As we have discussed, this past summer we had the opportunity to take a road trip around America with our four little ones. We spent 32 days, drove almost 8,000 miles, visited with more than 200 family and friends, and only stayed in a hotel 2 nights. We traveled through 16 states, from big cities to farms in the middle of nowhere, both red states and blue states. From the Rocky Mountains to the painted plains; through the South and on the shores of the Great Lakes.
For our family, we live as a racial minority in a very blue county, in a very blue state, next to a big city. All of our children were born here and it is what they know each and every day. But we also want them to know their country and their world, our friends and family, and to meet new friends. We know that getting out and seeing and visiting areas and people gives you a greater understanding and appreciation for everything – how expansive our country is, what farmers and ranchers do to bring us food, what people do and don’t do, what shapes their values, what they struggle with, and what our country and world are made of.
In the aftermath of this election, it became clear that our country doesn’t mingle enough. They haven’t talked to Americans who share a different history and perspective. They think Iowa and Idaho are the same state. They think everyone in Oregon is a flaming socialist or everyone in Oklahoma is a right-wing nut. The reality is everyone wants to make America a better place to live. Yes, we have different ideas – some are horrible, some are great, and most are somewhere in between. We probably won’t convince each other to change our ideas, but we will have a better idea of what makes our friends and neighbors tick, to understand their perspective, to appreciate them, and to realize they are humans too. And, undoubtedly, we have a better chance of changing their minds in person than on Facebook and Twitter.
As parents, we should take the opportunity to ensure our kids know America and the world. But, for now, let’s start with America. Here are some ideas and tips:
- Take the time to drive more. Flying is better than staying, but drive if you can. Stay off of Interstates. Interstates save time and can be an important part of your drive. But when you get off of the Interstates, you see America. You slow down and see towns, homes, and people living.
- Build in time to explore. Leave earlier so you can stop and talk or see a random roadside attraction. When you are on tight deadlines, you focus on the destination, not the journey, and are more stressed.
- Stay with friends and families. Yes, you can stay in touch with people with social media, text message, phone calls, and holiday cards. But when you break bread, settle down after the kids go to sleep, and visit, you really catch up and get to know and understand your friends and family. You realize they don’t live the lives you see on Instagram, and they tell youWhen you are on tight deadlines, you focus on the destination, not the journey.more than can be communicated in 140 characters.
- Eat at local establishments.
- Visit a church when you are traveling.
- Read about the areas you are visiting or driving through.
- Talk to people you don’t know. Don’t be weird about it, but you can still ask questions as you interact at the store, restaurant, tourist attraction, etc.
We still live in the best country in the world. Our country and our lives will be better if we all take time to see and understand our whole country, even that weird uncle who thinks The Onion article you posted is real news.
Author’s note for coastal elites: Idaho is in the West, is the Potato State, has expansive Rocky Mountains, and, while there are some blue pockets, is a very red state; Iowa is in the Midwest, is the Corn State, has more hills than you expect, and is not reliably blue or red.