By Corey Heller
Photo credit: TDC Digital
I know, I know – things have been a little quite around here at Multilingual Living. Where are all of the fantastic and fabulous posts? Where are the new multilingual resources and tips? Have we fallen off the side of the earth?
However, I do have a lot of excuses for the silence around here (family and friends visiting from Germany and Tasmania, removing rust from the side of our VW Vanagon, cleaning out our attic and basement, helping my children with their homeschooling and instrument practice) but none are as exciting as this one: we are preparing for our biennial road trip from Seattle to California!
Have you ever thought about how similar a road trip (or any journey) is to raising children multilingually? There are so many commonalities – it is astounding! As you will have already read in our Get Started page, relating multilingual living to a journey is actually what makes it so much more robust and fulfilling. Honestly!
A road trip is one of the quintessential American icons, is it not? The car loaded up, the kids seat-belted in, the ice chest filled to the brim, and the horizon beckoning. The excitement of the initial journey turns to reslessness. Reslessness slowly morphs into boredom. And before we know it, we have slid into a kind of meditation with the whirr of tires becoming our mantra.
Road trips belong to the American psyche. They are right there along with hamburgers, leather chaps and westward expansion. Do our genes pull us back to the road? A longing to move across untamed fields and face untold dangers? I can’t help but think of Easy Rider, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (even though I never finished it), Thelma and Louise (without the heart-aching ending), Little Miss Sunshine (they even have a VW Bus in that film!), and On the Road by Jack Kerouac. In fact, last night my husband and I watched Darjeeling Limited (for the umpteenth time), a hilarious yet bitter-sweet, spiritual road trip through the beauty of India.
Here are some key elements that a road trip and multilingual parenting share:
- Preparation: Once on the road, it is important to have things handy that might be needed once away from home. This is uncharted territory. Anything can happen out there (even though nowadays there is a Starbucks every few miles). An extra gallon of water and a few good music CDs are not overkill when on the road.
- Motivation: It takes a lot to get past the almost overwhelming lethargy that holds us back from making a road trip happen. Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay at home!? Why are we even contemplating this insane adventure?
- Stamina: Have you ever tried to meditate? It is harder than it seems. Some of my most strenuous experiences were during my zen meditation practice at the Tassajara Zen Center. Waking up at 4:00 am to stare at a wall for hours on end is no easy task. A road trip can put similar stresses on our psyche. Hour upon hour of staring out the window causes us to fluctuate between utter panic and overwhelming “being-ness.” It takes stamina to endure this.
- Vision: A road trip is about understanding and contemplating the big picture. Right now there are endless tress and winding roads. Later there will be wide-open plains and a horizon that seems to never end. Where we are right now is only one step in a much longer journey. It is essential that we remember this while at the same time enjoying where we are at this very moment. Finding this balance is what will keep us from turning back before we have reached our destination.
- Refueling: A road trip is not an Indy 500. It is not about going faster than someone else, getting further than someone else, or ignoring the sights that are passing us by. It is about learning when to stop and refuel along the way. Rest stops, which offer stunning views, are opportunities to feed the soul. A small road-side gas station is the chance to chat with the locals. Skip the big restaurant chains and give the cozy diner a chance. Get to know the people. Get to know your route in as much detail as possible.
- Milestones: When reaching a destination along the journey, take time to truly savor it. Visiting friends or family along the way? Enjoy the hugs and the excitement of your arrival. This is your special time to be pampered by loved ones. You are the center of attention – enjoy it! Arriving in a city where you will stay for a few days? Take your time to get to know its nooks and crannies. It is easier to enjoy the journey when we take time to truly savor each of our milestones. We did it! We arrived at one of our destinations! Yippee! Before we know it, we’ll be on the road again, exploring new territory, seeing new sites.
Each of us are on our own multilingual road trip in one way or another. If you can envision your multilingual parenting journey as a road trip each and every day, it can do wonders for keeping you motivated and excited for the long haul. Multilingual living is not a race. It is the journey of a lifetime.
For the next few weeks, I hope to share the sites, sounds and experiences of our road trip to California and back. Our three-week journey will certainly give me time to think and reflect – much of which will be about multilingualism, I’m sure! I hope it will help you to give as much thought as possible to your own multilingual journey!
When is the last time you went on a road trip? Do you sometimes see your multilingual parenting adventure as a kind of life long road trip? What does your multilingual journey look like – languages, destination, preparations?