“Travel penetrates your consciousness, but not in a rational way.” Milton Glasser
The countdown to Turkey Day is tomorrow. Well at least it was when I wrote this blog. This past Tuesday the three kids and I, and the dog, drove north to be with our family for Thanksgiving. I had hoped to beat the major holiday rush. The kids missed two days of school, but I figured it would be worth it to get a jump start on the traffic. Maybe bypass most of it?
The trip started out promising. The roads weren’t too bad until, as expected, we hit traffic right before Washington, DC. I was hopeful we would bypass this likely scenario but no such luck. I accepted this setback as I always prepare for traffic at this stage of the trip. I was still hopeful that after we passed through our nation’s capital, the trip would be smooth sailing.
The rest of the trip was horrendous is the best word I can use. We hit pocket after pocket of traffic. For four hours traffic was stop and go, at speeds of 5 and 15 mph. What should have been a seven hour trip turned into eleven hours in a Nor’easter, with rain and wind attacking the road ways.
Keeping a sharp eye on the road for eleven straight hours, and grappling with the potential for hydroplaning, takes a toll on the body and mind; lights in front and to the rear, rain reflecting in every direction; stop and go, red and white, stop and go, red and white. My three kids were angels but even they reached their limit, and then mutiny erupted.
Dehydration set in as I did not allow myself consumption of too many liquids in an effort to deter too many potty visits. I tried passing the time with The Sundays, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Billy Joel, Rage Against the Machine (too much to censor), and finally peace with Chopin at my son’s request. We could sail along at turtle speed with Chopin: Nocturnes, Fantasies, Polonaise, and Waltz. But then I couldn’t take them anymore!
I made a couple of phone calls of vents and complaints to my family. Some cuss words thrown in beneath my breath. Regretting my decision to make the trip, I swear to the kids that, “We will never, ever, ever make the drive north again over the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Inch by inch we finally arrive. Four hours after our initial ETA, I needed a big glass of wine. That night I didn’t sleep at all. I was so wired from the trip I had the worst case of insomnia. While awake through the night I did a lot of thinking. I did a lot of thinking about what I thought about on the eleven hour trip and what I thought about on the eleven hour trip was the same subject. The more I tried to change the subject in my head, the more it kept coming back at me. I was having a post travel break down and dwelling, alright obsessing, over past decisions.
Wednesday was a new day. Thanksgiving was a great day. Thursday night I was stricken with the same stomach bug my nephew contracted. So Friday and Saturday, not so good. The drive home, although late at night, was pleasant and fortunately I was not plagued with another episode of insomnia from a long drive. But while reflecting on the trip I wondered, was my decision to make this journey the right decision? We could have stayed in the comfort of our home, spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and cousins in North Carolina, and had plenty of chillax time; maybe gotten our Christmas tree a little early and savored decorating our house in preparation for Santa, saved some gas money too. But no, I had to revel in the thought of spending solid quality time with family members I rarely get to see. Nothing wrong with that but was it worth it? Was the pain of the journey worth the payoff? I believe it was.
However, in questioning my decision, I flirt with a little philosophy on decision making in general. What I have concluded is that decisions are made based on the knowledge provided at the time. Choices are made for a reason. Make them and move forward. Make them with courage of conviction. Don’t turn back, because sometimes the roads are too deep for a U-turn.
In the case of traveling during Thanksgiving week, the negatives were minor: a rather unpleasant day spent driving, a sleepless night, and the day after road lag. OK, and the stomach virus was not so good. However, the payoff of being with family was worth the minor discomforts. Other decisions have much greater consequences with pain so great that only time can heal and only time can tell where that choice will lead. Don’t look back. Was the choice a mistake? Maybe, but mistakes are part of life. We learn from them as parents always say. They leave room for growth and direction for the next trip; hopefully with no traffic to slow down the journey.