Wally World or Bust

By Matter

When I was a little girl, our family vacations were road trips to visit cousins and relatives. Those car rides were full of license plate games, waving at truck drivers, telling stories, and my sister and I belting out lots of 70s folksongs (“If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the mo-o-o-rning”) to the less-than-rave-reviews of my brothers. They are among my favorite childhood memories; they were the times we were together, just our family, with no outside intruders.

Next week, my family and I are road-tripping to Chicago. Along the way, we’ll stop at the Baseball Hall of Fame , Niagara Falls and we plan to enjoy the 4th on the lakefront in Chicago, take in the museums and shopping, and then head to a family wedding.

Naturally, I’m hoping for all the same kinds of happy family memories for my children that I got from my childhood road trips. But I can’t help but think of how different it will be from my experience, too.

Our car will be lit up with a GPS, an iPad, at least three laptops, three iPhones– all wi-fi-enabled by a Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE mobile hotspot. We’ll have plenty of reading materials on our Kindles and iPad, and thanks to the Jetpack, we’ll be able to download more if we finish what we already have. To back up the GPS, we’ll have online access to our Roadtripamerica.com itinerary, and to the confirmations of the Expedia-booked-in-advance hotels (ensuring indoor pools and free breakfasts for the kids), as well as instant communications (Skype, text, email, and even those antiquated voice calls) with the other relatives who’ll be converging on the Midwest at the same time. Entertaining us all in the background will be the playlists on iPods designed for maximum entertainment and playing on the super-sweet audio system in our air-conditioned, high-tech car.

In 1977, when we took off in the non-air-conditioned, AM radio-equipped Chevy Caprice station wagon with big maps fluttering in my mom’s hands in the hot summer breezes let in by manually operated car windows, and each of us set up with our new library books, even imagining the kinds of things we’ll have in our car in 2012 seemed like a game of “let’s pretend to be the Jetsons”.

There’s no point to this other than to be in a state of wonder about the way technology has made our life more comfortable, easier, more entertaining, more connected with people we can’t see. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe we’ve lost, with that discomfort, a sense of adventure? We’ll see how it goes – as an optimist, I have to believe that even with so many questions taken out of the road trip equation, we’ll still have a pretty hilarious story to tell when we get back home. Wally World, here we come.