Green and Simple: Keeping it Simple on the Road
Will advanced planning and sunshine lead to a green and simple vacation?
This week, as we prepare to head north for our annual trek to Massachusetts, I have been awash in planning, coordinating, and mapping -- none of which has felt simple. But, I have invested the time and energy up front knowing that doing so will make the prospect of a simpler vacation more plausible.
Our annual summer vacation has it roots in my quest for simplicity.
For years, we used to make the trek up to visit my family during the fall and winter, alternating between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. After having our travel impeded and plans shifted due to weather events one too many times, we shifted to going in the summer and haven’t really looked back since. Especially when our oldest entered kindergarten five years ago and we fell in synch with the school calendar. That meant traveling over a short span of days during the most intense travel times of the year.
Traveling north in the winter also meant packing tons of extra garb … coats, gloves, hats, mittens, boots, bulky sweaters, snow pants, and the like. Winter weather conditions also restricted our outdoor activities significantly and often altered plans -- things that when combined with kids make life, well … complicated.
At some point it occurred to me that having an extended visit with family over the summer instead would not only simplify packing and lighten our load, we would be traveling during my favorite time of year, rather than during a time when I often feel like hibernating.
Traveling over the summer means less intense time on the road since families travel throughout the summer, instead of over a specific handful of days surrounding holidays. Our favorite places are more comfortable to visit during warmer months: beaches, parks, and playgrounds that aren’t covered in snow and ice. We can just be outside, sometimes for days at a stretch when we are camping.
Anyone who has been around kids who have been cooped up for a while knows, it’s not sustainable for very long if you want to keep your sanity. A summer visit means we can simply open the door and let the kids outside to play just about anywhere. And that is where simplicity really kicks in …
Almost anything done outdoors can be an adventure … eating outdoors becomes a picnic; walking through the woods becomes a hike; collecting shells at the beach becomes an archeological adventure; pitching a tent in the backyard becomes camping. In the summer, it feels like there is less to plan and map and there is more that unfolds at the hands of Mother Nature.
As I write this just a couple of days before hitting the road, it all sounds quite romantic and ideal. Of course we have the benefit of having done this same trip over the same stretch of time for the past several years, so we have learned a few things that make the engine run a little smoother. Past planning efforts have helped us to develop routines, which have a tendency to help simplify things (shoe box lunches and audio books for the drive, camping gear for easy house hopping, and busy bags for rainy days).
I know that once we hit the road every moment can’t be spontaneous, unscripted, and simple. Traffic will not part when we get bored and tired of being in the car, nor will bathroom breaks be perfectly timed or synchronized as we inch up Interstate 95. Cranky episodes and sibling squabbles won’t disappear because of my keen advanced planning.
But, the sunshine and ocean breeze by day and the deep, dark night sky and the echo of crickets singing us to sleep are what I will be counting on to remind me to keep it green and simple!