I was having a conversation the other day with a guy from church whom I only knew casually. As we were working through the typical “what do you do” type of questions the topic of our big family adventure came up and he suddenly smiled and said:
Oh, you’re that family!
It seems our reputation had, in fact, preceded us. My new friend already knew about us and that we had taken a long road trip as a family. The conversation skipped ahead at a faster pace than it would have as he started asking more detailed and in depth questions about what we had done and where we had gone.
Reflecting back later two things occur to me. The first is how cool it is to be able to be “that family” by having a family-based story to tell. Our year on the road was about more than just seeing wonderful places and meeting great people. It was a shared experience that gives us a shared family identity - to the point of having our own logo..;). We will always be able to say that we were “that family who took a year-long road trip in an RV.”. No matter if we are able to again shake free of this suburban life and get on the road again for more adventures - no one can take away the fact that we’ve already done it and it changed who we were.
As I kept thinking I had to ask - why is that unusual? Why is it that the relatively simple and low-risk experience of a long road trip enough to establish us as “that family”? It seems that this idea of a family identity is something we’ve lost as a culture. We used to have pioneer families who truly depended on each other for survival. We used to have farming families with barns emblazoned with “Joe Smith and Sons”. We used to have families like The Flying Walendas who made big headlines with amazing family feats of aerobatics. We used to have tradesmen who took on their children as apprentices and turned the business over to them when they wanted to retire.
It makes me wonder if, in our current age, we’ve become less of a true family unit than a collection of differently-aged people “trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste” (as Erma Bombeck is quoted as saying). With lengthened school schedules, multiple extracurricular activities, long workweeks, and short vacations, is the family unit bound only by a half-hour shared around a dinner table? Or is it less than that - a shared Google calendar?
No answers here. Just a profound sense of thankfulness for the year we were able to eke out of our lives and spend together as the “Boyinks4Adventure” and the hope that more families will seek out experiences that set them apart as “that family” in their circle of friends and family.