Road Trips: Building Character and Forging Bonds One Disaster at a Time

Road TripsFor many people, travel is a time for rest and relaxation. These people like to go on vacation to exotic destinations and get there as quickly and painlessly as possible so they can kick back and unwind.

These people are pansies.

They have no sense of adventure, possess a dearth of intestinal fortitude and were probably mollycoddled by their pansy parents when they were growing up.

My kids won’t suffer a similar fate. Because when we go on vacation, we don’t get there quickly. We don’t get there painlessly. And we’re far too wound up to ever unwind.

We go on road trips.

If you truly want to create memories that will last a lifetime, you don’t do it on some beach somewhere sipping on pina colodas or at some kiddie friendly theme park.

No, you do it on the side of the road, changing a flat tire in inclement weather while your kids scream bloody murder and your wife gives you the silent treatment and fantasizes about calling a divorce attorney.


You want to build some character? Take to the highways. You want to really get to know people? Go on a road trip with them.

Of course, it isn’t all disasters. In between the speeding tickets and the unnecessary bathroom stops there are lots of time for bonding and interaction.

You see, when I was growing up, all of our family vacations were of the road trip variety. We didn’t fly to Orlando to go to Disney World. We drove to Wichita, Kansas to see the Old Cowtown Museum. If we were especially lucky we might get to stop in Ames, Iowa along the way and spend the night in a motel that had a swimming pool.

On the road we sang songs and played the alphabet game and tried to find a license plate from every state (it took years, but when we finally saw a Hawaii plate giving us our 50th and final state, we got to celebrate … by going to McDonalds).

As I grew into a surly teenager, these trips provided me the perfect opportunity to engage in my favorite pastime: incessant bitching. My father suffered my pissy attitude with a stoic resolve, refusing to cave to the pressure wrought by my adolescent moodiness; no matter how unpleasant I acted, the family road trips continued.

Perhaps he was wise enough to realize that I was only going through a phase, and by persevering he would further ensure that the legacy of the Payton family road trips would continue for generations to come. If that was the case, he sure was successful.

Without realizing it, my affinity for the road trip experience was rejuvenated during my college years, as each spring break I help to spearhead long road trips, and the results were wonderfully catastrophic. Radiators spewing hot liquid and steam. Long walks in the rain with a gas can. Fistfights. Cops. Cops. And more cops.

I remember little about where we were going or what we did when we got there (authorities believe alcohol may have been involved). But I certainly remember the time on the road and the memories that were made.

Later in life, a series of road trips with my then-girlfriend-now-wife solidified our relationship and helped bring us to a point where we knew we belonged together. Or least, I knew. Once I saw that she was capable of handling me on the open road, getting lost, turning around, refusing to ask for directions, getting lost again, etc. Well, I knew I had to keep her.

So I did. And now we have two little ones, who do not yet realize that these road trips represent a bridge between the generations, something that they will pass along to their kids when I’m old enough to turn to dust.

Long live the Great American family road trip!


  1. This is really funny! Good for you and your family! You must have had a great dad!

  2. I think you are right in your words one should follow all the steps you have provided in your blog in order to make their trip a really enjoyable one.

  3. Jack Payton says

    Thanks for the kind words, Raul.

    “Buy Dholki”, I don’t know why Susan allows your spammy, no-value comments to take up space here. It makes you and everyone else involved in this blog look like crap. Go away.

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