When we take a trip to visit J's family, I always try to make sure he drives while we're going through Chicago. Not just for the obvious reason (traffic), but for a less obvious one: I like to look at the billboards. They advertise different things than you see on billboards at home in Nashville:
They do so cleverly:
And they keep me entertained during the L O N G drive around the massive city of Chicago:
I think Chicago's billboards are a great metaphor for what I love about traveling. I am a creature of habit. I love being at home with my family of five and I love following a routine. I've learned to be more flexible and spontaneous over the years, but I am still a structured girl when given the choice. At home, I want to do things our way. Over our fifteen years of marriage, J and I have figured out the best way to manage our family. I know what time to start dinner, what days I need to do laundry to have the ballet clothes clean and what time we need to depart for school to arrive on time. We have a routine that works for us.
But when we're away from home, I feel the freedom to let go of our routine. "I'm hungry. When's breakfast?" Right now - just head downstairs to the lobby. "Can I watch TV?" Sure (even on a weekday - gasp!). "Can I finish this book before we go?" Of course.
Staying in a hotel with 7, 10 and 12 year old daughters is a whole new (and delightful) way to travel. They love picking which bed is theirs, choosing their towel in the bathroom, opening the little bar of soap and checking every closet until they find the surfboard (that would be an ironing board, but K called it a surfboard the first time she saw one folded up and hanging, so we laugh about that every time we stay at a hotel).
So last weekend as we spent 25 hours in the car on our way to and from Green Bay, I tried to enjoy the new and different. I tried to not worry about how tired I was or how poorly we were eating. Instead I thought about how special it was for J's grandparents to have a roomful of people celebrate their 60 years of marriage. I focused on how much my girls enjoyed visiting Lambeau field, eating out and sleeping in. I tried to see this new place through their eyes and to enjoy it for all its differences from our regular life back in Nashville.
And if I was glad to return home to our own beds, our own routine and home-cooked meals, it wasn't because I didn't enjoy the billboards.