, Lily puked all over the back seat, the Starbucks pastry bag not quite up to the vomit challenge. Then we hit rain which lasted for most of the day, then a pretty bad dinner at a disappointing brewery, then missed the exit to our hotel by many miles.  To top it off, we realized I left my purse at the sub-par restaurant twenty miles back, so Marc drove to get it while I put the kids to bed two hours late.  But here’s the thing:  there were moments of pure beauty within that mess of a day.  Moments when fifteen years of marriage showed.  Where countless hours of learning each others’ habits and moods, the act of co-mingling our passions and interests, the bond of having babies and loving them together, creating a family of our own – all of that –  came into play.

We stopped for boba (bubble tea), one of our long-time favoritist things even though it was out of the way.  Because we like it.  Because it’s our thing.  We listened to NPR stories, podcasts, audio books and the Muppets soundtrack because that’s what we do.  We ate at a brewery because Marc loves beer.  We played the alphabet game because our kids enjoy it and have yet to learn the state capitals.  We worked as a team – Marc driving and me dishing out snacks; acting as mediator between disgruntled children; manning the air conditioning, and then we switched.  If I was going to paint a picture of a Havener family road trip it would include these things.  It is us.  It’s what we’ve built, for better or worse.  The puke, the missed exits, the rain – just the unexpected parts, wrapped up in the usual stuff.

The usual.  I love that we have a usual.

After two more days of fairly uneventful travel we arrived at the beach.  It was our third year staying in the same house, walking to the same stretch of sand with the same wagon, riding bikes to the same pizza place overlooking the ocean.  We have a history there now.  Another thing that’s ours together.  Another usual.  We ate breakfasts on the porch, dinners around the dining room table or at our typical haunts, took a now traditional bike ride through Watercolor, swam in the same neighborhood pool.  There were enough new things to make this trip it’s own: the rainstorm with the towering double rainbow, the new popsicle shop, our first year of jellyfish stings.  But it was surrounded by the familiarity of our usual vacation.  Like a big hug.  I’m not saying we’ll do the same thing every year, or that we should.  But it was an appropriate celebration of fifteen years of building this thing we call our family.  Just right, in fact.  I may even want to celebrate our real 16 year anniversary the same way.