Traveling Mom, Traveling Daughter

Some of my severe wanderlust I attribute to growing up in a military family that moved around a lot.  Each time we moved, it was across the country.  Hawaii to Florida then to California to Virginia back to California…well, you get the picture.  We would pack our cars full of only what we would need for the next weeks as we waited for the delivery of our belongings and we would drive. 

Most of my wanderlust, though, I attribute to my mother, a lover of all things road trip and adventure.

A scrapbook page of our weekend adventures to Washington DC while living in VA.

A scrapbook page of our weekend adventures to Washington DC while living in VA.


My road trip memories are full of homemade tuna fish sandwiches ice cold from the cooler and bags of chips and green grapes at rest areas all over the United States.  Our meals were always placed upon a lovely picnic tablecloth.  Somehow we always got to the hotel early enough to play in the pool for an hour before bedtime…every single night, no matter what.  Of course I later found out that my mom planned it that way so we had time to wear ourselves out splashing in the water and then we would fall asleep quickly once back in the room.  Those fun mini cereal boxes were always a treat on road trips because that was the only time she splurged on them.  My sister and I would fight over who would get which cereal boxes but we would be especially excited when we found out we were staying in a hotel with a free continental breakfast because that meant make-your-own waffles the next morning!

Preparation for proper roadtrips always started with one or two new outfits, some new toys and magnetic travel games but it was the stack of brand new books that plagued me for days before we hit the road.  A week or two before the road trip, we would make a trip to the bookstore where we would get to pick out several books.  When we got home those books were confiscated and placed on the top shelf of my mom’s closet until the trip.  I read voraciously and this was pure torture.  I always contemplated snatching one of the books and hoping she didn’t notice but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it knowing that she would find out somehow or just magically know. 

Getting lost was always on the road trip agenda.  I can picture the gigantic Rand McNally Atlas sitting on the front seat or on the hood of the car as my mom determined where to go.  Inevitably, we always got lost but some of our most exciting adventures were when we were trying to get back on track.  When I finally had my driving permit and then license, I remember a brief argument about wanting to drive and not being able to.  At least not until we were in a stretch of super flat, straight road!

My last epic road trip as a young woman was to move me from Southern California to Pensacola for college.  I wasn’t even 18 yet.  I know the fear and trepidation that I had as we made our way closer to the city that I would call home for four years.  Little did I know I would still be here 15 years later.  I remember pulling in to New Orleans, a side stop to see the city, and falling in love with it for the first time.  I remember something going wrong with my car and for the last 300 miles (maybe more!) of the trip; fully loaded semi trucks were passing us by.  I remember pulling into the University of West Florida and seeing my dorm building for the first time.  Most of all, I remember driving my mom to the airport, watching through the window as my mom walked to her plane, crying tears of both joy and sadness.  Joy because I was beginning a new phase of my life…one that would eventually take me to where I am today–a mother of two children of my own.  Sadness because I was watching my mother get on a plane and leave me to test out my independence and continue to grow into the woman I am and in the past she had always been the one to watch me leave.   

A scrapbook page from our CA to FL trip.

A scrapbook page from our CA to FL trip.

I hope that I am teaching my children to look for adventure around every corner the way my mom taught my sister and I.  I hope that I am inspiring the same wanderlust and love for road trips in my own children with some of the same traditions and some new ones as well.  Both kids are already fighting over who is going to get the last mini cereal box.  When we get lost, this time because of a faulty GPS (of course it wasn’t me that missed the turn!), my four year old always asks if I have to turn around again. 

I hope to watch my teen daughter’s eyes roll as I play my favorite monster ballads from when I was her age.  I am so nervous for the day to arrive when my son begs to drive the car for part of our road trip.  And I know that fight will happen someday because, already, he is full of such independence.  As my children do get older, I hope I never forget the  excited exclamations when cows or horses are spotted, the tired yawns and the chorus of “are we there, yets” as we embark on new adventures.  I hope I always remember that my children associate the gigantic bag of Swedish Fish in the shopping cart with an impending road trip.

So many memories made and so many more to make.

In honor of Mother’s Day this week, thank you Mom.

Be sure to wander over to Mother of All Trips to see other Monday Dreams.


  1. 1

    What a beautiful post! I feel like I’m on your road trips right along side you. Thanks for sharing.

  2. 2

    Oh Jen, this totally made me both smile and cry. I love the detail about the cereal boxes! That’s exactly the kind of thing my mom did and I do it now too. Lovely.

  3. 3

    Such a great post! Cold tuna sandwiches straight from the cooler and mini cereal boxes were staples of our family travels, too! I can even picture the rest stop in southern Vermont where we always stopped and the fights over who got the box of Coco Puffs!

  4. 4

    Thanks Sweetie, Love you too! 🙂 (and brought tears to my eyes too!)

  5. 5

    Oh friend, I love this post. So many warm memories have come flooding back, you have me both giggling and crying! I can remember the very last time I saw you before you made your trek across country afor UWF, and the feelings that went with it. I’m proud of you and miss even more now. Thanks for sharing.

  6. 6

    Love it…wonder if our kids will even get it now that we keep them occupied with movies they watch in the car…

  7. 7

    I remember in elementary school I always planned to make a picture book of the best and worst rest stops across I-10. Some of them were SO GROSS!!! We knew that road so well. It wasn’t just the trips to move, there were so many others back and forth just for visiting all of our family and “friend family” all over the US too. Countless rounds of the license plate game and you complaining to mom that I was annoying you. Now MY youngest annoys her older brother the entire trip! Thanks for the memories. :o)